The acronym for Metabolic Effect is ME and it explains everything you need to know about diet, exercise and lifestyle change for health, fitness and weight loss.
There is no one-size-fits-all, off-the-shelf calorie equation. Nor is there some magic macronutrient ratio that produces sustain, consistent and predictable weight loss.
The metabolism does not work like a calculator. It works more like a see-saw or thermostat. It adapts and reacts to everything you do to it.
You eat less and it adapts and reacts by increasing hunger, lowering energy, elevating cravings and suppressing your metabolic rate. You exercise more and it does the same thing.
This is the first thing you must know about the metabolism before you start thinking a simple ratio of carbohydrate to protein to fat is going to produce some magical effect. It won’t.
Followers of Metabolic Effect know that their job is not to follow one-size-fits-all protocols, but rather to create a diet and lifestyle that works for them. The goal is to eat, exercise and live in a way that controls hunger, energy and cravings which goes by the acronym HEC (pronounced heck).
When your HEC is in check, as we like to say, you can be assured the program you have created is working with your metabolism rather than against it.
Your job is to always honor your own metabolic expression, personal preferences and psychological sensitivities.
And as much as we prefer people take a more intuitive approach, we do realize many people have a natural psychological disposition towards numbers and feel better with a range of calories and macros to be shooting for.
So, for those who are more mathematically inclined, this blog outlines the way we calculate these numbers at the Metabolic Effect clinic.
The very large caution here is to again remind you THE METABOLISM DOES NOT WORK LIKE A CALCULATOR.
So these numbers and calculations should only be used as a starting point. They are then meant to be adjusted based on your HEC response and your fat loss results.
Here is how it is done:
There are two scenarios we use.
- The person is interested in weight loss while minimizing muscle loss.
- The person is interested in muscle gain while minimizing fat gain and hopefully losing some fat in the process.
We approach these goals two different ways, and have separated them out in bullets for you so you can follow the logic.
An eat less, exercise less approach (i.e. Starve The Fat):
This approach is wonderful for weight loss while maintaining muscle.
Always start with grams of protein first and then back calculate calories and your other macros (i.e. carbs and protein) from there. Protein is very satiating and higher protein diets have been shown to increase fat loss and minimize muscle loss.
- Set your protein grams to your lean body mass. Lean body mass (muscle mass) is calculated by subtracting your fat mass from your body weight.
- If a person is 200 pounds and 30% body fat their lean body mass would be calculated by multiplying 200 X .30 and then subtracting that number from their weight.
- 200 X .30= 60. 200-60= 140. 140 is the lean body mass or muscle mass. That is the amount of protein in grams you will eat per day.
- Calculate the total calories from the protein. Using a 30:40:30 ratio (carbs:protein:fat).
- If the protein is 140g and there are 4 calories per gram of protein that means you will be eating 140 X 4= 560 calories of protein.
- Now you need to know what total amount of calories is 560 calories 40% of? You do this by cross multiplying, so 560 divided by .40 = 1400. 1400 is the total calorie count.
- Now calculate carbs from that. 1400 X .30 = 420 calories of carb. To get the grams remember that 1 gram of carb is 4 cals. So divide 420 by 4= 105g of carbs
- Now calculate the fat. 1400 X .30= 420 calories of fat. To get the grams remember that 1gram of fat has 9 cals. So divide 420 by 9= 46.66 or 47g of fat
- So the breakdown of your calories and macros is: 1400 calories per day. 105g of carb. 140g of protein. 47g of fat.
An eat more, exercise more approach (i.e. Feed The Lean):
This approach can create a calorie deficit or calorie surplus and be used for either weight loss or muscle gain. The amounts listed below are for weight loss primarily. Some may find they need to increase calorie and carb totals for muscle gain.
Always start with grams of protein and back calculate calories and the other macros from that.
- Set your protein grams equal to your weight in pounds. So a 200 pound person would be eating 200g of protein per day. (By the way. If you are over 200 pounds, 200g is the max protein intake we set for average individuals (excluding athletes). So set your level to 200g as well)
- Calculate the total calories using a 40-30-30 ratio (carbs:protein:fat). The extra carb is for the extra anabolic effects carbs give, so weight training is expected in this approach.
- Protein is 200g and there are 4 calories per gram of protein. This means the total calorie intake of protein would be 4 X 200 = 800 calories of protein
- Now you need to know what total amount of calories is 800 calories 30% of? Cross multiply by dividing 800 by .30 = 2666.66 or ~ 2700 calories (we typically just round up)
- Now calculate your carb calories. 2700 X .40 = 1080 calories of carbs. To get the grams remember there are 4 calories per gram of carb so 1080 divided by 4= 270g of carb.
- Now calculate fat calories. 2700 X .30 = 810 or 800 (we round down). Remember, there are 9 calories per gram of fat so 800 divided by 9= 88.88 or 89g of fat
- So the breakdown of your calories or macros in this scenario is 2700 calories per day. 270g of carb. 200g of protein. 89g of fat.
- Or you can just click here and we’ll do it for you!
Adjust based on HEC
Humans do very funny things when they see numbers and I bet you have already forgotten what I told you previously. So I will remind you.
THE METABOLISM DOES NOT WORK LIKE A CALCULATOR!!!
Which means the calculation you just did is simply a very rough estimate and will need to be tweaked based on results. You may need to tweak your calories up or down, or adjust your macros as you go along.
Use your hunger, energy and cravings (HEC) to guide you, along with your fat loss results. Remember, you can use our free fat loss tracker to have your results mailed to you weekly. There is a blog HERE that explains how to do this.
Don’t make the mistake of almost every single dieter on the planet by thinking you need to stick to strict numbers. I will say it one more time just to make sure it sunk in:
THE METABOLISM DOES NOT WORK LIKE A CALCULATOR.
Treat this like it is a strict math problem and you will fail every time.
One useful thing to remember is to avoid the eat less, exercise more approach to body change. I would not engage in this behavior for longer than 4-14 days to avoid metabolic compensation. To keep your metabolism humming along, either eat less, and exercise less OR eat more, and exercise more. These two calculations give you good starting places for each of these approaches.
Use this as a starting place only and then create the right calorie level and macro-nutrient ratio for you. The ratio that keeps HEC in check and delivers the body composition results you want is the right one for you.
Our hope is that you eventually move away from calculating calories and macros, but if you must this is the formula we have used with thousands and thousands of patients at the Metabolic Effect clinic. It has a great and proven track record for us.
Check out the video below for a review of the process and good luck 🙂