How to calculate your leangains macros

 Note: These guidelines are my own summary of Martin Berkhan’s Leangains system. I’d recommend you check out his site.

This guide has been viewed over 1 million times since the first publication in 2011. I’ve made revisions over 100 times since, the last major update being September 29th, 2015.

There is a school of thought that it can be beneficial for nutrient partitioning (and therefore body composition) to have more calories on the days you work out, and less on the days you don’t. Martin Berkhan in particular took this a step further by experimenting with higher carb/lower fat intake training days, and higher fat/lower carb intake rest days in forming his Leangains system.

This is my guide to calculating macros based on Martin’s Leangains system. You can see the results that this system produces here. This is exactly how I set things up for the vast majority of clients (for the most part) for years.

As with any serious nutrition strategy, these initial calculations are just the start point. Key to your success will be fine tuning your macros so that you keep progressing. These will come in later guides on the site. For now, you need a start point, and I’ve worked to make this guide as simple as possible, without compromising on the efficacy. I’ve given the bare-minumim theory because most people don’t want it when they are first starting out.

If you’d like to make this even easier, my macro calculation spreadsheet and detailed nutrition set-up guide is available for free download. Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the end of this article if you think you’d find that useful after reading. – Andy.


Calculate Calorie Intake

It’s necessary to calculate calorie intake first, before then dividing it up into macros. Here are the steps.

Step 1. Calculate your BMR

I like to call BMR your ‘coma calories’ – the energy intake you need, should you fall into a coma, to maintain your body weight. There are a variety of formulas, all of which produce a guess at best, so don’t worry about trying to calculate things perfectly because we’ll adjust our intake based on how we progress.

The Harris-Benedict formula is commonly used, but doesn’t work very well if you are particularly fat (it’ll overestimate your calorie needs) or particularly jacked (it’ll underestimate your calorie needs). Therefore I recommend the Katch-McArdle BMR formula as it’s based on body-fat percentage and is a little more accurate.

Metric: BMR  = 370 + 21.6 * Lean Body Mass (in kg)

1 kg = 2.2 lbs, so if you’re used to using pounds, just divide your weight by 2.2 to find your weight in kg.

Lean Body Mass (LBM) = weight – (weight * (body-fat %/100))

You can estimate your body-fat percentage with a few quick body measurements here.

ESTIMATE BMR


Step 2. Adjust for Activity

You need to add an ‘activity multiplier’ (x1.2~x1.9) to your BMR depending on your lifestyle/training.

  • Sedentary (little or no exercise): BMR x 1.2
  • Lightly active (training/sports 2-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375
  • Moderately active (training/sports 4-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
  • Very active (training/sports 6-7 days a week): BMR x 1.725
  • Extremely active (twice per day, extra heavy workouts): BMR x 1.9

From these two calculations we now have our approximate daily energy expenditure (TDEE). We need to adjust this number based on our goal, which we’ll do next.

ESTIMATE TOTAL DAILY ENERGY EXPENDITURE

MEET BOB

AVERAGE HEIGHT, INTERMEDIATE TRAINEE, MODERATELY ACTIVE
75KG, 10% BODY FAT
GOAL: GAIN MUSCLE/BULK

STEP 1: BMR = 370+21.6*75*(1-0.1) = 1828 kcal
STEP 2: TDEE = 1828*1.55 = 2833 kcal

MEET TOM

TALL, NOVICE TRAINEE, LIGHTLY ACTIVE
90KG, 20% BODY FAT
GOAL: IRRELEVANT. HE NEEDS TO CUT AND IF HE DOES IT RIGHT HE’LL GAIN MUSCLE AT THE SAME TIME

STEP 1: BMR = 370+21.6*90*(1-0.2) = 1925 kcal
STEP 2: TDEE = 1925*1.375 = 2647 kcal


Step 3. Adjust Calorie Intake Based On Your Goal

It’s important to choose a goal – fat loss or muscle gain. Yes, I know you want both, and you might be able to achieve that to a degree, but for now I need you to look at yourself in the mirror and choose what you think is most important right now. If you need help with this, have a read of my Goal Setting Guide.

Goal: Fat Loss

A calorie deficit is required for fat loss, so we need to have a calorie intake under our TDEE (the calorie figure calculated in the previous section). The fatter we are the quicker we can lose body fat; the leaner we are, the more slowly we must take things so that we preserve muscle mass. Therefore, it’s best to make reductions to TDEE based on our body-fat percentage:

Current estimated body-fat % Reduce calorie intake by
30%> 30%
20-30% 25%
10-20% 20%
<10% 15%

Goal: Muscle Gain

Increase TDEE by 20%.

Goal: ‘Body-recomposition’ (Both)

No changes will be made to calorie intake.

I rarely recommend this.

There is the idea that if calorie intake is kept at weight-maintenance levels, but the training is right and the meal timing is right, then muscle will replace fat in a perfect 1:1 ratio. Now while this is true it is rarely the quickest way for someone to go about achieving their goals. For most people this will simply compromise both, slow up the progress of everything, which will in turn threaten adherence to the plan significantly. The exception are certain ‘skinny-fat’ trainees.

The idea usually comes from a misguided sense of importance that tricks with meal timing can play and is especially prevalent in the Leangains community. (This isn’t a fault of Leangains, it’s just human nature to want to believe in shortcuts.)

We now have our target average daily calorie intake. The next step is to adjust that to give us more calories for our training days and less for the rest days.

