THE BEST MACROS FOR CUTTING
Without question, the single most important factor at play when it comes to losing body fat consistently is dietary control – managing what you eat, and how much you eat throughout the day.
A good combination of weight training and cardio is certainly important to encourage lean muscle retention and to actively burn additional calories, but configuring proper cutting macros and sticking to them consistently is the one area where the vast majority of fat loss trainees go completely off course.
Think about it…
If you were to follow a typical fat loss workout routine by training 4-6 days per week for 1 hour each time, that’s only 2-4% of your total available time being spent at the gym.
That means the time you spend outside of the gym eating and recovering is making up the other 96-98%.That’s a lot of time, a lot of meals, and a lot of food choices where things can go off course.
In addition, it’s far easier to consume a significant number of calories than it is to burn them. 45 minutes on the treadmill might help you burn 400 calories, but just 10 minutes spent consuming one additional medium sized meal will replace those calories just as fast.
The fact that exercise stimulates your appetite doesn’t help the cause either, as many people will train hard in the gym and then simply over-eat in the hours afterwards without even realizing it.
It doesn’t matter how “healthy” or how “clean” you eat – go overboard on total calories and you aren’t going to lose an ounce of fat, period. (Related Article: Why A “Healthy Diet” Is NOT Enough)
If you really want to strip off around 1-2 pounds of body fat every single week (this is the general pace I recommend most people go at) you must have a properly structured cutting diet in place that allows you to maintain a net calorie deficit over time from a well-balanced combination of high quality protein, carbs, and fats.
Otherwise, you’ll be completely wasting your time and effort altogether.
But what are the best macros for cutting in order to help you reach your fat loss goals as efficiently as possible?
Let’s go over it…
The Best Macros For Cutting: Complete Breakdown
First off, we have to keep in mind that everyone’s body is slightly different and will respond in varying ways to different macronutrient breakdowns.
For that reason, it’s just not possible to say with certainty what the absolute “best” fat loss macro ratio will be for every person out there in every situation.
Some people may respond better to slightly higher or lower carbs or varying intakes of fat, and the only way to know for sure is to experiment for yourself once you put your fat burning diet into action.
However, our bodies are still far more similar than they are different, and for the average person out there who is just trying to get lean while maintaining muscle mass, the basic cutting macros I’ll be outlining here will work very well.
Here is the basic breakdown you’ll be using…
Recommended Fat Loss Macros
Calories: 500 below maintenance.
Protein: 1 gram per pound of body weight daily.
Fats: 25% of total calories.
Carbohydrates: Whatever calories remain after protein/fat is calculated.
These particular macros for fat loss will provide you with the following…
1) A calorie deficit that is large enough to stimulate significant fat loss, but small enough to keep lean muscle intact, control appetite, and maintain high energy levels.
2) Sufficient protein to maximize muscle recovery and lean mass retention.
3) Enough carbohydrates and fats to keep mood and hormone balance in check, as well as to keep training performance near its peak.
This is all fairly simple to calculate, and here’s how to go about it…
Step #1: Daily Calorie Intake
Proper calorie intake forms the underlying foundation of your entire cutting diet and is by far the most important factor to take into account.
In order to lose fat consistently, you must create an ongoing “calorie deficit” by burning more calories than you consume. This stimulates your body to tap into its excess fat stores in order to obtain a source of energy.
Maintaining a net calorie deficit is the fundamental premise behind the entire fat burning process, and so if there’s one thing you take from this entire post, structuring proper daily calorie intake should be it.
So, how many calories should you consume each day for fat loss?
Well, no single set of calculations is perfect, and configuring your daily calorie intake for fat loss will always be an “educated guessing game” at the start.
This is because it’s just not possible to know for sure what any given individual’s calorie needs will be due to differences in resting metabolic rate, activity level, hormone balance, and other smaller factors.
Your basic goal should be to land in a caloric range that has you consistently losing between 1-2 pounds per week (if you’re significantly overweight then 3-4 pounds per week is acceptable), and the basic approach will be to employ a “starting point” calorie level and then adjust it up or down if necessary depending on how your body weight changes.
Also keep in mind that if you’re just starting out, it will be normal to drop a larger amount of weight in the first 1-2 weeks due to quick decreases in water retention and overall food volume, and the 1-2 pound per week guideline is where you’ll want to “stabilize” once you settle into your diet.
Here’s how to calculate your initial daily calorie intake…
Step #1: Calculate your basal metabolic rate, which is the number of calories you burn at rest…
Men: (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) + 5
Women: (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) – 161
Step #2: Take that number and multiply it by your activity level…
Sedentary = 1.2 (little to no exercise)
Lightly Active = 1.375 (light exercise: 1-3 days a week)
Moderately Active = 1.55 (moderate exercise: 3-5 days a week)
Very Active = 1.725 (intense exercise: 6-7 days a week)
Extremely Active = 1.9 (intense daily exercise and strenuous physical job)
You now have your calorie maintenance level, which is the approximate number of calories you’d need to consume per day to maintain your current weight.
Step #3: Subtract 500 from your calorie maintenance level. This will create a moderate calorie deficit to help you lose fat each week while maintaining muscle.
