TDEE and Macro Calculations for Pregnant or BreastFeeding Women

Many women who are pregnant or breastfeeding want to count macros as a way to keep pregnancy weight gain under control or as a way to lose baby weight after pregnancy.

Tracking macros (Flexible Dieting) is a great method for accomplishing either goal but some extra factors must be addressed before you jump straight in.

In this article, I’ll discuss how counting macros works for either pregnancy or breastfeeding as well as how to adjust your macros to accommodate that new life you are nurturing.

Pregnancy and Determining Macros

Everyone knows that weight gain is a normal part of pregnancy and increased calories are a necessity during pregnancy. However, many women may fall into an “I’m eating for two” mindset and literally give themselves the freedom to eat whatever and how much of whatever they want. This can lead to unhealthy and unnecessary weight gain during pregnancy.

This weight gain can lead to complications such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, back pain, and obesity after pregnancy.1

When a woman is pregnant, they are not actually “eating for two” but eating to support a developing fetus. Here’s a good look at what healthy pregnancy weight gain looks like.

Women who are pregnant really only need to eat an additional 200-300 calories per day.1 More if you are underweight and less if you are already overweight.

So here’s how that works when calculating your macros.

Let’s say a 29-year-old woman weighs 150 pounds, is 5’4″ tall, and does light activity. Using our calculator we see that to lose weight her TDEE and macros are as follows:

Weight Loss TDEE: 1531 calories

  • Carbs: 163 grams (43%)
  • Protein: 124 grams (32%)
  • Fat: 43 grams (25%)

If this same woman is pregnant, she would have to add 300 calories to her TDEE to support weight loss while still providing enough energy for the growing fetus.

Pregnancy Adjusted Weight Loss TDEE: 1831 calories

To calculate the macros, we ration them out at the percentages given:


The Math:

  • Carbs: 43% of 300 = (.43 x 300) / 4 = 32 grams
  • Protein: 32% of 300 = (.32 x 300) /4 = 24 grams
  • Fat: 25% of 300 = (.25 x 300) / 9 = 8 grams


Pregnancy adjusted weight loss macros:

  • Carbs: 185 grams
  • Protein: 148 grams
  • Fat: 51 grams

Some women who engage in more intense exercise may opt for extra protein etc. so whatever qualifiers you add to the calculator, just be sure to add an additional 300 calories at the percentages given and you’ll be all set.

I strongly advise you to check all of this over with your OBGYN before beginning as they will understand your complete health profile and will be able to give you the “all clear” before beginning this or any dietary regimen. They will also be able to monitor the weight gain of the fetus and make sure you are on track for a healthy pregnancy.

Please see our comprehensive guide to Macro Counting. It contains everything you need to know and do to be successful with tracking macros. Plus, meal plans, recipes, helpful hints and much more.
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Calculating Macros while Breastfeeding

Many women are looking for something to help them lose the baby weight that they have gained during pregnancy. Counting macros is great for this because it allows you to be at a safe calorie deficit for fat loss while still having the resources needed to produce nutritious and adequate milk for the growing baby.

Experts recommend that breastfeeding mothers consume 400-500 extra calories during the breastfeeding period.2 Some sources say as little as 300 extra, but if a woman is also trying to lose weight, 300 might not be enough to produce highly nutritious milk.

So here’s how tracking macros looks in conjunction with our calculator.

Using our same example above, a 29-year-old woman is 150 pounds and 5’4″ tall and does light activity. Using our calculator we see that to lose weight her TDEE and macros are as follows:

The only difference from above is that experts recommend for breastfeeding mothers to consume more protein, so the protein level was set to high.3

Weight Loss TDEE: 1531 calories

  • Carbs: 137 grams (36%)
  • Protein: 150 grams (39%)
  • Fat: 43 grams (25%)

If this same woman is breastfeeding, she would have to add 400 calories to her TDEE to support weight loss while still providing enough energy for the growing baby.

Breastfeeding Adjusted Weight Loss TDEE: 1931 calories

To calculate the macros, we ration them out at the percentages given:


The Math:

  • Carbs: 36% of 400 = (.43 x 300) / 4 = 36 grams
  • Protein: 39% of 400 = (.32 x 300) /4 = 39 grams
  • Fat: 25% of 400 = (.25 x 300) / 9 = 11 grams

Breastfeeding adjusted weight loss macros:

  • Carbs: 173 grams
  • Protein: 189 grams
  • Fat: 54 grams

Some women with a lot of weight to lose may be fine with just adding 300 calories while others may have to add in 500. Always consult with your OBGYN or Pediatrician before beginning any diet while breastfeeding as they will be able to advise you based on your health and the health of your growing infant.

