It seems to be one of the most commonly “Googled” questions, and it’s generally the very first inquiry a potential client has when contacting me about my services.
“Dude, set my macros, please…..”
Everyone who has been doing this for a substantial amount of time has preferences.
There are really no secrets in the diet and fitness industry.
All information is available to you, virtually free of charge: All the workouts, all the diets, all the set-ups, all the everything.
Ain’t the internet grand?
Keep in mind I will be discussing macro numbers for a cut.
People need to put their goals into proper perspective. What do you want? Do you have excess fat on your body?
Do you have abs already or are chronically underweight?
Then bulk. But even “skinny fat” people would generally benefit from cutting first.
Decide on your goal and chase it with passion. You’ll save yourself time and energy in the long run.
“Recomp” macros only make sense for someone who is already at their maximum, genetic muscular potential – and chiseled from granite.
That probably ain’t you…….
This post also assumes a workout schedule of 3 times per week. Which would be optimal for a cut.
Before we discuss macro setting in practice, let’s address a few things.
A. I always take the path of least resistance. “KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid”.
Since this is the way I do things, my guide will be good enough to take you pretty darn far.
But maybe not down to “5%, stage-ready shredded”.
But I’m assuming for 99.98% of the population, that’s fine.
Something tells me natural bodybuilders
have their own guides and aren’t
messing around on a site like this one……..
Is this “lean enough”? No? Tough crowd…….
B. Most importantly – this guide will get you started – but adjustments will have to be made.
Properly adjusting your calories upwards or downwards will make or break your progress long term.
Short term, anything works, as long as there’s a slight deficit.
But if you really want your girlfriend to be able to wash her fine unmentionables on your abdomen, you’ll have to tinker with some things.
C. Finally – the best plan in the world doesn’t mean shit if you don’t execute it.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s get on with it.
I’d rather start my plan yesterday
than discuss 47,000 different options.
And the more you hop on board
with that sort of a philosophy,
the better YOUR results will be as well.
HOW TO DETERMINE WHAT YOUR LEANGAINS
MACRONUTRIENT NUMBERS SHOULD BE:
1. Find your estimated caloric maintenance.
There’s loads of ways to estimate how many calories you use in one day. With the internet at your fingertips, it can become easy to get bogged down.
It’s a seemingly simple task: Estimate how many calories you need to maintain your current weight.
This is how you can get confused. Holy shit.
It’s Step #1 of this process and you need advanced statistics to figure that out. No thank you.
Use this link. Plug in your info. Select “Little/No Exercise” unless you have a VERY manual-labor intensive job. If you are simply on your feet all day, I wouldn’t even worry about it.
You can adjust calories upwards later if you’re losing strength due to too large a deficit.
Round down to work with an easy number. And to give yourself a buffer for when you incorrectly measure your barbecue sauce……
Bob is 5’10” and weighs 180 lbs at 31 years old.
After plugging in his info, his maintenance is 2,135 calories, daily.
Round down to 2,100 calories to get an easy number to work with.
2. Multiply by 7 to find your total, weekly caloric maintenance.
Leangains is a calorie and macronutrient cycling program.
This means we will be formatting our diet plans in order to optimize nutrient timing.
Our macro numbers will reflect what we are doing on that particular day – training or resting.
The nature of the program leads to fluctuations in weight.
Taller individuals might see swings of up to 10 pounds on a particular day of the week.
We need to keep this in mind and think of things in terms of weeks, not days, while on Leangains.
Bob’s maintenance from #1 is 2,100 calories.
2,100 calories daily x 7 days per week = 14,700 calories
This is his estimated, weekly caloric maintenance.
3. Decide your target fat loss per week, in pounds. Multiply that number by 3,500. Subtract it from your answer to #2 to find your estimated weekly caloric intake.
You’re more than welcome to pick a target fat loss of your own choosing.
But make sure to keep a few things in mind………
If you are too aggressive, you WILL lose strength and muscle mass.
If you aren’t aggressive enough, you will become frustrated with progress and you could prolong your cut.