CALCULATE AVERAGE DAILY CALORIE INTAKE

BOB: STEP 3

TDEE = 2833 kcal
GOAL: BULK, SO ADD 20% TO TDEE

TARGET AVERAGE DAILY CALORIE INTAKE =
TDEE*1.2 = 2833*1.2 = 3400 kcal

TOM: STEP 3

TDEE = 2647 kcal
GOAL: CUT FROM 20% BODY FAT, SO SUBTRACT 20% FROM TDEE

TARGET AVERAGE DAILY CALORIE INTAKE =
TDEE*0.8 = 2647*0.8 = 2118 kcal


Step 4. Calculate Training & Rest Day Calorie Intake Targets

We want to split the calorie intake so that we are consuming more on our training days than our rest days. The idea is to optimize recovery.

An approximate 40% difference between your training and rest day calorie intake figures will do, and if you are training 3 or 4 days a week, here is the simplest way to do this:

Take your average daily calorie intake and multiply by 1.2 – this is your training day calorie intake figure.

Take your average daily calorie intake and multiply by 0.8 – this is your rest day calorie intake figure.

If you’re not training 3-4 days a week then see my more detailed diet set up guide.

CALCULATE TRAINING & REST DAY CALORIE TARGETS

BOB: STEP 4

AVERAGE DAILY CALORIE INTAKE = 3400 kcal

TRAINING DAY INTAKE = 3400*1.2 = 4080 kcal
REST DAY INTAKE = 3400*0.8 = 2720 kcal

TOM: STEP 4

AVERAGE DAILY CALORIE INTAKE = 2118 kcal

TRAINING DAY INTAKE = 2118*1.2 = 2542 kcal
REST DAY INTAKE = 2118*0.8 = 1694 kcal


Calculate Your Macros

 

It’s now time to divide our calorie budgets for the training and rest days between the three macros. Protein will be kept high always. Training days will have a high carbohydrate, low fat intake; rest days will be higher fat, lower carbohydrate intake.

There are fairly strict guidelines for protein setting, there are looser guidelines for fat intake setting, and the carbohydrates balance the calorie budget.

Step 5. Set Your Protein Intake

Protein is good. You’ve heard this even if you can’t remember why. Here’s why: It forms the building blocks for muscle, it has a protective effect on muscle tissue when dieting, and it’s the most satiating of the macro nutrients (i.e. it keeps away hunger).

Ignore what your mum says she read in the daily mirror – high protein diets do not cause kidney damage, nor do they raise your risk of cancer – unless you’re eating processed red meat, all the time, and in very large quantities. (For a full summary of the research and practical recommendations regarding high protein diets see this excellent article over on examine.com.)

Protein Intake When Cutting

The research data suggests an intake somewhere in the 2.3-3.1 g/kg (~1.1-1.4 g/lb) of lean body mass (LBM) range when dieting is where we want to be. Lower than this and we risk muscle loss; higher than this serves no real purpose – it will just make your supermarket visits more expensive, as well as limit the carbs and fats you could otherwise be eating in your diet. The higher end of this range comes from research data on bodybuilders going through contest prep – you won’t need to go this high, unless you are already shredded, and wanting to get to stage shredded levels of leanness from there.

→ I recommend 2.5 g of protein per kilogram of lean body mass each day when cutting. (~1.2 g/lb)

You can choose to go to up to 3.1 g if you have issues with hunger, as protein will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Check out the site’s main FAQ also if hunger is causing you issues as you can go fairly far just from altering food choices without adjusting your macros.

Protein Intake When Bulking

When bulking the optimal range of intake it slightly lower: 1.6-2.2 g/kg (~0.8-1.0 g/lb) LBM.  If you go lower than this and you may not grow as much a you otherwise could have from your training; higher than this your body simply isn’t capable of using directly for muscle growth and repair. (Unless you’re pumping yourself full of drugs, which will raise the cap on how much muscle can be synthesized from protein each day, which is why you see drug-using bodybuilders go much higher than this range.)

I suggest we set it slightly higher than this range for a couple of reasons:

  1. There are inter-individual differences on how much protein is needed. You don’t know which end of the range your needs will lie, so as long as you have the budget, I’d argue that it’s better to go with the higher end of the range to be conservative.
  2. As you’re bulking, you’ll be growing so you’ll eventually need to eat more protein as you grow anyway.

→ I recommend 2.5 g of protein per kilogram of lean mass on both training and rest days. (~1.2 g/lb)

CALCULATE TARGET DAILY PROTEIN INTAKE

BOB: STEP 5

GOAL: BULK, 10% BODY FAT, 75KG
PROTEIN INTAKE 2.5g/kg OF LBM

PROTEIN INTAKE = 2.5*75*0.9 = ~170g/DAY

TOM: STEP 5

GOAL: CUT, 20% BODY FAT, 90KG
PROTEIN INTAKE 2.5g/kg OF LBM

PROTEIN INTAKE = 2.5*90*0.8 = ~180g/DAY


Step 6. Set Your Fat Intake

Consumption of dietary fat is important for hormonal regulation, especially testosterone production. It should never be eliminated from a diet. Make sure your average daily fat intake goes no lower than 0.9 g/kg (~0.4 g/lb) of LBM.

Fat Intake When Cutting

Average daily fat intake when cutting should be somewhere in this range: 0.9-1.3 g/kg  (~0.4-0.6 g/lb) of LBM.

Go with the higher end of the range if you prefer a higher fat diet, the lower end of the range if you prefer more carbs in your diet. Those carrying more body fat will do better with a higher fat intake on training days than leaner individuals. This is to do with insulin sensitivity, which increases when you get leaner.

Now, we want to set your fat intake so that you have it higher on your rest days, and a lower on your training days. This is an attempt to improve calorie partitioning (less fat storage, better recovery and muscle gain).

The average male client will typically have a fat intake somewhere in the ~40-65 g range on training days, 60-100 g on the rest days. For the purposes of the calculation box below, I’ve taken the average fat intake figure, and then set it 30% higher and lower than that for the rest and training days respectively.

