How to calculate your leangains macros Updated January 13th, 2015

This guide has now been read over 1 million times. But let me tell you a secret – what you’re about to read isn’t the best guide on the site, it’s just the most popular one.

I’ve progressed massively as a coach since, and using those client experiences as well as the feedback received, I’ve put together a much more complete version for you (just with a slightly more boring sounding name), The Nutritional Pyramid of Importance for Fat Loss and Muscle Growth’.

Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance Pyramid

You’re welcome to read this original guide below of course, but you’ll see from my last few hundred comment answers that most people will simply find what they’re looking for in this pyramid series.

So, go make yourself a cup of tea, get a pen and notepad, and start getting those gains!

Go to the newer article →


Calculating your Leangains Macros

This is just my interpretation of how a person may go about calculating their macros according to the principles written for us by Martin on Leangains.com. The only person that knows how Martin calculates things for his clients is Martin himself. Real-world experience, study, passion for what he does and really hard work are what make the results he gets for clients so seemingly magical.

While the method for calculating the macros and fine tuning them can be a little complex, the implementation of the diet once have your macros is very simple. Don’t be put off by the maths below.

Andy Morgan | RippedBody.jp 10 Weeks BWFirstly, the calculations I have outlined below will work best if you follow the simplified macro-counting rules that I used to achieve this 10 week transformation. It’s a short article, please read them.

Secondly, the guide below will set you going in the right direction, however it will be up to you to monitor your progress objectively, and then fiddle with your macro ratios and overall macro intake to get your physique to the level you want.

Thirdly,  I cannot possibly write everything down in one article, there are too many variants to consider, physical, hormonal and otherwise. There can never be a “one formula fit’s all” (which is why I’m not a fan of online spreadsheet macro calculators).

If you do not want to, or don’t feel you can do it then I offer you two options:

  1. Try the Basic Set-Up of the diet. If you’re new to leangains it will work, you will get leaner but probably not to the point of abs lean. At that point you will be much more in tune with your body and more motivated to give this a go yourself, so come back then. It can be fun and rewarding to try.
  2. Hire me, or better still hire Martin (if you can get your hands on him) for a consultation.

The Steps

Step 1. Calculate your BMR.

Step 2. Adjust for Activity

Step 3. Choose to ‘Cut’, ‘Slow-Bulk’ or gradual ‘Body-Recomposition’

Step 4. Calculate a Training-Day and Rest-Day Calorie Figure

Step 5. Calculate your Macro Targets for Training-Days and Rest-Days

Step 6. Make your Menu from these Macros.


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, however we need a figure to work with. Please choose a different formula if you wish. Metric BMR Formula* (*Harris-Benedict)

Women: BMR = 655+ ( 9.6 x weight in kilos )+( 1.8 x height in cm ) – ( 4.7 x age in years ) Men: BMR = 66+ ( 13.7 x weight in kilos ) + ( 5 x height in cm ) – ( 6.8 x age in years )

If you’re obese then the above formula will overestimate your BMR, and if you are very lean then the above formula will underestimate your BMR. If you have an idea of your body fat percentage then you’re best using the Katch-McArdle BMR Formula. Katch-McArdle BMR Formula:

BMR (men and women) = 370 + (21.6 X lean mass in kg)


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 (easy exercise/sports 1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375
  • Moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
  • Very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week): BMR x 1.725
  • Extremely active (very hard exercise/sports and physical job): BMR x 1.9

It’s essential to realise that any calculation will just be a best guess, which is why I used the words “likely range” to describe the calculations above. This is because spontaneous physical activity (a.k.a. NEAT, written about here) – fidgeting, moving around, propensity to take stairs vs elevator etc. – will vary greatly between people.

This means that two 6ft, 200lb males, with the same 15% body fat and training regimes may find their maintenance calorie needs vastly different. One guy may need 2500kCal a day to maintain his weight, the other 3250kCal.

No calculation can take into account these individual NEAT differences. However, we need a starting point, so we make a calculation regardless.


Step 3. Choose to ‘Cut’, ‘Slow-Bulk’ or gradual ‘Body-Recomposition’

The calories and thus macros you choose will depend on your goals.