Some Diet Considerations

While macro tracking gives pregnant women the freedom to satisfy their ice cream cravings, I can’t stress enough the importance of following the 85% 15% healthy eating guideline.

During pregnancy and breastfeeding, 85% of your diet should be comprised of nutritious, whole foods while 15% can be the treats, snacks, and processed foods you may be craving.

Aim for:

  • Lean proteins
  • Healthy fats
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Fresh fruit
  • Whole grains

Here’s a great list of more in-depth suggestions for each of your macros.

Counting macros can be a great tool to use in order to have a healthy pregnancy as well as a way to lose your baby weight while still feeding a healthy baby. If you need extra help, we’ll calculate everything for you with our Macros Coaching Package

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Step-by-step ebooks, or fully customized personal macros coaching. Now with complete vegan edition.

    References:

  1. http://health.utah.gov/mihp/pregnancy/preged/duringpreg/Too_much_weight.htm
  2. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/breastfeeding-nutrition/art-20046912
  3. http://www.llli.org/nb/nbmarapr04p44.html
Ted Kallmyer is an ISSA certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition and is our lead macro coach. If you need help reaching your weight loss/fitness goals see our personal coaching options.
Last Updated: January 18, 2018

61 Comments

  1. Sukhi Kambo 2 weeks ago

    I am vegetarian and am finding it really hard to get in all the protein I need. I am 20 weeks pregnant, 135 lbs, 5’3. Is it safe for me to consume the the vega sport protein supplement to my diet while pregnant?

    Reply
    • Sukhi Kambo 2 weeks ago

      Oh and by the way thanks so much for this article. It has been very helpful!

      Reply
    • Ted the Macro Coach 2 weeks ago

      Hi Sukhi, You probably can get by with less protein. Most recommendations in the fitness world are a lot higher than you actually need. Here’s some articles to review: Top 20+ Protein Foods When Counting Macros and How To Count Macros as a Vegan or Vegetarian Most protein supplements are fine during pregnancy but it’s always a good idea to check with your OBGYN.

      Reply
  2. Shaina 2 months ago

    Omg this is so dangerous! Pregnant women in the 2nd & 3rd trimester need to eat 300 cals on top of MAINTENANCE tdee, not weight loss. You’re seriously encouraging women to lose weight WHILE pregnant? Even obese women are expected to gain 10-15 lbs during a healthy pregnancy. Eating in a deficit during pregnancy is dangerous for woman and baby. There’s plenty of time to lose weight after baby is born. Shame on you.

    Reply
    • Ted the Macro Coach 2 months ago

      This isn’t true. The latest research actually has shown that overweight pregnant woman can safely lose some body fat during pregnancy and obese women can have zero weight gain during pregnancy and still have a healthy pregnancy/baby. See here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070605185550.htm

      Reply
  3. Katie Clements 3 months ago

    I could use some help – I’m new to nutrition coaching (certified through ISSA) and a client is currently breastfeeding and is 4 months postpartum. The last few weeks she’s cut calories and tracked food (I haven’t introduced macros to her yet, just trying to get healthy habits built first) … she hasn’t lost weight. I’m at a loss as to whether decrease the calories I’ve suggested for her or go ahead and introduce macros to her – but am unsure what ratio of carbs, fats, and protein to set her at. Help!

    Reply
    • Ted the Macro Coach 3 months ago

      Hi Katie, Have you established what her estimated TDEE is minus 20% for weight loss? You have to do that first and then add in calories for breastfeeding. Also, if she has 50 pounds or more of fat tissue than you also have to adjust for that. I have a feeling your client is still eating too much.

      Reply
      • Katie Clements 3 months ago

        Thanks Ted, each client is so different and she’s really a puzzle to me since she’s the first client I’ve had that is BF’ing. So her TDEE 2413 — you’re saying I need to subtract 20% then add in calories for BF?

        Reply
        • Ted the Macro Coach 3 months ago

          If her TDEE is 2413 it sounds like she has more than 50 pounds of fat tissue which is skewing the calculation. Can you email me with her stats and we can continue this via email? ted@healthyeater.com

          Reply
  4. Sandra 3 months ago

    Wondering if the protien is too high? After adding 300 for breeding I get 1668cals a day with 18% coming from carbs 52% for protien & 30% for fats so after doing the math that is
    carbs:72g
    protien: 215g
    fat:56g

    The protien seems pretty high?

    Reply
    • Ted the Macro Coach 3 months ago

      That’s correct, it’s too high. Protein should be based on lean mass, not total body weight. Do 30% protein 40% carbs and 30% fat.

      Reply