Setting nutritional goals is difficult if you do not have a starting point. While most people can benefit substantially from quality lifestyle practices, there are times when more guidance is needed in the form of counting calories or macronutrients. But in order to count calories or macros one needs to first figure out their total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).
TDEE is the number of calories one burns in a day. This number is important to know as it gives one a baseline to compare current consumption to and then adjust as needed depending on goals.
TDEE is calculated by adding four numbers together: basal metabolic rate, thermic effect of feeding, exercise energy expenditure, and non-exercise activity thermogenesis.
TDEE = BMR + TEF + EEE + NEAT
Basal metabolic rate is the number of calories the body needs to stay alive and keep its organs functioning in a resting state. The best way to accurately calculate BMR is through using a machine like an InBody. However, if you do not have access to one you can simply multiply the person’s body weight in kilograms by 20. If you are a coach this information is typically gathered during your assessment process.
176 pounds = 80 kg
80 kg x 20 = 1600
BMR of a 176 pound client = 1600 calories.
When calculating TDEE one has to take into account how much energy is required to digest the food consumed. This is the thermic effect of feeding. To calculate TEF simply multiply the BMR by 0.1.
BMR = 1600
1600 x 0.1 = 160 calories burned as the thermic effect of feeding.
The third variable in the TDEE calculation is exercise energy expenditure (EEE). This is the amount of energy one expends during exercise. There is no exact calculation for this as EEE is unique to everyone but a rule of thumb is that it can range from 250 calories for light exercise to 500 for intense exercise.
A beginner client that workouts for an hour = 250 EEE
An advanced client working out for an hour plus = 500 EEE
The fourth and final variable is non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). This accounts for the number of calories a client burns in their everyday life outside of exercise, whether that be from walking their dog, sitting at their desk job all day, or working manual labor. For NEAT there is no exact calculation and again it ranges from 250 calories to 500 calories depending on the activity during the day.
A sedentary desk job employee = 250 NEAT
A delivery driver or construction worker = 500 NEAT
The client weighs 80 kg
BMR = 1600
TEF = 160
EEE = 250
NEAT = 250
TDEE 1600 + 160 + 250 + 250 = 2,260
Not all calories are the same and once TDEE is calculated one can now break down those calories into specific macros. Macros are short for macronutrients, the three main nutrients that make up foods. These include proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Determining specific macronutrient requirements is helpful for those who want to reach specific goals, whether that be performance or aesthetics.
(Coach’s Notes: Most clients do not need macros, they need to be taught quality basic lifestyle practices. Learn these practices and how to develop a foundation of healthy lifestyles in this free coaching course.)
In the example below, we will be working with a roughly 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat ratio. This is a great neutral starting point, but what works best for everyone is different and it’s worth playing around with different ratios to see which works best.
Each macronutrient has an associated number of calories, in every 1 gram of protein there are 4 calories, 1 gram of carbohydrate 4 calories, and 1 gram of fat is 9 calories.
The first step in calculating protein macros is to gather body weight or the weight of lean mass (if available), and activity levels. OPEX Coaches typically do this during the assessment. If you have the weight of lean mass, multiply that by 1 – 1.5 depending on activity levels to get their protein requirement. If you do not have lean body mass, protein can be calculated by weight. First look at the percentage of body fat. If body fat is equal to or less than 15%, go with 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. If body fat is greater than 15%, multiply bodyweight by .8 to get their protein requirement.
A client that weighs 175 pounds or 80 kg
Body fat = 12%
TDEE = 2260
175 pounds x 1 gram per pound of bodyweight = 175 grams of protein
At 4 calories per gram, 175 grams of protein is 700 calories, or just over 30% of TDEE.
In this example since we are using a 40/30/30 ratio we can calculate daily carbohydrates by figuring our 40% of our TDEE. In this case it would be 40% of 2260. Which would be 904 calories. So 904 calories a day have to come from carbohydrates. Now divide that by 4 and daily carbohydrates is 226 grams a day.
To calculate fat macros we will once again use the 40/30/30 split. We know that 30% of calories will be fat so again we figure out 30% of 2260 calories which is 678 calories. Now we divide 678 calories by 9 as there are 9 calories in one gram of fat and we get 75 grams of fat.
Protein: 175 grams
Carbohydrate: 226 grams
Fat: 75 grams
This macronutrient goal is only a starting point for this client. It is important to observe whether this prescription is supporting the client’s goals by tracking and observing changes in energy, body composition, and performance, and adjusting as needed.
Creating a specific macronutrient plan can be a great way of guiding the right client to their goals. But in our experience most people do not need macros as they are difficult to track and can be relatively confusing. Instead most people just need to practice certain healthy behaviors that are the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Learn how to create these healthy lifestyle practices and coach your clients to their nutritional goals in our free coaching course, the Coach’s Toolkit.