Refer to this article on maximum fat loss potential given a particular body fat percentage. I wouldn’t go much further than that.
Keep in mind that this is the amount of FAT you will lose per week. NOT the amount of weight you will lose. The amount of weight is higher in most circumstances. Due to water weight, glycogen depletion at the cellular level, bowel emptying, and lesser stomach contents, generally.
3,500 calories is often cited as the approximate number of calories in one pound of fat. Although arguments can be made as to the validity of this assumption, it’s an excellent starting point. So use it.
Bob decides he wants to lose one pound of fat/week.
3,500 x 1 = 3,500 ->
This is the caloric deficit needed to lose ~1 pound of fat/week.
14,700 – 3,500 = 11,200 is Bob’s target calorie consumption/week.\
4. Decide on your training day calories (“A”) and macros (“B”, “C”, and “D”). Total calories should be close to, or at, maintenance on training days.
A) Set your training day calories.
Losing weight is easy. Losing pure fat is a bit trickier.
In order to lose pure fat, we need to do a few things.
1.) Train hard and heavy AND
2.) Recover well from those workouts. Eating as close to your maintenance on training days as possible will ensure proper recovery occurs.
Ideally, you would set your training day calories to maintenance, exactly.
But it’s not always the most feasible or best idea to do so.
If you do this, then ALL of your 3,500 calorie deficit must come from your rest days.
3,500/4 rest days = 875 calories under maintenance……..
which means if your maintenance is 1,900 calories…….
1,900 – 875 = you might eat your arm clear off your body.
If you’re a bigger guy
and your maintenance is a bit higher (>2,500),
you can probably get away with it.
Bob isn’t very large, though.
Bob’s maintenance is 2,100.
This number isn’t too high……….
We will set his training day caloric intake at 1,900….
….so his rest days don’t suck too badly……..
B) Set your training day protein target.
To set this number, estimate your fat-free mass.
Do this by taking your estimated body fat percentage (refer to this article for help if you need it), multiply it by your weight, and subtract your answer from your current weight.
This number is the number of grams of protein, daily, you will eat on training days.
Bob weighs 180 and is approximately 20% body fat.
180 x .2 = 36 -> Bob has approximately 36 pounds of fat on his body.
180 pounds – 36 pounds of fat = 146 pounds of LBM – “lean body mass”
Bob’s training day protein macro is 146 grams.
***At this point, subtract your protein calories from your training day total to find the number of training day calories you have left.
Bob’s protein number is 146 grams.
146 grams x 4 calories per gram = 584 calories from protein.
1,900 total calories – 584 = 1,316 calories left for fat and carbs.
C) Set your training day fat target.
Since Leangains cycles both macronutrients and calories, there’s a general rule of thumb when it comes to fat and carbs.
Your macronutrients tend to have lower fat and higher carbs on training days.
The fat is lowered to accommodate the additional calories needed to recover from training.
This is also done since research shows if we keep fat low around our training and eat excess carbohydrates, fat gain should be very low, border line non-existent.
Especially since our training day calories should be at or slightly below our daily maintenance to begin with.
The question arises: Why don’t we eat zero fat?
Theoretically, this might be prudent. But extreme low-fat diets are god-awful.
Low energy, suppression of your immune system, shitty tasting food, and an unworkable (ahem) “little buddy” – otherwise known as “limp dick”.
Your significant other will thank me.
The more weight you have to lose, the better you will (probably) do with more fat in your diet.
The leaner you start, the less you need on your training days – lean people can handle relatively more carbs due to heightened insulin sensitivity.
A good rule of thumb seems to be the following equation:
(LBM x 0.75 x 4) / 9 = fat grams/training day
Bob’s LBM was 146. (146 x 0.75 x 4) / 9 = 48.6 -> 49 grams of fat
Make it 50 for counting ease.
Bob’s training day fat macro is 50 grams.
This macro is certainly not set in stone. This formula seems to work well. But it may be overthinking things a bit.
I wouldn’t go much over 70 grams (for the bigger individual) or much under 30 grams (for the lighter) on your training days.
There’s no need, regardless of what the equation produces.
