Bodybuilding Macro Calculator

Accurate Formulas Developed by an Engineer/Certified Nutrition Coach

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPT, BSEngUpdated: March 22, 2023

If you’re here, you’ve probably already tried a macro calculator, and I’m guessing you didn’t get the results you wanted. The reason is that every other macro calculator is based on generic formulas.

That’s why I created a more personalized macro calculator. Everything is tailored to you, from your body type to your daily schedule. So you get macro targets that actually burn fat, build lean muscle, and transform your body.

So far, 237,171 people have used my free macro calculator. Try it and see what all the buzz is about!

free macro calculator

Before you hit “next”, make sure you take a few minutes to skim the guide below. That way, you know how the macro calculator works!

Why Macros Matter

Tracking macronutrients is a simple way to manage your weight and reach your fitness goals without overly restrictive dieting. But there’s more at work than macros.

What you might not realize is that macros on their own actually don’t matter that much. In other words, you can get results from diet plans with drastically different macronutrient ratios.

That said, calculating and adhering to macro targets is a hallmark of any successful bodybuilding meal plan. Because each gram of carbs, fat, and protein has a set number of calories.

So by hitting your macros, you’re also controlling your calorie intake. Together, macros and calories account for about 60% of the nutrition puzzle, as shown in the graphic below.

macro calculator importance

The relative weight of macros and calories explains why you can make good progress with this method. Assuming you have the correct targets (which is why you’re here).

However, simply counting macros is not a substitute for healthy food choices. In other words, you can’t eat pizza and donuts every day and expect to get ripped just because it fits your macros.

To optimize your results, you must also consider the foods you eat. And be aware of the fact that when you eat matters. So, with that in mind, let’s learn how to calculate macros.

Calculating Macros

First, it’s best to start by calculating your daily calorie needs. Because you can’t burn fat if you overeat, and you can’t gain muscle if you undereat – regardless of your macros!

From there, we will find your macros as a percentage of calories. Then convert from calories to grams to get your daily targets.

Below are some guidelines for ranges of macro percentages. The first column is the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) established by the Institute of Medicine. And the second column is my recommended ranges for optimizing fitness and body composition.

Table 1. Daily Reference Intake vs Fitness Plan Macros
  DRI Fitness
Protein 10-35% 25-35%
Carbs 45-65% 5-50%
Fat 25-35% 20-65%

At a glance, you’ll notice that I recommend the upper end for protein intake. As well as lower carbs and higher fat, with a more extensive range on each.

The wide ranges are because your ideal macro ratio depends on your body, activity level, and goal. So now, let’s dive deeper into the rationale for these macro percentages.

The Case For High Protein

Protein is like a building block for your body. So if you’re trying to build or maintain lean muscle, getting enough protein in your diet is critical.

For decades, the bodybuilding standard has been 1 g/lb (2.2 g/kg) of body weight. So if you weigh 150 lbs, that’s 150 grams of protein daily. But this rule only works well if you’re of average build.

To make matters worse, so-called “experts” can’t seem to agree on how much protein you need. Although, a recent study found a daily protein intake of 0.7 to 1.4 g/lb (1.6 to 3.1 g/kg) was best for building muscle1.

What’s missing from this debate is that your protein target depends on your body composition, not just how much you weigh. Because the more lean mass you have, the more protein you need to build and maintain it.

In other words, higher body fat reduces the protein g/lb target. While protein g/lb must increase as you get leaner.

For that reason, I prescribe protein as a percentage of calories. And I calculate calories based on lean body mass, resulting in a more accurate protein target.

Target about 25-35% of your calories from protein when your goal is building or maintaining muscle.

For comparison, a protein target of 30% comes out to 0.6 to 1.5 g/lb, depending on your body composition, which aligns with the study above.

Interestingly, protein intake as a percentage of calories stays the same regardless of body composition. To illustrate, see the table below.

Table 2. Protein Intake In Lean vs Obese Person – g/lb and % Calories
  Lean Person Obese Person
Goal Muscle Gain Fat Loss
Weight, lbs 150 300
Body Fat 10% 40%
Calories 3,230 2,230
Protein 242 g 167 g
Protein, g/lb 1.5 0.6
Protein, % 30% 30%

As you can see, calculating protein intake as a percentage of calories works for any body type and goal. And illustrates how the 1 g/lb rule needs to be adjusted if you’re lean or overweight.

Of course, not everyone has bodybuilding aspirations, which is fine. But even if you’re not trying to build muscle, a high-protein diet has benefits.

For one, eating protein helps you feel fuller longer, which keeps hunger and cravings at bay, especially on a calorie-restricted diet.

Additionally, protein is the most thermogenic macronutrient – meaning it takes more energy to digest. So it’s like a free metabolism booster.

Earn Your Carbs – How To Use Carb Cycling

Next, let’s talk about the most controversial macronutrient of all – carbohydrates.

Carbs get a bad rap when it comes to burning fat and looking good. But they’re not all bad if you understand how much you actually need.

