Counting Macros

How to Calculate Your Macros and REE for Body Transformation

learn to calculate your macros

Understanding macros and the formula to calculate macros and your REE is highly effective for helping you reach your body transformation goals. 

If you’re new to counting macros, understanding macros is simple.

  • The word macros is short for macronutrients.
  • The three macronutrients are protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
  • Macros are the basis of all the calories (energy) you consume.
  • Protein contains 4 calories in each gram.
  • Carbs contain 4 calories in each gram.
  • Fat contains 9 calories in each gram.

Before you read this make sure you’ve read the article What is Flexible Dieting? to ensure you understand the philosophy of counting macros and why learning to eat in a moderate fashion is often best.

Understanding macros and how to calculate and adjust your daily macro goals is one of the most important aspects of a macro diet, so learning to do this is important to your success.

Your ability to calculate and adjust your macros accurately will largely determine whether or not you reach your physique goals and how fast you get there. 

Everybody is different (yes, you are a unique snowflake…) so calculating your macros is just the beginning. And even the most experienced macro coaches working with clients may do a few adjustments as their clients progress.


Each person’s metabolism, overall health, and lifestyle all play a vital role in how much energy we actually burn and how much of each macronutrient we should be eating.

But, starting with some solid guidelines, even if it isn’t quite right, can be a good start on your journey to dominate your goals and getting the body you want.

Beginner’s Guide to the Macro Formula and REE Calculation

REE calculation

photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

When getting started with counting macros the most important thing to calculate your REE (Resting Energy Expenditure) and your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure).

I’ve written more about that here, but basically, it’s the number of calories your particular body burns in a day. Eat less than this means that you lose weight and eating more than this means you gain weight. This is referred to as energy balance.

Negative energy balance = weight loss

Positive energy balance = weight gain

Note: My Macro calculator does all of the following macro and REE calculations for you

Basic Macro Formula for Calculating Your REE

The Mifflin, M. D., St Jeor formula is one of the most popular and one of the most respected macro formulas used to calculate your REE. Here how to use the formula to calculate your Resting Energy Expenditure (REE), which is the energy it takes to run your body without any movement whatsoever.

REE Calculation

For males:

10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5 = REE

For females:

10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161 = REE

Tip: Remember your high school math lesson about Order of Operations: (PEMDAS from left to right) when solving the equation for yourself.

Since most people don’t lie in bed all day doing absolutely nothing, we next have to figure out movement expenditure or TDEE.

TDEE Calculation

  • Sedentary
    Just normal everyday activity like a little walking, a couple flights of stairs, eating, talking, etc. (REE X 1.2)
  • Light activity
    Any activity that burns an additional 200-400 calories for females or 250-500 calories for males more than your sedentary amount. (REE x 1.375)
  • Moderate activity
    Any activity that burns an additional 400-650 calories for females or 500-800 calories for males more than your sedentary amount. (REE x 1.55)
  • Very Active
    Any activity that burns more than about 650 calories for females or more than 800 calories for males in addition to your sedentary amount. (REE x 1.725)

A typical TDEE equation could look like this:

Let’s say you’re a 29-year-old, 183 cm, 88 kg, very active male.

Here’s your equation with results rounded to the nearest whole number:

(10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5 = REE) x 1.725 = TDEE

10 x 88 + 6.25 x 183 – 5 x 29 + 5 = REE

880 + 1144 – 145 + 5 = 1884 (REE)

1884 x 1.725 = 3250 (Very Active TDEE)

Your TDEE would be around 3,250 Calories.

  • Eat more than this = weight gain.
  • Eat less than this = weight loss.
  • Eat this amount = weight maintenance.

As I mentioned, it’s sometimes not as black and white for all people, but for simplicity’s sake let’s imagine it is.

Determining Macros for Fat Loss (Weight Loss)

If you want to lose weight I recommend dropping your overall calories by no more than 20% to start with. Many people believe that they should cut 500 calories, but this isn’t a one size fits all rule. Deducting 20% is a much better universal rule to go by.

In the example, this would take the guy’s calories from 3,250 to 2,600 for weight loss.

