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!



  • 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. Paige Krygs

    How do you know whether you should adjust your fats or your carbs if you are not seeing any changes or have hit a placebo?

    • Ted

      Hi Paige, is your goal to lose weight? You probably want to first look at your TDEE and make sure that is calculated properly. If you’ve estimated your weight loss TDEE too low it can cause weight loss to stall.

      • Paige Krygs

        Well my goal is to lean out but build muscle as well. I want to compete next year but do need to loose quite a bit of fat before i start start reverse dieting to build more muscle. But once you have calculated the weight loss TDEE and you stall, do you then begin to drop your carb or fat intake? Or both?

        • Ted

          No, it’s not carbs or fat that causes you to stall. As I said, you probably have been eating too few calories which hasn’t been able to support both your metabolism and training.

          • Paige Krygs

            Hmm i thought so. My coach keeps dropping my macros which is making the fat loss harder and harder to accomplish. When i used this calculator though it was pretty spot on to what she has given me, so maybe it just takes a while for me to drop fat.

  2. Limor Messika

    from the Protein paragraph -> “approach is to start with .825 g protein per pound.” isn’t that actually per kg and not per pound and therefore -> “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.” It should really be 88*0.8=72 grams of protein?

    • Ted

      Hi Limor, No, it’s per pound, but technically it is more accurate to base it on lean mass, which is why we default to .825 and not 1 gram per pound of body weight to help account for this since most people don’t know their lean mass.

      • Limor Messika

        Thanks Ted 🙂

  3. Lucy

    How do i adjust my macros accordingly on rest days?

    • Ted

      Hi Lucy, You would factor using “sedentary”

  4. Kayla

    Hi ted. I am looking into getting started with the iifym. I am 23 150 lbs. I have lost 50 lbs already on my own. not counting macros. I have about 10 lbs to go tell I hit my goal but I would honestly be ok with where I am at . I just want to look “shredded”. I am going to start the 6 week to shred by jym stopponi on October 31st but I need help with my macros. they look really high to me but I am not sure sense I have never done this before!
    218 -C
    124 – P
    51 -F

    • Ted

      Hi Kayla, They look about right if you factored with exercise in the equation. You should also have a rest day set of macros. You can check your results against our calculator and I would highly recommend the muscle gain edition of my book to use along with 6 Weeks to Shred.

  5. Carlos Sacramento

    Hi im5’10 i weight 186 lbs im trying to measure all my macros and right now im eatig 199g of carbs 199g of protein and 47g of fat in other words 40%,40% 20% i go to the gym 5times a week im actually fasting as well 16/8 do you thing my macro #s are good or shouild i decrease my protein to 150g of protein 199 carbs and 77 fat

    • Ted

      Hi Carlos. It looks like your protein is higher than it needs to be and you could use more fat. Have you calculated your TDEE? You should also have a set of macros for your rest days. You can always check your results with our calculator as well.

  6. Calvin

    Hello, I was wondering how the philosophy of flexible dieting looks to components like sugars and salts. Sugars are commonly seen as ‘fast carbs’ which are likely to be stored as fat. Salts are known for the fact that they keep moisture, which make you look less shredded and does not fit in a goal of losing fat&building lean muscle. Could you explain me your view on sugars and salts? Thank you in advance.

    • Ted

      Hi Calvin, There’s a lot of misinformation out there about both sugars and salts. First of all, all carbs pretty efficiently get converted by the body into the simple sugar glucose. This is the primary fuel source for the body. Fat storage occurs when there is a surplus of energy and this is not only the result of just a surplus of sugars. Flexible dieting, in essence, views 100 calories from sucrose the same as 100 calories from a starch. They are both supplying the same amount of energy to the body and both will enter the bloodstream as glucose. The only difference is the rate at which they are converted to glucose and then enter the bloodstream. Now as far as what is “healthier” for the body, most would agree that more complex carbs are better because they usually also contain fiber, they give us more sustained energy, and also promote more stable blood sugar levels. I recommend that flexible dieters choose these types of carbs 80-85% of the time, but that they can still have chocolate or another sweet treat as long as it fits their macros.

      As for sodium is concerned, it is a vital element required by both the nervous system and the muscular system to function. There is debate as to how much we need daily. Generally, people that do not exercise should be within the 1000-2000 milligram range, but people who are very active can be within the 3000-4000 mg range . Too much sodium can cause water to be retained in order to achieve homeostasis so avoid excess.

