MACRO CALCULATOR

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Carbohydrate
Protein
Fat

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Macronutrient Calculator

If you are trying to optimise your health and lose or gain weight, you need to consider not only partaking in regular exercise and counting your calories, but where those calories come from - the macronutrients.

While “calories in versus calories out” is without doubt the prime factor when it comes to weight loss, losing weight whilst also improving your health in the process is not quite as simple as “all calories are created equal”. The macronutrient content of foods and drinks can impact feelings of hunger, metabolic rate, and hormonal responses (1), and those are just to name a few factors! Therefore, while 100 calories of spinach and 100 calories of ice cream certainly provide the same amount of energy, the way they affect your body is very different.

15 cups (305 grams) of spinach contains 100 calories and is packed with twelve grams of fibre. In contrast, just one standard scoop of vanilla ice cream provides 100 calories, mostly from refined carbohydrates and fats.

Now visualise eating 15 cups of spinach in one go. It wouldn’t just take a long time to eat, but due to it containing a high amount of fibre, you would be left feeling much more full afterwards (2), compared to eating one scoop of ice cream; and consequently, you will most probably have another scoop in addition to that.

Therefore, a calorie is not only a calorie. It is just as important to focus on the composition and quality of your diet to help you to stick to your diet in the long term to achieve your body composition goals.

How Does This Calculator Work?

Most people understand that they need to eat a balanced diet that contains protein, carbohydrates, and fats. However, it’s not always easy to plan meals that contain the correct percentages. This Macronutrient Calculator breaks your daily calorie requirement down into macronutrient targets that are individual to you, helping you to achieve your goals.

What Are Macros?

Macronutrients (also referred to as Macros) are nutrients that we require in large quantities for normal functioning, ‘macro’ meaning large. These consist of three primary nutrients - protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

  • Protein

    Proteins are the foundation of all bodily tissues. Many people might be aware that protein acts as a structural component of cells in the body, allowing the repair and growth of tissues, mainly muscle - which is what allows us to move (3), however, protein has multiple different roles throughout the body. It is a key component of enzymes that enable the chemical reactions of metabolism to occur, as well as hemoglobin that transports oxygen in the blood to our tissues (3).

  • Carbohydrates

    Carbohydrates are a key source of energy for your body and to help fuel exercise, found in the form of sugars, starches and fibres in foods (4). The majority of dietary carbohydrates that you consume are digested and then broken down into glucose (or sugar) prior to entering the blood circulation, where it is used in all bodily cells, namely to fuel muscle, or are stored in your muscle or liver for later use (5). Carbohydrate is also the primary fuel used by the brain in order to function properly. At rest, the brain uses approximately 20-25% of the body's glucose and depends upon a continuous supply (6).

  • Fats

    Fat is the most calorie-dense of the three macronutrients, yielding 9 calories (kcal) per gram. Dietary fat often gets shone in a bad light, however, it is essential in your diet, just not in too large a quantity. Not only is fat our primary source of energy for daily living, but it also helps us to absorb fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), and helps us to produce reproductive and steroid hormones, as well as making up the membranes of cells in the body (7). Dietary fat is also a source of the essential fatty acids, called linoleic and linolenic acid - which the body cannot make itself. These essential fatty acids are involved in many physiological processes including inflammation, clotting and brain function (7).

Why Are Macros Important?

Calories only represent the amount of energy in your food, not the quality of your diet. Just counting your calorie intake may mean that you consume the right total energy each day for your goals, however you won’t know if you’ve eaten well. More importantly, you won’t learn how to make the smart diet choices you need to keep the weight off in the long term. Therefore, it is beneficial to understand macros (as well as calories). If you place more emphasis on your macros, you can focus on getting the correct amounts of each nutrient YOU need to support overall health whilst helping you achieve your weight related goals.

As an example, ensuring that you consume an adequate amount of protein over the course of a day promotes a net positive protein balance (meaning more muscle proteins are synthesized than are broken down), resulting in muscle growth (8). If your goal is to gain body weight, an adequate protein intake may help to ensure that more of the weight you gain is muscle, as opposed to body fat (9). Similarly, if you are on a weight loss journey, meeting your protein requirement can help you to maintain your muscle whilst you lose body fat (10).