3,250 – (3250 x .20) = Weight Loss TDEE

Determining Macros for Weight Gain/ Building Muscle

If you’re looking to gain weight then add between 5 and 20% calories to your overall intake. At 20% you’ll likely gain fat as well as muscle so starting small and working your way up is key if you want lean gains.

In the example, this would take the guy’s calories from 3,250 to 3,900 for weight gain.

3,250 + (3250 x .20) = Weight Gain TDEE

Again, if you hate math,  I do all of this for you with my Online Macro Calculator.

Basic Macro Formula Exceptions

  1. The Very Lean
    For those with very little body fat and a high proportion of lean body mass, the standard IIFYM formula isn’t best. The standard formula factors in an average body fat percentage, so those with below-average will have a lower TDEE calculated with the standard formula than would be typical. Muscle tissue burns more calories even at rest, therefore, should be accounted for. When using our macronutrient calculator, simply use the “Lean Mass” setting. This switches to McArdle, Katch Formula which is the most accurate for those with low body fat.
  2. The Obese
    Just like the very lean, the very heavy have an above-average body fat percentage and this also skews the standard formula’s results. Fat tissue isn’t active tissue and requires very little energy to maintain itself. For obese individuals, total fat weight should be considered in the equation. Here’s a more in-depth article that discusses how counting macros works for obese individuals.

With this knowledge alone you could get started towards your goal. Counting calories can be a very effective way to lose weight (here are some stories of others who’ve done this).

I’ve found losing weight and losing fat can be two different things (you can lose muscle too), hence the importance of measuring each macronutrient.

How to Determine Your Ideal Macro Ratios

Now that you understand REE calculation and your TDEe, you can determine how much of each macronutrient you should be consuming based on your body and goals.

Again, here are the calorie (energy) values for each macronutrient:

  • 1g Protein = 4 Calories
  • 1g Carbohydrate = 4 Calories
  • 1g Fat = 9 Calories

Calculate how much protein to eat daily

Protein is essential for the growth of new tissue as well as fixing broken tissue – like what happens when you work out. Protein should be your new best friend if you want to gain or maintain muscle.

Here’s how to calculate how many of your calories should be devoted to protein. 

  • When already lean and lifting heavy for bodybuilding use a measure of 1 g of protein per pound of bodyweight.
  • Most people can use a more balanced approach and use .825 g protein per pound since most people are carrying fat tissue which skews the “1 gram per pound rule.”
  • For people with a lot of excess fat weight or people who don’t do a lot of strength training, use .65 grams per pound of body weight.

Here’s a more detailed article about daily protein amounts and how to eat more of it.

So if our individual weighs 195lbs (88 kg), and they are doing a moderate weight training program, then their protein intake will be 161 grams.

Calculate how much fat you need daily.

Next, let’s calculate your daily fat amount. Fat has been demonized as the reason most of us are, well, fat. But that’s simply not true.

Healthy Fats can be incredibly beneficial for hitting your body composition goals, but they also affect our hormones – too little fat in our diet can be very harmful.

Most research (and again, there are a lot of opinions out there) supports that 20%-30% of overall TDEE calories should come from the fat macro. Let’s use 25% and a middle-of-the-road starting point. (Some people can opt for 30% especially if you are coming from a higher fat diet like keto, Paleo, or Atkins.

To figure out 25% of Overall TDEE:
3,250 Calories x 0.25 ( = 812.5 Calories) divided by 9 (9 calories per gram of fat) = 90.27g Fat (which I’d round down to 90 g).

Calculate how many carbs (carbohydrates) you need each day.

calculate macros

If there’s one thing the Macros/Flexible Dieting community of the world agrees on it’s this: We love carbs!

Think of all your favorite foods and chances are they are high in Carbohydrates. Your body uses carbohydrates to make glucose which is the preferred fuel or energy that our bodies run off of. They’re what keeps us going.

  • Carbs don’t make you fat.
  • Carbs don’t prevent weight loss.
  • Just looking at carbs doesn’t make you gain a pound.

A low-carb diet is a method of placing yourself in a negative energy balance. Counting macros does this through a more scientific approach but without the restriction.

Fiber, which is important to track if you want to be healthy, is also a carbohydrate but only about 30-40% of it can be used by the body for energy.