  7. Catharina

    Hello, I wanted to calculate my macro’s for me individual. But it’s a lot different from an other calculator… I’m 165cm and 58 kg now, and trying to get lean and after this to build more muscle. But with an other calculator I came to 158grams of carbs, 158 grams protein and 35 grams of fat. Now it’s 105 protein, 41.40 fat and 174.34 carbs, so it seems a lot fat and cabs and a low amount of carbs… can you maybe explain why it’s like this? Thanks!

    • Ted

      Hi Catharina, It looks like the other has a higher default protein setting. Ours defaults at .825 and is changeable but you don’t need more than a pound of protein per pound of body weight. Our fat setting is 25% of your TDEE which is recommended since healthy fats are essential for bodily processes.

  8. Jill

    Hi, I’ve used your calculator, but my macros came out vastly different than those on a different calculator I had used prior. I lift 5xweek and include cardio about 2-3xweek. 280 104P 57F is what I got from your calculator, but another gave me 81.1C 129P and 51.6F? Both had options for activity level (the latter more specific at 5xweekly). Why could these be so different? I am 5’7″ 126lbs currently and trying to lean out. Ultimate goal is to obviously gain large amounts of lean muscle mass. Also, since new to tracking,at what point would I want to begin bulking and for how long? Thanks in advance!

    • Ted

      Hi Jill, Ours seems more accurate for your exercise days. Theirs isn’t giving you enough carbs to fuel your workouts and there’s no way you’ll gain muscle with their calculations. You should have the protein set to high on ours, however. As for your other concerns, I suggest that you check out the lean muscle gain edition of my book.

      • Jill

        Thanks! But don’t you think 280 g of carbs is too much to lose body fat? I will check out your book.

        • Ted

          Nope, it sure isn’t. Carbs in relation to your TDEE do not make you fat. Carbs in excess of your maintenance TDEE can be converted to fat. Did you have the calculator set to gain? If so, at that setting you won’t lean out and they could be converted to fat because it is in excess.

  9. Karina Ortiz

    Thank you so much. This was so helpful. Knowing that I can calculate my own Macros makes this approach all the more trusting. I’m so excited to start my new lifestyle that will be sustainable. Counting calories is one thing but knowing where the calories are coming from is even better! Again thank you. This is bookmarked in my phone. 🙂

    • Ted

      So glad we could help Karina! All the best getting started.

  10. Jon

    Hi. This info is really helpful and very straight forward to follow, thank you!! I have worked out my macros for maintaining weight, but it’s not really my weight I’m interested in, I am wanting to lose body fat and build some lean muscle, how would you alter your ‘maintaining weight’ macros for this? Would it be a case of reducing carbs by say 20% and upping protein by 20%?

    • Ted

      Hi Jon, Glad you found it useful. I would recommend that you check out the gain lean muscle edition of my book. It outlines exactly how to adjust your macros to achieve the goals you have in mind.

  11. Natasha

    Hi there im confused as to what to put into the calculator to get my macros.. if im active or sedentary and how many days i exercise .. i play hockey twice a week (usually out of breath after these games) and train for it 3 times a week at an hour per training sesh. Not overly strenuous though just a bit of cardio and drills.
    I reach my 10 000 steps every day of the week. (I walk my son to and from school sometimes running with a stroller 5 times a week).. Hope you can help, muchly appreciated!

  12. Ashley Monique Alvarez

    hello I have a question I’m really interested for one getting into flexible dieting I’ve been doing a lot of research on this by far is the best place I’ve found everything I need so thank you for one secondly I had a question in regards to our daily activity level now I have a good job so majority of my work day I am sitting however I do have 2 kids that I chased around and I also work out everyday for about an hour and a half to two hours and my workouts are pretty intense I left and I do cardio some days I even go in at 4 a.m. and later on again in the evening so obviously working out is not the issue it’s my eating but I just wanted to make sure that I calculate my macros correctly I don’t know if that’s considered an active lifestyle or if we are just going based on what kind of job we have what do you suggest?

    • Ted

      Hi Ashley, thanks for taking the time to let us know how useful you have found our site. Glad we could help. I don’t know the intensity of your gym sessions, but it seems like between those and chasing around your kids you would probably be very active. To be sure, you could track your exercise and use a fluid approach as described here:

      • Ashley Monique Alvarez

        Thanks a bunch!!’

