Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance - #1 Calories

Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance – #1 Calories

Whether your goal is muscle gain, fat loss, or performance enhancement or weight maintenance for your sport, the single most important piece of the nutritional puzzle is getting your energy intake right.

Not macros, not timing, not avoidance of alcohol, gluten, dairy or any other specific food, calorie intake.

In this post I’ll tell you:

  • How to choose appropriate fat loss targets based on your current body fat percentage.
  • How to set muscle gain targets based on your current training experience.
  • How to calculate your energy intake for those targets defined above
  • Why energy calculations are only a ‘best guess’ and need to be adjusted.
  • How to adjust your calorie intake to get back on target if things don’t go as planned.

This is the longest in the series, but the most important. Get this right and you’re two-thirds of the way there. I hope you find it useful.

Fat Loss & Muscle Gain Fundamentals
(to check we’re on the same page)

People generally have one of two goals, fat loss or muscle gain. Though everybody wishes for both, generally that is only achieved by beginner trainees due to the favourable nutrient partitioning they experience.

Late stage novices, intermediate or advanced trainees will have to chase one goal or the other.

Those choosing fat loss (known as ‘cutting’) will lose body weight. Those choosing muscle gain (known as ‘bulking’) will gain body weight. As energy balance determines whether weight is gained or lost, it is the most important part of the fat loss puzzle.


Deficits can (and arguably should) be greater than surpluses. 

  • Fat can be lost quicker than muscle is gained, so those cutting will experience quicker and more obvious visual changes than those looking to gain muscle.
  • Gaining muscle requires the building of new tissue and connections in the body. It takes time and requires patience. – Think of building a house versus burning one down. The former takes time, the latter much quicker.
  • An excessive energy surplus when bulking (stuffing yourself with food every day) will lead to muscle growth, but also excessive and unnecessary fat gain. As we are looking at nutrition from a physique and secondly performance perspective, we want/need to curb this. We will therefore refer to a muscle gain phase as a “slow-bulk” rather than bulk.
  • Therefore, the energy deficit to burn fat can (and should) be greater than any energy surplus to build muscle.


Diet should determine whether you are in an energy deficit or surplus, not training.

It’s easier and more effective to control the energy balance through diet, i.e. eating more or less, rather than moving more or less.

Training should be determined by goal, not used to address the energy balance equation.

Adding in extra weight training (this includes metabolic conditioning circuits) will interfere with the recovery balance from your workouts. When bulking this threatens to steal from your gains. When cutting, the increased energy and recovery demands will add to systemic stress, and those knock on hormonal effects will negatively affect fat loss.

Cardio, while it can be used to help create calorie deficit required for fat loss, it should never be the primary means of doing so.

Don’t try to outrun your mouth.

 Calculating Your Calorie Needs – Just an Educated Guess?

The likely range for your maintenance caloric needs, needs to be calculated first.

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 )

Imperial BMR Formula (Harris-Benedict)

Women: BMR = 655+ ( 4.4 x weight in lbs )+( 4.6 x height in inches ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )
Men: BMR = 66+ ( 6.2 x weight in lbs ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) – ( 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.

Metric Katch-McArdle BMR Formula:

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

Katch-McArdle BMR Formula Imperial:

BMR (men and women) = 370 + (9.8 x lean mass in lbs)

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 4-5 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.


How do we therefore get our calorie intake right?

  • 1. Set weight loss targets based on current body fat percentage, and weight gain targets based on training status (beginner, intermediate, advanced).
  • 2. Calculate the theoretical deficit or surplus needed to achieve that.
  • 3. Adjust energy intake upwards or downwards accordingly based on how the scale weight* changes over a few weeks of consistent implementation.

More on each of these below.

*For ease and simplicity we’ll assume that fat loss is linear and any scale weight change reflects pure fat loss in a cut, or weight gain (muscle and a little fat) in the slow-bulk. – More on this in, How to Track Your Progress When Dieting.

Cutting: Choosing Fat Loss Targets and Setting Calorie Intake

How much fat can I lose per week?

Recall from the article How and When to Manipulate Your Macros that there is a theoretical limit to how much fat can be released from the fat stores in a single day, and this is inversely proportionate to how lean you are. If you go over this limit, then you will lose muscle mass, regardless of whether you keep your protein intake high (specifics covered in next article, Macros).

Simply put, fatter folks can get away with greater rates of fat loss than leaner people.

Maximum fat loss recommendations depend on a persons body-fat percentage rather than total body weight. If you shoot for the following you should be ok for preserving muscle mass:

Body fat % Loss /week
30%> ~2.5 lbs / 1.1kg
20-30% ~2 lbs / 0.9kg
15-20% 1.25-1.5 lbs / 0.45-0.7kg
12-15% 1-1.25 lbs / 0.45-0.6kg
9-12% 0.75-1 lbs / 0.35-0.45kg
7-9% 0.5-0.75 lbs / 0.2-0.35kg
<7% ~0.5lbs / 0.2kg

The above figures are my guidelines, they are based on observation not theoretical limits.

  • Obese people significantly over 30% body fat will be able to lose more per week without muscle losses, but I don’t advise it for skin elasticity reasons.

  • Short people should shoot for slightly less; taller people may be able to go slightly higher.

I typically recommend 1-1.25lbs a week of fat loss to clients, as higher than that tends to push the boundaries of what is sustainable in terms of adherence. Ideally I want people to feel almost like they’re not dieting for the longest time possible. Just because you can lose more, doesn’t mean you should if it makes your life miserable.


How to adjust your daily calorie intake for the cut.

You may have heard the ‘rule’ that it takes 3500kCal to burn a pound of fat. (Though not flawless it’s a good guide so we’ll roll with it.)

If based on that chart above you have determined that a ‘safe’ rate of fat loss for you is 1lb a week, then you’ll need to have a calorie deficit of 3500kCal for the week to do that.

This can be as simple as reducing calorie intake by 500kCal a day each day, regardless of training. Or, as per Martin Berkhan’s Leangains set up, you can fluctuate your intake to have more on training days than on rest days for the theoretical recovery and nutrient partitioning benefits.

Even if you choose to add this layer of complexity, you still need to maintain the same weekly deficit. (So for example, if you are training 3 days a week that could be: maintenance +500kCal on training days, maintenance -1250kCal on rest days.) – This should answer all those questions like “Well, what if I choose to train 4 or 5 days a week?”


The Caveat

It’s important to note here that the 3500kCal rule thus 500kCal deficit/day in theory.

Also, alongside the individual energy requirement variances that make the initial maintenance calculation just a best guess, we also have the issue of NEAT swings with dieting. Basically some people will experience greater swings in their NEAT than others when their calorie intake changes upwards or downwards. – Which partially explains why some people tend to struggle and claim of being very lethargic when dieting, but others don’t. Also, there’s the issue of metabolic adaptation, which we covered in, Why You Need To Make Adjustments As You Diet.

If your eyes just glazed over there, don’t worry about it, the science isn’t necessary to understand the implementation of the method. All you need to know is that things aren’t always going to work out as the math said.  You need to track your progress and adjust your calorie intake upwards or downwards according to the scale weight changes to get yourself back on target.

You’re best to take the average of 3 or 4 weeks weight change.

 Slow Bulking: Muscle Growth Expectations and Setting Calorie Intake

Unlike fat loss, where body-fat percentage determines how quickly we can lose weight, rates of potential muscle growth are determined by how advanced someone is with their training.

Whereas fat can be lost relatively quickly, muscle gain happens slowly but. If you are bulking you’ll need to be patient to see changes.


Classifying Training Experience

Though different experts in the field have different ways of calculating muscle gain potential, they all agree that beginners can gain muscle more quickly than more advanced trainees. Which brings us to a sticky area – how to classify someone’s training experience/status.

Lyle McDonald does it by “years of proper training”, which I personally think is too open to misinterpretation (aka: fantasy thinking).

Alan Aragon, Martin Berkhan and Eric Helms go by Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced categorisations.

If you’re a lifter that has been focused on gaining strength in the barbell movements, or has put those movements at the core of your workouts, then you can determine your training status fairly objectively using Martin’s guidelines here, section Progress and Goals. 

If not, check out Lyle’s guidelines here.

Muscle Growth Potential

Alan gives rate of muscle gain potential per month as a percentage of body weight, Lyle and Eric as a range of pounds. I like to go with the latter as it makes the math simpler. So here it is:

Training Status  |  Gains/month  |  Energy Surplus/day

Beginner  |  0.9-1.2kg / 2-3lbs  |  ~200-300kCal

Intermediate  | 0.45-0.9kg / 1-2lbs  |  ~100-200kCal

Advanced  | 0.22kg / 0.5lbs  |  slight surplus



  1. Don’t sweat the math. The above daily energy surplus recommendations are just recommendations. As with cutting there will be individual variances (section above: The Caveat). So choose a surplus, stick with it, track, and adjust your calorie intake upwards according to the scale weight change.
  2. Height consideration. Shorter men should shoot for the lower end of the ranges above; taller men the upper; women for around half (unless you’re built exceptionally big for a lady).
  3. We’re talking about real muscle mass increases, not the increase in water weight people experience when increasing their carb intake or volume of training. (It is this that explains the slew of people in forums claiming they gained 10lbs of muscle in a month after taking supplement X.)
  4. For advanced trainees, muscle growth on this level is so small that it can be very tough to track. It is probably better to just shoot for a slight surplus, and then gauge progress by strength or rep increases in the main compound movements. This way though you won’t necessarily see the differences in the mirror, measurements, or scale weight, you can be sure that structural changes are actually taking place.

Adjusting Calorie Intake When Weight Doesn’t Change As Planned

For a Cut: Decrease calorie intake by 200-300kCal/day, or ~5-10%.

If weight is lost too quickly, there is a risk of muscle loss, so increase calories.

For a Slow Bulk: Increase calorie intake by 100-200kCal/day, or ~3-6%.

If weight is gained too quickly, you’ll have put too much fat on, so decrease calories.

Remember to take into account water weight fluctuations, and always consider 3-4 weeks worth of tracking data before making any changes.


To minimise any muscle loss when cutting and minimise any fat gain when slow-bulking you’ll need to get those macros right. We’ll cover this next.

Questions? Clarifications? Hit me up in the comments. – Andy.

← Previous: Overview

Next step: #2 Macros, Fibre & Alcohol →

193 Comments on “How To Set Up Your Diet: #1 Calories”

  1. Mike

    Hi Andy-

    First let me say you have a great site, with a ton of useful information! I’ve followed some of your colleagues for awhile such as McDonald and Berkhan but stumbled across your site and find it incredibly well put together and easy to digest.

    On to my question…

    I’m 6’3, 192 lbs and am probably about 19% – 20% bf. For the past month I’ve used your diet setup to try and cut a little weight. My struggle however is that both weight and bf have stayed flat over the past 5 weeks. I know you said not to use bf scales as they aren’t accurate, but I have seen very little fluctuation from week to week and over the course of 5 weeks I am essentially where I started.

    If I’ve calculated my TDEE correctly then that puts me at 2370. I started my cut tryin to drop 1.5 pounds per week and was consuming 1620 cal/day. After three weeks of no results I dropped that to 1500 and still no change.

    My question is, how low can I go with my calorie intake? I was going to drop another 300 down to 1200. What do you think?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Mike. No real need to worry about taking your calorie intake too low in this situation. Your body will fight you hard if you take things to low – you’ll know about it, and there will certainly be weight loss.
      You have counted your calorie intake wrong somewhere. My guide on counting, purposeful miscounting, and the mistakes people sometimes make here:
      How To Count Macros – A More Flexible Approach

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  4. Toby

    Dear Andy,

    Thanks for a great site. How do you calculate lean body mass for the purposes of estimating BMR?

    Elsewhere on the site you suggest that body fat percentage is too hard to estimate for it to serve any purpose in terms of tracking progress. But for estimating calorie requirements, it is clearly a necessary step. Looking forward to your reply!


    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Toby, a good and fair question. We just have to use some form of equipment to get a rough estimate. I’ll have a guide coming on the site soon, in pictures, so that people can look and compare.

      1. Toby

        Great, sounds good. I will be looking forward to that!

        I hope the guide will show the breadth of possible looks WITHIN a given body fat percentage bracket.

        For the purposes of the calorie requirement calculation with a view towards cutting, I suppose gauging body fat to the nearest 5 % (rounding up) would be a reasonable way to not overestimate calorie requirements but still have a reasonable starting point. Probably for bulking too, to not overdo the calories.

        I don’t suppose it is realistic to hope for greater specificity than 5 % brackets?

        As far as using equipment as a necessary evil to get started, is there a more accurate way to go about it when using tape measure than the “navy” method?

        Thanks again, and keep up the good work! I am really enjoying the “big three” 5×5 system!


        1. Andy Morgan

          “I hope the guide will show the breadth of possible looks WITHIN a given body fat percentage bracket.”
          -This is an essential part of the guide, as people with varying levels of muscle mass will look vastly different at the same body-fat percentage.

          “I don’t suppose it is realistic to hope for greater specificity than 5 % brackets?”
          – At higher percentages, no. At lower body fat percentages then yes. It really depends on which clients are willing and what photos we have.

          “Is there a more accurate way to go about it when using tape measure than the “navy” method?”
          I haven’t heard of the navy method. I wouldn’t worry about trying to be accurate. You’ll dial things in based on how you progress.

  5. charlie


    I wonder if you could help me, I am roughly 5ft7 age 22 always weighed in at around 60-61kg lean, muscular with not a lot of fat on me.
    I am a Amateur Boxer, I train 5-7 days a week some days twice a day training(professional training with professionals).

    But since joining the military and being force fed UNNECESSARY POTATOES AND OTHER HIGH CARBS at EVERY meal eating 3 times a day!

    Plus stress eating (Chocolate and sweets), after 12 weeks of that (initital training) MAINLY not being able to train like my body has been used to, not training the same frequency and/or intensity how my body has been used to for the past 3-4 years.

    Plus it being the same – now in phase 2 training i have managed to be now weighing 64-65kg.

    I have never weighed this much in my life its ludicrous.

    I know you may say 60kg is low for my age and height but in the Amateur boxing world it is normal,

    Please can you tell me the best way to get back to my weight after it has been forced upon me, I need to get my set point back lower. I feel very slow and sluggish at this weight it doesn’t feel at all normal;what would you recommend

    Thanks in advance

    I hope to hear from you soon



    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Charlie. It’s clear from your writing that you have been eating a low carb diet before. Trust me, with your activity level, it’s necessary – regardless of whatever anti-carb nonsense you may have heard.

      You probably just experienced a fluctuation in weight due to a the increase in carb intake and this your overall higher water balance and glycogen levels.

      When you come to a weigh-in before a fight, you’ll cut your carb and water intake and that will bring you down to your class level. – All professional boxers do this.

      As a more important point: You’re going in the army. You need to focus on your training and performing well, and making friends that you’ll need to count on to save your life. Worrying about the finer points of your diet is going to undermine all of this. The only thing you really need to concern yourself with is not getting overly fat, and for that you can just eat less, if it happens. Which I will say is not likely at all given your situation.

  6. Ari

    Andy, is the BMR calculation for men correct? You list the second factor in the equation as times weight in kilos, but in the BMR equation for women is says times weight in pounds? (Also, adjusting from kilos to pounds is a lot closer to the number I’m getting from other BMR calculators…)

  7. John

    so on training days i eat more calories my TDE and on rest day i eat my coma calories is this right? also i am having a hard time eating all the calories i need to get unless i eat out like a hamburger or somthing i have noticed if you eat right its hard to get all your calories

  8. Szymon

    Hey Andy, couldn’t find it in the article:
    1) Do I vary the calorie intake on rest/workout days or does it stay the same throughout the week?
    2) I understand that I take BMR*ACTIVITY MULTIPLIER + 100-200 kCal based on my advancement, is that right?
    3) Similarly, do I add that 100-200 kCal surplus daily or just on workout days?

    Meanwhile, thanks for all the job you’re doing here.

  9. Sergio

    For someone who is already ripped the bulking strategy could give enough energy for recovery for a standard Starting Strength program or Texas’ Method without the bestial bodyfat gains that Rippetoe claims as necessary?

  10. Cole

    Hi Andy! Just getting off of a bulk and was maintaining ~180 lbs. at 3300kcal/day. I’ve dropped to 2800kcal/day cycling carbs and calories between training and rest/days. My question is how often should I be intentionally reducing calories? Only after I see my weight not going down anymore? And that increment should be between 200-300kcal/day, correct? Thanks!!!!

  11. richard1014

    Thanks for the reply; I guess I was just asking the same thing again but shorter :-)

    Can you answer these questions then –
    1/. I understand that for cutting, just subtracting 500 kcals from TDEE will give the required deficit, but is it better/more accurate to do a -20%/+20% differential on non-training/training days or am I adding extra complexity too early??
    2/. Best way to calculate LBM, given your dislike for those type of scales, etc??

    Thanks again.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Sure no worries Richard.
      1. The former will be a cut, the latter will be a recomp, not a cut. Which is better for you depends on your current physical condition. This series will help you decide:
      Physique Goal Setting – The 9 Categories of Trainee: Their Mistakes, How to Avoid Them, and What You Can Achieve When You Get Things Right

      2. Multiple different measuring methods and then just take the average. I just do it by eye. I’ll have a guide in pictures coming on the site in the next few months.

  12. Brandon Rasmussen

    Hey Andy,

    I’m almost through my fourth month of a cut and have seen a lot of progress including lifting numbers going up and more definition. My original plan was to cut to about 10% or so and then to do a short body recomp and then slow bulk. My question is, how do I know when to move away from the cut? I’m worried I’ll cut for too long and start to lose muscle. I know there’s really no accurate way to measure body fat percentage so I”m unsure how to tell if I’m ready.

      1. Brandon Rasmussen

        Thanks for your reply. Yeah, I’ve checked out the goal section and I guess my problem is that I am somewhere between skinny and shredded. I definitely have muscle mass and have leaned down quite a bit, but I wouldn’t consider myself belonging to either one completely. I guess a more appropriate question is: is there a danger in cutting too much? I still have a little bit of body fat to be sure. I’m somewhere around the 10-12% range right now. I guess I’ll lose the last bit of body fat by cutting but I’ll decrease the calorie deficit slightly in an effort to preserve mass.

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  16. Kelly

    Hey Andy,

    I just read almost your whole website over two days. This is the first time I have found this amount information about attaining fitness & diet goals for free. Thank you so much, you are doing a great job!

    I had a question about Macro calculating specific to me and figured my question could be an example for future readers. I’m 75kg and 173cm, I’m on my feet 11 hours a day at work and this does not include my gym visits. According to the macro calculator I should be eating about 1,900kcal on rest days and 3,320 on training days does this sound right? I was using a 1.55 activity multiplier.

    Thanks again!!

  17. Daniel

    Hi I’m skinnyfat/chunky and just started lifting. You say that beginners can lose fat and build muscle at the same time but only for a short time, to do this should a beginner be in a calorie deficit or calorie surplus when just starting to lift?

    1. Daniel

      Also, is intermittent fasting ok for a beginner to build muscle and lose weight as in calorie surplus on lift days and a calorie deficit on rest days? thanks for reply

  18. catiranori

    Hi Andy,

    Firstly, I wanted to thank you all the information you’ve shared on your site (which I read back and forth in less than 3 days and found really amazing). I’ve been left with one question hanging in the air, although I’m not 100% sure whether I just didn’t read carefully enough or I’m the only one with this doubt. I calculated my BMR and TDEE (1635 and 2250) based on the formula with the bodyfat% (which I measured to be 33% but guessed around 27% based on the picture you linked in some of your posts – I’m a woman). According to your table I tried to set my deficit to -7000 calories/week (-2lbs or -0.9kg = the recommendation for people having that BF%) but as you see this results in 1250 calories intake per day which is waaay less than my BMR.

    I’ve been eating 1800 calories since then (doing it for too little time to talk about results but I don’t feel hungry nor have any behavior problems:) and I think I’m gonna be fine with this if it works until I have to adjust it later but still… I’m curious about what I might have done wrong regarding the calculations or is it normal not able to lose 2lbs having so high BF%? Or is your table less suitable for women?

    Thank you!

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Catiranori.
      1. If you don’t have a deficit on the one day, you need to make up for it with double the deficit on the other. Thus, it’s normal for the calorie setting on the rest day to be lower than it would if you were on a diet where the calorie amounts for each day are equal.
      Please note, this is not a comment on your calculations, that is not something I do.
      2. If you’re small, which it sounds like you are, then yes.

  19. Fritz48

    Hi Andy. Many thanks for the information you offer. You are obviously a master at figuring a system out and then making that knowledge available to others in a way that is easy to understand.

    My question – I am trying to follow your guidelines fairly closely and making progress. The one thing I struggle with though is that on my training days I struggle to eat all the carbs (about 350g for me) – I am just not THAT hungry after training. But on my rest days I am really hungry all the time! I find it easier to eat about the same (about 200 kCal deficit) on both training and rest days. Will this torpedo my progress? I guess in a way I am asking is: If you can manage to maintain a small deficit on most days, how important is it to vary intake on rest and training days? Any advice much appreciated.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Fritz.
      You can eat the same calories and macros each day, sure. Carb/fat cycling is the fourth tier in the nutritional hierarchy of importance, with each layer delivering diminishing returns. How relevant each part becomes depends on the level of advancement of the trainee.

  20. Chiranjeev Sharma

    Hey Andy! how are you doing budd? got a quick question. I’m going to start cut from next month -30/+10 ,how is it possible to train 4-5 days and create enough deficit to keep loosing fat. So there will be 2 rest days/week and you said in 90% cases one should still eat in surplus on training days.I’m here sitting around with 17-18%bf. Whats the best way to cut for a physique focus trainee without loosing too much strength while maintaining muscle mass. Thank Andy. Always appreciate your advice. Keep up with good work.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hey good to hear from you. Looking good recently. (I saw the Facebook pics.)
      Well, you won’t be in a deficit if you do -30/10 as that’s not designed for 5 days a week of training. I don’t recommend generally that people do any more than three, but in anticipation to this question I’ve got a way to calculate the percentage splits covered in the fourth part, #4 Meal Timing & Frequency, Calorie & Macro Cycling.

      1. Chiranjeev Sharma

        Thanks more question. Do i need to count protein from other carb/fat sources like oatmeal, peanut butter etc. if i eat 100gm oats that gives me around 12.5gm protein. Should i count it against my protein for the day or just count protein from only meat, dairy and protein powders? i never got any relevant answer for this. Some say to count it because calories are calories and some say don’t because they aren’t complete protein.

        1. Andy Morgan

          Sure, I have a whole article on this, “How To Count Macros – A More Flexible Approach“.

          Forget about complete vs incomplete proteins, it’s irrelevant in the context of a mixed diet.

          Imagine you multiple bags of M&M’s, but in each one there is a single colour missing. Your job is to serve a princess who loves M&M’s because she can make pictures with them she can eat. Give her any single bag and she will throw them in your face and have a tantrum because of the one missing colour. Empty all the bags into a big mixing bowl and she will be fine cause all the colours are there.

          Kind of the same thing with protein. Some sources may not have as full of an amino acid profile as others, but unless your diet is limited to that one source for your protein you’re not going to have issues.

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  24. Pamelagrace

    I’ve calculated my coma calories and multiplied it by moderate activity (2700). I’m assuming that is my maintenance. If so, you suggested eating 500 more on training days and 1250 less on rest days. I’ve never knowingly eaten 3200 calories in one day before so I’m a bit frightened! I’m going to check out your macro article but any advice in choking that much down would be greatly appreciated!

  25. Brandon Rasmussen

    Hey Andy,

    I’ve been cutting for a few weeks now with some nice results. While I plan to continue cutting down to a lower body fat percentage I plan to do a slow bulk at some point. My question is about calorie cycling on slow bulk. It says to do +200 calorie surplus a day on a slow bulk. Is this 7 days a week even on rest days? Or should I cycle my calories while bulking so that my overall weekly caloric intake is 1400 surplus calories (200 a day), while maintaining calorie deficits on rest days? In this case my workout days would be very high in calories and my rest days still low but I would still be getting a weekly surplus of about 1400 (200+ per day.) Thanks in advance.


  26. C

    How do you deal with “incidental” cardio? For example, going for a long hike or bike ride with friends? For that single day, should you estimate the additional calorie burn and then work your % deficit/surplus off of that number?


    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Craig. You can do that if you wish but I’m inclined to encourage people to ignore things like this. Otherwise it can be difficult to know where to draw the line in terms of counting (or rather, trying to) and then adding things in, and that never ends well.

  27. Jon W.

    Andy I’m currently on a cut and I’m just doing a 500 calorie deficit everyday keeping my macros and calories the same everyday. Following IF and lifting 3 times a week. I like the simplicity of this but wondering if you think it’s better to fluctuate on training days and rest day’s? Will I get the same results?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Jon. You want to do the minimum that you can to keep progressing before adding in more complication, like the next layers of the pyramid upwards. So the answer, is no, but in the right context. Keep reading and you’ll see the whys and hows.

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  29. Drew

    Hey Andy,

    I’ve been lifting for about 9 months now and have made some pretty significant strength gains. I’m now looking to get rid of a bunch of excess fat. I’m 168lbs, and over the last 6 weeks I’ve found that my weekly maintenance calories is about 17500.

    I workout 4 days per week (M, W, F, S) and I’m looking to lose about 1lb/week. That translates to a weekly calorie intake of about 14000. With 4 days per week on +10/-30, I’m still bringing in about 15500.

    My question is, to get a little bit lower on the weekly calorie intake, should i lower to something like +10/-40, or 0/-30, or even +5/-35?

  30. Chiranjeev Sharma

    Hey andy! I’m going for a comp in November. I Have pretty much 9 weeks to cut but i am confused about my activity multiplier if i should put myself into moderately active,active or lightly active. i work as manager in food industry and work 5-6 days/week, pretty much on my feet all day long. my daily footsteps are around 15000-17000(use fit-bit flex all the time). other than that i workout 5 days. what activity level do you reckon i should put myself into in to calculate the calories for a cut? i don’t think i have enough time to experiment with this. Thanks in advance Andy.

        1. Andy Morgan

          Conditioning has two definitions:
          1. In the physique world it means to have low levels of body fat bringing out all the striations in the muscles.
          2. In the sports world it is a reference to cardiovascular and respiratory endurance.

          If you’re talking about the former, then more than three days training a week isn’t necessary. Whether you need cardio for the conditioning (low levels of body fat) depends on what level you’re looking at. That’s covered here: When is Cardio a Valid Tool for Fat Loss with Intermittent Fasting?.
          If you’re talking about CR&E for a sport then that really isn’t my area of expertise, but there are a few points in the article, On Cardio for the Physique-Focused Trainee.

  31. Joe Bernard

    I’ve been off from the gym for 3 months due to a hip stress fracture and golfer’s elbow. For finding my maintenance cals using the Katch-McArdle equation, would I use an activity multiplier greater than the sedentary 1.2 if I have a standing desk at work and only sit down mainly for lunch (~1hr) and for a couple minutes here and there throughout the workday?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Joe.
      Important to understand that these are just guidelines and that calculations cannot ever be perfect. So I wouldn’t worry about it, pick a number, try it and see. Then adjust accordingly afterwards.

  32. Isa

    Dear Andy, i am eating 1800 kcal now (and i have discovered just now i need to get higher). I am using the macroratios you provide on your website. I just want to comment that i REALLY struggle to finish my meals! I get so FULL from the food – yes on 1800 kcal – that i have to force myself to eat that last piece of chicken. I only eat whole food and i intermittent fasting with 8 hours feeding window.

    Any recommendations on how to eat more as i have to take in 2200 kcal ?


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