And the benefits of protein do not stop there. Ensuring you consume enough protein can be a useful weight loss tool. As you know, consuming less calories than you use is a must for weight loss. It is well backed by research that protein is the most filling of the three macronutrients (11) and can help to lower levels of hunger and make you feel more full following a meal (12). This may help to prevent you from overeating, decreasing calories in. It also has the greatest thermic effect of all of the macronutrients, which means that it uses the most calories when being digested and metabolised in the body (13), increasing calories out.

How to Calculate Macros?

The easiest way to calculate your recommended Macros is to use a Macronutrient Calculator. However, if you would like to calculate your macros on your own, follow these steps:

  • To find out your Macros, you first need to determine your daily calorie requirement. To do this you need to do the following:

  • Use a Basal Metabolic Rate Calculator to work out your BMR

    To determine your calorie requirement for each day you need to calculate your BMR. This is the number of calories that your body uses for basic bodily functions whilst at complete rest. Let’s say that your BMR is 1700kcal.

  • Choose your activity level
    Once you have calculated your BMR, you need to determine your daily activity level. You must multiply your BMR by the appropriate physical activity factor (PAL) according to your occupational and exercise activity level, using the categories in the table below:

    Activity Level

            PAL

    Sedentary: Little to no exercise. Inactive in both work and leisure.

    1.2

    Lightly Active: Intensive exercise for at least 20 minutes once or twice per week or daily routine includes some walking.

    1.375

    Moderately Active: Moderately active: Intensive exercise for at least 20 to 45 minutes 3 to 4 times per week or a job with a lot of walking, or a moderate intensity job.

    1.55

    Very Active: Intensive exercise for 60 minutes or greater 5 to 7 days per week.  Labor-intensive occupations such as construction work also qualify for this level. 

    1.725

    Extremely Active: Exceedingly active and/or very demanding activities:  Typically an athlete with a congested training schedule and multiple training sessions throughout the day.

    1.9

 

For example, if you are a male student who generally does not exercise often, but you maintain a busy lifestyle that requires you to walk frequently for long periods, you would be classed as ‘lightly active’. Therefore, you would multiply your BMR of 1700kcals by your PAL of 1.375, equalling 2,338kcals. This number is your total daily calorie requirement, if you are trying to maintain your current weight. If you are trying to lose or gain weight, you can manipulate this amount accordingly. For example, if your goal is weight loss you might subtract 300-500kcal from this amount in order to induce a calorie deficit.

  • Decide on your Macro Split
    Once you have your recommended caloric intake, you can decide upon your Macro split. For instance, if you want to build muscle and get lean, split your macros into 30% protein, 50% carbohydrates, and 20% fat.

  • Work out the grams you need to eat of each Macro
    In order to calculate your correct Macro targets, multiply your total daily calories by 0.3 for protein, 0.5 for carbohydrates and 0.2 for fat to get your targets in calorie amounts. In order to work out your targets in grams, you must divide your calorie amounts by the macronutrients respective calories per gram (e.g. protein - 4kcal/gram). For example, with your 2338kcal diet with a 30% protein, 50% carbohydrates, 20% fat ratio, you will eat:

    • Protein = 2338 x 0.3 = 701/4 = 175g
    • Carbohydrates = 2338 x 0.5 = 1169/4 = 292g
    • Fat = 2338 x 0.2 = 468/9= 52g

How Much Fat Do You Need Per Day?

The World Health Organisation recommends a range of 20-35% of your total daily calorie intake comes from fat, with less than 10% coming from saturated fat (18). Even if you have a high percentage of body fat (which you can determine with a Body Fat Calculator), it is essential to still consume fat in your diet. 

Different types of fat

There are many different types of fats. However, most foods consist of a mixture of various fats. There aren't many foods that contain just one type of fat.

The 6 different types of fats are listed as follows:

  • Monounsaturated fat
    Sources of monounsaturated fats are generally liquid at room temperature and begin to become solid when cooled. There are different types, of which oleic acid is the most common (15). Monounsaturated fats are considered healthy fats. Diets with more monounsaturated fats, rather than saturated fats, have been shown to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood (16), and decrease risk of developing chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease and diabetes (15, 17). It can be found in large amounts in oils such as olive and rapeseed, as well as avocados and some nuts. Monounsaturated fats are not essential in the diet, therefore no daily recommended intake is set by the World Health Organisation (18).