If you have training experience unless you have striking abs already, I highly advise you to go for a cut first, as starting a ‘slow-bulk’ when ‘abs lean’ gives you significant hormonal advantages for gaining muscle with minimal fat. It also means you can eat a lot more when slow-bulking and yet still keep your abs, which is fun. This means that many people reading this should go for a ‘cut’.

The exception to this is very light framed and/or weak people, whom I would recommend choose ‘body-recomposition‘ calories, then increase accordingly. With the implementation of this diet and a barbell training program your first year will give you the most dramatic changes to your physique in your life. You should be excited. You will need calories for this. (If this is you, I have a special message & offer in the first comment box for you below.)

If you are adverse to losing size, for sport reasons, or ego reasons, then go for a ‘body-recomposition’. Just remember the results will be slower.

I’ve recently written in much greater depth about this topic in the article,  “12 Weeks on Leangains: Identifying Where You Are Now, Setting Realistic Goals, and Your Best Course Of Action.


Step 4. Calculate a Training-Day and Rest-Day Calorie Figure

These calorie figures are just a guide to help you calculate your macros. We’ve already recognized that these calorie numbers may be a little low to be taken literally because of the simplified rules.

‘Body-Recomposition’: Martin himself refers to a +20%kCal and -20%kCal rule for T-Days and R-Days respectively.

So if you came out with 2000kCal from your calculation, then make a T-Day 2400kCal and R-Day 1600kCal.

‘Cutting’: You need to be lower than this so as to create a weekly energy deficit. Even so, you must eat a surplus of calories on a training day in most situations*.

Your numbers might look something like 2200kCal and 1300kCal. (+10%/-30~35%kCal)

(*Obese/Very fat people are at less risk of losing muscle when on a calorie deficit if protein is kept high, so they can get away with a deficit on both days.)

‘Slow-Bulking’: So you are already very lean and looking to do a bulk? (Skip to Step 5 if it’s irrelevant to you, because I go into a little more detail here.)

If you are new to leangains I would highly recommend that you do ‘body-recomposition’ macros (or slightly less) for the month first while you adjust to the system. This way you will keep your abs and have a base-line for increasing your macros after. Once you’ve done that, try the advice below.

If you have already used leangains to get lean then you’re in a perfect situation to try this.

The key to keeping abs with slow bulking is quite simple, make sure you have enough of deficit on your rest-day so that you burn the stored fat* from the training day.

Your numbers might look something like 2800kCal and 1800kCal. (+40%/-10%kCal)

This is a way of putting on quality muscle without the fat, and as such is a slower process than the usual ‘eat everything!” approach some people take to bulking.

(*The complicating factor here is that fat stored on a training-day is not just is that the fat you consume, but also any spillover of carbohydrates that your body does not shuttle into your glycogen depleted liver & muscles after training, or use for recovery, as any excess glucose can be converted to fatty acids and stored as fat tissue. If you can get your carb balance right, you can decrease the deficit on your rest-day. – Track your progress weekly, in detail so that you can make adjustments objectively.)


Step 5. Calculate your Macro Targets for Training-Days and Rest-Days

There is not one perfect macro-ratio. (i.e. 40% Carbs, 40% protein, 20% Fat) It varies from individual to individual, and depends highly on a persons conditioning. It can still take a few weeks of close monitoring to get a good ratio for a client, and even then, this ratio changes as a person progresses. This is why I monitor the progress of clients, I don’t just give them 3 numbers and send them on their way. You need to do this too.

Protein Your protein needs to be kept high on both days, for satiety and muscle preservation. Research suggests that with maintenance calories there is little benefit to >2g/kg lean body-mass (LBM). On a cut, to preserve muscle mass this may need to be higher, i.e. 2.5g/kg LBM. There is no need to go higher than this. However, for personal preferences you can choose to go higher, & protein will give you the feeling of being fuller for longer so I sometimes go with 3g per kg of LBM*.

If you are 95kg with a lean-mass of 75kg, and love eating meat, then you might put this number around 225g on both days. This can get a bit expensive so there is no harm in going with 2.5g/kg LBM, so go with 190g of protein.

Otherwise you would choose 2-2.5g/kg LBM on workout-days and 2.5-3g/kg LBM on rest-days. It is fine to keep protein consumption the same on both days for simplicity for now. I do.

(*Please just guess lean body-mass. Don’t get all worked up over it.)

Fat

Consumption of dietary fat is important for hormonal regulation, especially testosterone production. It should never be eliminated from a diet.

