Dieting 101: Calculating calories and macros

DISCLAIMER: This is not intended to replace the work of a Registered Dietician or Nutritionist. If you have health problems related to diet, the following advice will not rid you of them. This is only intended as guidance for those who are overall healthy but wish to understand the mathematics behind how energy intake works in the context of losing and/or gaining weight. If you have struggled, or are currently struggling with eating disorder(s) or disordered eating behaviours, I strongly advise seeking professional help and do not recommend reading on.

Welcome to the micromanager’s guide to dieting.

You want the accuracy and accountability of following a science-based dieting approach, but don’t know where to start.

Several social media influencers offer “macro coaching” for a fee. However, if budget is tight you really can do it with just a little patience.

Phase 1 – Determine your maintenance calories


Step 1 – Weigh yourself**

Step 2 – Track a full week of eating

  • the point is to determine current eating habits.

Step 3 – Weigh yourself again

  • If your weight stayed relatively the same, you’re either at or close to maintenance.
  • If it changed, you are already either in a deficit or surplus.

Step 4 – Gather data from the app

  • Take an average of your calorie totals (add them and divide by 7).
  • use this as maintenance for now (obviously can edit down the road).

** note: avoid testing this if you are a woman near ovulation or menstruation, your results will be skewed due to water retention**


Phase 2 – Make a specific goal with a realistic timeline

Same weight can be dropped in 1 week, 1 month, or 3 months. Which will be easiest to maintain?

Step 1 – Lose or gain weight?

  • Losing weight = calories less than maintenance calories.
  • Gain weight/muscle = calories more than maintenance calories.

Step 2 – How much less/more = how quickly

  • Someone eating 250 calories less/more than maintenance and someone eating 450 calories less/more than maintenance will both reach the same goal weight.
  •  I go slowly so it’s less mentally taxing (200-350 calorie deficit/surplus).

Phase 3 – Calculate macros that work best for YOU.

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It’s all a balancing act that you can tailor to yourself.

All math below is based on a 2000 kcal diet for a 130 lbs individual.


  • Lower range protein intake: Bodyweight in lbs x 0.7 = 91g
  • Upper range protein intake: Bodyweight in lbs x 1.2 = 156g
  • Pick a smaller target range that falls between 91 g and 156 g
  • Ex. 115-125g

If 120g is the protein target and protein is 4 calories/gram you are at 25% protein. (120*4/2000)

I stick to a number that sets me within 20-35%, so 120 g would be appropriate.


For those who have very high-intensity workouts, spend a majority of their day on their feet and/or would rather die than give up pasta and bread:

  • Set carbs to 45-60% of your total calories.
  • 50% = 1000 calories.
  • Carbs = 4 calories/gram.
  • 1000 kcal/(4 kcal/g) = 250g.
  • Set a target range around this number such as 235-255g to allow for flexibility.

If you do not relate to the above psychographic and do really well with cutting carbs, you are welcome to move the carb percentage as low as 35-45%.

Same math applies.


For people who are more sedentary, generally prefer high-fat meat, high-fat dairy, coconut oil, nuts, seeds,  avocados, chips, chocolate and don’t really care about eating heavy carbs: 

  • Set fat to 30-40% of total calories.
  • Use the same math as above BUT fat = 9 calories/gram.
  • 35% of 2000 calorie diet is 700 calories and about 78 g of fat.

If you identified with the high carb description, your fat will be whatever is leftover. This will likely fall around 20-30% of total calories.


Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 10.26.44 PM

Fibre the forgotten friend:

  • 40g at the very least.
  • Eat vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains as regularly as possible.
  • BUT if bathroom trips are starting to look like nuclear bomb explosions, you’re taking it too far.
Learning how to calculate my macros at the ripe age of 8.

Alcohol: honestly just don’t.

…and if you do, either track as carbs, fats …or pretend like you accidentally dropped your phone in the toilet and and will start over tomorrow.

  • Full disclosure: I usually go with option 3.

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 9.29.42 PM


And that’s really it.

If you are not seeing expected results or you are finding it very hard to stick to the numbers you set, revisit them and try something new.

Don’t stress about hitting exact numbers like 123g of protein. Give yourself room to breathe a bit. Not every day will be perfect.

I strongly believe counting macros should not be done for the rest of your life. Use it as an educational tool… like a personal science experiment.

So go ahead, try it out and see for yourself.






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