  • Polyunsaturated fat
    Similar to monounsaturated fats, sources of polyunsaturated fats are generally in the liquid form at room temperature. These are another source of fats that can have benefits for your health.

    Polyunsaturated fats can be split into 2 types: omega 3 and omega 6.

  • Omega 3 fats
    Omega -3 fats can be broken down into 3 categories:  ALA (Alpha-linoleic acid), DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid). Research has shown that omega 3 fats can be beneficial for inflammation, coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as mental health issues such as depression (19, 20, 21). An intake of 0.5-2% of your total calories is recommended by the World Health Organisation to come from omega 3 fatty acids (14).

  • Omega-6 fats
    These healthy unsaturated fats regulate your genes, promote immune health, and help your blood clot. They are broken down into 4 categories: LA (Linoleic acid), ARA (Arachidonic Acid), GLA (Gamma linoleic), and CLA (Conjugated linoleic acid). While they have several benefits for your health, if consumed in excess amounts, particularly when omega 3 intake is low, they can be inflammatory (22). Therefore, it’s important to have a diet that meets your requirements for both omega 3 and omega 6 fats. An intake of 2.5-9% of your total calories is recommended by the World Health Organisation to come from omega 6 fatty acids (14).

    To maintain good health, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats should make up the majority of your daily calories from fat.

  • Saturated fat
    You should watch out for the amount of saturated fat you are eating. Saturated fats will typically increase your HDL (good) cholesterol levels in the blood (23), however they will also increase your LDL cholesterol levels (23). Therefore, a diet too high in saturated fat could increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease (24). You’ll find saturated fat in processed meats, fatty meat, hard cheese, lard, butter, ghee, suet, palm oil and coconut oil. It is recommended by the World Health Organisation that no more than 10% of your total calories comes from saturated fat (14).

  • Trans fats
    You should go out of your way to avoid trans fats. Trans fats can occur naturally in small quantities in dairy and other animal foods. But, trans fats can also be found in processed foods artificially. Artificial trans fats are created by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. You will typically find them on ingredient labels listed as “partially hydrogenated oils”. These fats can increase LDL cholesterol levels, and may also decrease HDL cholesterol in your blood (25). Trans fats have been associated with increased risk of inflammation in the body, which could result in health issues such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke (26). These oils are typically found in fried foods, cakes and takeaway foods. It is recommended by the World Health OrganiSation that trans fats contribute less than 1% of the total calories in your diet (14).

How Many Carbohydrates Do You Need Per Day?

The dietary guidelines recommend that approximately 50% of your total daily calorie intake should come from carbohydrates (27). Of which, it is recommended that no more than 5% come from free-sugars (27). The majority of these calories should be derived from starchy foods, such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta, and another third should be vegetables and fruit, with an emphasis on leafy greens.

Not all carbohydrates are created equal. There are a number of different types of carbohydrate rich foods, which differed greatly in their effects on health. These are commonly broken down into two categories – “simple” and “complex”.

Simple carbohydrates are sugars and refined grains that have had their bran, fibre and nutrients removed through processing (28). Examples of these include: fruit juices, sugar-sweetened drinks, pastries, white bread and white rice, among many others. Whereas, complex carbohydrates are unprocessed and still contain the bran, fibre and nutrients found naturally in them (28). These are slower at digesting and give a greater feeling of fullness (29), making them a potentially useful tool for weight management. Examples of these include: vegetables, potatoes, wholegrains and legumes.

Several research studies have linked simple carbohydrate consumption with health issues such as obesity and type 2 diabetes (30, 31, 32). They generally result in significant spikes in blood sugar levels, in turn causing a “crash” that may result in hunger and cravings for more simple carbohydrate rich foods (33).

They are also typically low in nutrients that are essential for the body.

Due to their higher fibre content and slower digestion rate, complex carbohydrate foods do not cause the same blood sugar spike (34).