CUTTING? CALCULATE FAT INTAKE HERE

Fat Intake When Bulking

  • When bulking have your average daily fat intake around 20-30% of calorie intake.
  • Choose a percentage in that range based on whether you prefer a higher fat or higher carbohydrate intake. Then divide that by 9 to find how many grams of fat you should consume on average each day. (There are 9 kcal in each gram of fat remember.)
  • We want to have a fairly large split between the fat intake on the training days and rest days. So, multiply by 0.7 to find your training day fat intake figure, multiply by 1.3 to find your rest day intake figure.

BULKING? CALCULATE FAT INTAKE HERE

BOB: STEP 6

GOAL: BULK,
SETS FAT INTAKE AT 25% OF CALORIE INTAKE

AVERAGE DAILY FAT INTAKE = (0.25*3400)/9 = 85g
TRAINING DAY FAT INTAKE = 95*0.7 = ~65g
REST DAY FAT INTAKE = 95*1.3 = ~125g

TOM: STEP 6

GOAL: CUT,
HE’S A FAIRLY TALL/BIG GUY SO HE’LL SET HIS FAT INTAKE NEAR THE UPPER END OF THE TYPICAL CLIENT RANGES

TRAINING DAY FAT INTAKE = 60g
REST DAY FAT INTAKE = 90g


Step 7. Calculate Carb Intake

Just think of carbs as being here to balance the equation so that you hit your training and rest day calorie targets. Carbs have 4 calories in each gram.

→ Training day carb intake = Training day calorie intake – training day fat intake – training day protein intake

→ Rest day carb intake = Rest day calorie intake – Rest day fat intake – Rest day protein intake

CALCULATE CARB INTAKE

BOB: STEP 7

TRAINING DAY CALORIE INTAKE = 4080 kcal
PROTEIN INTAKE =170g, FAT INTAKE =65g

REST DAY CALORIE INTAKE = 2720 kcal
PROTEIN INTAKE = 170g, FAT INTAKE = 125g

TRAINING DAY CARB INTAKE = 4080 – 170*4 – 65*9 = 2815 kcal = ~705g

REST DAY CARB INTAKE = 2720 -170*4 – 125*9 = 915 kcal = ~230g

TOM: STEP 7

TRAINING DAY CALORIE INTAKE = 2542 kcal
PROTEIN INTAKE =180g, FAT INTAKE =60g

REST DAY CALORIE INTAKE = 1694 kcal
PROTEIN INTAKE = 180g, FAT INTAKE = 90g

TRAINING DAY CARB INTAKE = 2542 – 180*4 – 60*9 = 1282 kcal = ~320g

REST DAY CARB INTAKE = 1694 -180*4 – 90*9 = 164 kcal = ~40g


FAQ

What about macro ratios? I read somewhere that I should have 40/40/20.

Ignore the idea of macro ratios, these are just a function of the stage of dieting rather than something to target.

As you have just seen, protein intake is best set based on lean body mass, there are minimum recommendations for fat intake, and carbohydrate just makes up the calorie balance. What this means is that the ratio of the macronutrients that make up your diet will change as you progress – there will be more carbohydrate when we are bulking, and less when we are cutting. If you target specific macro ratios you’ll end up with a diet that is suboptimal for you.

Do these macros look right?

It’s not possible for me to look at a set of calculated macros and say whether they are correct or not. It’s going to vary greatly from person to person.

Now, one important thing to note it that the initial calculations we make are an estimation – a starting point and nothing more. Everyone’s actual energy expenditure will vary somewhere between plus or minus ~20% of that due genetic differences, the current state of metabolic adaptations, and NEAT variance. (More on this here).

We can’t calculate for these things, so a better question is, “How are these macros working for you?

If you’re not tracking, you don’t know, so get started and make sure you don’t miss any points. From there you can fine tune things based on how you progress. Make sure you read my guide to tracking your progress.

I get a negative number for my carb intake on the rest days. What did I do wrong?

Check that you didn’t set your fat loss rate too high for your current level of body fat. If you have that right, then reduce the calorie split between the training and rest days (from 30% to 20% for example). If you’ve already done that, then reduce it further manually by just taking some of your carb intake from the training days and adding it to the rest days.

What should I read next?

If you’re looking for meal timing suggestions specifically for Leangains then I’d suggest my Leangains Overview and Meal Timing Guide. However, if you’d like something with fuller explanations which will allow for further customization, then check out my Complete Guide To Setting Up Your Diet, or get it in your inbox by filling out the form below. This isn’t Leangains specific but all the elements are covered.

Make sure you check out my progress tracking guide. A lot of people miss that at their own peril.

The guides covering how to adjust and fine tune and your diet are all here.

**********

Good luck. Thanks for reading. Questions are welcomed in the comments. – Andy


Get The RippedBody.jp Starter Kit:

Complete_diet_set-up_guide_3d_cover_v2

1. Macro calculator
2. 'The Complete Guide To Setting Up Your Diet' book
3. Email course on the 5 biggest set-up mistakes people make.

(Yes, it's all free.)

Powered by ConvertKit

The Last Shred 3D Cover - Large

Find my 'Complete Guide To Setting Up Your Diet' book useful?

↓ Take your physique to the next level ↓

The Last Shred: How To Adjust Your Diet Like A Pro To Achieve Single Digit Body Fat

Stop second guessing yourself.

→ 77 pages, Real data from 5 clients guided to shreds

You owe it to yourself to at least take a look →

About the Author

Andy Morgan

I'm an online nutritional coach and trainer. After seeing one too many people get ripped off by supplement and training industry lies I decided to try and do something about it. The site you see here is the result of a lot of Starbucks-fuelled, two-fingered typing. It's had a lot of love poured into it, and I hope you find the guides to the diet and training methods I use on this site useful. When I'm not helping clients you'll likely find me crashing down a mountain on a snowboard, riding a motorbike, or staring at watches I can't afford.