  13. Leticia Pena

    I tried to read all of the information above but it is all so confusing to me . Can someone help me out. Im 23yrold female,weight in 155 and height is 5’7″.

  14. T S

    Hey Ted. Great article. I wanted to ask about activity level for initial macro calculations. If you have a sedentary lifestyle and have been living that way for a year, but plan to have an active lifestyle once you start IIFYM, would you put the activity level at sedentary or active to match the expected 5x a week workouts?

    My second question has to do with calories expectations on training days. On training days where you burn 500-600 cals are you expected to eat the difference to land at your expected daily calorie amount?


    • Ted

      Hi TS, Glad you are wanting to get started with Flexible Dieting. You should factor your macros with the activity level that you’ll be doing when you begin and don’t add back calories for exercise because this is already factored into the equation. On days you don’t exercise it’s helpful to eat at your sedentary weight loss macros. If you need more help getting started please see my book. All the best!

  15. Timothy G

    So I’m 6’1 and weigh 205lbs. I’m a 30 yr old male and want to get to 185lbs. I’m still confused on how to calculate my macros as I sucked miserably in math. If my goal is to be 185lbs, what would my intake need to be? I work out 2 hours a day @5 days a week and lift heavy and alot of hiit training.

  16. Naruto

    do you have to have the exact amount? for example if I do the math for my food for the day and my protein intake should be 155 but ive had 158 will it affect me?

    • Ted

      Hi Naruto, That’s well within the margin of error. I tell people to try to be within 5 grams of their targets.

  17. cupcakess

    Hi I am wondering if my exercise calories should be included when counting macros. It seems to make a world of difference in the amount I eat. I am 5’0 weigh 111 lbs. not really looking to lose weight more change body content and become “leaner”. Currently eating 1452 calories a day 162 g of carbs, 111 g of protein and 40 g of fat. Burning between 220-350 calories 5-6X per week.

    • Ted

      Hi Cupcakes, Yes, your activity level calorie burn should be factored into your macros.

  18. Jenna

    So just in understanding macros… Would I be correct in assuming that I should adjust to what I’m doing that day? Therefore I would use the following:

    Mon / Wed / Fri – My lifting days, so I would use moderate actively and obtain my 1810 Cal / day and subsequent macro breakdown

    Tues / Thurs – My spin class / cardio days I would use high activity and obtain my 2015 Cal / day and subsequent macro breakdown

    Sat / Sun – My rest days I would use sendentary and obtain my 1401 Cal / day and subsequent macro breakdown

    Is this the right way to look at macros?

    • Ted

      Hi Jenna, That’s how I like to do it and feel it’s the most effective, but some just eat an average every day to simplify things. I use MyFitnessPal to add macros based on my activities as I’ve described here and in my book.

      • Jenna

        But it would be more effective to complete as how I described and your preference because then I’m feeding my body what it actually needs on that given day correct? Which allows my body a stronger recovery rather than if I averaged out and land up feeling like a sloth for over eating on my rest days.. Thanks!

        • Ted

          Yes, I agree with that. I think it makes sense to eat according to what the body needs on a given day.

  19. Trish

    Great info! I paid $200 to have my macros calculated by an online “professional” & they came back minutes later at the same exact numbers as the IIFYM free calculator online. I got not adjustments for that price. I tried these #’s & with the type of workouts I was doing (sprints/HIIT 2-3 days a week, lifting 3-4), I was always starving & ended up eating way over a few days a week so never had progress. Would having someone like you calculate & adjust my macros get me different numbers that are more realistic to my workouts/lifestyle, or do I just need to find it in me to stay consistent with the IIFYM calculator calculations? Thank you!! Trish

    • Ted

      Hi Trish, wow! It sounds like you got cheated. I send you a questionnaire and then based on that and your goals I calculate your macros for you and work with you for 2 months adjusting them as necessary. Would love to coach you and my price is only $79. I will say consistency is important, but hopefully, I’ll be able to help with the hunger issue.

  20. garyh

    Hi ted still cant work out how to do the calculations could u work out if i send my details please?

    • Ted

      Hi Gary, I’d be happy to figure out your macros and offer more help but that would have to be as part of my coaching package that’s available here. I would calculate everything for you, email you weekly, and help get your eating and tracking on target as well as offer fitness suggestions. I hope consider coming on board as I’d love to work with you.