***At this point, subtract your fat calories from your remaining balance to figure out how many calories you have left for carbs.
Bob’s fat number is 50 grams.
50 grams x 9 calories per gram = 450 calories from fat.
1,316 calories were left – 450 calories from fat = 866 calories left for carbohydrates.
D) Set your training day carbohydrate target.
However many calories you have left, divide that number by 4 to calculate how many carbohydrates grams you can eat.
Bob had 866 calories left.
866 calories / 4 calories/gram of carbs = 216.5 carb grams/training day.
Round down to 215 to make counting simple.
Bob’s training day macros are now set.
146 grams of protein / 215 grams of carbohydrates / 50 grams of fat.
5. Set your rest day total calories (“A”) and macros (“B”, “C”, and “D”). Remember, your remaining deficit must come from these days.
A) Set your rest day calories.
Your rest day calories are decided by your overall deficit.
As previously stated, you will be eating close to maintenance on training days.
If you are eating exactly at maintenance, your entire deficit comes from your rest days.
Yes, that means four days per week will suck.
But what do you want? Big Macs or abs?
If you’re eating slightly under maintenance on your training days, be sure to accommodate accordingly.
Bob’s weekly target caloric intake as 11,200.
His training day calories were 1,900.
He will eat these calories three days/week.
1,900 x 3 = 5,700 calories consumed on training days/week.
11,200 total calories – 5,700 calories = 5,500 calories left for rest days.
5,500 rest day calories / 4 rest days = 1,377.7 rest day calories.
Round down to 1,350 for a nice, easy number.
B) Set your rest day protein target.
It’s the same as your training day protein target. Simple enough.
Bob’s training day protein target is 146 grams.
Bob’s rest day protein target will also be 146 grams.
C) Set your rest day carbohydrate target at “0”.
Although we set our rest day carb number at “0”, this cannot actually be done in practice – only in theory.
It is literally impossible to eat zero carbohydrates over the course of a day.
And if you’ve read earlier posts, green, leafy vegetables should be eaten frequently and in large quantities, especially while in a cut.
They help with fullness, micronutrients, and regularity.
Simply try as best as you can to eat zero carbs other than green, leafy veggies. Technically, this isn’t “0” carbs.
But this site is called Anyman Fitness.
We’re trying to make this easy.
I’m not about to count out florets of broccoli. I would go insane. I suggest the same for you.
We rounded down a few times for a reason as well. We have a bit of a buffer. And this is why we have the buffer.
Plus, if we include these veggies at every meal, and we aren’t making proper progress, we will adjust the numbers accordingly and the systemic error will take care of itself.
This DOES mean no breads, pastas,
potatoes, sugars, fruit, and starches
consumed on rest days while in a cut.
Bob’s rest day carb number is zero grams. That was easy.
D) Set your rest day fat target.
Again, Leangains is a calorie and macronutrient cycling program.
It attempts to take advantage of the nutrient timing benefits in eating carbohydrates post-workout and the hormonal benefits to eating good amounts of fat on our rest days.
Plus, it flat out adds variety to our food and allows us some sanity.
On training days, we eat as many carbohydrates as we can, especially post-training, in order to facilitate recovery.
On rest days, we don’t need as many carbohydrates since we are resting.
In 5C, we set carbs at “0”. We will get our remaining calories from fat.
We need to ensure we get enough fats in our diet to avoid the pitfalls and failings of low-fat dieting.
Plus, that shit tastes good.
So eat your bacon and eggs.
Find your remaining rest day calories by subtracting your rest day protein calories from your total rest day calories. Divide the balance by 9 to get your number of rest day fat grams.
Bob’s rest day caloric intake is 1,350.
Bob’s rest day protein number is 146 grams.
146 grams x 4 calories/gram = 584 calories from protein/rest day.
1,350 total rest day cals – 584 cals from protein = 766 cals left.
766 calories left / 9 calories/fat gram = 85.1 grams of fat/rest day.
Bob’s rest day fat number is 85 grams.
Bob’s rest day macros are now set.