1,936 Comments on “How To Calculate Your Leangains Macros”

    1. Andy Morgan

      I’ll offer up three answers for you Grant, let’s see if you can pick the right one:

      a) It’s part of a purposeful campaign to be inconsiderate to North American readers.
      b) To weed out the weak-willed people who won’t be bothered to make the conversion and will fail elsewhere anyway, yet persist in harassing me in the comments with ill-thought-out questions.
      c) I’m English and live in Japan. Both countries use the metric system.

  1. Roei

    Hi,

    I hope you still reply to messages!

    I calculated my calorie intake and it says my TDEE is 2744.

    It seems a bit far fetched to me since I just gained over the course of 6 months 15 pounds (mind you I started taking creatine the same time..so some of the weight is cus of that).

    How is it possible the calculator says that figure when I ate 2500 cals on rest days and 2700-2800 on train days?

    Thanks

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Roei, sure.
      “How is it possible…”
      Because the calculation is just an estimation, not an exact. As you already know how much you’re eating, and what your weekly weight change has been on average, you can adjust your calorie intake from there.

  2. Thomas Martin

    Hi Andy, I have calculated my calories /macros for a cut using both your lean gains page and your complete set up guide, with the numbers being different, is this as the lean gains cut is slower than the normal cut?
    Thanks,
    Thomas

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Thomas. The method of calculating is slightly different, but what you find in The Complete Set-up Guide is a more detailed way of calculating things. Stick with that.

  3. Pontus

    I am a bit confused about the amount of protein you should consume because in the Muscle and Strength Nutrition Pyramid, protein is based on body weight (not on LBM). By the e-book calculations I get a protein value that is >200 grams and based on the facts (extremely high protein diet is only useful for contest prep shredded-ness which I do not have set as a goal at the moment) and calculations here it is the opposite (<200 grams). I'd assume that rates relying on LBM is far more accurate but I just want your input on this issue before I make any adjustments.
    There are similar problems with fat intake as well. In the e-book a percentage value is used to decide fat intake; here you say that they should be ignored.

    I hope you can clear things up and by no means do I try out-smart anyone of you guys, I know you have done your homework.

  4. Raul Medina

    Hey Andy, thanks for making this calculator. You made it too simple for us common folks 🙂 I’m going to start your program on 5-10-16. Currently I’m at 84kg / 20% BF. LBM is at 67.2 kg. I’m going to run it for 16 weeks. I will post my results. Thanks buddy..

  5. Bob

    Hey Andy,

    Firstly, thanks for all of the resources you have available here, appreciate the time you’re putting in!

    I have a question about TDEE and bodyweight training, as I believe that heavy weight training is really the standard protocol for LG.

    My training regimen is usually as follows:

    HIIT / Kettlebells 3 x per week – example routine below (usually burning around 600-700 calories in a fasted state in the morning):

    I also do Calisthenics training 2-3 x per week (pull ups, push up variations, dips, etc…) usually in the evening.

    My questions are: would you class HIIT / TRX / Kettlebells workout days as a rest day or a training day (at the moment I’m only classing the days where I do intense bodyweight training as training days)?

    Also, when calculating my TDEE (and subsequently macros) using your calculator I am using ‘lightly active’ as my activity level even though I have a pretty sedentary daily job. I’m experimenting right now but just wondered if you thought that was a good place to start based on the above?

    Again, really appreciate the resources you’re putting out there and thanks in advance for any advice you can throw my way!

    B

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Bob, thanks for the question. Sounds to me like you are more than just “lightly active”. I’d change that multiplier. Any day with resistance training for progressive overload, consider it a training day.

  6. Marc

    Hi Andy,

    first of all thanks putting together all the Information an resources on lean gains. I started weight training 3 month ago, and changed my diet completly (No sugar, proccessed foods, alcohol). And I managed to reduce body fat from 23% body fat to 16% with with nearly constant weight. But I think I have reached a plateau. I have lost 2 KG since last month while my boday fat is still around 16%,however. So I decided to try the lean gains method and started by setting up my macros for a moderate cut.

    I am doing 4 workout each week,heavy weight lifting on mondays and fridays, as well as HIIT circles (basically sprinting or speed strength exercise) and on Tuesdays and Thursdays (about 20-30min) and used the faktor 1.55 to adjust the TDEE.
    But I am not sure how to apply the concept of macro cycling for those HIIT workout days. I think the high carb setting for lifting days might be too much if applied to those HIIT days (especially in terms of carbs). While the low calorie setting for a rest day might be to low. I am thinking abot using the average TDEE for those days, but I am not sure if I should stick to the low carb setting (80 Grams).

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Marc, it’s a good job you commented cause you’re really about to mess things up.

      I have lost 2 KG since last month while my boday fat is still around 16%,however.”
      You have not gradually lost 2kg over the last month and not lost any fat. The issue is that you’ve been using a body-fat measurement device, it’s got it wrong, it’s messed with your head and now you are looking to jump to something new. Go back to whatever you were doing as it was probably working fine.

      Here’s what you need to do:
      1. Set your body fat measurement device on fire, cause it’s shit, and causing you unnecessary heart ache:
      The 3 Reasons You Need To Forget About Body-fat Percentage
      A Quick Guide To Estimating Body-fat Percentage
      2. Start tracking properly:
      How To Track Your Progress Like A Pro, To Ensure Body Composition Goal Success

      1. Marc

        Thanks for your reply. I was panicking because of a number. I started tracking my progress by other measures. I’ll keep my macros and training routine for now until I see a lack of progress but I will definitely use lean gains when I change to a bulk.

  7. Sam

    Great article man, thanks for sharing all this useful information.