When you eat carbs, one of two things happens. Either you burn them immediately for energy. Or your body stores them as glycogen to use later.

Whether or not you burn carbs depends on the intensity of your activity. At rest, only about 30% of the calories you burn come from carbs. In contrast, an all-out effort burns almost entirely carbs.

Therefore, your activity level should determine the number of carbs you eat.

macro calculator carbs burned

Low Activity = Low Carbs

As an example, say you burn 2,000 calories on a rest day. That means about 30% of those calories come from carbs. Or 2,000 x 0.3 = 600 calories.

Now we know there are four calories per gram of carbohydrates. So that’s 600 ÷ 4 = 150 grams of carbs.

In other words, you could eat up to 150 grams of carbs to refill what you burned. Any more than that would likely be stored as fat.

Another way to say this is you should not exceed 30% of your calorie intake as carbs on a day when you’re less active. Yet the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) recommends you get 45-65% of your calories from carbs, regardless of activity level.

Table 3. Actual Carbs Burned vs Daily Reference Intake (DRI)
  DRI Actual
Calories   2,000
Carbs, % 45-65% 30%
Carbs, grams 225-325 g 150 g
Excess Carbs 75-175 g 0 g

With all those excess carbs, it’s no wonder the standard American diet leads to weight gain and obesity! Especially when combined with too many calories.

Of course, if your goal is to burn fat, you should eat less than 30% carbohydrates. That way, you force your body to use fat for energy.

Realistically, you could go as low as 5% carbs on your rest day. Which amounts to the carbs you get from vegetables.

On low activity days you should not exceed 30% of your calories from carbs. A good target is 5-20% depending on your goal.

High Activity = High(er) Carbs

Now say you have an intense workout. How many carbs do you really burn? Well, let’s look at an extreme case.

Remember, the higher the intensity, the more carbs you burn. And the highest intensity you can sustain for a long duration is 75-85% of your max heart rate.

Recently, I wore a heart rate monitor during a workout session that included heavy squats, RDLs, leg presses, leg curls/extensions, and lunges. Each set went to failure, with about 60-second rests between sets.

Below is a summary of my heart rate data, along with the duration and calories burned.

macro calculator workout example

The combination of heavy weights and short rests had my average heart rate at 159 beats per minute (85% of my max). In lamens terms, I was lying on the gym floor after my last set, trying to catch my breath! 🥵

After 80 grueling minutes, I burned about 1,200 calories. And based on the exercise intensity chart, roughly 75% of those calories came from carbs. So doing the math, 1,200 x 0.75 ÷ 4 = 225 grams of carbs.

Outside of my workout, I burned another 175 grams of carbs through my normal activities and walking around. Combined, I earned a total of 400 grams of carbs that day (225 + 175).

That may sound like a lot. But let’s look at it as a percentage of calories. For some background, I was on a 3,800-calorie lean bulking meal plan.

Table 4. Actual Carbs Burned vs Daily Reference Intake (DRI)
  DRI Actual
Calorie Target   3,800
Carbs, % 45-65% 42%
Carbs, grams 427-618 g 400 g
Excess Carbs 27-218 g 0 g

Amazingly, the DRI recommendation is still too high, overshooting by as much as 218 grams. However, even this extreme case requires just 42% of calories from carbs.

This example also proves that you’re probably not burning as many carbs as you think. For example, an average 1-hour weight lifting session only burns about 90 grams of carbs!

Realistically, there’s no need for carbs to be more than 50% of calories unless you’re an endurance athlete. Or possibly if you train hard for multiple hours a day.

Moreover, you want to replace the carbs you burn, refilling your glycogen stores and nothing more. Doing this with a strategic calorie surplus builds lean muscle without gaining fat. While a careful calorie deficit results in burning fat without losing muscle.

On workout days, carbs should be roughly 30 to 50% of calories depending on your goal.

When your goal is fat loss or recomposition, target closer to 30%. And include at least one 50% day per week to refill glycogen and boost metabolism. Also called a refeed day.

Target up to 50% of calories from carbs to maximize muscle gain. And only exceed 50% if you exercise for multiple hours on end. Or for rare challenges with the hardgainer ectomorph body type.

Carb Cycling

In summary, raising and lowering your carb intake with your activity level is called carb cycling. And it is a handy tool for fat loss and lean muscle gain.

During the week, you should cycle between low, medium, and high-carb days based on your workout schedule. Aim for 5-20% of your calories from carbs when inactive. And target 30-50% on days you work out.

Not All Fat Is Bad – Know What To Avoid

Unfortunately, fat has a stigma of being bad for you. Most likely because it’s twice as calorie-dense as protein or carbs. And certain types of fat can raise cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease.

However, fat is vital for your brain and nervous system. And it’s a slow-burning energy supply that your body uses for low-intensity exercise. So the key is to get the right kinds of fat in the appropriate amount.