We’ve now sorted protein and fats, but how many carbs do we eat? We allocate the rest of our calories (originally calculated from our TDEE) to Carbohydrates.

We started with 3,250 Calories. We allocated 644 calories (161 g) to Protein, 813 calories (90 g) to Fat and we now allocate the rest, 1793 calories, to Carbohydrates.

Since 1g of Carb equals 4 calories we divide 1793 by 4 and get 448 g Carbohydrates.

Final Macros: 161 g Protein, Fat 90 g, and 448 g Carbohydrates for this guy to maintain his current weight.

Still Confused?

Again, I have a macro calculator tool, a TDEE calculator, and many other fitness calculators to help with all the formulas and math. 

I also offer custom macros and coaching as a certified macros coach. I’ll analyze all your stats and lifestyle factors to dial in your macros as accurately as possible as provide lifetime macro calculation adjustments with some of my plans.

Convert Macro Grams Back to Calories?

If you ever need to convert your macro grams back to calories, it’s pretty simple. Remember above when we listed the calorie value for each of the 3 macros?

  • 1g Protein = 4 Calories
  • 1g Carbohydrate = 4 Calories
  • 1g Fat = 9 Calories

So you simply multiply the number of grams by the calorie value given.

  • 9 grams of protein would have a calorie value of 36. (9×4=36)
  • 9 grams of carbohydrates would have a calorie value of 36. (9×4=36)
  • 9 grams of fat would have a calorie value of 81. (9X9=81)

Macros For Beginners

Beginners can easily get started with macros by using the above macro calculations and then using the following two tools. You’ll be up and running in no time!

1. Use a macro tracking app

2. Buy a Food Scale

A lot of nutritional information is available on food packaging, however, a scale will ensure you accurately track what you eat.

Here’s how to weigh and measure your food intake with one.

And that’s it. Do the above and you will be well on your way to getting started with understanding macros and Flexible Dieting. Practice makes perfect and the same thing is true with beginners and macros. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

So get started and adjust as needed!

Accelerate Your Diet and Fitness Goals with My Macro Solution System

Step-by-step self-guided program -or- fully customized personal macros coaching. Feel exhilarated as you conquer your goals!

Macros for Fat Loss
Macros for Muscle Gain


  • Mifflin, M. D., St Jeor, S. T., Hill, L. A., Scott, B. J., Daugherty, S. A., & Koh, Y. O. (1990). A new predictive equation for resting energy expenditure in healthy individuals. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 51 (2), 241-247. URL
  • Tipton, K., & Wolfe, R. R. (2001). Exercise, protein metabolism, and muscle growth.
  • Fogelholm, M., Anderssen, S., Gunnarsdottir, I., & Lahti-Koski, M. (2012). Dietary macronutrients and food consumption as determinants of long-term weight change in adult populations: a systematic literature review. Food & nutrition research, 56.
Ted Kallmyer is an ISSA certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition, is an expert macros coach, and the author of The Macro Solution. If you need personal help reaching your weight loss/fitness goals see his nutrition & macros coaching options. Follow Ted on Instagram
Last Updated: April 22, 2021


  1. Kathryn

    greetings, as a Vegan will this work?

    • Ted

      Hi Kathryn, Yes the flexible dieting philosophy states that you can eat anything as long as it fits your macros.

  2. Heidi

    LOVE THIS!! Anxious to read your book.

    • Ted

      Thanks Heidi, All the best getting started.

  3. Adriane Pineda

    Hey Ted!

    i have figured out my Macro (2,795) and its the following:

    503 calories PER MEAL

    C: 68 grams

    P: 26 grams

    F: 14 grams

    From the numbers above, does this mean for every meal i eat,

    for example: PROTEIN

    26 grams of Protein is equal to 0.917 ounces of Protein?

    or if i translate this to WHOLE DAY, its 131 grams of protein which translates to 4.6 OUNCES.

    does this mean i only take 4.6 OUNCES OF PROTEIN IN ONE DAY?

    my current activity in a nutshell is:

    Fasted Cardio in the morning for 40 mins

    lift weights and do 20mins of cardio at NIGHT.

    given the fact that i want to loose weight so I CAN LEAN UP, is 4.6 OUNCES of PROTEIN enough for my activity level?

    thanks for reading my inquiry.