Multiple studies have shown that a high intake of complex carbohydrate sources such as high fibre foods, including vegetables, whole grains and legumes, is associated with improved metabolic health and a decreased risk of metabolic disease (35, 36).

However, simple carbohydrates are not all bad. There are plenty of healthy foods and drinks that mainly contain simple carbohydrates, such as dairy products (which are also rich in protein calcium and vitamin d) and fruits (which also contain dietary fibre and a variety of vitamins).

How Much Protein Do You Need Per Day?

The dietary guidelines recommend that you should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight (27). For example, if you weigh 70 kg, then your recommended intake would be 56 grams/day, however,  this is a highly variable number that depends on your activity level and goals.

No discussion of protein is complete without mention of amino acids. Amino acids are organic compounds that join together to form proteins, which is why they are often referred to as ‘the building blocks of protein’ (37). Each protein generally consists of differing amounts of a total of 20 existing amino acids. Eleven of these can be categoriSed as non-essential, which include alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine (38). These amino acids can be produced in the body and therefore you do not need to be consumed through the diet. The remaining nine amino acids are categoriSed as essential, which include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine (38). These cannot be produced in the body and therefore must be consumed through the diet (38).

Complete Proteins versus Incomplete Proteins

Proteins form different foods differ greatly in the levels of essential amino acids which they contain. Animal based foods are considered complete proteins since they contain sufficient quantities of all nine of the essential amino acids previously mentioned.

Examples of these include:

  • Beef
  • Fish
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs

Plant based food have often been referred to as incomplete proteins since it was believed that they did not contain all of the essential amino acids. However, contrary to popular belief, plant based foods DO contain all of the essential amino acids, just in lower quantities than their complete counterparts for certain amino acids (39). For instance, some plant foods are typically lower in tryptophan, lysine, methionine and isoleucine. The typical essential amino acid content of some common animal and plant based foods are shown in the table below.

Essential amino acid content of animal and plant based foods (mg/100g)

 

Histidine

Isoleucine

Leucine                  

Lysine

Methionine

+ Cysteine

Phenylalanine

+ Tyrosine

Threonine

Tryptophan

Valine

Chicken, breast, raw

839                    

1104

1861

2163

821

1718

1009

283

1165

Eggs, Large, Whole

283

616

1050

832

803

1172

594

166

734

Cashew nuts

456                    

789

1472

928

755

1459

688

287

1094

Quinoa, raw

407                    

504

840

766

512

860

421

167

594

Beans, white,

mature seeds, raw

650

1031

1865

1603

605

1921

983

277

1222

Sourced from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/index.html

This means that you do NOT have to ‘compliment’ plant foods with other protein sources at each meal to get the right combination of essential amino acids, rather you have to eat much more plant foods in order to meet the required quantities of essential amino acids.

Thus, the terms ‘complete’ and ‘incomplete’ proteins are misleading since they are only reflective of the ability of one food to meet all essential amino acid requirements. It is not reflective of the ability of consumption of protein over the entire day to meet essential amino acid requirements.  

It has consistently been shown in research that a diet with protein solely sourced from plant based foods, as long as it meets total calorie requirements, will meet requirements for all essential amino acids (40). Therefore, if you are following a plant based (vegetarian or vegan) diet, it is important to ensure that you are achieving your daily calorie target as calculated by the Macronutrient Calculator.

How Can A Macro Calculator Help You?

A macro calculator can provide you with target intakes for all three macronutrients in grams amounts based on your daily calorie requirement, using recommended percentage intakes. This means that if you achieve your macro targets for the day you will also meet your daily calorie requirement. This helps you to know the quantity of calories and macros in the foods and drinks you are consuming and allows room for the occasional treat - if it fits your targets; which means you will still still be on track to meeting your goals.

Using a Macro Calculator to Change your Diet

A Macro Calculator is a brilliant tool that can help you to understand your dietary needs. For more information about your current body (and to track your progress), use a BMI calculator.   If you want more targeted information about you can supercharge your workouts and make meaningful progress in the gym, enter your info into a 1 Rep Max Calculator.

The more information you have, the better you can plan your diet and exercise plan. Good luck on your health journey!

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