Now that you have your daily calorie intake in place, we can go ahead and configure your individual cutting macros in terms of protein, carbohydrates and fats…
Step #2: Daily Protein Intake
You’ll find many different recommendations out there when it comes to daily protein intake, and a good reliable figure you can go by is to consume between 0.8g-1g of protein per pound of body weight daily.
Anywhere in this range will likely be fine for most average trainees, and obsessing about a small amount of protein here and there is likely not going to make any noticeable difference anyway.
In order to keep things simple and to be totally certain that you’re consuming adequate protein to maintain your lean muscle mass, just go with a round figure of 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily.
For example, if you weighed 190 pounds, you’d simply shoot for 190 grams of protein per day. (Also keep in mind that 1 kilogram is equal to 2.2 pounds)
Those who are more on the overweight side can probably get away with a bit less than this, whereas those who are already reasonably lean and carrying more muscle may benefit from slightly more, but for most people in most situations, the 1g per pound figure is a good reliable number to go by.
Step #3: Daily Fat Intake
Maintaining sufficient fat intake is an important part of an effective cutting macro split, as it helps to maintain balanced hormone levels and mood, and also plays a big role in keeping appetite regulated throughout the day.
Your daily grams of fat will be calculated as a percentage of your total calories, with anywhere from about 20-30% being an acceptable range for fat loss.
My suggestion is to go right in the middle and start off with a fat intake at 25% of your total calories.
Fats contain 9 calories per gram, so you’ll simply multiply your daily calorie intake by 0.25 and then divide by 9 to get the total daily grams of fat.
For example, if your daily calorie intake was set at 2500, you’d multiply 2500 x 0.25 to find that 625 of your total calories should be derived from fat. From there, just divide 625 / 9 to land on a daily fat intake of 69 grams.
Step #4: Daily Carbohydrate Intake
Although eating “low carb” has become a popular method of fat loss dieting over the years, it’s a totally unnecessary approach for most people that will simply leave you feeling tired, irritable and unmotivated throughout the day.
Remember, it’s not any one single macronutrient that is the cause of fat gain; it’s total daily energy intake (calories) as a whole that is the most important factor by far.
When calculating proper cutting macros, by advice is neither to go “low carb” nor “high carb”, but to simply use a figure that lands somewhere in the middle.
This will provide your muscles and brain with the much-needed energy to fuel all of your daily tasks but without going overboard. Keep in mind that carbohydrates are the least satiating of the 3 macronutrients, and so going too high is not a great idea either if you want to keep your appetite under control.
In order to accomplish this, you’ll simply allot whatever calories are left over after protein and fat has been calculated and use that toward your carbohydrate intake.
So, just add together the total protein calories (protein contains 4 calories per gram) and the total fat calories (you already have this from the previous step) and then subtract it from your total daily calorie intake. This will give you the total number of calories that will be derived from carbohydrates.
Then, since carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, you’ll divide that number by 4 to get the total daily grams of carbs you’ll need.
For example, if you weighed 195 pounds with a daily calorie intake of 2400, here’s how you’d calculate this…
1) Find total calories from protein: 195 x 4 = 780
2) Find total calories from fat: 2400 x 0.25 = 600
3) Add together protein and fat calories: 780 + 600 = 1380
4) Subtract protein and fat calories from total calorie intake: 2400 – 1380 = 1020 (total calories from carbs)
5) Find daily carbohydrate gram amount: 1020 / 4 = 255g of carbohydrates
Additional Points To Consider
Now that you’ve calculated your starting point cutting macros for fat loss, here are a few more important points to keep in mind…
1) In terms of meal frequency and meal structure, you can essentially lay out your cutting diet in whatever way you’d like based on your individual preference.
Play around with it and just go with whatever structure fits best into your schedule, controls your hunger, maximizes energy and allows you to stick to the diet in the most consistent way.
Whether that means 3 larger meals, 5 medium sized meals, 7 small meals, or any varying structure in between, it’s completely up to you as long as you’re meeting your designated cutting macros over the course of the day as a whole.
2) Your basic goal is to lose around 1-2 pounds of total body weight per week, and as you continue to lean out over time you may need to adjust your cutting macros in order to continuing losing fat.
Whenever your weight loss stalls for a period of 1-2 weeks, you can add some extra cardio into your plan or reduce your total calorie intake by 100-150 and then re-calculate your macros.
3) Also note that unless you’re a competitive athlete aiming to reach a specific body fat percentage by a specific date, the exact fat loss macro numbers outlined here should simply be treated as estimations.
Hitting your total daily calorie target is quite important and should be aimed for within a hundred calories or so each day if you want to see the best results… but it’s not crucial from a pure fat burning perspective that you consume exactly 178.6 grams of protein and 69.4 grams of fat every single day.
Overly obsessing about this could actually do you more harm than good, and for the average trainee, just coming somewhat close will still yield great results in the big picture.
The Best Macros For Cutting – Wrap Up
You now have some very reliable weight loss macros in place and have learned exactly how to calculate your individual needs for total daily calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates.
(Keep in mind that if you want to fully automate the process and skip over the manual calculations, you can simply punch your stats into my Free Cutting Macros Calculator and it will take care of the entire process for you with just a few clicks.)
Implement these dietary strategies into your plan and you’ll be well on your way to the lean, defined and strong body you’re after. If you have any questions, just leave a comment below.
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