    • Ted

      Hi Adriane, It seems like you may need to take some time to read up on the basics of flexible dieting, tracking and measuring food etc. I have everything you need to know in my book, which addresses your above question. Also, I tell you how to measure and track food here. For example, a 4.6 ounce chicken breast isn’t 100% protein.

  4. Luz

    Hi Ted,

    I tried to do the equation but I think I’m doing it wrong. I’m 26 years old 134 lbs I am 5 feet and I work out 5 days a week but haven’t lost weight. Can you please help me.

    Thank you

    • Ted

      Hi Luz, Have you tried our calculator and compared results to make sure yours were correct? I’d be happy to coach you and figure out what’s going wrong. Here are some of the options we offer.

  5. Regina

    Hi Ted,
    Not sure if you have an article to cover this, but you know how MyFitnessPal adds more to what you need to consume according to your exercising for the day, do you think it’s accurate to eat all the extra added? Or stick to just what my macro counting is? My macros are 1905C 182C 175P 53F. This according to a moderately active setting. Also, which do you think I should use on the active level? I workout heavy lifting, +45 minutes of cardio daily. Cardio being like stair master, HIIT, or spinning, 4-5 days out of the week, but my job consists usually of sitting and driving which is more sitting lol. But I have never stopped exercising and over the past several years, but this past year I gained about 40 lbs, meals haven’t perfect so I would claim at the most 15 of those lbs, I just haven’t found anything to work, even after getting back on that clean eating months ago. So trying out IIFYM is my option before I start doubling my cardio :/. I am 26, 175lbs, 5’5 in height.

    • Ted

      Hi Regina, In order for IIFYM to work with myfitnesspal you have to follow some steps or you’ll be eating way too much. I outline everything about that here. Moderately active seems right based on what you described, but you can also do the tracking method described in the tutorial. Also please consider my book as I have tons of helpful info in it. I hope you find success with flexible dieting and reach your goals!

  6. Bob

    Hi Ted,

    My name is Bob. I’m 5’4, weigh 64kg and 25 years old. I currently do a four day split weightlifting routine, but want to put on a bit more muscle mass with minimal fat. Any advice in what I should put in the calculator? I also use the myfitnesspal app, still trying to get my head around all the macros and stuff though!

    • Ted

      Hi Bob, You’ve come to the right place we have tons of resources that help you make sense of Flexible dieting and tracking macros: Have a look at my book as well as all the articles under the Flexible Dieting category. As for the calculator, You can use the “gain” setting “high protein” to start. If you find that you’re gaining some fat you can cut back on your calories a bit to find your sweet spot. On rest days, it’s often helpful to have a set of “sedentary” “maintain” macros/ TDEE to follow.

  7. Alex

    Hey Ted,
    My name is Alex and I have been so frustrated with my weight loss. I’ve upped my calories and started eating according to my macros. I’m also 1 week into the Insanity workout program. But I stepped on the scale and I’m up a whole 7 pounds in 2 weeks!!!!! What!! Can you help me with my macros? I’m 5’7, 242 pounds now, 22 years old, female. I’m supposrd to eat like 2200 calories a day and it seems really high, but I’m tryibg to trust the process.
    Honestly I kind of blame Insanity, it’s mostly cardio and I hate it but I wasn’t really getting results with my strength focused workouts so I decided to give mostly cardio a try. Should I go back to a strength/cardio mix with these macro calculations or stick it out with cardio??

    • Ted

      Hi Alex, Sorry for your frustration. If you had been eating at pretty low calorie levels prior, it can take your body some time to adjust and during the adjustment period, you could gain some weight until your metabolism catches back up. However, people with a lot of weight to lose may need to cut back a little further because fat tissue is not highly metabolically active tissue, so it doesn’t require the energy that your other body tissues do, therefore, fat weight can skew TDEE estimates. I would recommend that you try adjusting your macros to the following: TDEE 1828 CALORIES PER DAY
      C: 219g 47.9%
      P: 124g 27.1%
      F: 51g 25.0%

      And yes, I think a combination of cardio and strength training is the best. I hope this helps and I’d appreciate it if you would check out my book if you haven’t already.