    I have a question regarding activity multiplier. I do hard weight training with less rest for 1-1.5 hr 4 times a week and 15-20 min low to medium cardio 4x a week but other than that I’m completely inactive due to desk job so what should I use for activity multiplier in tdee calculations?

  8. Alex

    Hi,

    Thanks for a great guide. Quick question: how important is it that the gram-amount of fat is higher on rest days than workout days? With my calculations I have to move some carbs from workout to rest days (negative otherwise), and then in order to get the proper amount of fat and protein overall, I have to adjust up the fat amount on training days to be higher than on rest days.

    Is this a problem? Percent-wise its still lower, but there is not a big difference between the two days. The carb amount obviously varies a lot, however.

    Thanks
    Alex

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Alex. Not a big issue. If you’d like to dig deeper into this stuff see the complete set-up guide linked at the end of the article, timing section.

  9. Thibault

    Hi Andy, thanks for u help with this site!
    Just one question about it, above u said that training calories does’nt count ’cause they are low, but thanks to my apple watch who based on my weight and heart beat, during my friday’s strenght training, i consume about 1000 kcal per training on 2h30. I think i should not see it as low, how to base my diet on my 3 different training’s calories loss? It is about 600-700 on monday, 400-500 on wednesday and 1000-1100 on friday.
    Thank for ur help!

    Thibault

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Thibault, thanks for the questions.
      above u said that training calories does’nt count
      No, you’ve misunderstood what I’ve written. All calories count.

      how to base my diet on my 3 different training’s calories loss?
      Though you could add back in then calories on a per day basis, I would just go with what is written above and ignore your watch. Gadgets for calorie expenditure estimation tend to be quite inaccurate. Then adjust from the baseline you create.

  10. Christen Morrison

    I’ve been on a macro eating plan for 30 days. My plans numbers matched pretty closely with your calculator. If I am not seeing results what do you suggest changing first? Carbs or fat? Or caloric intake?

  11. Nick

    Andy, while my main workouts are 4 days a week, my rest days are all active rest days (swimming, heavy bag, or walking). Should i stick with the moderately active choice (3-4 days a week of exercise), or the very active (6-7 days)?

  12. Robin

    Hi Andy
    If im going with recomposition, how do I calculate my target fat intake in step 6? I can only find guidelines for cut and bulk.

  13. Doug St John

    Hi Andy,

    When I calculate my macro requirements, I’m left with 30 carbs on Rest Days. Can you suggest a realistic target that will maximize my cut results? My caloric target for rest days is 1905, (2855 for Training Days). I’ve been average between 3-4K daily for many years. I’m 20% BF and want to get around 12% before bulking up the right way.

    Your site is a fantastic resource, appreciate it!

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Doug, if you want to eat some more carbs yet maintain the calorie balance, swap out some of your calorie budget from fat. 100 kcal of fat is ~11g, 100 kcal of carbs is 25g.

  14. Frank Espinoza

    Hi Andy, one question. If I want to go on a recomposition protocol, in the days I have to train, is it necessary to do fasting that day? And if I choose not to fast, what difference would be between training at around 11:00 am, and training at 9:00 pm(given that I have eaten most of my calories already by 9:00pm?) and I want to get muscle?
    Frank

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Frank. Please feel free to train whenever your schedule allows, I don’t believe it will make a lot of difference. Rules for meal timing covered in the links above.

  15. Felix

    I’ve read that under optimal conditions (training, nutrition, recovery) one can gain 8-15 g of muscle mass per day. That would be 56-105 g per week. Let’s say someone’s maintenance level is at 3000 kcal per day. If they go for a bulk with a surplus of 20% kcal per day, that would be additional 600 kcal per day on average, 4200 kcal per week. Wouldn’t they – while they gain only 56-105 g muscle mass at optimal conditions – at least also build up 500 g of fat (4200 kcal / (7 kcal/g) minus the muscle mass) per week? Wouldn’t it be more logical to have a daily calorie surplus that would equal or is at least closer to the max. of 8-15 g muscle gain?

    1. Felix

      Another question: While other pages suggest to use factor 0.9 for rest days and 1.3 for training days on the TDEE for bulking, your calculator uses 0.96 (1.2 * 0.8) for rest days and 1.44 (1.2 * 1.2) for training days, which is almost 50% more (0.44 / 0.3 – 1) of the surplus calories on training days. Or did I get something wrong?

      1. Andy Morgan

        Hi Felix, thanks for your questions.

        1. No. These things can’t be calculated exactly. Have a good read of my article on bulking. Then get stuck into the adjustments articles, and the ones on genetic potential.

        2. Yes. They’re two different methods of calculating a starting point. They won’t mix, but arrive at approximately the same result when followed from start to finish independently. Choose one, stick to it, don’t worry about the differences.

  16. Lewis

    Hi Andy, thanks very much for this article. It is brilliant and is excellent guidance for me to help shape my plans for 2016.

    I have decided to focus on lean bulking. My only question is around cardio/ exercise for fat loss. Can this be factored in to a bulking programme? The reason I ask is because due to working away, I may go 3-5 days without being able to get to the gym, but clearly going out for a jog in the surrounding area is much easier. By doing this will this help shed a little fat without compromising my overall goal?

    Thoughts would be much appreciated. Thanks again.