This brings us to “good fats” and “bad fats.” Good fats nourish your body and provide critical vitamins. At the same time, bad fats are empty calories that clog arteries and cause serious health problems.

macro calculator types of fat

As much as possible, avoid artificial trans fats. And limit saturated fat to less than 10% of your calories. For a 2,000-calorie diet, that’s no more than 22 grams of saturated fat daily. While debatable, I do not limit coconut oil and MCTs due to their offsetting health benefits.

With that out of the way, the total fat you need depends on your activity level. Therefore, fat intake should go up and down, opposite your carb intake. In other words, high carbs = low fat, and low carbs = high fat.

Fat intake should range from 20 to 65%. On the low end when carbs are high, and on the high end when carbs are low.

One reason for alternating fat intake has to do with balancing macro percentages. For example, when you get 50% of your calories from carbs and 30% from protein, there’s only 20% left for fat. In comparison, fat gets a more significant piece of the pie on low-carb days.

Another reason for this fluctuation is insulin. A storage hormone that gets released after eating carbs. When insulin is elevated, your body is more likely to store the dietary fat as body fat.

Moreover, this is why greasy high-carb foods like pizza and burgers are so fattening! And it’s why you should hit your macros and eat healthy whole foods.

What Makes This the Best Macro Calculator?

So far, we’ve covered why macros matter and how much of each macro you really need. But why should you trust me to find your ideal targets? Let me explain what sets my macro calculator apart from the rest.

macro calculator

The Most Accurate

In researching my calculator, I tested dozens of other macro calculators online. And I found they were a little off at best to wildly inaccurate at worst.

Other calculators miss the mark because of generic formulas for finding calorie intake, which can be off by as much as 1,000 calories per day! At that point, you’re doomed to failure regardless of your macros.

That’s why I created my own algorithm based on nine unique factors. Compared to just three factors in the industry-standard formula.

With this new and improved formula, I can find your daily calories with incredible accuracy. And since macros are based on a percentage of calories, that translates into the most accurate macro calculator.

Built For Your Body Type

My macro calculator algorithm is so accurate because I account for your body type. This is significant because genetic variation means everyone’s metabolism is slightly different.

By letting you choose your body type, I ensure that your calories and macros fit your metabolism. I make it easy by describing the body types in plain terms. But you can also take my super easy body type quiz.

Personalized Around Your Schedule

Lastly, my macro calculator is the only one I’ve found that is personalized to your schedule. Other calculators “average out” your activity and give you a single average macro target.

On the other hand, I find out how many calories you burn at rest and how much you burn during your workouts. So I tell you precisely what your macros should be every day of the week based on your schedule!

This minor difference allows you to take advantage of the major power of carb cycling I covered earlier.

Macro Calculator Results

If you’re still not convinced, I get it. You need proof. Well, I’m about to show you a 5-month body transformation using the carb cycling macro calculator outlined in this article.

The most important aspect of this fat loss transformation was the calorie intake. I used the calculator to find my exact daily energy needs and ensure I was in a sustainable calorie deficit most days.

In addition, once or twice a week, the calculator adds a high-carb refeed day. While it sounds counter-intuitive, this temporary small surplus signals your body to maintain lean mass and metabolic rate.

Throughout this transformation, I lifted weights 5-6 days per week and did about 150 minutes of cardio weekly. I also logged my macros and calories daily so I could document the process and share the results.

As outlined above, my protein intake ranged from 30-36% (I tended to err on the high side). And my carb intake averaged out to 35% but ranged from 6% to 60% depending on my activity level. And dietary fat made up the balance.

Of course, I took some nutritional supplements like protein powder, amino acids, and vitamins. But I did not take any performance-enhancing drugs. What you see in the video below is the result of dialed-in nutrition and training.

The Macro Calculator Meal Plan

It’s totally normal to feel a little confused by all this information at first. But don’t worry, you can get an easy to follow plan that makes it simple!

To get your Macro Meal Plan all you have to do is answer a few questions. And you’ll receive a personalized solution based on your body type, lifestyle, and goals.

Including custom meals and recipes, there’s no calorie or macro counting required!

bodybuilding meal plan
  • Transform your body with goal-specific calories & macros
  • Easily plan meals with a daily menu built around your schedule
  • Simplify meal prep with delicious recipes formulated to fit your macros
  • Make better food choices with a grocery list right on your phone

More Tools & Calculators

This macro calculator is the best starting point for most people who want to optimize their nutrition for fat loss and muscle gain. But you might also have other specific nutrition numbers you want help with.

So here are some of my other popular calculators and quizzes:

Body Type Quiz

Bulk vs Cut Quiz

Body Fat Percentage Calculator

40-30-30 Diet Calculator

Metabolic Age Calculator

Protein Intake Calculator

Carb Cycling Calculator

With this information, you’re well on your way to mastering macros and dialing in your diet. But you can continue learning with some of my other fitness-related articles below!

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Find out how much protein is in the pork chop you're about to eat. Plus learn how protein content varies between cuts of pork.

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