146 grams of protein / “0” grams of carbohydrates/ 85 grams of fat
6. Double check your deficit.
Make sure your caloric intake is on point with your goals. Use the following formula:
(Training protein grams x 7 x 4)
+ (Training carb grams x 3 x 4)
+ (Training fat grams x 3 x 9)
+ (Rest fat grams x 4 x 9)
Total Weekly Calories
Using Bob’s numbers……….
(146 x 7 x 4)
+ (215 x 3 x 4)
+ (50 x 3 x 9)
+ (85 x 4 x 9)
11,078 calories -> Target calories were 11,200 -> Perfect!
If you calculated correctly, your Total Weekly Calories should be slightly under your answer from #3. The “slightly under” part is caused from all of the rounding down of decimal points.
7. What are you waiting for? Start your cut already.
Here’s some tips and pointers for dieting consistency.
And a brief FAQ for those of you who will (undoubtedly) ask questions…………..
Q: I tried doing this, and my fat number was really small on rest days. Surely this can’t be right…….
A: The only big issue with this methodology when it comes to setting macros is for the very light individuals.
For those with maintenance calories under 2,000, it becomes increasingly difficult to obtain your deficit entirely from your rest day.
You never want to dip below 0.8 grams of protein per pound of LBM.
Research shows that seems to be close to the “tipping point” for adequate muscle preservation while cutting.
If a smaller individual finds his rest day fat number rather low (perhaps < 45 grams),it would make more sense to eat a bit below maintenance on training days to allow for proper fat intake.
Which is why I used Bob’s measurements as an example.
Larger individuals with higher caloric requirements will be well served taking their entire deficit from their rest day, generally.
Q: What about percentages? I’m currently eating at +10%/-30%. How does that stack up?
A: Not sure. Use percentages if you wish.
But that doesn’t change the fact that you are actively trying to cut calories and weight.
Percentages aren’t the most useful item we have – they don’t account for raw scores.
“20% under” means something
much different to a 6’5″ football player
than it does to a 5’5″ skinny-fat office worker.
But that doesn’t change the fact that both will need to eat around 3,500 calories under deficit to lose 1 pound/week. I’d prefer to look at the values in terms of absolutes. It makes the process simpler for me.
Q: What are the optimal macronutrient percentages? Maybe I should choose my numbers that way.
A: Have fun. The methodology above will get your macros into the proper percentages.
In general, when cutting, most people do better on less carbs (around 20%).
The leaner you are, the higher that number CAN be in a cut. As long as the other macros aren’t absurdly set, you’ll be fine.
If you run an analysis on Bob’s numbers,
they work out to
36% protein / 22% carbs / 42% fat
Which sounds about right for a cut.
Q: But I want to have “this macro” higher and “that macro” lower. Can I do that?
A: Sure. There’s more than one option out there.
But no matter what macronutrient you decide to raise/lower, keep in mind a couple of things:
1. You need a weekly deficit of around 3,500 calories as a starting point to lose a pound. If your goals are higher or lower than that, you’ll have to adjust accordingly.
2. Certain macronutrients have benefits over others while in a cut.
Protein has a metabolic advantage due to TEF (it takes energy to burn off protein – leaving you with fewer net calories), it is filling, and quite frankly, it’s fun to eat.
Fat is filling and has been proven to regulate hormones.
Carbs help you recover from your intense training workouts and keep leptin levels where they need to be.
Everyone has their own preferences. The above plan is catered to my preferences – it’s been recognized through personal experience and working with others.
If you have your own preferences, my advice to you: Don’t be an idiot.
And you should be fine.
Q: But when should I eat my meals and what should they consist of? Where does BCAA powder fit in?
A: Both are questions for another time. But your answer is coming soon – it will be the topic of a later post.
Update: Here it is. Optimal meal plans and breakdowns when using Leangains. Enjoy.
But it’s all trial and error. Give it a shot using this method. Adjust accordingly. Losing too quickly? Introduce a few calories. Losing too slowly? Make a small adjustment downwards…..
Or shoot me an email. That’s what coaches are best for – taking all the guesswork out of it…….