    Lewis

  17. Wafi

    Hello!
    Amazing article. very useful. I have been doing intermittent fasting for about 4 or 5 months. and I got rid of my beer belly. Now I am getting close to my six packs but I am not quite there yet. I might look a bit “skinny-fat”. I feel like for the past month or so I am hitting a plateau. I have been cycling between circuit training and traditional training using sets. for the past month I focused mostly on HIT. My diet is mostly based on rice and various curries. My questions are as follow:

    -What sort of trying is best for shedding fat? Normal strength training with heavy weights? Or HIT training? I read an article in this website saying that heavy weight training is favourable

    -Diet wise I don’t really count calories, macros or anything. To shed fat I just ate less. Is protein really that crucial in order to achieve a six pack?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Wafi, thanks for the questions.
      1. Have a read this article, The Core Principles of Effective Training
      2. A calorie deficit is necessary for losing body fat. A low body-fat percentage is necessary for the abs to be visible. Protein is crucial for maintaining muscle mass in a calorie deficit. Nobody gives a shit about a skinny guy with a six pack. So… yes.

  18. Neil M

    Hello Andy,

    Love this article and the data behind it. From a theoretical standpoint, this info is sound…all but one issue, at least to me. It’s known that you should at least intake 0.9 g/kg of fat because the human body needs that minimum to function properly, so why is it on training day the fat falls below that minimum? I do know carbs are more important than fat on those days, but don’t we still need to minimum fat intake regardless of if it’s a training or rest day?

    Thank you,
    Neil M

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Neil, thanks for the compliments and question.

      Individual days can be higher or lower, it’s the average that matters. If you’d like to read more about all this it’s covered in that more comprehensive guide linked at the end of the article.

  19. Caleb

    My goal is to consume 2,000cals a day – which puts me at a 1,000cal deficit of my TDEE. I burn between 1,500-2,000cals with my workout & work etc. I’ve been doing the 16hr Fast/8hr Feed and it has been amazing!

    However, i’m confused as to how my calorie intake should actually work based on my daily activity and already being in a 1,000cal deficit…

    If i consume 2,000cals of food in my feeding window but have burned 1,500cals through my daily activity, this means I’m then left with 500cals (which i take as a 2,500cal deficit of my TDEE). Do i leave this as it is? Is this what I’m supposed to be going for?

    Or do i need to increase these 500cals back up to the 2,000cal mark again by consuming another 1,500cals because of the amount I’m constantly burning?

    For example. Today i burned 1,300cals but consumed 3,000cals in my 8hr feeding window. This left me with 1,700cals which I’m taking as, i am still in a great deficit (300cals below 2,000cals and 1,300cals below my TDEE). Is this the right way to calculate it?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Caleb, I think the problem you’re having is that you’re trying to adjust your calorie intake each day based on how many calories you think you burned. Whatever you’re using to guess that (a Fitbit or something like that), it’ll likely be inaccurate, and adjusting each day is a mistake in my opinion. Besides, your TDEE calculation already has the daily energy expenditure factored in, and that works perfectly fine as is.

  20. Felix

    What I’m wondering is why leangains doesn’t consider the calories burnt by training itself on the training days.
    If someone eg. burns 2500 calories on non-training days and 3100 on training days (600 through training), gets an TDEE of 2800 through the calculator and choses to go for a recomp, he would take -20% calories on non-training days (2800 – 560 = 2240, only 260 calories less than the actually burnt 2500 kcal) und +20% on training days (2800 + 560 = 3360, only 260 kcal more than the actually burnt 3100 kcal).
    Wouldn’t it be more efficient to incorporate the calorie difference between training/non-training days and have an even higher deficiency/plus of eg. 500, as it is recommended on articles about EOD refeeds?

  21. Chris

    How do the BCAAs taken when doing the early morning fasted training factor in with the Macros? Should the protein be decreased some? Fewer daily calories?

  22. Ryan

    Hello Andy,

    I am a male weighing 83kg, at 184 cm in height and around 18-20% body fat.

    [Paragraph of calculations deleted by Andy.]

    I hope you can answer this question for me as I am a bit confused!
    Thanks in advance and I really appreciate the information you have on your website, happy new year!

  23. Jimmy

    Thanks Andy.

    Some coaches told me that if I use more than 30 g of protein per meal the body does not absorb it and it is wasted. They said that i have to wait like an hour to eat again ~ 30 gr of protein. Following this i cannot take a shake of protein and eat meat at the same time 🙁
    what is the truth about that? Thanks

    Merry Christmas too!

  24. Jimmy

    Hi Andy, thanks for your information. What do you think about supplements like whey protein? i am doing IF 16/8 and can only train at 8 pm, so when i can take a shake of protein? For now, i am taking a shake one hour before and one after train.
    Is true that people can only eat ~ 30 gr of protein per meal? what happen if i eat more than that? Thanks for your support.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Jimmy. Merry Christmas.
      What do you think about supplements like whey protein?
      – Useful.
      When i can take a shake of protein?
      – It’s powdered food. Take it whenever you would normally eat.
      “Is true that people can only eat ~ 30 gr of protein per meal?”
      – Assuming you mean effectively utilize, no, that was a myth which came from some misunderstanding of a study a long while back.

      Click either of those two links in the last FAQ as they have exactly what you’re looking for and will clear up your confusion.

  25. Glenn

    I read that you recommend BCAA’s, if I’m doing my fast from 8pm till noon, but I want to work out at 9am, do I just mixed 10g BCAA’s with water? The powder I have tastes like crap. Or would the BCAAs mixed in a sugar free energy drink be just as good?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Glenn, thanks for the questions.
      “I read that you recommend BCAA’s, if I’m doing my fast from 8pm till noon, but I want to work out at 9am, do I just mixed 10g BCAA’s with water?”
      – Click the leangains meal timing guide at the end of the post for more details.
      “The powder I have tastes like crap. Or would the BCAAs mixed in a sugar free energy drink be just as good?”
      – Perfectly fine.

  26. Ty

    I have a broken arm, are there other workout options that would work, or what if I just do IF without weight training?

  27. Mark

    Hi Andy,

    (Sorry if this is a dumb question)

    Is the carb and fat cycling on training and non -training days consecutive?