  8. Lizz Rosetta

    Hi! I am a 5 ft 20 y/o female and my current weight is at 130 lbs. I started at 165 and still want to get down to 115-120. The majority of my weight loss was lots of cardio twice a day and low carb/ not eating after 8pm. I’ve started lifting heavy and still doing high intensify cardio classes 6 days a week for around 90 – 120 minutes a session (lifting and cardio combined) for the last three months. It’s been a month 1/2 and the scale is not moving or just fluctuating between 128-132.

    My energy lacks in the gym a lot but I feel as though when I add carbs (more than 70g a day) I start putting on the lbs and stomach fat. My goal is to shed body fat especially in the stomach area/ build lean muscle and get stronger. The IIFYM calculators online which tells me I should be : 143 C 130 P 52 F. And cal at 1560. Going from about 60-80g C, 90-110 P , 40 F and 1,200 cal I’m scared to introduce this many carbs and up my calories per day? What should I do?

    Please help! Many thanks .

  9. Jana Prindle

    Hi! Can you tell me the difference between the flexible dieting and carb cycling, considering you use macros with both? Do you know if one is more effective than the other?

    • Ted

      Hi Jana, Carb cycling focuses on carbs and eating different amounts during the course of the week while flexible dieting does not, but instead, focuses on a set amount of carbs. The only exception being that some flexible dieters eat at their sedentary macros on rest days. I’m not sure which is more effective, but I know flexible dieting is. 🙂

  10. Monica Anderson

    Hi, I believe someone already asked this- But I want to make sure I understand LOL. I am low carb. I have heard a lot about counting macros and I’m wondering if I keeping track of my macros is possible trying to be low carb.

    • Ted

      Hi Monica, While flexible dieting doesn’t support the need for low carb, you are more than welcome to adjust your macros accordingly and you can still track everything. In relation to your TDEE, set your carb amount and then set your protein to your body weight and then eat the rest of your calories as fat. All the best!

  11. Fio

    Hello, I’m 45 yrs old 5′ tall 110 lb slightly overweight (5 lbs for my liking). I workout 5 days a week (crossfit, weightlifting, hiit) for 1,5 hours per day. I reduced my running to max 30 minutes of spint intervals. I’ve been undereating for a lifetime (very low cal, not healty food but no training and used to be skinny, no muscle at 105 lb), then wanted to be skinny but strong so started to eat healthy and more and my body boom tood all the weight of a starvation life … but II grew some muscle and strenght even if my belly fat is hideous. Now I’m carb cycling since 3 months, started at 110 lb and lost not a single gram. I feel good but I’m not shred even if upper body shows some muscle the fat layer is still there (tummy included). I eat NET 1380 Kcal on low carb 1500Kcal high carb and 1 free day (no more than 1700 kcal) .
    I did macro calculation and it seems I should cut 10% therefore eating more or less the same cal as now.
    I’m desperate to see some muscle below my belly fat layers, and love to try IIFYM, any suggestion?
    Thanks Fio

    • Ted Kallmyer

      Hi Fio, There are probably a couple things working against your efforts. You actually are in your ideal body weight range, so this coupled with your years of undernourishing, your age, and your hormones are all making it difficult to lose the 5 pounds of body fat, which realistically isn’t that much. With flexible dieting you should eat at your “Moderate exercise” “lose” high protein macros during your workout days and “sedentary” “lose” high protein during your 2 rest days. Try this for a few weeks and see if you can finally get some results. All the best!

    • Ted

      Hi Fio, There are probably a couple things working against your efforts. You actually are in your ideal body weight range, so this coupled with your years of undernourishing, your age, and your hormones are all making it difficult to lose the 5 pounds of body fat, which realistically isn’t that much. With flexible dieting you should eat at your “Moderate exercise” “lose” high protein macros during your workout days and “sedentary” “lose” high protein during your 2 rest days. Try this for a few weeks and see if you can finally get some results. All the best!

  12. Krysta

    So much math seems like a pain in the ass. And always eating.

    • Ted

      Hi Krysta, I think you have the wrong impression. You only have to do the math once and besides we have a calculator that does all of that for you. Also, you don’t eat more often than usual doing Flexible Dieting. 3 meals a day and a couple snacks or just 3 meals a day.