Training Day Intake: When eating above maintenance calories, the fat we consume is easier to be stored, so it is best to keep fat intake lower on this day. For a cut, the ‘average’ male client will typically have an intake somewhere in the ~40-65g range.

Rest Day Intake: You’ll have a calorie deficit on this day so all dietary fat consumed will be burned off. Increase your fat intake on this day to balance out the lower fat intake on the training days. For a cut, the ‘average’ male client will typically have an intake somewhere in the ~60-95g range.

Notes:

  • 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.
  • If you eliminate fat from your diet, the most obvious change you will notice is a decrease in sex drive. If this happens, consider increasing your fat intake, or decreasing your overall calorie deficit, or taking a diet break.

Carbs

For your initial calculation think of carbs as just balancing the equation as per your T-Day and R-Day ‘calorie’ targets. Let’s not go into more detail than that.

1g of: P = 4kCal*, C = 4kCal, F = 9kCal

(*Latest research suggests this to be more like 3.2kCal because of the energy required for digestion, however I suggest you keep it simple and call 1g of protein 4kCal.)

Let’s consider a man called Tom, 95kg, 20% body-fat (~75kg LBM), choosing body-recomposition (+20%/-20%) whose BMR calc+multiplier gave him 2000kCal. (Remember what I said earlier, I know the number is a little low.)

So the Training Day Macros are:

P = 190g, F = 60g, C = 275g

Calories from Carbs = [T-Day Target calories] – [Protein calories] – [Fat calories]

= 2400 – (190 x 4) – (60 x 9) = 2400 – 760 – 540

= 1100 (kCal)

Carbs in grams = 1100 / 4 = 275

Rest Day Macros

P = 190g, F = 80g, C = 30g

Calories from Carbs = [R-Day Target calories] – [Protein calories] – [Fat calories]

= 1600 – (190 x 4) – (80 x 9) = 1600 – 760 – 720

= 120 (kCal)

Carbs in grams = 120 / 4 = 30


Step 6. Make your Menu from these Macros

Really this is up to you. If a food fits your macros for the day then go for it. I’m not classifying any food as good or bad. This ‘If it fits your macros’ (IIFYM) policy is gaining popularity in fitness circles. (IIFYM google search)

Tom’s Training-Day macros are: P190/F60/C275

If a food fits your macros for the day then you can eat it. No exceptions.

Which according to my simplified rules means eating means consuming:

950g of leanish meat/fish, 385g of rice and lots of green vegetables.

Tom’s Rest-Day macros are: P190/F80/C30

Which is something like:

475g of fattier meat/fish, 475g of lean meat/fish, 40g of rice, lots of green vegetables.

Simple! You’re done!


FAQ

Do these macros look right?

They could be right, it depends.

Initial calculations are an estimation, a start point, 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.

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 -> How To Track Your Progress

Specific questions are welcomed, but I cannot answer comments regarding the specifics of your personal macro set up – such questions will from now on be deleted.  15th Feb. 2014

Think you might be interested in a personalised coaching? See Personal Consultations: Nutrition and Training for more info.


The Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance for Fat Loss and Muscle Growth Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance Pyramid

Consider this a much more detailed guide to the above.

There is a very clear order of priority when setting up your diet. If you don’t understand it, at best you’ll just be wasting money, at worst your time and effort as well.

Unfortunately there is a large amount of confusion and misconceptions over what is important. I see this a lot with the one-on-one nutritional coaching also, and I’m sure you see it around the internet too.

This article is the first of a six-part series teaching you the principles here you’ll feel freer and more in control of your nutrition, regardless of style of diet you follow (paleo, IIFYM, Keto, etc.). We will also cut through any mystery and myth surrounding Intermittent Fasting, explaining where it may fit into your diet success, should you choose to use it.

Read more…


How and When To Manipulate Your Macros How to manipulate your macros

Your diet progress has slowed or come to a stop for 2-3 weeks, diet adherence has been good, you’re sleeping well and there is no additional stress at home or work. So what do you do to get things started again?

This is where manipulating your macros may come in.

Full guide on how to keep your diet progressing: Learn what the optimal fat loss rate is for your level of body fat, and a the order in which you should make changes to your diet when things don’t reach that target.

Read more…

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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.

1,825 Comments on “How to Calculate your Leangains Macros”


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