    IE. If I strength train 4 days per week. IE Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

    Should I have two high carb days in a row, then my low carb day on my rest day and then proceed to have my remaining two high carb days on Thursday and Friday, ending the week with low carb days?

    Im assuming the carb cycling is based weekly over a period of 7 days ?

    Regards

    Mark

  28. Deepesh Tomar

    Hi Andy,
    Amazing guide!
    Working out till now I have gained a noticeable amount of muscle especially in chest and shoulders. However in spite of doing ab exercises almost every day I continued to gain gut fat. I’m at 23.4% body fat as calculated by your calculator. I want to try out the lean gains model and I have a few questions:
    1) If I have my regular breakfast at 12 (oats and whole wheat bread with peanut butter) and my lunch at 2 does it pose a conflict with the proposed 2 meal diet (as with the evening workout model)
    2) Though I understand most if what the articles here and at lean gains suggest, I cower at the thought of going to the gym without a preworkout meal (usually a couple of bananas). Is it not necessary or else what do you suggest for a good preworkout and postworkout meal?
    3) Lastly I would like to mention that currently I’m enjoying my winter break and thought this would be the best time to try out this diet system. However once my break ends, I doubt I shall be able to continue the rigid evening model. In case I have to switch let’s say to a morning workout model, would the sudden change cause any problems?

    Thank you for your time!

    Deepesh

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Deepesh, thanks for the questions.
      1. If you’re doing Leangains then you won’t eat breakfast. However, I don’t think that has to matter. See my fuller guide linked at the end of the article.
      2. If you want to eat a pre-workout meal, do it. If you’re eating one out of fear, try without, it’ll open your mind.
      3. No feel free.

  29. Michael

    Hey Andy,

    first of all, thank you for the great guide! I really enjoyed reading it and it helped me loosing 10kg fat, maintaining muscles 🙂

    Now i am calculating my macros for muscle growth/bulking and I came up with one question, although I went through your more detailed guide:
    I am training 4 days a week in the gym and besides that i am taking martial arts classes twice a week (lots of forms, kicks, boxing and jumping).
    Macro cycling really helped me to loose weight, but now I wanna use it to bulk. But I’m unsure how I should calculate it for my two days I’m doing martial arts? If i calculate more than on rest day it would be over the average weekly intake… If i calculate it like a rest day I’m concerned it might have a negative impact on bulking. Should I treat it like a normal training day?
    What would you advice referring to the macro cycling?

    Greetings from Germany,

    Michael

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Michael, thanks for the question.
      If you were just starting out just add in some extra carbs on those days days – simple as that.
      However as you’ve already been dieting you already have a baseline, so don’t recalculate, just make gradual increases from there. There will help:
      All adjustment guide articles

  30. James

    Hi Andy,

    From Bobs bulking calories, assuming he trains 4 days per week, this would be a net surplus of 800 calories per week – just under a pound per month gain.

    This seems pretty low? I’m an intermediate trainee (159 @ 10%) and I’m looking to gain around 1.5 lbs per month, this calculator gives me a weekly gain of 800 calories (0.9 lbs per month) – wouldnt this be more beneficial for me?

  31. viniciusmaldini

    Hi Andy,
    Amazing stuff you have here. I’ve been training leangains style for more than an year now, and even though I have some pretty good strength and have a nice look without a shirt on, I’m still too small at 140 lbs and 5’8″. I know it’s down to my diet. Question is: 500g of carbs on training day is a lot of carbs! Given that I have one major meal at night, it’s almost impossible for me to get there. How do you do it?

  32. gabe

    Dumb question, but will ask anyway – for your carb macros, is that amount net or gross? I assume gross.

  33. Matt

    Hi Andy, I have downloaded your eBook and will commence reading it. One question I have is in regards to Carb cycling. I train 6 days a week. 3 of the days are core and abs only the other 3 being heavy weights chest,legs,arms etc. I have read of people that have a high carb day(usually double the allowed carbs) followed by the next 3 days of progressively stepping down the carbs around 70 grams from your normal; allowed limit.. Example. normal carb allowance 240g. High carb day 400g. day 1 after high carb 240g, day 2- 170g, day 3 -100g then followed by another high carb day and it repeats. What are your thoughts and does this benefit at all.

    1. Andy Morgan

      “I have downloaded your eBook and will commence reading it.”

      Matt, I have spent 20-40 minutes of nearly every day for the last 4 years answering 16,072 comments for people on the site. It’s been tough to keep up the consistency at times, but a real pleasure to know how many people I’ve been able to help, clarifying places where people have misunderstood, or my explanations have been lacking. This has helped me to build a better site and become a better coach and I’m glad I have done this.

      Now here you are, telling that you’ve downloaded the free book that I’ve put available for download, haven’t bothered to open it yet (not even a cursory glance to see if I have a chapter covering carb cycling, which I have), and would instead like me to spend time critiquing what you have written here first.

      Do I have that right?

  34. gabe

    Andy, great article. I work out 4-5 days a week doing a mix of weights with cardio each workout (total body workouts I suppose). Each workout is about 30 minutes long with little to no rest during the workout. Should I change the training/rest day format to 4-5 days of training and 2 days of rest? Also, dumb question, but will IF and leangains work for these types of workouts? Thanks for your time.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Gabe thanks for the questions.
      Should I change the training/rest day format to 4-5 days of training and 2 days of rest?
      – From above above, “If you’re not training 3-4 days a week then see my more detailed diet set-up guide.”
      Also, dumb question, but will IF and leangains work for these types of workouts?
      – The one compliments the other. If you have your nutrition set up well, then that will enhance the results you get from your training. Though it shouldn’t need to be said, it very often does need to be: make sure that your training program is on point.
      The Core Principles of Effective Training

  35. Claire Bates

    I’ve just completed a 3 month nutrition / training plan which was great, but still trying to get my head about the macro stuff! As per your calculator I need minus 4 g of carbs on a rest day which I am very confused about! Any tips?!