  13. Des

    How should macros be structured for a bikini competition? How often should u update them?

    • Ted

      Hi Des, I can’t say that I’m an expert in preparing for bikini competitions, but I would imagine that you are wanting to cut body fat percentage and you are engaged in strength training/light bodybuilding type workouts, right? You would want to have your protein set to 1 gram per pound of body weight and then keep fat at 25%. The rest would be carbs. Probably a 10% calorie deficit every day will be good, but I’m not sure where you are starting from.

  14. Anya

    Is it possible to calculate macros on a low carb/high fat diet? I see most calculations allow a TON of carbs. I’m aiming for around 50-100 a day. I don’t want to go as extreme as 20g a day like I’ve seen others do on low carb. But, I’ve heard Keto diets are very successful for people that have a lot to lose like myself.

    • Ted

      Hi Anya, You can calculate your macros to low carb or Keto levels but then that is not flexible dieting but low carb dieting. Flexible dieting doesn’t support the necessity of low carb and is more sustainable long-term because it’s not so restrictive. I would argue that it produces the same if not better results.

  15. Stephanie

    Hi! I am 6ft tall and weigh about 155lbs. I lift at least 5 days a week and mix in some cardio here and there when I can/feel like it. I used your calculator to figure out my numbers and have been struggling to reach my daily calories each day while hitting my protein intake. I usually always have carbs left at the end of the day but have hit my goal for protein and fat. I’m not hungry at all but am worried about being too deficient in my calorie intake. But I don’t want to make myself eat if I’m not hungry. So my question is if I’m say 100-200 calories low for the day but have hit my protein and fat grams do I need to eat those extra carbs so my percentages are where they need to be? Or do I lower my protein and fat intake to make my percentages work without having to force myself to eat? I hope that made sense!

    • Ted

      Hi Stephanie, What are your goals?

  16. Rob

    Random question- i follow paleo at the moment with my main aim of weight loss, i find that i have enough energy to get through the day without hitting 150g+ protein a day, i normally hit between 60g and 80g a day, i imagine i would lose more weight not hitting 150g as it is less calories..would you agree?

    • Ted

      Hi Rob, Not necessarily. You have to be eating enough to support your metabolism, movement, and to promote healthy weight loss. Too few calories can actually cause your weight loss to stall. Read here.

  17. Hailey Young

    I’ve tried Flexible dieting and it worked so well for me. I looked fing awesome. I always been thin but never had abs I saw abs for the first when I did flexible dieting. I highly recommend trying it out. Only reason I stopped doing it is because I started moving a lot and its hard to keep that kind of lifestyle when your surroundings are constantly changing. Im telling you though it really works..the results are amazing. JUST Do IT! lol its worth it! I always had more energy also and just felt good all around.

    • Ted

      Thanks for taking the time to share your experience Hailey!

  18. Veronique

    Hi, I was wondering since I’m morbidly obese (5’3, female, sedentary, 298 lbs) should I calculate protein based on my lean body mass or my current body weight? My goal is to lose fat while maintaining muscle.

    • Ted

      Hi Veronique, In your case I would use lean body mass, but do 1 gram per pound. All the best!

  19. Susan

    Great article! Just a question on breast feeding – would you add calories for that as well?


    • Ted

      Hi Susan, Thanks and yes, you do. Most experts recommend 300-400 extra calories per day for breast feeding.

  20. bweisbl

    Love love love this plan. May I suggest SailRabbit’s BMR, TDEE, and BMI calculator as a good starting point – there are so many calculators, it’s just silly. This one adjusts for weight loss/gain by the pound per day, week, month, or year (whatever you choose). So for me, 4’11”, 100 pounds on the dot, slight weight loss as I want to bump down my body fat percentage it puts my caloric intake at 1546. On myfitnesspal I logged 1547 (because that just works). Using the calculations on this site, I’m getting 43 grams of fat, 85 grams of protein (I’m rounding up a bit), and 205 grams of carbs. Perfectly balanced, reasonable, and sustainable. As someone who just straight doesn’t diet, this is an awesome, customizable approach. Thanks for making this article so accessible :)!