You can use the macro calculator to calculate and tweak your protein, fat, and carbohydrate macronutrients. You can use this as a bulking calculator (i.e. weight gain calculator), cutting calculator (i.e. weight loss calculator), or even a maintenance calculator (i.e. how many calories to stay the same weight).
- ‘Bulking’ = weight gain (typically the goal is muscle gain with minimal fat gain – i.e. a ‘lean bulk’ or ‘clean bulk’ – although not always)
- ‘Cutting’ = weight loss (ideally fat loss, not muscle loss)
- ‘Maintenance’ = the calories (i.e. energy) you need each day to maintain your body weight after you factor in all of your activity (also known as your TDEE)
If you’re unsure which calculator to use, select ‘Standard’ from the Diet dropdown. This works as a maintenance, weight loss, or weight gain calculator. You can read more about which of these options is the best calculator for you here.
Table of Contents
- Leangains Calculator
The option you select here will determine which formula and inputs are used to calculate your calories.
There are 3 different calorie calculators to choose from:
The ‘Standard’ calorie calculator uses the Mifflin St. Jeor equation to estimate your calories.
This equation is generally considered to be the most accurate calorie estimation formula (at least for beginners who don’t know their body fat percentage).
Research has found the Mifflin St. Jeor formula to be more accurate than similar calorie estimation methods such as the Harris-Benedict formula.
You should use this calorie calculator in all circumstances except when:
The calorie calculator serves as a great cutting or bulking calculator. It can be used to calculate your maintenance calories. Eating more than this will result in weight gain. Eating less than this will result in weight loss.
The ‘Leangains’ calculator (also known as the ‘lean bulk calculator’) uses the equation recommended in the book The Leangains Method to estimate your daily calorie and macronutrient needs.
This calculator is ideal for those who are trying to lean bulk or cut. The protein recommendation is quite high, which will help keep you satiated (full).
A detailed explanation of how this calculator works can be found here.
The ‘Keto’ calculator is the best calorie calculator for those on the ketogenic diet.
The keto calculator allows you to set a limit on the amount of carbs you consume. It also allows you to input a set amount of protein per pound of your bodyweight. The remaining calories will go to your fat macros.
The keto calculator uses the Mifflin St. Jeor equation to estimate your calories.
This is because research has found the Mifflin St. Jeor formula to be more accurate than similar calorie estimation methods such as the Harris-Benedict formula.
Here you input the following basic personal information:
- Age (in years)
- Weight (in kilograms or pounds)
- Height (in centimeters or inches)
- Gender (male or female)
Think of your BMR as the energy you would need to keep alive if you were in a coma. It’s the energy required for non-negotiable processes – like breathing, blood circulation, cell growth, and controlling your body temperature.
What you care about though, is your TDEE. This is the total amount of energy you need each day to maintain your body weight – after you factor in all of your activity.
This is not the same as your BMR, as even the least active among us aren’t lying motionless in bed all day (why do you look nervous?).
The Activity Level modifiers are:
- Sedentary: Little or no exercise, office job (1.2×)
- Lightly Active: Light daily activity & exercise 1-3 days per week (1.375×)
- Moderately Active: Moderate daily activity & exercise 3-5 days per week (1.55×)
- Very Active: Physically demanding lifestyle & exercise 6-7 days per week (1.725×)
- Extremely Active: Hard daily exercise/sports & physical job (1.9×)
Be warned: most people tend to overestimate their activity level.
This is usually due to them basing their activity level on their number of gym sessions per week. This is not the right way to go about it.
Your activity level is primarily based on what you do outside the gym. Four 1 hour strength training sessions at the gym each week is less than 2 hours of actual activity. It does not result in a large number of calories burnt.
Conversely, a teacher on her feet for the lions share of the week is most likely “Lightly Active”. The intermittent cardio throughout the day adds up.
If your only activity outside the office is the gym, put yourself down as “Sedentary”. You might be slightly over depending on your intensity and frequency – but more likely you won’t be. You can adjust your estimate based on the first couple of week’s progress.
If you think you’re on the line between levels and it could go either way – go with the lower estimate.
This dropdown provides an easy way to match your qualitative weight loss/gain goal with a quantitative value. The options are:
- Lose Weight (–20%)
- Slowly Lose Weight (–10%)
- Maintain Weight (0%)
- Slowly Gain Weight (+10%)
- Gain Weight (+20%)
The number in the proceeding brackets specifies the caloric deficit/surplus. For example, (+10%) means that your daily calorie goal will be 10% higher than your TDEE.
Alternatively, you can input a specific calorie goal in the Calorie Deficit/Surplus section.
How Much Protein?
Here there are 3 standardised options:
- 1g per pound
- 0.82g per pound
- 1.5g per pound
1g per pound is the standard and recommended option. This provides you with enough protein to facilitate muscle growth with a large margin of error.
0.82g per pound still provides enough protein to facilitate muscle growth. Think of this as a lower bar for the amount of protein you should be consuming. Although the subject of hot debate, current science points to 0.82g protein/pound being enough protein.
Although it’s unlikely additional protein will result in increased gains, you still may want to consider a higher protein intake as:
- Protein is a more satiating macronutrient 
- A higher protein intake restricts your food choices, forcing you to eat less junk
- The TEF (Thermic Effect of Food) means protein is closer to 3.2 kcal per gram, not 4 kcal per gram 
The above reasoning is why you might even want to consider 1.5g per pound.
If you’re an expert in going way too far with your cheat meals to the point of ruining your diet – 1.5g per pound is for you. If you need some help hitting your protein target, check out my post on the best protein powder for building muscle.
Fat/Carb Calorie Split
This is the percentage split (calorie-wise) between fat and carbs after you account for your protein intake.
You have a good amount of leeway in your distribution between carbs and fat. The split between carbs and fat is largely a matter of personal preference. So long as you’re not on the extreme of either side, there is no point stressing about the allocation.
Some of us feel better with more carbs and less fat, and some of us feel better with more fat and less carbs. In general the more active you are, the more likely you’ll suit a higher carb intake.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to consume no less than 0.25g fat per pound, or approximately 0.5g fat per kilogram.
Although this may seem like a low bar, it can be broken when you’re on a hard cut and hence don’t have that many calories to work with. Getting less than this amount of fat for an elongated period of time can easily lead to dry skin and/or hair. Would not recommend.
Stands for your Basal Metabolic Rate.
This is essentially the amount of energy you would need to keep alive if you were in a coma. Energy required for processes like breathing, blood circulation, controlling body temperature, cell growth, etc.
This calculation is based on your Age, Weight, Height, and Gender. It is then multiplied by your Activity Level to give your TDEE.
Stands for your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. Also known as your “maintenance calories”.
Your TDEE is the total amount of energy you need each day to maintain your body weight after you factor in all of your activity.
So in an ideal world where you eat your exact TDEE each day, you would maintain the same body weight.
In reality, this never happens due to the variance in our daily activity, the exact amount of food we eat, and water weight fluctuations.
Nevertheless, getting a ballpark figure of your TDEE is all you really need to get going. You can track your progress against your estimate and readjust as required.
Daily Calories and Macros
This is the final result of all of your input data. It breaks down the Calories, Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrates you should eat each day to reach your physique goals.
Do not stress about small deviations from these numbers. A ±5% difference will not affect your physique.
Why? Each of these numbers has error built-in. Even the lower protein intake of 0.82g per pound was based on a 95% confidence interval.
All calorie counters are approximations. Regardless of how many decimal places worth of carbs MyFitnessPal tells you are in your 160.8 g apple – it’s only an estimate.
Use the calculated values as a solid approximation. Adjust your estimate as required based on your weight loss/gain during the first few weeks of your diet. If you need help with this, ask. If you need ideas on what to eat, here is a bunch of healthy low calorie foods.
Estimated Weight Loss per Week
This estimate is based on the ~3500 calories in one pound of fat.
E.g. A 500 calorie deficit per day is around 1 pound of fat loss per week.
So what kind of weight gain/loss should you aim for? The below serves as a practical and realistic expectation for a 6 to 12 month program.
Fat Loss with Minimal Muscle Loss
- 2 pounds per week in the obese (BMI of 30 or above)
- 1 pound per week in the overweight (BMI of 25 to 30)
- ½ pound per week, or less, in guys who are lean and trying to get even leaner
Muscle Gain with Minimal Fat Gain
- 2 to 3 pounds per month in novices and advanced beginners (those with less than 2 years of consistent strength training)
- 1 to 2 pounds per month in intermediates (those with 2 to 4 years of consistent training)
- ½ pound per month in advanced lifters who are close to their genetic ceiling
It’s important to note that the first few weeks and months will bring the biggest losses/gains.
For example, it’s common to drop a full 2kg in your first week of cutting – especially if you lowered your carb intake. This is great for motivation, but it’s not a realistic representation of what you should expect long term.
This exaggerated change is primarily due to changes in water weight, as well as the initial shock your body experiences from the abrupt change in calorie intake.
What this means is that you shouldn’t fret over your weight loss/gains plateauing after the first few weeks. Rather, you should expect it. Don’t let it mess with your motivation.
The following information is specific to the Leangains calorie and macronutrient calculator (select ‘Leangains’ in the ‘Diet’ dropdown).
This calculator uses the equation recommended by Martin Berkhan in his book The Leangains Method to estimate your daily calorie and macronutrient needs. It has also been referred to as the ‘lean bulk calculator’, as lean bulking is a commonly advocated practice on a lean gains routine (it also serves as a replacement for the old ‘1percentedge’ calculator).
Note that although the Leangains approach to weight lifting involves intermittent fasting (‘IF’), this is not to say that the generally lower calorie numbers output by this calorie calculator is indicative of a lower TDEE for those who intermittently fast.
You can use this bulking calculator regardless of whether or not you are on a leangains routine. It generally results in a lower estimate of your maintenance calories and a higher protein intake.
To use this approach to calculate your TDEE, you multiply your body weight in kilograms by your calculated base value. This base value starts at 28 for men, and 26 for women.
Your base value is modified depending on your Stats – age, height, body fat, muscle mass, and steps taken each day.
Let’s use our imaginary friend Paul as an example. Paul’s stats are:
- 21 year old male (+0.5)
- 13% body fat (+0)
- 180 cm tall (+0)
- Muscular (+0.5)
- 8000 steps per day (+1.0)
So Paul’s final base value is → 28 + 0.5 + 0 + 0 + 0.5 + 1.0 = 30. Paul weighs in at 80 kg, so that puts him at:
80 kg × 30 base value = 2400 calorie TDEE
Below I explain the specifics of how each factor affects your base value. Note that the calorie calculator automatically does this math for you. This is just an explanation of the logic behind the calculator, for those interested.
Your age alters your base value in the following way:
- <25 years old: +0.5
- 25-45 years old: 0
- >45 years old: –0.5
So an 18 year old man/woman would add 0.5 to their base value.
How your height alters your base value depends on your gender:
- <167 cm: –1
- 167-185 cm: 0
- >185 cm: +1
167 cm ≈ 5 feet, 5 inches = 65 inches
185 cm ≈ 6 feet, 1 inches = 73 inches
- <153 cm: –1
- 153-170 cm: 0
- >170 cm: +1
153 cm ≈ 5 feet, 0 inches = 60 inches
170 cm ≈ 5 feet, 7 inches = 67 inches
So a 175 cm tall guy would keep his base value the same, while a 175 cm tall woman would add 1 to her base value.
You can measure your body fat using a set of body fat calipers. How your body fat percentage alters your base value depends on your gender:
- <10% body fat: +0.5
- 11-19% body fat: 0
- 20-24% body fat: –0.5
- 25-29% body fat: –1.5
- 30-34% body fat: –2.5
- <18% body fat: +0.5
- 19-27% body fat: 0
- 28-32% body fat: –0.5
- 33-37% body fat: –1.5
- 38-42% body fat: –2.5
So a man with 22% body fat would subtract 1.5 from his base value. Whereas a woman with 25% body fat would keep her base value the same.
Your muscle mass alters your base value in the following way:
- Standard: 0
- Muscular: +0.5
- Very Muscular: +1
Note that Very Muscular is only applicable to males. Martin recommends that those with a Fat-Free Mass Index (FFMI) >22 choose Muscular. For Very Muscular, your FFMI should be >24.
There is no FFMI recommendation for women – women can use Muscular at their own discretion.
Goal (Leangains specific)
Your goal calories deviate from your TDEE depending on your gender, and whether you’re cutting or bulking. Either way it is a constant number (as opposed to a percentage).
For men, a ±500 calorie deficit/surplus depending on whether you’re cutting or bulking.
For women, a ±350 calorie deficit/surplus depending on whether you’re cutting or bulking.
This will result in an approximate weight loss/gain of 0.5 kilograms (1.1 pounds) for men, or 0.35 kilograms (0.77 pounds) for women.
This is an approximation for the number of steps you take each day. If you want an accurate result, use a pedometer or phone application such as Health (iOS) or Google Fit (Android).
If you’re sedentary for most of your week or are unsure, assume a value of 5000 steps (note that steps less than 6000 have the same activity multiplier).
Your base value is altered as follows:
- <6000 steps: 0
- 6000 – 7500 steps: +0.5
- Add another +0.5 for every 1250 step increment above 7500 steps
For example, someone taking 9000 steps each day would add 1.5 to their base value.
How Much Protein? (Leangains specific)
The Leangains Method recommends getting as close to 60% of your calorie intake from protein as you can. This extremely high protein recommendation is to reap benefits outside of pure muscle building. Namely protein’s high TEF (Thermic Effect of Food), as well as the added difficulty of making poor food choices when you’re eating a high protein diet.
Martin himself finds 55% protein to be his sweet spot. He notes that if you find 60% protein too restrictive then you can drop it down to 50% – which he believes is doable.
If you still think this protein intake is too high, then consider switching the ‘Diet’ dropdown of the calorie calculator to ‘Standard’ and selecting a lower protein intake of 0.82g/pound or 1g/pound. This gives you more leeway with your other macros while still provides enough protein for muscle building. More information on protein intakes here.
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