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Claire, a common issue. It’s mentioned in the book and in the spreadsheet most people download, I didn’t realise I hadn’t added this to the article so here you go:

      Hey, I get a negative number for my carbs on the rest days. What did I do wrong?

      Check that you didn’t set your fat loss rate too high for your current level of body fat. If you have that right, then reduce the calorie split between the training and rest days (from 30% to 20% for example). If you’ve already done that, then reduce it further manually by just taking some of your carb intake from the training days and adding it to the rest days.

  36. Szymon

    Hey Andy

    Why is there an upper limit on the average fat intake (1.3g/kg when bulking)? I understand that you can’t go below 0.9g/kg for hormonal issues, but don’t know where the upper limit comes from. I currently consume around 600g of carbs daily and I feel my diet would be more sustainable if I replaced some of the carbs calories with fat calories.

    Thanks in advance for any guidance

  37. Naufahl

    Hi Andy,

    Should I treat my cardio day as a work out day or rest day? I do 20-30 min HIIT running about twice a week. Weight training about 3 times a week.

  38. Jon

    Hi Andy,

    I am trying to figure out my macros based on your recommended guidelines. However, I keep coming up with a negative number for carbs on rest days. Does this mean no carbs on rest days or might I be calculating protein or fat too high on the recommended range?

    How to decide what end of the spectrum to start of the recommended range? or how low is too low for carbs?

    Also, the average of the totaled calorie intake per week should not fall under one’s BMR, correct?

    Thank you for your time and consideration

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Jon, thanks for the questions.

      “I keep coming up with a negative number for carbs on rest days.”
      This means you either have your deficit too aggressive (weight loss target too high) for your current body-fat percentage or size, and/or you have your fat intake a little too high.

      The average of the totaled calorie intake per week should not fall under one’s BMR, correct?
      This is not correct, it will depend.

      1. Jon

        Thanks Andy,

        1) I lowered fat to the lowest recommendation and I came up with 308g carbs 3x/wk (training days) and 35g carbs on rest days. Is that a workable number?

        2) According to these calculations I’d be at a deficit of 4725 calories/week + 3 day weightlifting/week, sedentary job – might that be too aggressive? (91kilos/26%bf)

        3) My daily average of totaled weekly calorie intake would be right at my BMR (1825). May I ask, what factors allow going under BMR?

        1. Andy Morgan

          1. Doesn’t seem out of the ordinary.
          2. Fat loss & calorie deficit guidelines are covered in step 3.
          3. Being fatter (hence, being able to get away with a higher calorie deficit/rate of fat loss).

  39. Tash

    Hi Andy,

    I know that you work only with men. And because I see that you’re using the Katch-McArdle BMR formula (which, correct me if I’m wrong, is a male and female formula), I’m assuming that a female (myself) can also enter my details and use these calculators without any worry?

    Many thanks.

    Tash

  40. mike

    So my “coma” calories are set at approx 2074. Yet, my rest day diet calls for around 1800 calories. isnt the 1800 dangerously low?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Mike, thanks for the question.
      In any non-extreme activity level scenario then no. The purpose is to be in a calorie deficit over your calorie needs in order to force your body to burn the fat stores after all.

  41. Miguel

    Hello Andy. I’ve decided to go back to muay thai training (I don’t go as hard on this as my weight training), adding this on top of my regular training days. Do I just bump up my activity multiplier or should I go with maintenance macros on the muay thai days?

    Thanks in advance and congratulations on the book! Looking forward to more of your inner circle updates.

  42. Don Diego

    Hey Andy,

    My rest day macros produce – 30 for carbs. This is based on 1522 calories, 171 g of Protein, and 107 g of fat. I recall in the past when I followed something like a ketogenic diet, I would set carbs at at least 40 g to remain in ketosis. Am I really meant to consume no carbs at all on rest days? Where did I go wrong, or is this just a natural consequence of having to set calories so low? Thanks.

  43. josh

    GREAT resource – thank you.

    question – i do weight training 3x/week, cardio (brisk incline walk) + abs 3x/week, and rest 1x/week. how would you approach cals and macros for the cardio/abs days? would you consider a rest day, a training day, or something in between?

    also, i noticed two errors:

    1 – results of fat calculator have training day fat and rest day fat reversed.. training day fat should be lower, correct?
    2 – the fat calculations for BOB (yellow box) are 65g and 125g. if using the calculator for BOB, the results are 75g and 113g. close, but i can see that the calculator is using a different equation than the one you used in the yellow box.

    thanks again!
    josh

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Josh, thanks for the question.
      In that case I’d bump up the activity level to moderate but would still keep the training/rest day format, 3 days a week. (Don’t count the days you just do the ab work.)

      Thanks for pointing out the errors, put in the calculations at the end of last week, obviously didn’t check thoroughly enough. Fixed now! 🙂

  44. JEF

    Andy, once again, an amazing tool. A big thank you for this.

    Andy, in The Complete Guide there were instructions for following a Leangain bulk when calculating calories. In the new and improved method you just posted in an effort to simplify things (greatly appreciated) you talked about taking the TDEE and adding 20% for the bulk. Does this still apply for a Leangain bulk, and if not, what are your suggested guidelines in your more simplified approach.

    As always, keep up the amazing work!

    Jeffrey

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Jef. The article above is an abbreviated way of calculating things. It’s for people that aren’t ready for the reading yet of the fuller guide. The Complete Set-up Guide has all the details and explanations. While they differ on the face of it, the end result will be the same.

Have a question? Hit me up in the comments: