Muscle for life

The Definitive Guide to Effective Meal Planning

The Definitive Guide to Effective Meal Planning

Want to know how meal planning can help you lose weight and build muscle eating foods you love? Read this article.


Which of the following statements do you think is true?

  • “You have to eat clean to get lean.”
  • “If your body has too many toxins, it can’t shed fat.”
  • “If you eat too many carbs (and starchy carbs in particular), you won’t lose weight.”
  • “Certain foods ‘clog’ your hormones and keep you fat.”
  • “Calories in vs. calories out is bunk and calorie counting doesn’t work.”

If you answered “none,” then you may not need to read this article.

If you’re surprised to see me say that, though, then you definitely do.

Because this is where we’re going to completely demystify dieting and learn, once and for all, exactly how to use food to help us lose fat, gain muscle, and stay healthy…for the rest of our lives.

Even better, we’re going to learn how to enjoy it.

And not in a perverse, capture-bonding type of way, either (“THE FIRST TWO MONTHS OF BOILED CHICKEN AND STEAMED BROCCOLI WERE AWFUL BUT NOW I LOVE IT!”).

Nay, actually enjoy it.


  • No more fad diets.
  • No more forcing down joyless, tasteless meals.
  • No more battling hunger and cravings.
  • No more struggling to lose or gain weight.

What if you were immune to all the mainstream diet hysteria and gimmicks?

What if you knew exactly how to use your diet to change your body composition as desired?

And what if you didn’t have to follow a litany of nonsensical rules and restrictions or forsake everything you actually like to eat?

Well, as you’ll soon see, you can have all of those things.

Let’s get to it.

Meal Planning Made Easy Tip #1:

Calculate Your Daily Calorie Intake Correctly

meal planning tips for weight loss

What would you think if someone told you he wants to drive cross-country without looking once at his gas tank?

Instead, he wants to stop for gas when the mood strikes him and pump as much as feels like pumping.

I don’t know about you, but my response would be along these lines:


Imagine that he snaps back with one of the following replies:

  1. “I won’t be a slave to the fuel meter. I will drive as far and pump as much or little as I want!”
  2. “I read this book that said you don’t have to watch your gas tank if you use organic, gluten-free, low-carb, non-GMO, #blessedup gasoline that doesn’t clog your engine like other fuel.”

Again, I don’t know about you, but this would be me:


Jokes aside, my point is this:

When someone who wants to gain or lose weight says that he doesn’t want or have to pay attention to caloric intake, he’s being just as stupid.

It’s possible to lose or gain weight without counting calories…to a degree.

It’s not likely to work well over the long term, though.

The bottom line is calorie (meal) planing and/or tracking is the most reliable and effective way to lose fat and build muscle.

The reason for this is if you get caloric intake wrong, nothing else matters. You will not lose weight or build muscle effectively.

Now, if you’re afraid of what I’m going to say next…don’t worry.

This isn’t about starving or depriving yourself.

It’s about freeing yourself.

Eating foods you actually want to eat.

Knowing, for a fact, that you’re going to get results each and every week.

And yes, it all starts with calories.

Specifically, it start with the relationship between how many calories you eat and how many you burn, which is known as energy balance.

Energy Balance and Weight Loss

energy balance weight loss

When you set out to learn or achieve something, one of your first goals is to separate the “negotiables” from the “non-negotiables.”

That is, you want to discover and separate the fundamentals that you must understand and apply precisely if you want results from the “other stuff” that is less important and influential.

Well, when it comes to losing fat, here’s the most basic of the fundamentals:

If you want to lose fat, you must feed your body less energy than it burns.

This is known is creating a “calorie deficit,” and when in this state, your body will slowly whittle down its fat stores to obtain the energy it needs.

Now, if you’re shaking your head, thinking I’m drinking decade-old Kool-Aid , answer me this:

Why has every single controlled weight loss study conducted in the last 100 years…including countless meta-analyses and systematic reviews…concluded that meaningful weight loss requires energy expenditure to exceed energy intake?

Why have bodybuilders dating back just as far…from Sandow to Reeves and all the way up the line…been using, and continue to use, this knowledge to systematically and routinely reduce and increase body fat levels?

And why do new brands of “calorie denying” come and go every year, failing to gain acceptance in the weight loss literature?

The bottom line is this:

A century of metabolic research has proven, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that energy balance, operating according to the first law of thermodynamics, is the basic mechanism that regulates fat storage and reduction.

Maintaining a calorie deficit will, over time, result in an overall reduction of body fat percentage, and is the only way to do this.

How Large Should Your Calorie Deficit Be?

calories for weight loss

When you want to lose weight, how much less energy should you feed your body compared to what it needs?

Well, while many weight loss diets advocate eating very little every day, this isn’t advisable for most people.

This type of “starvation dieting” comes with quite a few negative side effects, such as metabolic slowdown, excessive muscle loss, extreme irritableness, and more.

Instead, you want to put your body in an aggressive (but not reckless) calorie deficit.

Specifically, I recommend that you feed your body 20 to 25% fewer calories than it burns every day.

This will allow you to lose anywhere from 0.5 to 2 pounds per week while also preserving your metabolic health, energy levels, hormone production, mood, and general well-being.

I’m not plucking that advice out of thin air, either.

It’s based on research conducted by scientists at the University of Jyväskylä and my experience working with thousands of people of all ages and circumstances.

Here’s how the study worked:

It was conducted with 20-to-35 year-old national and international level track and field jumpers and sprinters with low levels of body fat (at or under 10%).

They were split into two groups:

  • A daily calorie deficit of 300 calories (about 88% of TDEE).
  • A daily calorie deficit of 750 calories (about 76% of TDEE).

It’s also worth noting that this group was eating over 2,000 calories per day, which isn’t a “starvation diet” by any means.

Both groups followed a high-protein diet and trained as they normally would.

After 4 weeks, the athletes utilizing a 300-calorie deficit lost very little fat and muscle while the group utilizing a 750-calorie deficit lost, on average, about 4 pounds of fat and very little muscle.

Similar results were seen in another study conducted by scientists at McMaster University, which separated 40 young, overweight men into two groups.

One group was put on the following regimen:

  1. 40% calorie deficit (about 60% of TDEE)
  2. High protein intake (2.4 g/kg)
  3. 6 weightlifting and HIIT workouts per week

And the other group did the same workouts but ate half the protein.

Yes, you read that right.

These people ate just over half of the energy they were burning and did 6 weightlifting and HIIT cardio workouts per week.

If you were to show that protocol to any personal trainer, they would say you’re crazy.

Well, after four weeks, here’s what happened:

  • The participants in the high-protein group lost, on average, about 10.5 pounds of fat while gaining about 2.5 pounds of muscle.
  • The low-protein group lost about 8 pounds of fat and gained no muscle.

Now, that regimen is far more intense than I would recommend because I guarantee you those people didn’t have a good time.

It does show you just how militant you can be without ruining your body composition, though.

Just how much you can push your body depends on many things, including age, genetics, training history, diet, and sleep hygiene, but I can tell you this:

If you’re a relatively healthy adult, you can do very well with a setup like this:

This is the basic strategy behind my Bigger Leaner Stronger (men) and Thinner Leaner Stronger(women) programs, by the way, and they work.

Calculating Your Daily Calorie Intake for Weight Loss

Daily Calorie Intake for Weight Loss

The first step of calculating your calorie needs for weight loss is determining, with some accuracy, how much energy you’re burning every day.

Some methods of doing this involve tracking and inputting types of physical activity ranging from sitting idle to intense exercise.

While this is one way of doing it, I think it’s unnecessarily complicated. Instead, I recommend you use a simple, two-step method:

1. Use the following calculator to determine your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).


Your TDEE is exactly what it sounds like–an approximation of how much energy your body is burning every day.

This is calculated using an equation known as the “Katch McArdle” equation, which first determines your basal metabolic rate (the amount of energy your body burns at rest), which is then multiplied based on your activity level (the more active you are, the larger the multiplier).

And in case you’re wondering why the activity multipliers in my calculator are slightly lower than the standard ones, it’s because those are too high.

Unless you have an abnormally fast metabolism, your TDEE estimation will likely come out high if you use the standard multipliers.

2. Multiply your TDEE 0.75 to determine your target caloric intake.

This will create a 25% calorie deficit, which will allow you to rapidly (and healthily) lose fat.

Energy Balance and Muscle Building

meal planning bodybuilding

You’ve probably heard that big muscles require a big appetite.

You’ve probably also heard that “bulking” is unnecessary and even counter-productive because of excessive fat gain.

Well, there’s truth in both of these statements.

If you follow a cookie-cutter bodybuilding bulking program, you will probably gain a lot of fat (and, unfortunately, a lot more fat than muscle).

That said, if you want to maximize muscle growth, you need to eat a rather large amount of food (which requires a robust appetite).

The reason for this is simple:

Muscle growth is strongly affected by how much food you eat.

Not just protein (which matters too, of course)…but food (calories).

The bottom line is if you don’t eat enough calories every day, you’re going to always struggle with gaining muscle.

The reason for this is simple:

When you’re in a calorie deficit, fat loss is only one of the physiological ramifications. Several others aren’t desirable:

That is, when in a calorie deficit, your body can’t build muscle tissue as efficiently as when you’re not in a deficit.

This further decreases protein synthesis and increases protein degradation rates.

  • It impairs workout performance.

When you’re in a calorie deficit, you can expect a reduction in strength, muscle endurance, and overall energy levels.

This, in turn, impairs progression in your workouts, which impairs muscle growth.

What do these three things tell us about diet and muscle gain, then?

It’s simple:

If you want to build muscle effectively, you need to make sure you’re not in a calorie deficit.

Instead, you want to do the opposite: feed your body slightly more energy than its needs.

This is known as placing it in a “positive energy balance” or “calorie surplus.”

This ensures your body can build muscle unhindered.

It results in fat gain as well, though, as a portion of the energy surplus is stored as body fat.

(It’s worth noting that some people–newbies, mainly–can build muscle and lose fat at the same time, but they’re a small minority. The rest of us will do best by alternating between periods of cutting and bulking, as described here.)

This is true regardless of the dietary protocol you use.

If you’re in a calorie deficit several days per week, you will gain less muscle than if you weren’t.

How large of a calorie surplus is desirable, though?

Let’s find out.

How Large Should Your Calorie Surplus Be?

diet plan for building muscle

Many people mistakenly assume that a large calorie surplus helps you build muscle faster than a slight one.

This isn’t true.

It only causes you to gain more fat (which in turn can slow down muscle gain).

The reason for this is being in a calorie surplus doesn’t accelerate muscle growth per se–it just ensures you’re not hindering growth by being in a deficit.

Think of it not as pressing down on the gas but letting off the brake.

Now, one of way of achieving a calorie surplus is throwing down many thousands of calories every day.

If you eat like a Clydesdale, you will gain weight.

You don’t want to just gain weight, though. You want to gain muscle.

And that’s why you want to maintain a slight calorie surplus when bulking.

This allows you to build muscle efficiently without gaining large amounts of fat.

Specifically, I recommend that you maintain a 5 to 10% calorie surplus when bulking.

That is, eat around 105 to 110% of your total daily energy expenditure (and balance your macros properly) and you’ll be in the “sweet spot” for gaining “lean muscle.”

You know you have to right when you’re gaining 0.5 to 1 pound per week (and about half that for women).

And in terms of the ratio muscle to fat gain, 1:1 seems to be pretty standard (for every 1 pound of muscle gain, 1 pound of fat is gained too).

If you’re gaining more fat than muscle, you’re probably eating more than you should (whether you realize it or not). And if you’re gaining more muscle than fat, you probably have good genetics.

Calculating Your Daily Calorie Intake for Building Muscle

Daily Calorie Intake for Building Muscle

By now, you know the drill.

As with weight loss, we’re going to first calculate your TDEE and then multiply it to determine your target caloric intake.

In this case, though, we’re going to multiply it by 1.1 to create a slight (~10%) calorie surplus (about 110% of TDEE).


Meal Planning Made Easy Tip #2:

Calculate Your Macronutrients Correctly

healthy meal planning guide

You’ve probably heard that a “calorie isn’t a calorie” and that the “calories in vs. calories out” model is hidebound and outmoded.

Newfangled diet “gurus” claim that the “new school” of dieting is all about what you eat, not how much.

Well, to them I would like to introduce Professor Mark Haub.

Professor Haub wanted to give the scientifically indisputable realities of energy balance a boost in popularity, so he lost 27 pounds on a diet of protein shakes, Twinkies, Doritos, Oreos, and Little Debbie snacks.

His point wasn’t that you should eat junk food–he just wanted to demonstrate how little the quality of the food you eat matters in terms of weight loss.

That said, our goals are more specific than just weight loss:

We want to gain more muscle than fat and we want to lose fat, not muscle.

And when viewed in that context, a calorie is not a calorie because some calories are more conducive to those goals than others.

To understand why, we must view caloric intake through the lens of macronutrients.

What Are Macronutrients?

What Are Macronutrients

The dictionary defines “macronutrient” like this:

A macronutrient is any of the nutritional components of the diet that are required in relatively large amounts: protein, carbohydrate, fat, and minerals such as calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, and phosphorous.

The macronutrients we’re concerned with in particular here are protein, carbohydrate, and fat.


Specifically, we want to know how much of each we should be eating every day to optimize our results.

That is, how do we best allot our daily calories to protein (~4 calories per gram), carbs (ditto), and fats (~9 calories per gram)?


Let’s find out…

A high-protein diet is extremely effective for maintaining muscle while in a calorie deficit and maximizing muscle growth while in a calorie surplus.

If you’ve spent any time in the fitness space, this probably doesn’t come as a surprise.

As you’ll soon see, however, you don’t need to eat as much protein as many people think.

Carbs don’t make or keep you fat and they help you preserve and build muscle.

Low-carb dieting is all the rage these days…and as far as most of us fitness folk are concerned, it’s much ado about nothing.

There are about 20 studies that low-carb proponents bandy about as definitive proof of the superiority of low-carb dieting for weight loss.

If you read the abstracts of these studies, low-carb dieting definitely seems more effective, and this type of glib “research” is what most low-carbers base their beliefs on.

But there’s a big problem with many of these studies, and it has to do with protein intake.

The problem is the low-carb diets in these studies invariably contained more protein than the low-fat diets.  Yes, one for one…without fail.

What we’re actually looking at in these studies is a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet vs. low-protein, high-carb diet, and the former wins every time.

In many cases, the high-carb groups were given less protein than even the RDI of 0.8 grams per kg of body weight, which is just woefully inadequate for weight loss purposes.

Research has shown that even double and triple those (RDI) levels of protein intake aren’t enough to fully prevent the loss of lean mass while restricting calories.

My point is this:

We can’t ignore difference in protein intake in the groups of people in these studies and say the low-carb diets were more effective because of the carb restriction.

A proper oranges-to-oranges comparison would test a high-protein, low-carb diet vs. a high-protein, high-carb diet.

Well, such studies have been conducted and demonstrate that…

When protein intake is high, restricting carbs doesn’t speed up fat loss.

In other words, when protein intake is high and matched among low-carb and high-carb dieters, there is no significant difference in fat loss.

Why is protein intake the linchpin here, you wonder?

Because, as you now know, adequate protein intake while dieting for fat loss is vital for preserving lean mass, both with sedentary people and especially with athletes.

If you don’t eat enough protein when dieting to lose weight, you can lose quite a bit of muscle, and this in turn hampers your weight loss in several ways:

  1. It causes your basal metabolic rate to drop
  2. It reduces the amount of calories you burn in your workouts
  3. It impairs the metabolism of glucose and lipids

Protein has other weight loss benefits too, including a high thermic effect, increased satiety, favorable nutrient partitioning, and more.

So that’s carbs and fat loss. What about muscle and strength gains?

Well, carbs aren’t just neutral in this regard–they directly help you build muscle and get strong faster.

There are two primary reasons for this:

1. Weightlifting rapidly drains your muscles’ glycogen stores and fully replenishing these stores improves performance and reduces exercise-induced muscle breakdown.

Glycogen is a form of carbohydrate stored primarily in the liver and muscles.

2. Carbs elevate insulin levels, which doesn’t stimulate protein synthesis like amino acids but does exert anti-catabolic effects.

What that means is insulin decreases the rate of protein breakdown in your body, which creates a more anabolic environment in which muscle can grow faster.

(If you want to learn more about the physiological mechanisms in play here, check out this article.)

This helps us understand why several studies have found that high-carb diets are superior for building muscle and strength.

One of these studies was conducted by scientists at Ball State University.

Researchers found that low muscle glycogen levels (which is inevitable with low-carb dieting) impair post-workout cell signaling related to muscle growth.

Another study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina found that when athletes followed a low-carb diet, resting cortisol levels increased and free testosterone levels decreased.

This is more or less the exact opposite of what we want for optimizing performance and body composition.

We find further evidence of the superiority of high-carb dieting in a study conducted by researchers at the University of Rhode Island.

They looked at how low- and high-carb intakes (about 226 and 353 grams per day, respectively) affected exercise-induced muscle damage, strength recovery, and whole body protein metabolism after a strenuous workout.

The result was the subjects on the lower-carb diet lost more strength, recovered slower, and showed lower levels of protein synthesis.

Similar results were seen in yet another study, this time conducted by scientists at McMaster University, which compared high- and low-carb dieting with people performing daily leg workouts

They found that those on the low-carb diet experienced higher rates of protein breakdown and lower rates of protein synthesis, resulting in less overall muscle growth than their higher-carb counterparts.

Furthermore, studies show that bodybuilders following a high-protein, high-carb, low-fat diet lose less muscle than those following a high-protein, low-carb, high-fat diet.

I could go on, but all this is why my general position on carbohydrate intake is as follows:

If you’re healthy and physically active, and especially if you lift weights regularly, you’re probably going to do best with more carbs, not less.

There are exceptions, of course, but that holds true for the vast majority of people, regardless of age, gender, genetics, or training experience.

Eat enough dietary fat to support basic health.

meal planning how much fat

I’ve written extensively about how much and why kinds of fat we should be eating, so I’ll give a Cliff’sNotes version here.

Your body needs a certain amount of dietary fat to support vital physiological processes related to cell maintenance, hormone production, insulin sensitivity, and more.

This is why, according to the Institute of Medicine, adults should get 20 to 35% of their daily calories from dietary fat.

And this is (at least partially) why you seen these numbers echoed throughout the fitness space.

There’s a problem, though:

These recommendations are based on the calorie needs of the average sedentary person (about 2,000 calories per day).

This is significant because people that exercise frequently and have higher amounts of muscle burn far more energy than the average person and thus require far more calories.

Just because their bodies need more calories due to activity doesn’t mean they need more fat, though.

That is, your body needs a certain number of grams of dietary fat every day, not a certain percentage of caloric intake regardless of how many calories you’re actually eating.

And in terms of an actual amount, research shows that around 0.3 grams of dietary fat per pound of fat-free mass per day is adequate for maintaining health.

(And “fat-free mass” is everything in your body that isn’t fat, i.e., muscle, water, and bone.)

This comprises 15 to 20% of daily calories for most people.

What types of fat you eat is also important.

I talk about this in more detail here, but this is the long story short:

  • Limit your saturated fat intake (<= 10% of daily calories).
  • Avoid artificial trans fats (as close to zero as possible).
  • Favor monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
  • Pay particular attention to your omega-3 intake (500 milligrams to 2 grams of EPA/DHA per day).
  • This dietary approach to weight loss is ideal for both health and body composition.

Now, if you’re afraid that level of fat intake will cause you to miss out on hormonal benefits associated with high-fat dieting, this next bit is for you.

Research has shown that switching from a low-fat to a high-fat diet can increase anabolic hormone levels…but not by much.

For example, one study showed that men getting 41% of daily calories from fat had 13% more free testosterone than men getting just 18% of daily calories from fat.

These findings were similar to those of another study conducted a decade earlier.

Those changes may be statistically significant but they’re not practically significant in terms of gaining muscle.

The reality is small fluctuations of testosterone levels within physiological normal ranges doesn’t help or hinder your gains in the gym.

If you want to build muscle faster, you need to increase your testosterone by anywhere from 100 to 300% to supraphysiological levels, and the only way to do that is steroids.

So, with that now under our belts, let’s look at what you’re losing when you increase fat intake to 30%+ of your daily calories:


You have to reduce your carb intake to make room for the calories contained in the additional fat.

And you have to cut carbs quite a bit because, as you know, a gram of fat contains over double the calories of a gram of carbohydrate.

For example, if you’re eating 2,500 calories per day with 30% of calories from protein, 50% from carbohydrate, and 20% from fat, that looks like this (approximately):

  • 190 grams of protein
  • 310 grams of carbohydrate
  • 55 grams of fat

If you switched to 30% of calories from protein, 40% from fat, and 30% from carbohydrate, it would look like this:

  • 190 grams of protein
  • 190 grams of carbohydrate
  • 110 grams of fat

I can guarantee you that you will feel stronger in and have more energy in your workouts on the first, higher-carb diet.

This, in turn, means you will be able to push more weight and get more reps in those workouts, which in time will help you build more muscle and strength.

On the other hand, all the high-fat diet can offer is a small, negligible increase in testosterone that most definitely won’t benefit your training.

So, now that you understand the roles of each of the macronutrients, let’s look at how to figure out your macros.

How to Calculate Your Macros for Losing Fat

Macros for Losing Fat

My recommendations are very simple:

  • Set your protein intake to 1 to 1.2 grams per pound of body weight.

If you’re very overweight (a man with 25%+ body fat or a woman with 30%+), I recommend you set your protein intake at 40% of your total calories.

  • If you exercise regularly and don’t have any medical conditions, set your fat intake to 0.2 to 0.25 grams per pound of body weight.

This gives your body what it needs for basic health purposes and leaves plenty of calories for carbs.

  • Allot the rest of your calories to carbs.

Trust me.

Eating a lot of carbs does not make you fat (overeating does) nor does it hinder fat loss (overeating does).

Keeping your carb intake high is going to help you in many ways: better workouts, better meal plans, better mood and energy levels, and more.

Experience it for yourself and you’ll never look back.

  • If you’re sedentary or have a medical condition like diabetes, then you’ll probably do better with fewer carbs.

If you’re sedentary, about 25% of daily calories from carbohydrate should be plenty.

If you have a relevant medical condition, check with your doctor as to your “carbohydrate ceiling.” I’ve seen a lot of variation here.

And here’s a handy macro calculation tool that makes it easy:

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How to Calculate Your Macros for Gaining Muscle

Macros for Gaining Muscle

If your goal is maximum muscle growth, then you’ll want to set your macros up a little differently.

Before we get to that, though, you should also know that you only want to “bulk” if your body fat percentage is in the right range.

For guys, this is about 10%. For girls, about 20%.

You can learn more about why here.

With that in place, here’s how I recommend you set up your bulking diet:

  • Set your protein to 1 gram per pound of body weight.

You don’t need more than this.

  • Set your fat to 0.3 to 0.4 grams per pound of body weight.

This higher fat intake will help you eat more foods you like and hit your daily caloric target.

  • Get the rest of your calories from carbs.

Yes, this means eating a lot of carbs and yes, this is going to help tremendously in gaining muscle.

Meal Planning Made Easy Tip #3:

Eat Foods You Like

meal planning for weight loss free

The cult of “clean eating” is more popular than ever these days,

While I’m all for eating nutritious (“clean”) foods for the purposes of supplying our bodies with essential vitamins and minerals, eating nothing but these foods guarantees nothing in the way of building muscle or losing fat. 

The truth is you can be the cleanest eater in the world and still be weak and skinny fat.


Because, as you now know, when it comes to body compositionhow much you eat is more important than what.

The bottom line is this:

There’s no such thing as “weight loss” or “weight gain” foods.

You see, foods don’t have any special properties that cause you to lose or gain weight.

What they do have, however, are varying amounts of calories and varying types of macronutrient profiles.

These two factors are what make certain foods more suitable for losing or gaining weight than others.

As Professor Haub showed us earlier, and as the “If It Fits Your Macros” crowd simply won’t shut up about, you can lose fat eating whatever you want so long as you regulate your intake and maintain a calorie deficit.

That said, certain foods make it easier or harder to lose or gain weight due to their volume, calorie density, and macronutrient breakdown.

Generally speaking, foods that are “good” for weight loss are those that are relatively low in calories but high in volume (and thus satiating). 

Examples of such foods are lean meats, whole grains, many fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy.

These types of foods also provide an abundance of micronutrients, which is especially important when your calories are restricted (eat too much junk on a calorie-restricted diet and you can develop vitamin and mineral deficiencies).

Foods conducive to weight gain are the opposite: relatively high in calories and relatively low in volume and satiety.

These foods include the obvious like caloric beverages, candy, and other sugar-laden goodies, but quite a few “normal” foods fall into this category as well: oils, refined grains, bacon, butter, low-fiber fruits, and whole fat dairy products, for example.

Think of it this way:

You can only “afford” so many calories every day and you have to watch how you “spend” them.

When dieting for fat loss, you want to spend the majority of your calories on foods that allow you to hit your daily macronutrient and micronutrient needs without “overspending” (overeating).

When dieting for muscle growth, you have quite a few more calories to spend every day.

This makes it easy to hit both your macronutrient and micronutrient targets with calories to spare, which you can then spend on, well, whatever you want.

Now, don’t mistake this section as me railing against eating healthy foods.

I’m not a fan of trying to prove that you can “eat junk and get shredded.” Long-term health matters more than getting super lean while eating boxes of Pop Tarts every week.

As a rule of thumb, if you get the majority (~80%) of your calories from relatively unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods, you can fill the remaining 20% with your favorite dietary sins and be healthy, muscular, and lean.

If you want to learn more about what types of foods qualify as nutritious and “healthy,” check out this article.

Meal Planning Made Easy Tip #4:

Meal Scheduling 101

meal prep for weight loss

Generally speaking, when you eat your food doesn’t matter.

So long as you’re managing your energy and macronutrient balances properly and getting the majority of your calories from nutritious foods, meal timing and frequency aren’t going to help your hinder your results.

You can eat three or seven meals per day. You can eat a huge breakfast or skip it and start eating at lunch. You can eat carbs whenever you like (yes, even at night).

That said, if you’re serious about weightlifting, there are a few caveats:

  • There’s a fair amount of evidence that eating protein before and after weightlifting workouts can help you build muscle and strength faster.
  • There’s a also evidence that post-workout carb intake can help as well, mainly due to insulin’s anti-catabolic effects.

So, if you’re lifting weights regularly, I do recommend you have 30 to 40 grams of protein before and after your workouts.

30 to 50 grams of carbohydrate before a workout is great for boosting performance and 0.5 to 1 gram per kilogram of bodyweight is enough for post-workout needs.

Meal Planning Made Easy Tip #5:

Adjust Based on Your Results

meal ideas for weight loss

There are two litmus tests for any diet or training philosophy:

1. Does it work?

If a program doesn’t get results then it doesn’t matter how “science-based” it claims to be, how many books it has sold, or how many “gurus” swear by it.

It should be jettisoned.

2. Is it sustainable?

If a program gets results but it can’t be sustained over the long term, whether due to complexity, difficulty, or anything else, it too should be abandoned.

We have no problem putting in the work necessary to get the bodies we want, but we don’t want to live like self-abnegating ascetics.

We don’t want to punish ourselves with a daily regimen of tasteless slop and tortuous workouts.

What we want are diet and workout plans that are enjoyable, effective, and viable as a lifestyle.

You should apply those criteria to everything you’ve learned here.

You should expect results from what I’m teaching you in this article and you should be able to enjoy the process.

To be specific, here is what you want to see:

  • If you’re dieting to lose weight, you want to lose 0.5 to 2 pounds per week.

Exactly how much you lose will depend on several things, but the primary determinant will be your current body fat percentage.

If you’re lean and looking to get really lean (~10% body fat for men and ~20% for women), you should see something closer to 0.5 pounds lost per week.

(If you’re losing much more than this, you’re probably losing muscle as well.)

On the other hand, if you’re overweight (20%+ body fat for men and 30%+ for women), you should have no problem losing 1 to  2 pounds per week.

As you get leaner, this number will come down.

  • If you’re dieting to build muscle, you want to gain 0.25 to 1.5 pounds per week.

Your training experience and current body composition are the major factors in play here.

If you’re new to weightlifting, gaining 1.5 pounds per week (for the first couple of months, at least) is realistic.

If you have several years of heavy weightlifting under your belt, you can’t gain muscle nearly as quickly as the newbie, so 1.5 pounds per week would simply mean you’re gaining too much fat.

If you want to learn more about this, check out this article.

You should also know that while weight change can be and indicator of progress, it can also be unreliable.

One reason for this is water retention, which can fluctuate quite dramatically day by day and week by week (thus causing significant changes in weight).

Another reason is the “body recomposition” phenomenon, which involves gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time (causing a disconnect between what you see on the scale and in the mirror).

You can learn more about these points and how to track your progress correctly here.

Now, let’s talk about adjusting your diet what you’re doing based on your results.

If your body is responding well and changing as desired, you keep doing what you’re doing.

Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken and all that.

If, however, your weight is stuck or going up too quickly, you need to make a change.

If you’re no longer losing weight, read this article to learn what to do next.

If you’re no longer gaining weight, read this article.

If you’re losing weight faster than you expected, this may or may not be a problem.

Some people lose weight, and fat, faster than others.

That’s why I gave a range of expectations earlier and not set, one-size-fits-all numbers.

Rapid weight loss is great, but we want to make sure it’s rapid fat loss and not rapid fat and muscle loss.

The easiest way to know what’s happening is to look to your workouts.

  • If you’re losing weight faster than you expected but aren’t losing strength in the gym, you’re not losing muscle to any degree that matters.

That is, if you’re still able to handle your normal weights and get your reps, you have nothing to worry about.

  • If you see a slight reduction in strength (5% or less reduction in 1RM), this too isn’t a cause for concern.

Most people experience at least a slight decline in performance while cutting, and some see it early and others later.

Personally, I don’t start losing strength until I’m 4 to 5 weeks into a cut.

  • If you see a large reduction in strength (10%+ reduction in 1RM) that’s getting progressively worse, it’s time to make an adjustment.

It’s safe to assume you’re losing muscle and you’d want to either eat more and/or exercise less to reduce the size of the calorie deficit and the amount of stress on your body.

I should note, however, that I’ve worked with many thousands of people and can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve run into this scenario.

And in each case, the culprit was either eating far too little and/or doing far too much cardio.

(The point being if you simply follow my diet and training advice, you’re not going to lose any amount of muscle to speak of.)

Examples of Good Meal Planning

meal plan examples

If your head is hurting at this point and you want to see what a good meal plan looks like, I’ve got you covered.

Click on the link below to see a collection of custom meal plans we’ve made for clients (we’ve done over 5,000…wow!). They should help you:


As you can see, with a little creativity, any and all lifestyles and dietary needs and preferences can be accommodated.

If you’re interested in learning more about my custom meal plan service, click here.

What About Supplements?

meal planning supplements


I saved this for last because, quite frankly, it’s far less important than proper diet and training.

You see, supplements don’t build great physiques–dedication to proper training and nutrition does.

Unfortunately, the workout supplement industry is plagued by pseudoscience, ridiculous hype, misleading advertising and endorsements, products full of junk ingredients, underdosing key ingredients, and many other shenanigans.

Most supplement companies produce cheap, junk products and try to dazzle you with ridiculous marketing claims, high-profile (and very expensive) endorsements, pseudo-scientific babble, fancy-sounding proprietary blends, and flashy packaging.

So, while workout supplements don’t play a vital role in building muscle and losing fat, and many are a complete waste of money…the right ones can help.

The truth of the matter is there are safe, natural substances that have been scientifically proven to deliver benefits such as increased strength, muscle endurance and growth, fat loss, and more.

As a part of my work, it’s been my job to know what these substances are, and find products with them that I can use myself and recommend to others.

Finding high-quality, effective, and fairly priced products has always been a struggle, though.

That’s why I took matters into my own hands and decided to create my own supplements. And not just another line of “me too” supplements–the exact formulations I myself have always wanted and wished others would create.

I won’t go into a whole spiel here though. If you want to learn more about my supplement line, check this out.

For the purpose of this article, let’s just quickly review the supplements that are going to help you get the most out of your diet and training in general.


Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body and in foods like red meat. It’s perhaps the most researched molecule in the world of sport supplements–the subject of hundreds of studies–and the consensus is very clear:

Supplementation with creatine helps…

You may have heard that creatine is bad for your kidneys, but these claims have been categorically and repeatedly disproven. In healthy subjects, creatine has been shown to have no harmful side effects, in both short- or long-term usage. People with kidney disease are not advised to supplement with creatine, however.

If you have healthy kidneys, I highly recommend that you supplement with creatine. It’s safe, cheap, and effective.

In terms of specific products, I use my own, of course, which is called RECHARGE.


RECHARGE is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored and each serving contains:

  • 5 grams of creatine monohydrate
  • 2100 milligrams of L-carnitine L-tartrate
  • 10.8 milligrams of corosolic acid

This gives you the proven strength, size, and recovery benefits of creatine monohydrate plus the muscle repair and insulin sensitivity benefits of L-carnitine L-tartrate and corosolic acid.

Protein Powder

You don’t need protein supplements to gain muscle, but, considering how much protein you need to eat every day to maximize muscle growth, getting all your protein from whole food can be impractical.

That’s the main reason I created (and use) a whey protein supplement. (There’s also evidence that whey protein is particularly good for your post-workout nutrition.)


WHEY+ is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored whey isolate that is made from milk sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland, which are known for their exceptionally high-quality dairy.

I can confidently say that this is the creamiest, tastiest, healthiest all-natural whey protein powder you can find.

PHOENIX Fat Burner

With the weight loss market valued at a staggering $60.5 billion and more than one-third of U.S. adults obese, it’s no surprise that there’s a glut of “fat burners” for sale these days.

And for the same reasons it’s also no surprise that fat burners are some of the most expensive supplements on the shelves and feature some of the loudest marketing claims, often making big promises of “scientifically proven” rapid fat loss.

The reality is most “fat burners” are junk but there are a handful of natural, safe substances that have been scientifically proven to accelerate fat loss. And that’s why I created PHOENIX.

PHOENIX’s caffeine-free formulation is helps you burn fat faster in three different ways:

  • It dramatically increases metabolic speed.
  • It amplifies the power of fat-burning chemicals produced by your body.
  • It increases the feeling of fullness from food.

It accomplishes this through clinically effective dosages of several ingredients, including…

Through these mechanisms, naringin also works synergistically with synephrine and hesperidin to further accelerate the basal metabolic rate.

Research has show that supplementation with forskolin accelerates fat loss and increases testosterone levels.

  • And more…

The bottom line is if you want to lose fat faster without pumping yourself full of stimulants or other potentially harmful chemicals…then you want to try PHOENIX.


Pre-Workout Drink

There’s no question that a pre-workout supplement can get you fired up to get to work in the gym. There are downsides and potential risks, however.

Many pre-workout drinks are stuffed full of ineffective ingredients and/or minuscule dosages of otherwise good ingredients, making them little more than a few cheap stimulants with some “pixie dust” sprinkled in to make for a pretty label and convincing ad copy.

Many others don’t even have stimulants going for them and are just complete duds.

Others still are downright dangerous, like USPLabs’ popular pre-workout “Jack3d,”which contained a powerful (and now banned) stimulant known as DMAA.

Even worse was the popular pre-workout supplement “Craze,” which contained a chemical similar to methamphetamine.

The reality is it’s very hard to find a pre-workout supplement that’s light on stimulants but heavy on natural, safe, performance-enhancing ingredients like beta-alanine, betaine, and citrulline.

And that’s why I made my own pre-workout supplement. It’s called PULSE and it contains 6 of the most effective performance-enhancing ingredients available:

And what you won’t find in PULSE is equally special:

  • No artificial sweeteners or flavors..
  • No artificial food dyes.
  • No unnecessary fillers, carbohydrate powders, or junk ingredients.

The bottom line is if you want to know what a pre-workout is supposed to feel like…if you want to experience the type of energy rush and performance boost that only clinically effective dosages of scientifically validated ingredients can deliver…then you want to try PULSE.



What did you think about meal planning? Have anything else you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

If you like what I have to say, sign up for my free newsletter and every week I'll send you awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious "diet-friendly" recipes, motivational musings, and more.


If you want a "paint-by-numbers," step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body...faster than you ever thought possible...then you want to check out my bestselling books.

Here's a little sneak peek of what you'll learn inside...

  • The 7 biggest muscle building myths & mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • How to build meal plans that allow you to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy with ease…eating foods you love (yes, including those deemed “unclean” by certain “gurus”)…and never feeling starved, deprived, or like you’re “on a diet.”
  • The 5 biggest fat loss myths & mistakes that keep women overweight, disappointed, and confused. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • An all-in-one training system that delivers MAXIMUM results for your efforts…spending no more than 3 to 6 hours in the gym every week…doing workouts that energize you, not wipe you out.
  • A no-BS guide to supplements that will save you hundreds if not THOUSANDS of dollars each year that you would’ve wasted on products that are nothing more than bunk science and marketing hype.
  • And a whole lot more!

The bottom line is you CAN achieve that “Hollywood body" without having your life revolve around it. No long hours in the gym, no starving yourself, and no grueling cardio that turns your stomach.

My book will show you how. Get it today and let’s build a body you can be proud of.

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

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Leave a Comment!
  • RyanEng


    In a previous article on fat loss, you recommended 45% protein, 20% carbs, and 35% fat as a macronutrient ratio. Here, you are recommending 40/40/20. Have you changed your mind on this topic? I’m assuming like many things, this all depends on individual needs and circumstances and that the answer is really a spectrum of possibilities. Interestingly enough, I tried the 45/20/35 ratio on myself and clients and found it works well for those with slightly more fat to lose and to kick off the cut. Then, I change it to 40/30/30 and keep increasing carbs until fat drops in the 20-25% range.

    Note that there are some good studies that show hormone reductions with lower carb dieting, and I would consider 20% to be minimum on a temporary basis only. I think it’s harder to implement, but I’ve also tried carb cycling with some days being lower carb in the spectrum and other days being higher. I don’t have any science for it, but this seems to work well.

    • Michael Matthews

      No, the other article was geared for maximum weight loss at the expense of performance (low-carb).

      I actually prefer a higher carb approach for the reasons described here.

      I would only recommend low-carb if you need to drop weight as quickly as possible.

  • ms

    i really really like ur articles but i guess it would be much easier if u pointed the important stuff to do in a short sentences. that would be perfect instead of too long explanation

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I’ll keep that in mind. 🙂

  • Keith

    Another superb article Mike. I found through last year meal planning/tracking really makes all the difference.
    On the calorie/macro tracking side of things do you include such things as pre weights/cardio session BCAA’s (ie the cals/protein). I havnt before but now getting to the nitty gritty of aiming for 7% bf thinking may need to? Do you could them towards protein targets also?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Keith! Yeah planning/tracking is really important.

      Yeah you can include BCAA cals but they’re really low so it’s pretty negligible.

      Don’t count them toward pro.

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  • nathan

    When I calculate my calories using this article its 2028. But when I use your formula in Bigger Leaner Stronger its 2332. So which one should I use. Im focusing on fat loss?

    • Michael Matthews

      Just stick with the formula in BLS if you’re on that program as you can increase the intake a bit due to the intensity of it.

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  • Jonas

    I see your points in critizicing low carb diets, but eating like you do seems to be pretty unnatural to me though…
    You eat very little fat which wouldnt be possible without processing foods (low-fatnstuff)

    Whats your take on that? Just eating natural, meaning things you could eat same in nature, and this is definitely NOT low-fat!!
    Paleo is not low-carb btw!!

    • Jack

      Most natural foods don’t contain fat. The only things that do are (fatty) meat, nuts/seeds, eggs, and oils, all of which can be eaten liberally on a 20-30% fat diet. Didn’t include dairy because it’s not paleo.

    • Michael Matthews

      I don’t eat very little fat. I eat about 70 grams per day, with one serving of low-fat cottage cheese per day.

  • Mason

    Is that 50-30-20 (carbs-protein-fat) ratio the only way to go?
    Because i don’t want to quit my “natural eating habits” ( for me, that means for example, do eat full-dairy fat rather than dairy that has been processed to reduce the amount of fat thats in or to leave out mostly grains) and reducing fat here is almost impossible…

    Would something like 35-30-35 ( or 30-50-40) ( would both Not be low-carbs,right?) work as well? i just don’t think i need that much carbs, it literally would be just ‘stuffing’ in my mouth without any joy for me…

    Another question: are white potatoes okay as a carb source (seem quite nutrient-dense) ( since i mostly don’t eat grains, only sparingly?) what about rice/ brown rice / basmati rice? heard many different takes on this one.. ( since I’m coming from a more primal background, as you probably guessed, i have some prejudices against brown rice, since in paleo communities often its told that brown rice is bad because of anything bad in its skin and hence white rice is recommended as a “safe starch”….

    Hope to hear from you,


    • Michael Matthews

      Nope it’s definitely not the only way to go. If you prefer higher fat, you can certainly do that.

      If you’re lifting weights 3-5x per week, I’d recommend 1g pro per pound and at least 0.7 grams carb per pound for performance purposes.

      Yes white potatoes are good as part of a mixed meal–lots of nutrients. Basmati and brown rice are good too. White rice is kind of junk as it’s stripped of nutrients.

      Hope this helps!

  • Jack

    Hi Mike,
    Quick question, I’ve heard a lot recently about how meal frequency and timing don’t matter much. For protein, doesn’t the body recover and maintain muscle better with a steady stream of aminos? And for carbs, wouldn’t eating an incredible amount of carbs 3 times per day spike insulin to an ungodly level even with complex carb sources? These are the only things stopping me from eating like a normal person again.

  • Derek

    Mike, what do you feel works best for meal prep? setting aside a couple of hours on a sunday to cook for the week? or maybe one every 3 days?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah that’s the easiest way to do it. Just cook a bunch of food 1-2 times per week and heat it up each day.

  • Enrique

    Hi Mike. I have a question. In some meals I mix low-mid GI carbs(beans, whole grain bread) with healthy fat (approx. 7-8gr olive oil). I’ve been reading that mixing carbs and fats in the same meal is wrong because it will increase fat storage. Is it right or is it a myth? When strict dieting and no cheating meal, do you try to separate your meals in proteins+fat or protein+carbs and no carbs+fat? or do you don’t really worry about it? Thank you very much!!

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s bullshit. Food combining has been debunked:


      Don’t worry about it. Just calculate total daily numbers.

      • Enriq

        Perfect!! Good research, thank you!!!!!!

        • Michael Matthews


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  • Sara

    I’m confused v you say you must be in a calorie deficit to lose weight abd a calorie surplus to gain muscle How can I lose weight and still gain muscle?

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  • Adam Clancey

    Hi again Mike. If you recall I told you I bought my girlfriend TLS and she has now started following the program. The only problem is, she only weighs 130lbs, so the fat allowed for cutting is only 26g. She’s finding that really difficult to keep to and is going over most days. She’s fine on calories, and from this article and other things you’ve written there isn’t much difference between low carb diets and low fat diets.

    So, provided her protein levels stay correct (158g for her), can she steal some of the carb calories for fats? Is there perhaps an upper limit to fats you might suggest, again based on sticking to the 1392 cals she should get from the accurate macros?

    It seems to me that getting 158g of protein with just 26g fat is very tough, even with good protein supplementation.

    • Michael Matthews

      No worries, we can adjust her carbs down and fats up. For every 2 grams of carbs you pull, you can add one gram of fat. Pretty simple.

      • Adam Clancey

        Awesome, this will make her happy.

        • Michael Matthews

          Nice! Keep me posted on how it goes for her.

          • Melissa Spieker

            Thank you for posting this as I too have been struggling with this

          • Michael Matthews

            YW! 🙂

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  • Ana

    Great article. Good information. Question: I’m looking into starting flexible dieting to help me with my binging problem. My concern is that I’m not at me leanest point, my body fat is at 25%- 135lb Female – 5’2”. Should I do reverse dieting by adding slowly my carb intake (I really would like to join the 300carb club girls lol) or should I start a cut then do reverse diet when my body fat is lower? Thank you!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! It really depends how much you’re currently eating. What’s your daily calorie intake like?

  • Joel Villavert

    Hi Mike, Per BLS (Ch. 17), I calculated my cutting diet by multiplying my body weight x1.2 for protein, x1 for carbs, and x0.2 for fat. Being 162 lbs, this formula prescribed 1738 calories per day. Per this article (which took into account my 18% body fat & 6+ hrs of exercise per week), I calculated that I needed 2025 calories per day. That’s a difference of about 300 per day. Can you explain which one I should be following?

    • Michael Matthews

      Stick to the BLS formula. You’re probably using too high of a multiplier here.

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  • Lukasz

    I am starting the BLS plan. In the book it gives the following formula to loose weight. I currently weigh 201lbs (6ft Male) more than 25% body fat.
    Protein .8 x 201 = 160.8 x 4 = 643.2 (36.8%)
    Carbs .7 x 201 = 140.7 x 4 = 562.8 (32.2%)
    Fat .3 x 201 = 60.3 x 9 = 542.7 (31.0%)
    Total calories 1749
    I guess this does not match the 40/40/20 split listed in this article here. Also the formula in the BLS book seems less accurate since it does not take height or activity level into account

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome! That breakdown is for someone that is obese, but it doesn’t sound like you are?

      Height doesn’t affect numbers much and it does account for activity level–it’s built for people on the program.

      Let me know if this helps!

      • Lukasz

        Thanks for the feedback Mike. I think you are correct about the obese part. I did some measurements over the weekend and I am below 25% body fat so I will use this formula instead.

        Protein 1.2 x 201 = 160.8 x 4 = 965 (45%)
        Carbs 1.0 x 201 = 140.7 x 4 = 804 (38%)
        Fat 0.2 x 201 = 60.3 x 9 = 382 (17%)
        Total calories 2131

        Glad I asked because there was about 400 calorie difference per day and rations quite different then for the obese. This is new formula for non obese is closer to the 40/40/20 split mentioned in this article.

        • Michael Matthews

          Okay prefect, that’s looking much better. Let me know how it goes!

  • michelleH

    Thank you so much for explaining all this!!! I just lost 50 lbs and now I’m stuck. Time to change things up. I figured out all my numbers but I have one question. My carbs are only coming from fruit and vegetables. Is that ok? Plus how can you convert the calories into grams? For example if my protein and carbs are both at 722 and my fat is 362 how would I measure grams??? I’m doing Hiit workouts 3-4x a week and lifting.


    • Michael Matthews

      My pleasure! Great job on your weight loss!

      Yeah that’s fine on the carbs.

      An easier way is to use calorieking.com to build a proper meal plan that fits your numbers. But if you divide calories from protein and/or carbs by 4, that will be the grams.

      1000 is too low. Check this out:


  • Ivan Stipetić

    Hey Mike, big fan of yours. Maybe you can help me. Read you article and curently 6 months in BLS program. By this article and KM formula on my 83 kg for bulking i have to take 3500 calories. But following BLS macro nutrients a have to take 180 g protein, 65 grams fat and 370 carbo which amount to 2900 calories. I am currently eating 3500 folowing meals from your book shredded che with macros 230 protein 70 fat and 430 carbo. Can you give me advice on my plan? What to follow. Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Ivan! Your macros look good. BLS starts you in a mild surplus which you have to increase over time. It’s very normal. That’s all.

      • Ivan Stipetić

        Thank you for your advice 🙂

        • Michael Matthews


  • MsJadensDad .

    Hey Mike, I’ve got a conundrum. I’m 5’11” and started a short bulking cycle on February 1st at 179 lbs. I calculated my calories to bulk at 2700 and by the end of the first week, I was down to 177. I upped it to 3000 calories a day and ranged from 177-180 lbs for the following 3 weeks only to end up back at 177 this morning. I’m in the middle of phase 4 of BLS and got stronger this past month and noticed I seemed to be losing a little fat too (at the 3,000 cal/day). I’ve been re-feeding once a week, not doing any cardio, and have been adding a 4th exercise to most workouts (front delt raises, incline press, dumbell rows, etc). It seems as though I was more maintaining than bulking for the last 4 weeks (although last time I bulked, the same number of calories helped me gain a lot of fat too). Is this likely because I’ve got more muscle than I did 6 months ago and my metabolism is higher? Although I know you wouldn’t recommend it at this point, I’m beginning a short cutting phase to get ready for a trip to Mexico and here’s where all that bullshit above leads to my real question: any recommendation on caloric intake for cutting? If I calculate using your BLS methods, I get 2124 calories, but if I was close to maintaining at 3,000 calories a day, is the 30% drop going to be too much and will I risk losing too much muscle?

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s awesome. I’m jealous of your metabolism, haha.

      It sounds like you’ve recomped a bit but yes you can just increase intake for bulking. Some people’s metabs are VERY fast. I talk with 170 lb guys that need to eat 4k+ cals per day just to gain a pound per week. It’s crazy.

      When it comes time to cut, we can start you at 500 cals below your intake at that time and walk it down slowly as you get leaner.

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  • Taylor Draper

    okay maybe I’m just really terrible at math but I am having trouble figuring out my macros. I found that I need 1,669.68 calories for cutting. I know protein and carbs are 4 calories in a gram and one gram of fat is 9 calories (correct, right?). And i know the percentage should be 40/40/20 but how in the world do I do the math to figure THAT out….?

    • Taylor Draper

      I’m calculating that I should be eating 167 g of protein and carbs and 37 grams of fat. That fat number just seems super low in comparison of another calculation I did from another ebook -> 140 protein, 133 carbs, 70 fat. What am I doing wrong?

    • Michael Matthews

      1600ish sounds about right, yes. 40% of 1600 = 640 = 160 pro & 160 carb = 320 cals left for fat = 35 grams fat.

      Most other calculators are wrong. They’re just too high. And high-fat dieting is really trendy right now.

      • Taylor Draper

        Well, it wasn’t really a calculator. The book just kind of walked you through how to figure it out. So you think 37 grams of fat isn’t too low for me? I wanna start planning food-wise, so I wanna make sure my macros are right.

        • Michael Matthews

          Ah okay. Yes that’s plenty of fat.

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  • Dalius

    Hi, do you think there would be a big difference between diet of 30 percent protein and 30 percent fat and 40 percent carb to your 20/40/40 for cutting? I find equal calories from fat and protein allow much more fattier meats 😉 and not so boring diet as must lean meats like chicken breast, turkey, fish get boring so fast. 🙂 Thanks in Advance 😉

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha that should be totally fine. Enjoy.

  • Elle

    Sorry if you already answered this or if this is better suited to be asked on a different article but: I’ve planned my meals out and am usually very good at eating every two to three hours, however, sometimes I’ll forget to bring them with me when I go out or get busy and throw off my eating schedule so my question is, is it better to catch up on those meals all at once when I do get home in the evening even if it’s right before bed or is it better to just skip the meals I missed and continue with my normal eating schedule? I’m a girl trying to build muscle and lose body fat.

    Also, thanks for being so awesome! I love your books and articles, I really appreciate how you actually reference studies!

    • Michael Matthews

      No problem. Yup just catch up, it’ll be fine.

      Thanks! I really appreciate it!

  • SirHammerlock

    Hi Mike,

    I have been following your site for quite some time now. Around a year ago I (female, 5’11”) started on the paleo diet and lost 35 lbs. I now weigh around 176 lbs and got a body fat percentage around 23-25% (I measured with a caliper), but I my weight loss has been plateauing for a few month now. I guess, with 176lbs I am at a good weight, but I want to get down to around 18-19% of body fat. After I listened to your last podcast about how long it would take a woman to get a “shredded” and toned body, I suppose I have to invest another year. To get this done, I decided to follow your reccomendations above and this is what I calculated: I excercise at least 5 times a week (3 days weight lifting and 2-3 days swimming, running and other cardio), therefore I used the rate of 1.35 to multiply my BMR with. So, with 80 kg of total body mass and assuming the highest body fat percentage of 25% I got around 60kg of lean body mass, which means my TDEE is ~2250 kcal, minus 20% for cutting means 1800 kcal. I went with the 40/40/20 rate and got 720kcal/180g from protein, 720kcal/180g carbs and 360kcal/40g fat. Since I would like to continue paleo, I would get the carbs mostly from plants and fruits, but I am willing to make an exception for gluten-free oats. Perhaps you could take a look at these numbers and tell me, if I calculated right and can expect that with the right training and sticking to a proper meal plan I will probably make progress?

    • Michael Matthews


      Great job on the weight loss and cool on your stats.

      Your numbers look perfect. I like it. You can hit them using any foods you want.

      Definitely let me know how these numbers go. Don’t have more than one cheat MEAL per day (no cheat DAYS).

      • SirHammerlock

        Thanks to you, too! I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

        • Michael Matthews


  • marsa

    for months I asked God to put some one on my way. a knowledgeable man who can answer my questions.and God put u on my way.thank God and thank u.
    nice articles.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great, thanks! 🙂

  • marsa

    I want to know how to divide my muscles for exercise in a weak.and how much sets and rep is enough? for both building muscles and fat burning.thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Check out my book Bigger Leaner Stronger if you’re a guy. It answer these questions and a lot more. Thinner Leaner Stronger if you’re a gal.

  • marsa

    no articles? because i can’t use your book?

    • Michael Matthews


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  • MP1010

    Should my protein intake be higher than my carb intake?

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  • J B

    I am currently underweight (as I have been my entire life) and now I’m really trying to gain muscle. I’m female, 21 years old, and currently weigh 110 pounds. The total amount of calories I need daily is around 2000 calories. Thus, according to the calculations above I would need about 110 grams of protein, about 44 grams in fat, and the rest in carbs. After doing all the calculations it comes out that I need around 291 grams of carbs. In order to incur muscle gain I would need a surplus of calories – so about 2150 calories. Where should these extra calories come from? Should I just increase my carb intake, or increase my fat and protein as well? I would really appreciate some assistance! Thanks in advance 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Personally I would just increase carb intake as that will improve performance even more. What do you think?

      • J B

        That’s what I thought as well, thank you! Also, do my numbers look right? I work out about 5 -6 days a week.

        • Michael Matthews

          YW! Yes those nums look good. Let’s see how your body responds.

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  • Chris Determination

    My girl is 126lbs around 23% body fat.. she works out 6 days a week 3 days weight training followed by 8 100 yard sprints and 15 mins on the jump rope and on the other days she does high intensity interval training only. Her goal is to keep cutting fat and weight but with all this mixed information on sites we are lost. Can you tell me exactly how to get her calorie intake in macros? I got a little confused reading up top and the comments below thanks in advance!!!

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s great on her workouts. He’s doing plenty. Just work through the calculations I give in this article. It lays it all out…

  • Josey

    Hey Mike!

    I’m currently cutting right now and it’s going fantastic. My body doesn’t respond well to carbs and keeping my carbs at or below 100 grams a day works fantastic. I plan on “bulking” when fall and winter comes around. I’ve done all my calculations for my macros but my concern is the amount of carbs I’m supposed to intake. Currently my macros for bulking would be 2,012 calories, 151 g of carbs, 201 g of protein, and 67 g of fat. The protein intake seems to be a bit much as well. Does this seem right to you? I guess I could play around with it once I get started and see how much weight I’m gaining in the first few weeks?

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome! I’m glad to hear it’s going well for you.

      How did you calculate those bulking numbers?

      • Josey

        I based it off 30/30/40. So 30% carbs, 30% fat and 40% protein. I’ve been going to IIFYM.com and using their calculator sometimes.

        Now that I’m thinking about it, I think I’m unintentionally recomping…? Is that even possible? I know I said I’ve been cutting, but since I started “cutting” I’ve lost fat but I’ve notice a pretty steep spike in my strength compared to the months before I started cutting.

        Should I just continue recomping instead of bulking? I heard that those who have a certain amount of body fat percentage (15% for dudes, not sure what the % is for girls) should focus on bulking, not cutting.

        • Michael Matthews

          Ah okay. And how much do you weigh?

          Recomp is really just newbie gains in a calorie deficit.

          Check this out:


          • Josey

            I weight 122 lbs right now. Before I started cutting I was at 128.

          • Michael Matthews

            Okay cool well honestly if you’re happy with how your body is changing you can just keep doing what you’re doing?

          • Josey

            Okay, cool! Thanks, Mike!

          • Michael Matthews


  • Ross

    I’ve been keeping my protein at 1g/lb on my bulk but as I increase calories, it’s dipping below 30% of total calories. When that happens, is it okay to keep protein at 1g/lb while increasing carbs and fats or should you raise protein so it’s at least 30%?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup totally fine. You don’t need more than 1g/lb when bulking.

  • Joel

    Hey, Mike! Really glad I found your site! I’ve finally started getting rid of that last bit of gut, and at a pace of 1kg per week, without losing any strength (in fact, gaining in some areas)! I figure I’ll be starting my bulk in a couple of weeks, and I’m working out a meal plan until then. My problem is that I can’t get my calories and macros to match up!

    I’ll weigh about 65kg when I start bulking, and be somewhere near 10% bodyfat. My BMR will be right around 1650, at any rate, (So a TDEE of about 2200) so I’ll be eating thus:

    2400 kcal
    145 g protein

    54 g fat
    335 g carbs

    Or at least that’s my goal. The plan I’ve got down looks like this:

    2441 kcal
    143 g protein
    54 g fat
    320 g carbs

    So I’ve overshot my calorie goal slightly, while not quite reaching my macros. What do you think I should do? Is it alright as it is?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Great job on the weight loss.

      Totally fine on your numbers. So long as you’re within 100 of your daily target, you’ll be fine.

      • Joel

        Thanks! Awesome!

        Also, when going from cutting to bulking, should I gradually increase calorie intake over a few days to transition into the bulking period, or does it not matter if I just go from 1800 to 2400 kcal from one day to the next? I swear I’ve read something about this relating to metabolism somewhere on the site, but now I can’t find it.

  • Kevin

    Hi Mike I have a question, I started back bulking for about two weeks now and it’s going good (following alot of proccess you reccommend) and thought about something so i wanted to ask you about it, I do entertainment and such throughout the year and have events that i need to look lean or vascular rather for (abs so forth) but I’m bulking to build muscle, so the question is what should i do when things come up during the year to look good for them, i know it wouldn’t be good to do like 5-6 cuts and bulks a year right? Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Great I’m glad to hear it.

      You’ll want to go on a surplus/deficit approach to maintenance, which I talk about in my next book. It’ll be out in about week. It’s perfect for what you need to do…

  • Helen Hines

    Gawd this is just too much reading for me! I wish I knew you personally like my personal friend so that way my life will be easier. You can just tell me what to eat how much and when to eat it without me having to read all this information, which is, I’m sure a very helpful tip but nevertheless it is allot of information for someone who has a very short tension span!

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha it’s much better to learn how everything works for yourself!

  • Cory Krigbaum

    I’m in the Army and we run or ruck march a lot. I also ride my bike to and from work about twice a week (about 15 km ride one way) when we do strength conditioning (to save money on gas).
    In the article you said you recommend 2-3 hours of cardio and 5 hours of weightlifting.

    When we do runs they will last about 1 hour but they’re extremely easy for me because we have to run at the pace of the slowest guy. Is there a magic number that makes “cardio”…cardio?

    Thanks for everything! You’re an inspriaion, man!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Cory!

      Good question. The 2-3 hours number is based on my experience with my own body and with the thousands of people I’ve worked with but some people’s bodies can take more and some less.

      It also depends on what you’re trying to do with your body:


      • Cory Krigbaum

        Well to be honest, I’m pretty addicted to your website and I’ve read about a dozen different articles. My wife laughs every time she sees me reading and taking notes.

        I mention this because I read in one of your articles,”The Best Way to Gain Muscle and Not Fat,” if over 15%, cut and if 10-12% its okay to “bulk”. I’m about 13%-15% (according to the army and some online tools).

        So right now, I will cut, however, I do want to get bigger and more defined. Of course, because I am in the Army I want to be able to run and what not.

        I currently weigh 200 lbs, stand at 72 inches and have a BF% of 13-15%.

        • Michael Matthews

          Hahah thanks man. I know the feeling. I was the same way when I first found some sensible training and diet advice that actually worked.

          I think cutting is right for you. It won’t take long and you can start with the “clean slate” of the 10% range, which will allow for maximum muscle growth.

      • Cory Krigbaum

        One more thing, Mike.
        Have you ever considered writing a book/article for military service members (If so, I’ll read it!)?

        I’m just wondering because the Army is HUGE on physical fitness, but then gives us crappy food to eat, go on 30 day field rotation away from weights, and go on long marches with anywhere between 35-50 lbs on your back.

        I will do everything in my power to follow what I’ve read and I’ll preach it, but I can only do so much.

        Thanks again for everything. 🙂 I appreciate your help. You’re awesome!

        • Michael Matthews

          I’m not sure if it would warrant an entire book but it could make a great in-depth article. I would need to consult with my military guys though to really get the skinny on it all. I do email with quite a few and we find some interesting workarounds haha.

          Thanks so much for your support brother. I really appreciate it.

  • Sara

    Hi Mike, I used the BMR calculator link you provided and got 1139 (from 102lbs and 23% body fat). I’m just starting out exercising and have been doing 3x/wk weightlifting ~45mins each and 3x/wk HIIT ~15mins each, adding up to 3hrs/wk. Using your formula of multiplying by 1.2 and then by .8, I will only be allowed to eat 1093cals/day. Even if I increase my weekly exercise to the 4-6 hour range, your formula still only gives me 1230cals/day. Did I do this wrong?

    I see you saying that women shouldn’t have to starve themselves to get fit but I would consider 1093 calories a day basically starving myself and not sustainable. I’m already underweight, but skinny fat. Also, I don’t know how I would be able to eat enough proteins, carbs, and fat with such low calories. Please help!

    • Michael Matthews

      Great on what you’re doing. No, you’re doing it right. You’re a small girl and thus don’t get to eat very much unless you have quite a bit of muscle (this will skew your BMR a bit higher).

      1100 cals per day isn’t starving yourself at your size. Little bodies don’t burn nearly as much energy as larger bodies.

      Your macros would be simple. You could start here:

      100 pro
      100 carb
      40 fat

      Head over to calorieking.com and throw together a meal plan and voila, you’re off and running.

      • Sara

        Thanks for the great info. I will stick to 1100 cals and see what happens. I have tried to lose fat before but never cut my calories down that low (probably why I never got any results).

        In the article above, you say “When you’re in a calorie deficit, get 40% of daily calories from protein, 40% from carbohydrate, and 20% from fat.” Based on that, shouldn’t my macros look more like 110g protein, 110g carb, 25g fat? Thanks again!

        • Michael Matthews

          YW! Great let me know how it goes.

          That minor difference in macros won’t matter. Some women prefer a little extra fat when their cals are low so they can eat yummy types of protein. 🙂

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  • Galen

    Hi Mike, I’m new to your site and I’ve really been enjoying your articles over the last few weeks. I’ve just started an 8 week cut. What’s your view on not having carbs in the evening, and do you believe in eating most of your carbs in the morning/around your workout? Thanks in advance!


    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man! I like to have about 30-40% of my daily carbs in my post-workout meal and my last real serving of carbs is around dinner, but you can have some later if you’d like. Just my preference.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Galen


        • Michael Matthews


  • Guest

    Hi Mike, I’m new to your site and I’ve really been enjoying your articles over the last few weeks. I’ve just started an 8 week cut. What’s your view on not having carbs in the evening, and do you believe in eating most of your carbs in the morning/around your workout? Thanks in advance!


    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Not a big deal. I try not to eat a large amount of carbs right before bed because it MAY interfere with your first big GH pulse but we just don’t know yet. Personally my last 50 g of carbs comes at dinner, around 6 PM.

  • Justine

    Hi Mike! According to the calculator I should eat around 1300 cals to be at 20% of TDEE, (I weigh 128 at around 23% body fat) but I find it hard to do more than 4-5 days in a row at that amount or calories. I end up going to bed really hungry and every 5-6 days I give up and have a massive food binge where I eat sometimes as much as 3000 calories! Do you think it’s a question of getting used to it and I should keep trying, or do you think that somehow my BMR is higher and I should eat more?

    • Justine

      I forgot to mention something quite important… Even though I have regular food binges every few days, I have lost 10 lbs in the last two months! Obviously I’m happy about it, although I think I lost a lost of body mass and now have the classic skinny fat look 🙁
      Do you think the binges and the skinny fat result are all signs that 1300 is too low, or should I just power through and hope for the fat to eventually melt off?

      • Justine

        One last piece of info: two days ago (the day before I wrote this comment) I had one of them 3000 cals binge and yesterday I tried eating 1500 cals to see if that was better but I woke up this morning 3 lbs heavier! So now I’m confused and thinking maybe 1300 was the right number for me after all… How do you know if your target is too high or too low??? Help! 😉

        • Michael Matthews

          You need to stop bingeing. 😉

      • Michael Matthews

        Great job! No it’s probably because you’re not doing any type of resistance training. Am I right?

    • Justine

      If it makes any difference, you should know that I am not following a meal plan but rather tracking all the calories I eat and stop when I have reached 1300. I don’t keep track of my macros, I just try to eat healthy and I eat a lot more protein than I used to. Also, the BMR calculator only calculates from your weight and body fat, does it make any difference that I’m 5’11”?

    • Michael Matthews

      That sounds about right for your size. You’re a small girl. Check this out:


      • Justine

        Thank you, that’s a great article! Now that I know that the number is right it’ll be easier to avoid binges as I often allowed myself to binge when thinking I had been eating too little. Now that I know that I am not starving myself I can stick to it with confidence. Thanks again for your help and this wonderful website!

  • Janelle

    Hi Mike,
    I have been following your forums for the last couple of weeks now. First of thank you for all the great information. It has been very helpful.
    I am still confused though on how many calories I need to cut out while still losing fat but still building muscle. I am female, 5’2 , and 146lbs. I don’t look 146 but I have always had bigger muscles especially in my legs due to soccer and my waist can slim up quickly if I eat clean. I do HIIT 3x a week plus weight training heavy 3x a week. If I did the calculation correctly 1739 would be my calorie intake. How should I break up my macros? I always feel extra hungry the day after lifting heavy and this is what is throwing me off because I end up being super hungry and eating way more than I should be.
    Thanks for your time

    • Janelle

      the picture is to show the weight distributes all over. I was 6 weeks into a program here .Should I keep cutting first to get my body fat down then get back into weight lifting? thanks

      • Michael Matthews

        Yeah you have great genetics. I would cut down to the 17-18% range if I were you and then assess…

        • Janelle

          Thank you for getting back to me! I am going to try carbs 40,protein40, and fats 20. I actually have a very slow metabolism and that picture was the start but now I’m back to square one because I struggle with the eating. I love the workout part and lifting heavy but I have to be extra careful with the food . Thanks again 😉

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much!

      You look great! 1700 per day is probably a good place to start given your body comp. You will probably have to reduce along the way to achieve the look you want, though.

      Follow the macro guidelines in this article. This might help you too:


  • Mario Russo

    Hi Mike. One thing that has always confused me about figuring out the calories needed is when the calculator, such as the Katch-McArdle linked above, asks for your bodyweight, do you put in your actual weight even if you are obese? For example, I am 5’11” 255 pounds, so the calculator gave me a BMR of 2868.39. I exercise about five and a half hours a week, three of those being heavy lifting, so I used your 1.35 multiple and then .8, which gave me a daily caloric intake of 3098. I’m fifty, so maybe my mind has been brainwashed to believe that you have to SLASH calories to lose weight, but 3k calories seems like a lot to me. How about you? One thing that leads me to believe that this may be true is that I lost 58 pounds over the past year, but in first three weeks of lifting lightly to get back into the swing of it, the weight loss stopped, then over the past two weeks I really ramped it up with training and put on nine pounds while keeping my diet exactly the same, save for a BCAA drink and after workout drink that are barely thirty calories each. As sick as it sounds, with that many calories, is my added exercise causing my body to go into starvation mode? Sorry for the long question, but I’m very hesitant to consume 3k calories a day unless it is really for weight loss. By the way, about 600 of my calories are from green drinks that I juice myself, and the rest from chicken, fish, vegetables, fruit, etc. Thank you so much in advance.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm a little confused. 255 pounds at 20% body fat = BMR of 2400/day. Unless you’re VERY muscular, you’re at least 20% body fat.

      Then you use the activity multiplier and THEN reduce from there to get the deficit.

      Check over your numbers again and let me know!

      • Mario Russo

        Aaaah, okay! I did NOT fill in the body fat percentage on the calculator. For some reason, I thought that the calculator filled that in, lol. This makes a lot more sense because I am so NOT muscular; I’m fat. Mike, you’re a lifesaver! I only started my new diet yesterday, so one overeating day isn’t gonna kill me. I gotta tell you, I felt strong when I did my workout last night. Putting together the right percentages of proteins, carbs, and fats just makes a huge difference. Thanks again, Mike

        • Michael Matthews

          Ah okay cool, no worries! Glad to hear it’s going well! Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Mario Russo

    Hi Mike–I need to clarify something if you don’t mind. I used the BMR calculator above and it gave me a BMR of 2868. After multiplying that by the 1.35 for the hours of exercise I do, then 80% of that for weight loss, I have a daily caloric intake of 3098. I’m 50 years old, 255 lbs, 5’11”. Obviously obese. Does this sound like the right amount of calories? Just looks high to me. Thanks Mike!

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  • Aj

    Hi Michael

    Is it ok to eat white rice as opposed to brown rice on a bulk providing its factored into your micros and you eat enough fibre?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah that’s fine.

  • Yovanna Bieberich

    This is so confusing. I’m 5 feet tall and 120 pounds (age 42). Everytime I calcuate my TDEE with light activity (I work out 3 times a week and stay active on the weekends just doing stuff) I come up with 1317. That’s pretty low. And if I try to make a calorie deficit of 20 percent, that leaves me with only eating barely 1,000 calories a day. That’s hardly eating. And I keep hearing everywhere not to eat less than your TDEE to lose weight. I’m totally baffled. Here’s my situation. I was eating 1200 calories a day and lost 40 pounds total. I did most of my exercise through 40 minutes to 1 hour on an exercise bike 4-5 days a week. I know how to keep a diary and track everything I eat (and I eat healthy…not junk). I am now trying to lose the last 10 pounds to get me to the 110 range. I have not been able to do it at all over the past year. The biking for 30 minutes 3-4 days a week wasn’t working (my schedule too busy to do more than that now). I’ve been doing HIIT for 25-30 minutes the last 2 months…no weight loss either. I’ve checked and rechecked diet. I’ve tried eating more than 1200 after learning to not eat lower than my TDEE. No response. It’s been a year of this battle. I’m totally confused and eating 1000 calories a day doesn’t seem healthy at all. Help!!!

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  • nelson hernandes

    WOW thank you very much!!!! great i absorbed all this knowledge and research thanks!!! really appreciate it!!!

    • Michael Matthews

      You’re welcome! 🙂

  • Aeisha Johnson

    Hi Mike.
    I’m 140 lbs and at 25% BF. I know I can’t spot check but my weight is all in my stomach. Or at least it looks that way to me. I workout 6 days a week and stick to a 1400 cal meal plan ( lots of fruits, veggies and nuts) . Nothing seems to be working. According to the article my cal deficit is correct but when I do my waist measurements weekly I get the same results. Showed I decrease my cal intake or up the amount of times I lift weights?

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm 1400 sounds about right. How strict are you on your meal plan? How often do you cheat?

  • Mark Taylor

    Hey Mike,
    Just looking for a bit of confirmation here. I’m 53, 247 lbs and about 32% bf. I’ve been back in the gym lifting for the last 4 months and have lost a whopping 10 lbs in that time! My calories have ranged from 2400 (lost and gained the same .5 lb over and over) down the the current 1700 (losing between .5 and 1 lb/week but it is inconsistent and I have to be meticulous about what I eat or I start gaining again). Doing a simple upper/lower body split for my workout. Even at 53 that seems like poor results to me and I’m very, very leery of raising my calories to the 2000 or so the math is telling me I should be eating. Any idea what I’m doing wrong?

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Mark! Hmm what’s your exercise schedule like and how often are you cheating/bingeing and how bad is it?

      • Mark Taylor

        Well, I’d say in the last month I’ve had 6-7 days where I went over 1700 calories and 2 of those were over 2000 and one was over 2500. I don’t eat enough veggies but I’m working on that. I shoot for 4 days a week in the gym. Mon & Thurs = lower body, Tues & Fri = upper body (I consistently make 3 days a week and 4 a good chunk of the time). My warmup is the mile I walk from my house to the gym and on weekends my lovely bride and I take long, fairly brisk walks usually somewhere between 2 and 4 miles (yesterday was almost 6!). My high calorie days are mostly likely to be my fast-food “binges” but even then I’m only hitting about 2000-2500 calories. I usually have a protein isolate shake before working out (first “meal” of the day) then have my first real meal after. Eating mostly lean ground beef, chicken thighs and eggs with fruit (melons are in season, which I love), spinach, broccoli, olive oil based cole slaw and some bread cuz I love sandwiches.

        • Michael Matthews

          Okay cool. On your food numbers, how sure are you? Are you tracking/planning everything?

          The reason I ask is many people are shocked to see how much they’re actually overeating when they sit down and start putting things into calorieking.com…

          If you’re being 100% strict on this, then it sounds like we need to speed your metab up:


          • Mark Taylor

            I’m tracking more than planning. I’d say I’m 80%-90% sure on the numbers (I use myfitnesspal to track food). I know I had a fair amount of hidden fat in there before last month, but cleared that up when I dropped the calories again. Thanks for the info. I’ll go read that article now.

          • Michael Matthews

            Okay well you need to make sure you’re spot on with your numbers.

            Yes the low T can get in the way.

          • Mark Taylor

            Ok. More studying to do, I guess. Thanks so much for the help!

          • Michael Matthews


  • John

    Hi Mike, been following for about 3 months now and wanting to change some things around. I am trying to cut and seeing immensely good results in muscle definition and strength. I’ve lost a bit of fat although the scales don’t show too much but I think I have gained a lot of muscle which will account for this.

    I want to now try an aggressive cut to shift fat as I feel I am slow cutting as you outlined above. I am a 200lb male (24% body fat) and have previously been working the following macros – 40g fat, 200g protein, 240g carb (as in BLS). I never worked out my formula though, which I’ve just calculated as 2515.9545. I divided this by 0.7 so that I will be at a deficiency of 30%. This left me with a total calorie intake of 1750 a day. Then, I worked out 20% and 40% of this to give me the following macros (I believe I need to then divide by 9 to give fat (in grams) and by 4 for carb and protein (again in grams). I ended up with: 39g fat, 175g carbs, 175g protein. How does this sound? Here’s a recent pic for reference. It’s not as good as others on your site but I’ve come a long way in 3 months regardless 🙂

    Thanks so much in advance for your reply. I think it’s amazing oh much you care about training and not just selling your product! Cheers!

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job on your gains so far. The scale isn’t going to show as much because you’re probably building muscle while losing fat.

      Hmm let’s do this:

      200 pro
      170 carb
      40 fat

      That should be aggressive enough.

      Are you also doing cardio and supplementing correctly?

  • GutGeek

    Hey Mike! I’ve been gradually increasing my calories but still finding it pretty challenging to maintain a consistent calorie surplus…

    I follow your BLS training formula. I cut back from 5 days to 4 to deliberately lower my energy expenditure to help get into a calorie surplus. I do hot yoga on rest days (BTW enjoyed your podcast on benefits of heat and saunas!).

    My height is 174cm and my weight is currently 73kg. According to your formula I should need around 2300 to 2700 calories to bulk, as a starting point. Following your advice I started there, then gradually increased by 100 calories per week, looking for the point where I consistently gain weight. I’m now at 3,700 cals!! Your system is definitely working as I have put on 5kg and my bodyfat has only increased from around 11% to 12%. My friends have noticed my change in body comp, as I used to super skinny.

    My macros are 22:35:43 (protein, carb, fat) which I realise is a bit funky! The reason it’s so fat-heavy is because I just can’t eat any more rice or quinoa, so am using liberal amounts of olive oil and coconut oil!!

    My 1 rep max is 70kg on squat, 90kg on deadlift. The problem is I often have no strength gain from week to week, as my weight still goes up and down, despite the humungoid calorie intake!

    Should I just keep gradually increasing my calories? My body kind of goes into shock with each calorie increase!! Anyway thanks so much for all the help so far! – Gut Geek (Adrian)

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey man!

      Great job on your gains so far. That rocks.

      You have a fast metab which means you have to eat eat eat, haha. The high-fat diet is fine if you like it.

      Yessir it sounds like you just need to eat more. I email with guys now and then in the 160s and 170s that need to eat 4500-5k cals every day, even on rest days, to gain just 0.5 to 1 pounds per week. It’s crazy….

      What I like to do is focus on eating a bunch of calorie-dense foods. Here are my favorites:

      Red meat

      Grains like brown rice and quinoa

      Oils like coconut oil and olive oil


      Whole-fat dairy

      Multi-grain pasta and bread

      Almonds and almond butter


      White and sweet potatoes

      Oh and check out buckwheat too. SO carb dense…

      • GutGeek

        Hey man, cheers for the reply! So valuable to get your feedback! Yeah I’m stoked about the gains so far, which are totally down to your system!

        That’s interesting hearing about other guys of similar size and metabolism that have to eat like 4500 to 5k calories just to make any gains. To be honest, I’m a little daunted by that! The eating is much harder work than the workouts! Unfortunately it looks like I’m headed that way, as I’ve lost half a kilo this week even though I’m holding firm at 3700 cals. I saw the study you mention where overfeeding leads to metabolism speeding up. I wonder if each time I increase calories, my metabolism speeds up to compensate. Which in a weird way (as you say) means my system is inefficient. I guess one upside is I’m never gonna struggle with cutting! :p

        Thanks for the list of nutrient-dense foods. There’s a few on there I’m not yet hitting, so I’ll experiment with those. Think I’m gonna pause first at 3700 for a while before going any higher. Let my body balance out.

        • Michael Matthews


          Yeah I hear you. I would get SO sick of food if I had to eat that much. But that’s genetics for you.

          Yes, your BMR definitely does increase as you increase food, which is why guys gradually increase cals when they bulk to keep the muscle coming.

          Haha understood on the intake. LMK how it goes.

          • GutGeek

            I’ve cut back a little from 3700 cals as I’m having a rest week. So it’s de-load for the digestive system as well as training 🙂 Also cutting out caffeine to see if that was speeding up my metabolism. I’m really pleased with the gains so far but really want a bunch more muscle! But also can’t face going over 4k cals!! I’ll LYK how it goes!

          • Michael Matthews

            Ah cool. Enjoy that. Cutting out caffeine? Up to you, haha. 🙂 Glad to hear it’s going. Keep me posted.

  • lawrence

    Have I got this right mate. Fat seems too low.

    1800 calories

    180g pro
    180g carb
    40g fat.

    much appreciated and thanks for your time

  • lawrence


    1800 calories


    fat seems bit low. Is this ok


    • Michael Matthews

      Yes that’s fine.

  • Chantal

    Hey Mike, I have been stuck at 134 lbs for months, and it is obviously frustrating! My training regimen basically consists of 4 weight training sessions ( compound lifts between 80%-90% of 1RM, generally 3-6 sets of 2-5 reps), 3 HIIT sessions ( Tabata, Metcon or Bodyweight citcuit) and 1x HILL (45 minutes) climb workout a week.. My caloric intake is around 1500-1550 daily, and drink 3-4 litres of water each day. I get plenty of sleep, but also work as a sports Massage Therapist. I would estimate my bodyfat to be around 15% or 15.5%, but my goal would be to sit around 13%. I retain tons of water ( i know tissue.. lol.. I work with it all day long!), and no mater what I do, it doesn’t seem to decrease. I track my macros with MyFitnessPal, and eat 35% Carbs, 45% Protein and 20% Fat. Would really love to get out of this slump..

  • Hey Michael, love the site. You’ve covered some really great topics that I’ve enjoyed. Quick question for you. One of the 2 guidelines you gave regarding meal timing was to “[h]ave 30 – 50 grams of protein and about 30% of your daily carbs in your post-workout meal” which I found consistent with other diet plans. My question for you: I typically train fasted in the AM and was considering having 70-80% of my carbs in my post workout meal in an effort to simplify my diet for the rest of the day. Any thoughts on that? Thank you in advance!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much! I really appreciate it.

      Yup you can do that. Enjoy that big ass meal. 🙂

      • Thanks, buddy!

        • Michael Matthews


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  • Paul

    Mike, I might just be missing this in all the information here, but when it comes to the bulking stage, do you just reccomend adding the 150cal per day to TDEE and testing it, or do you use a percentage of TDDE to increase as a starting point? Is there a multiplier I am missing?

    • Michael Matthews

      It’s in the article but I like to start with a 10% surplus (110% of TDEE).

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  • SkateboardT

    Hi Mike, I’ve used you calculation to work out my calorie intake for the bulking stage, I’m on a surplus by 110%. I’m consuming 2600 calories a day. But say if I had to put in a extra session of basketball because I had a game, would I have to consume more calories than 2600 on that day to make up the calories that I burned because of the extra session of basketball? For example, I put in a extra session of basketball into my normal routine as a one off game and I burned 300 extra calories would I have to consume 2900 calories or just consume the usual 2600.

    P.S. Just got you book looking forward to reading it.


    • Michael Matthews

      Good question! Yeah, that would be a good idea. In the end we’ll just have to see how your body responds though. Some guys need to eat quite a bit more than others to gain muscle steadily.

      Thanks man! LMK how you like it.

  • Bob

    Hey Mike,

    My goal is fat loss and I’m struggling with your insistence on relatively high carb consumption. I am naturally an endomorph, and I’ve always gravitated towards low-carb. Will you speak to this? There is so much damn conflicting information. I just want results!

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  • Jake Camirand

    hey mike what would the ratio be if you want to maintain?

    • Michael Matthews

      You eat TDEE with 1 g pro per pound, about 20% of cals from fat, and the rest from carbs.

      • jake

        Thanks bro

        • Michael Matthews


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  • Julie

    HI Mike,
    I love your site and the information is fantastic. It is clear and logical even for the beginner! Thank you. I was hoping you could check I am doing the breakdown correct before I get started on my muscle for life! Im a female who is 40 (3kids) and measure 5’2 tall and 52 kilos. My intention is to shed a few and feel a bit stronger in my stride. I am bottom heavy and always had a weak spot for carbs. I think my stats are 1550 per day but to lose should it be 1240? What would be the ratio to provide strong and lean? With gratitude.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Julie!

      Did you go through the breakdown as explained in this article? If you just go through each step you’ll get your macros for maintenance and weight loss…

      • Julie

        Thanks Mike. I guess then its 1300/per day. I was wondering your recommend breakdown of protein / fat/ carbs of a 1300 day intake? Thanks. J.

        • Michael Matthews

          Cool. 40/40/20 works well.

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  • Zach

    I was just wondering if you could give me a few ideas on what foods are good to eat for Pre-workout meal, and Post-workout meal. Thanks.

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  • Ken

    Hi Michael,

    Love your site, Mike! There’s a lot of useful information. I really appreciated it while combing through! Thanks a lot!

    I have a question regarding post-workout food/macros.

    First I’d like to mention that at the moment I have been downing a mix of 1.5 scoops of whey protein and 75 grams of glucose powder for the carbs after a high intense workout. I’m going for about 2090 calories a day to cut my body fat.

    Is glucose really necessary or could I just opt for a banana or two in stead? Perhaps you have a better recommendation for post-work food/macro combinations?

    Thanks so much for your time. I know you’re a busy guy and I will be patient for your reply.

    Cheers! 🙂

    • Michael Matthews


      I’d eat food personally. Not just fruit though as you want something with a bit more glucose as opposed to fructose. Do some fruit and a grain or starchy carb like potato or sweet potato.

      Check this out too:


      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

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  • justin

    What do think my body fat % is I weigh 180 and I guessed 18 20 % body fat for a calorie intake of 1591 a day and I need to be eating 1273 working out 4 6 tines a week sound right?

  • Justin Kiser

    I posted not sure if it went through cant see it but 1273 seem low calorie intake for me I work 10 12 hours a day I build steel tower PowerLines and I’m gonna start working out a hour each evening using your book program I guessed I was at 18 20 % body far I weigh about 180 182 and my daily intake was 1590 and said I should only be eating 1273 does this sound right how many calories do I burn at work should I add more or stick to the 1273 here’s a picture of me does this look like 18 20% body fat?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah I would guess 16%ish and 1300 is DEFINITELY too low. Something went awry in your math. Try calculating again?

      • Justin Kiser

        Thanks for the info man I’m gonna go hard on working out I’m seriously thinking of having meals planed for me by you and your team tho I’m having trouble trying to fugire where to get carbs and protein from and fat and have it all add up right i think the only thing I’m gonna use is creatine in the amounts you suggest and working out heavy overload lifting every night for a hour and then hiit on sat and Sundays off i work 7 days a week 10 12 hours a day plus gonna be working out I think in 3 months I’ll see a difference if I do it right just gotta get that diet right

        • Michael Matthews

          NP sounds good man. We can definitely help you out. I like your plan.

  • Justin Kiser

    And a few more questions should I be bulking or cutting I’m shooting for 10 12% body fat I know that’s a long shot lol but yeah I lifted weights last year for about a month total and had a friend helping me but that’s it’s still new to lifting can I build and burn fat at the same time with the 40 protein 40 carbs 20 fat diet?

  • Chaving

    Mike. Correct me if I am wrong In your book you stated that when your are cutting you eat 400 grams of carbs on your reefed day. However, on other days you only eat 1g per pound of carbs and 1.2g of protein. I am assuming that on your reefed day a person should eat double their weight in carbs?

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  • Billy Bridle

    i Just stumbled across your site mate – Im loving these articles – thank you – Quick question – im an ultra marathoner looking trim fat but gain LBM – keep my cardio up gain Upper body Strength. (mostly for vanity i guess) yeh i wanna be a marathoner that looks like a sprinter lol – is it possible to pull off or do i have to focus on one thing at a time …

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man!

      Haha it might be tough. How much running are you currently doing each week?

  • Najella

    Apparently, I am skinny fat. I am 5’2” tall, I weigh 130 Lbs, wear a size 2 and based on my measurements, my body ft s 33%. Based on the TDEE formula you have, my caloric intake should be 1321 calories (based on working out 4 6 hrs a week— both cardio and weights) to create that 20% deficit.

    In your book Thinner Leaner Stronger, based on the calculations you have in determining calorie intake, I should be at 1131 calories (based on .8 protein, .7 verbs and .3 fat per pound of body weight. And you stated that this will give me a 20% deficit.

    So how many calories should I really be eating to lose fat and rata in my muscles?

    • Michael Matthews


      You can start with the 1300-1400 number and see how your body responds.

      Let me know how it goes!

  • CB the kid

    Mike I love this article and the simple approach you have to finding your “magical” calorie number!! Thanks for the info bruh!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man! Glad I can help! Let me know how it goes!

      • CB the kid

        I found my numbers last week and its been working out great. My weight only fluctuates because of my job. When I’m not working and I’m on my numbers my weight goes up it down a pound or two!! Thanks Mike for the info bruh. You been shooting straight since I been reading your material. You’re legit bro!!

        • Michael Matthews

          Great man! Really glad to hear it! Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Kacee

    Mike I love the article but I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with information. I just purchased your Thinner Leaner Stronger book today and hope to finish reading this week. I want to drop 10-15 lbs. I’m 5’6, weigh 156, and I’m working out 5 days a week for 1-2 hours per day. What should my daily calorie intake be and protein/carb/fit minimum?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Let me know how you like the book!

      Cool on your goal. That’s very doable. If you just take your weight and exercise schedule and go through the steps in this article, you’ll have it. Let me know.

  • Simonjun

    Hey Mike,
    I like your website very much! I have bad eyes and can’t read well, but I’m gonna try to get the audiobook of BLS. I have.a question. I am training for a race and want to lose weight. I am 5’6, 120 pounds, and 15% body fat. I go for 5-7 mile run every day and do a hour of weight training 6 nights a week. I am a college student, so only walk around to classes. I put my numbers into equation, and even at highest activity level my calories for a cut are 1642. When I try this, I am very tired and weak all day. I am eating about 1.5 G protein per lb of body weight. Should I maybe up my protein to have more energy? Thank you very much!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Let me know how you like the book.

      Great on all the exercise you’re doing, and yes 1700 per day sounds about right.

      More protein won’t help. What types of foods are you eating?

      • Simonjun

        Thank you very much for reply! I am eating egg whites, greek yogurt, whey protein, sweet potatos, apple, and squash. I will try harder at 1700!

  • Snow

    This was very informative, thanks! I have a question about the hours you consider “exercising” hours. I train at 100% 4-5 hrs a week (pole dance * 2/week, heavy lifting using compound movements *1/week, and HiiT *1/week, twice if i’m not completely wiped out). In addition, I teach 3 pole dance classes a week, going at a 100% during warm up with my students where I incorporate a mix of high intensity cardio and strength drills for 15-20 mins, followed by demos and spotting which i’d estimate uses roughly 60% of my max effort. I am always sore after my own training and after my teaching gig so I’m wondering……should I calculate my caloric deficit off of 4 hours (my own training alone) or 7 hours of working out, including the time I spend teaching?

    • Michael Matthews


      Wow that’s a lot of exercise. Definitely the 7+.

      • Snow

        Thank you! Much much appreciated 🙂

        • Michael Matthews


        • Michael Matthews


  • Alexandrea

    Hi Mike!
    First, let me tell you that I ended up getting your TLS book on Audible. I had been given a credit for the month and chose your book. Best thing I ever did. I just finished it yesterday on my way home from work (I work 3rd shift so I would always listen to it going to and from work). Because it is an audiobook, I don’t have the information always right there in front of me to look at. Thank you for posting some of that information here! This is exactly what I needed to get started. Training for me starts Saturday, and after being inspired by your book, I can’t wait to get started!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Alexandra! I’m really glad you liked it!

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Brittany

    Hi Mike,

    Fantastic website! I really appreciate the evidenced-based approach. I tried to first search in the comments to see if this had been answered, but as you can imagine, with 260 responses, it’s difficult to comb through them all 😉

    My question is regarding the carb vs. fat macro percentages, specifically for the female. While you referenced some research about the inefficacy (or rather, the lack of superiority) of a higher-fat diet among men, I’d heard about research supporting a lower-carb, higher-fat diet for women in particular, due to hormonal and genetic variations (where adipose tissue is stored in the body, etc.).
    I am carb cycling based on lifting days vs. rest (cardio) days, but was going as high as 37%F 31%P 31%C on rest days and then 31%F 31%P 38%C on training days. I was led to believe that higher fat lower carb diets are better for women in particular, but I’d love to see some research to the contrary, as we all know how miserable lower carb diets tend to be!

    I should add that I’m doing a mini-cut for a very short period and as a result, was trying to see faster results. Perhaps low carb is good for a short period but higher carb is better for fat loss over a longer period of time.

    Look forward to your response!

    • Brittany

      For the record – I should add that I did read your article here (http://www.muscleforlife.com/low-carb-diet) and was just still looking for some clarification on gender-based receptiveness to higher-fat/low-carb diets 🙂 Great site – keep it up!

      • Michael Matthews

        Thanks! You may like this too:


        Oh and I see that you do a lot of recipes for your website. I’d like to start lining up more guest posts for MFL. Would you be interested in doing one?

        • Brittany

          I’ll definitely read this – I actually bookmarked your site the other day for further perusal 🙂 And I’d absolutely love to do a guest post! Just made some of the cauliflower pizza crusts last night 🙂 feel free to email me with more details!

          • Michael Matthews

            Awesome! I’m going to have one of my staff contact you

            LMK what you think of the article.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Brittany!

      In my experience most women do just fine with the standard of 20% cals from fat per day. No hormonal swings, no problems with periods, etc. Sometimes I do run into women that need a bit more fat to have everything work properly, and they’re usually very lean.

      Carb cycling is an okay way of going about it if you want to be able to blast carbs when you train and make up for the “fat deficit” on your off days.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Brittany

        Thanks so much for the good news! I’d absolutely love to up the carbs back up a bit, particularly since I keep my training PL-based (before more aesthetic/bb style accessory work) and my conditioning high-intensity. Nobody wants a low-carb curmudgeon around 😉

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah low-carb sucks. Just no reason to do it unless you’re sedentary.

  • Anthony Gusmao

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve been reading your articles and your book “Bigger, leaner, stronger” and I want to thank you for all the great information that you share with us. My name is Anthony and I am 23 years old. I already know how to calculate my the calories that I need (depending on my goal) and to set the macronutrients intake, last year I used to prepare all my food (weighting everything before cooking to make sure that it was the right quantity) and I had really good gains. But recently my life changed completely, I had to move out from my country to live in Los Angeles, now I have a scholarship to study Civil Engineering for 1 year in the US. The problem is that I live in a dormitory in-campus and there’s no kitchen in my room. In my scholarship is included a meal plan that gives me three options of restaurants to eat, so I really can’t have control over my food and the food is different everyday. What I’ve been doing is looking the weekly menu for the restaurants and choosing the most healthy option. Some things are the same everyday (the breakfast has oatmeal, boiled eggs, there is always whole and skim milk, greens, olives, mushrooms, beet roots, black beans, banana, apple, orange) but the protein for lunch and dinner is always different. So how can I set up my diet (my goal right now is to build size) without having control over my food?


    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      I email with a lot of Army guys that have a similar problem when it comes to estimating intake. What we do is stick to the clean foods served that they can actually quantify nutritionally (using calorieking.com), and work in a lot of snacks and such that are trackable. Things like protein shakes, almonds, fruit, yogurt, etc.

      Would that be possible for you?

      • Anthony Gusmao

        Yeah, sure it is!

        The only problem is choosing protein for lunch and dinner. I can eat tuna and turkey (those used to make sandwich) but both are pretty high in sodium. Do you think this is a big issue? In your book you suggest rice milk in the pre-workout meal, is there any problem to drink skim milk instead?


        • Michael Matthews

          The sodium should be manageable. Check this out:


          I like rice milk more because it has 24g carb per cup. Skim has like…8? Kinda useless.

          Fruits are fine. Check this out:


          That said I do recommend you get a fair amount of your daily carbs from non-fructose sources. My faves are whole grains, veggies, and starchy carbs.

          • Anthony Gusmao


            Actually I weight 158 lbs and my diet looks like this:

            6:30 am
            1 cup rice milk
            1 scoop whey protein
            1 orange

            prot: 26.2g; carb: 43.4g; fat: 3.7g;

            8:00 am
            2 cups oatmeal
            2 bananas
            1 scoop whey protein

            prot: 38.4g; carb: 115.2g; fat: 9g;

            12:00 pm
            1 cup black beans
            5 slices turkey

            prot: 33.2g; carb: 45.3g; fat: 2.4g;

            3:30 pm
            3 slices whole grain bread
            2 slices turkey
            1/2 cup tuna
            3 tbsp mayonnaise
            1 apple

            prot: 36.35g; carb: 92.5g; fat: 31.55g;

            6:00 pm
            1/2 cup tuna
            3 blocks Hershey’s special dark

            prot: 20.85g; carb: 13.8g; fat: 7.85g;

            9:00 pm
            150g non-fat greek yogurt

            prot: 15g; carb: 6g; fat: 0g;

            prot: 170g; carb: 316.2g; fat: 54.5g;

            Calories: 2435.3 kcal

            And I eat a lot of greens (spinach, lettuce, green peppers, cucumber), but I don’t think it’s worth to count the calories from them. So what do you think? Any suggestions? I was wondering if eating mayonnaise everyday would be bad for my health, I chose it because I don’t think the olive they have in the restaurants here has a good quality, do you think this is a problem?

            Thank you very much Matt! You’re a big inspiration!

          • Michael Matthews

            This looks awesome.

            You do want to account for veggie cals.

            Mayo every day is fine.

            Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

          • Anthony Gusmao

            Hi Mike,

            So I’ve been dieting for one week already and, surprisingly, I’ve dropped 2 lbs of weight, therefore I’m adding 70g of carbs to the diet (potatoes or plain pasta at lunch). I have a question though, when I calculate the weight for my warm up, should I consider the weight of the bar? Example: if my working set of DL is 80 lbs should I warm up with 50% of 80 lbs (just put 40 lbs on the bar) or 50% of 80 lbs + 45 lbs (put 20 lbs on the bar) ?

          • Anthony Gusmao

            Hi Mike,

            So I’ve been dieting for one week already and, surprisingly, I’ve dropped 2 lbs of weight, therefore I’m adding 70g of carbs to the diet (potatoes or plain pasta at lunch). I have a question though, when I calculate the weight for my warm up, should I consider the weight of the bar? Example: if my working set of DL is 80 lbs should I warm up with 50% of 80 lbs (just put 40 lbs on the bar) or 50% of 80 lbs + 45 lbs (put 20 lbs on the bar) ?

          • Michael Matthews

            2 lbs down the first week is fine. Water and glycogen come out quickly at first.

            Yup take the bar into account on all lifts.

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  • Sid

    I am 5’6″ and 137 lbs. Bodt Fat percentage is probably around 23%
    I want to slim down, but I was told to not pay attention to the scale so much as i should measure myself and look in the mirror.
    I lift weights 2 or 3 times a week for 30 mins (its with a personal trainer so it is pretty intense), and I do about 30 mins of HITT pretty much everyday. I also walk about 1-3 miles everyday as well. The rest of the day I sit at a desk in an office.

    If I want to slim down, what should my daily diet look like?
    Protein/carbs/fat %s???

    Also, if I stay with in my 1400-1500 calorie range, is that enough of a deficit to loose fat? Or how many calories a day do you think I should be eating?

    Can you eat too much protein? In which case, your body starts to store it as fat?


  • Sid


    I am 5’6″ and 137 lbs. Bodt Fat percentage is probably around 23%

    I want to slim down, but I was told to not pay attention to the scale so much as i should measure myself and look in the mirror.

    I lift weights 2 or 3 times a week for 30 mins (its with a personal trainer so it is pretty intense), and I do about 30 mins of HITT pretty much everyday. I also walk about 1-3 miles everyday as well. The rest of the day I sit at a desk in an office.

    If I want to slim down, what should my daily diet look like?

    Protein/carbs/fat %s???

    Also, if I stay with in my 1400-1500 calorie range, is that enough of a deficit to loose fat? Or how many calories a day do you think I should be eating?

    Can you eat too much protein? In which case, your body starts to store it as fat?

    • Michael Matthews


      You should pay attention to the scale.

      If you go through the steps in this article, you’ll be able to build a meal plan that will work for you.

      Sure you can eat too much protein and excess calories from protein are stored as fat, but not very efficiently.

      • Sid

        Great Thanks!

        So given my measurements (5’6″ and 137lbs) , and knowing I want to loose about 15lbs, would you say that
        100-125 g carb,
        140-150g protein
        30-35g fat is a good balance?

        Also, is 1300-1500 a good daily calorie range to effectively loose weight?

        • Michael Matthews

          Yup that’s great. I would say 1300-1400/day though.

  • Morgen

    Hi Mike,

    I’m a little confused about creating a calorie deficit for fat loss. I understand the finding bmr x 1.5 (I exercise 6+ hrs). And my daily calorie intake should be about 1640 calories (0.8 cal deficit). Does this include exercise though? I’m already eating 20% (1640) less than usual and with exercise that makes the calorie deficit even larger. Is this the point? Or should my deficit not be quite that big?

    Thanks! 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes that includes exercise. That looks perfect. LMK how it goes!

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  • kr

    how many calories would 400 grams of uncooked skinless chicken breast be?

    • Michael Matthews

      Check calorieking.com.

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  • Diegocar24

    Hi Mike, great job on your articles, congrats.
    I’m a bit confused with my calculated macros using your recommendation. I’m male, 5’9”, 150 lbs, about 13% body fat and I train +6 hours per week. My calculated caloric intake for building muscle is around 2900, based on that and your recommendation, my macros are around 64 gr from fat, 150 gr from protein and 430 gr from carbs. In my opinion, this looks like low protein compared to the whacky high carbs. Is it possible that your recommendation doesn’t apply to my case? Or is my intuition or math off?

  • Misha

    Hi Mike,
    I have been using iifym’s calculator to calculate my TDEE and calorie needs based on goals. It calculates my TDEE to be 1940 and at a 80% deficit, I would need 1552 calories a day. However, with the formula in this article, I calculate a TDEE of 1788, which would put me at 1430 clalories per day at a deficit. Thats a pretty big difference to me. For iifym, I enter my gender, weight, height, how many times per week I exercise, and body fat %, so it seems it would be a little more accurate being that it takes more into account. I am a female, 5’0″ at 116 lbs. and my body fat is 16%.
    I was wondering if you could explain what may be different and which one I should chose to follow?

    • Michael Matthews

      IIFYM’s activity multipliers are too high. You’ll do better with mine.

      That said, if you’re truly 16%, you probably shouldn’t be cutting as any lower will start messing with hormones and such.

      Check this out:


      • CaptVee

        Hey Mike,

        Not that I doubt you, but could you point me in the direction of info that supports this (IE, “the multipliers are too high”). I’ve always suspected it; but was wondering if there was good info out there about this.

        Great site by the way.

        • Michael Matthews

          Mainly anecdotal, but I first came across it with bodybuilders. It was a “known” thing among competitors that standard KM multipliers are just too high and if you can go above 1.4 without being EXTREMELY active, you have a very fast metabolism.

  • Guest

    Hey Mike great stuff but I am trying to figure out which formula to use. The one from this article has me at 2,401 calories for cutting (I’m 30 yrs old 26% b.fat 6’1 and weigh 225. But using the BLS formula in the book for above 25% body fat it has me at 1,957 that’s a huge difference of 444 calories! ? I’m assuming it’s safer to go with the lower number from the book but your feedback will be welcomed. I have already purchased your custom meal plan (awaiting completion) but want to be able to do it myself once I’ve used your custom place. And made progress. Thanks again your knowledge is priceless.

  • Johnny S

    Hey Mike great stuff but I am trying to figure out which formula to use. The one from this article has me at 2,401 calories for cutting (I’m 30 yrs old 26% b.fat 6’1 and weigh 225. But using the BLS formula in the book for above 25% body fat it has me at 1,957 that’s a huge difference of 444 calories! ? I’m assuming it’s safer to go with the lower number from the book but your feedback will be welcomed. I have already purchased your custom meal plan (awaiting completion) but want to be able to do it myself once I’ve used your custom place. And made progress. Thanks again your knowledge is priceless.

    • Michael Matthews


      The reason the BLS formula is lower is because the more overweight you are, the larger a calorie deficit you can get away with.

      Ah cool on the meal plan. We’ll take good care of you. 🙂

      • Johnny S

        Thanks Mike. I’m blown away by how supportive and active you are in getting back to people. In a year or less I’ll post my progress because I have no doubts this plan is solid!

        • Michael Matthews

          My pleasure! Let’s definitely get you rolling!

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  • Alain

    Hi Mike,

    I would like to know how you would deal with meal planning when your eating at your parents house during the week and the dinner is not prepared by yourself which makes it difficult to track calories and macros

    Thanks a lot

    • Michael Matthews

      That makes it really tough. If you need to be precise (cutting), and the meals are the types of foods with tons of hidden calories (dishes with fats added, mainly, like cream, butter, and oil), then your best bet would be to save up calories for these meals and try to undershoot. Almost like it’s a cheat meal:


  • Lara

    I know this is a really old topic, but I did the BMR formula and it gave me a BMR of like 1220 which seems to be incredibly low for myself – even with exercise that doesn’t give me very calories to eat and I suffer from severe hunger ALL the time anyways. I’ve done other calculations where my BMR is 1390 (asking me for height weight and gender versus the weight and BF %. Can you tell me the difference between the two formulas?

    • Lara

      Also, to add onto this question, what if I want to only lose .5 lbs of fat per week? I really don’t have much more fat to lose.. How does that affect my calorie intake?

      • Michael Matthews

        If you’re already lean and wanting to get really lean, you’ll still need to run a 20 – 25% deficit.

        You’ll probably also want to incorporate some stubborn fat loss strategies as well:


        • Lara

          Okay, I work out a ton so that calorie goal is doable. I actually read another one of your articles last week about taking a mindful diet break, so I’m doing that right now because I’ve been dieting since January – though it’s hard to wrap my head around eating at maintenance. Trying to get myself a fresh, new plan once my 10-14 days is up. Your articles are great – been reading them for almost a year now. Your book is on my Christmas list!

    • Michael Matthews

      BMR doesn’t take into account activity–TDEE does. I think you’re getting those mixed up?

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  • Mollie

    This is such a great discussion and article, Michael. Thank you for all of the time you put into this to provide some really great information.

    I am currently done with the ideal protein diet which, if you aren’t familiar, is a high protein/very low carb diet involving ketosis, and exercising hasn’t been allowed up to this point. It got so expensive so i’ve taken a leap of faith and am going out on my own – I’m kind of terrified of gaining all that i’ve lost, but your articles have been so, so helpful in putting together a great plan to help me continue the loss. In my first week, i’ve started insanity and gained 3 pounds of muscle and lost a pound of fat – so encouraging! I’m currently 5’7, 151 pounds, and 29% body fat.

    Right now, I am trying to put together a good meal plan and I have a question regarding protein. I am a college student, so convenience and cost is very important. I used to do chicken but it got really pricey with everything else i was having to buy. Then i went to turkey, also got pricey. I have moved to canned chicken and tuna……is that terrible? I usually have a whole 12 ounce can of chicken which, when you drain it, only comes out to about 7-8 ounces. The amount of sodium, though, is so bad. Is it enough to just rinse it and get the sodium off that way, or should i just suck it up and buy “normal” chicken?

    Thank you so much, Michael!!


  • Brian Giffin

    Mike when you begin your cut do you automatically cut your cals by 20% ?
    Or slowly deduct 100 cals week by week?


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  • Heather

    Hey there Mike!
    Big Fan of your articles.
    Currently 5’5, 125, female. Wanting to go from 18% to about 14%, 117lbs. I’m an actor and want to be, as they say, “hollywood thin.” Those last five to ten are a BITCH! I am active (performing for a living) and admit to being a cardio addict when I feel the need to lose weight. But I still lift or do resistance training about 5 times a week. My schedule is crazy, sometimes I can go in the morning, sometimes at night, sometimes for 90 min, other times only 30. I’m wondering, with this type of lifestyle, how to incorporate lifting for maximum weight/fat loss. Is it necessary to do splits? Can I do slow burn and/or functional total body moves (preferably followed by hiit) to receive success? Your advice is always appreciated, thanks.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Heather!

      Cool on your plan, although I’d guess your body fat percentages are a little off because 18% is very lean and 14% is basically competition lean. You can see what I mean here:


      That said, I understand you wanting to get leaner, and yes the last bits of fat are a son of a bitch. Here’s why:


      Lifting 5 x per week is definitely plenty and I would recommend the standard split that women like most: legs/butt 2 x per week, everything else 1 x per week.

      In terms of cardio, 3 – 4 20-25 minute sessions of HIIT per week should be plenty. You can do them after your lifting if necessary.


      • Heather

        @Michael This is a recent pic, just for reference. I could definitely be off in my percentage calculations. What I’m mostly wanting to do is lose some belly fat and just a little bit or bi/tri muscle. With the weightlifting and post hiit, is the weightlifting around an hour? I understand it’s quality over quantity, but I’m trying to fully understand the advised regimen. I also, for the life of me, can tell if I’m eating at the right calorie deficit (too much or too little). It’s hard to differentiate because some days I’m off (minus at the gym!) and other days I’m performing, but have no idea how many extra calories I’m burning and how much I should be eating.

        Fully aware at the very customized and professional responses you are giving to all of us for free. I’m trying to collect all of your books to pay you back some way!

        • Michael Matthews

          Oh well damn, I stand corrected, haha. You have a good amount of muscle so18% looks accurate.

          You don’t need to lift for more than 45-60 minutes per day, and if you want to lose some bi/tri muscle, you’ll definitely want to stop training arms. Pressing and deadlifting might prevent the muscle loss though. Arg.

          Hmm well this is the place to start for diet:


          And if you’re extremely active, you could get an activity tracker or just create different eating plans for your different days based on activity levels for those days. This would be easy if your days are predictable in terms of activity.

          Haha no worries. I’m happy to help. Thanks for the support. 🙂

  • Emy

    Hi! So I’m a 5’6 109 pound female. I literally look like gumby because I have never workout or lift. I am going to start but am u sure how many calories to eat. My bf% is probably around 20-21%, which was what it was a few months ago when I had it hydrostatically tested. Losing weight seems like a bad idea since I’m so thin, but I have quite a bit of fat on my lower half, it’s just where I carry it genetically. Should I try and cut fat before gaining muscle, or should my calories just stay the same and I’ll experience noob gains without having to change much about my diet? Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Cool! You’re going to do well. You should start by eating around your TDEE and let’s see how your body responds.

      • Emy

        I feel like my height/weight and bf% combination might be considered as an outlier in the typical TDEE calculations. What would you recommend for my daily caloric intake? I’ve been sticking around 1250, never really going over 1350. But I have such little muscle and my weight is so low.. I would just like your opinion before I set a number. Thank you, and would a photo be helpful?

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  • Stacey

    Hi Mike! I really enjoy your articles- they are so informative and easy to understand!I am a 19yr old female, 5’5″, 23.6% body fat, trying to eat 1400 calories a day comprised of 159 carbs, 101 Protein, 40 Fat per day trying to increase fat/weight loss, and build lean muscle. I am fairly active, in the sense that I move around much of my day, and do 15-20 min HIIT workouts 3 days a week and lift just a bit. I hear so much about how I should reduce my carbs and these macros say I should consume 159. What do you think? Am I on the right track? What do you recommend? Thank you so much!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Cool on what you’re doing. I like it.

      Those macros look great. How is your body responding?

      • Stacey

        I think it is responding well, I have only been doing this system for about 3 days now. The scale shows the same range (103.5-131.5 give or take). I have a hard time consuming all 1400 calories, as that caloric intake is higher than I used to consume (1000-1200). Should I be consuming all 400?!
        Thank you for your help and response!

        • Michael Matthews

          Cool let’s give it a good 14 days before changing anything. Yes I recommend you hit your 1400 number.

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  • Victor

    Hi Mike, big fan of your article, it is very informative!
    I am a 21 years old male, weight 65kg, height 167cm. I workout 5 days a week.
    My TDEE is about 2250 per day. I want to lose my belly fat now so i take about 2000 calories per day (about 250 calories deficit). So, i get 40% of calories from protein, 40% from carbs and 20% from fat, that is about 200g protein, 200g carbs and 45g fat. Is the protein too much for me? it is about 1.5g per lbs of my body weight. What is your recommendation?
    And since i only take 2000 calories per day, i feel hungry fast 🙁 Please give me some recommendation. Thank you 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Cool on what you’re doing but those cals are a bit high. Rework them based on the numbers in this article.

      • Victor

        You saying that i should make it 1750 cals by lowering 250 cals more?

        • Michael Matthews

          If that’s what they come out to per this article, then yes.

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  • Poe

    Hello Mike,
    About the daily calorie in take calculation formula, does it include daily course activity? (ex:Walking around)
    I walk much, according to the tracking app in my phone, i walk about 6,7 km (probably take around 400kcal) a day, should i add this on my daily calorie expenditure according to the formula or is this covered already?

    And thanks, i’ve been following your methods for a year now, and gained about 8kg of lean mass(Screw fitness magazine scams), pretty good for a 18-year-old kid. But i have loose lower abs skin because i used to be really fat a few years ago which made it confusing for me to measure my body fat percentage. My guess is about 11-12% but certainly not 9-10% yet though, or according to your another article, i would have gotten rid of the flabby skin. Could you make a rough guess of my body fat percentage from my picture below(it’s pretty good lighting) and let me know? Thank you!

  • Poe

    Hello Mike,
    About the daily calorie in take calculation formula, does it include daily course activity? (ex:Walking around)
    I walk much, according to the tracking app in my phone, i walk about 6,7 km (probably take around 400kcal) a day, should i add this on my daily calorie expenditure according to the formula or is this covered already?

    And thanks, i’ve been following your methods for a year now, and gained about 8kg of lean mass(Screw fitness magazine scams). Currently 170cm 70kg as an 18-year-old kid. Thing is that i have loose lower abs skin because i used to be really fat(166cm 88kg) a few years ago. It is confusing for me to measure my body fat percentage. My guess is about 11-12% but certainly not 9-10% yet though, or according to your another article, i would have gotten rid of the flabby skin. Could you make a rough guess of my body fat percentage from my picture below(it’s under good lighting) and let me know? Looking to go leaner, and want to know how much weight that i need to lose. Thank you!

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job on your gains! That rocks.

      If you use the formula in this article, you can account for your walking. You could calculate based on your workouts first and just add 300-400 cals for the walking, for instance. Pretty simple.

      I would guess 12-13%. Check this out:


      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      Oh and I’d love to feature you on the site as a success story! What do you think?

      • Poe

        Thanks, your articles and informations are really informative and logical. Compare to my friends trusting fitness magazine and youtube celebrities, who are doing high reps and don’t count their calories nor macro nutrients, i’ve almost made three times of their gains. The past year had really changed my life!

        And how much lean mass can i gain a month at my point of muscle development? I used to do a +300cal surplus. So it’s like: “2600+(tracking App shown-100)”. It worked pretty well, yielded me abt 1kg a month. Do i need to adjust these numbers when i get back bulking?

        It’d be cool to feature on a success story! And hope i can cut down 3-4%BF in the following month!

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  • Gab

    Hey, MIke! If I weigh 135 pounds, my TDEE is 2269 and I’m trying to bulk, should my calorie intake be slightly higher than 2269, and my protein intake be 135 grams? Sorry, I couldn’t understand it well.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah let’s start you around 2500 per day with 140 g pro, 50 g fat, and the rest from carbs.

      • Gab

        Thanks, Michael!

        • Michael Matthews


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  • Jay

    Not sure whether to bulk or cut first mike – confusing the hell out of me lol. From this picture what do you roughly think?

    • Michael Matthews

      You’re pretty lean. You could bulk. Check this out:


      • Jay

        Thanks buddy – gonna try and adjust these macros from tomorrow! I’ve lost good fat and improved strength but don’t think I’ve got the exact definition and muscular look because i didn’t have significant muscle to start with? What do you think?

        Reaching out to the Uk aswell Mike great job!

        • Michael Matthews

          YW. I think you have a good foundation but if you got to the sub-10% range you’d feel small. So yeah, you’ll just want to start bigger before getting really lean.

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  • jay

    This is great!!! Mattt!!! Can you help me put my meal plan together pleaseeeee!!!! Please reply!!!!

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  • Guest

    Hi Mike!
    One day i can exercise two times a day. Another day i exercise zero times a day. But according to the calculations above i should be eating the same amount of calories each day. Is this correct?

  • Sindre

    Hi Mike!
    One day i can exercise two times a day. Another day i exercise zero times a day. But according to the calculations above i should be eating the same amount of calories each day. Is this correct? Love your book bls btw!

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup. That’s the simple way of going about it. Thanks for reading my book!

      • SF

        Until now i have tracked my exercise calories and sort of eating them back. I have kept my calorie intake on my calculated BMR. Does this work?

        • Michael Matthews

          I don’t like doing it this way. Makes it more complicated than it has to be.

  • Nikki

    Hey Mike, based on my calculations I should be burning 1800Cals, ive dropped my maintenance calories to 1500 and have managed to lose 20lbs 🙂 My weight loss has come to a halt at 123, I’m leaner but I believe I’m around 18% my goal is 15%. I lift 6 days a week, and perform HIIT on the stair climber 3x a week 20-30 mins. I’ve swapped my macros around for 40 carbs, 30 pro and 30 fat. What would you suggest for me to do in order to reach my goal? I don’t think dropping my cals more would be healthy should I add in another HIIT session during the week?

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  • Chefsurf Petch-in

    Hello ,Michael
    First of all, thank you for the Quad pack, I first time start using it from last week(Sydney). I love the taste and everything especially Triumph. Can’t wait to see the result after one year;)
    Well, I lift weight 4 times and 80mins of cardio( interval) a week since I been using BLS program for 7 weeks now ,losing fat and gain some muscles too. I have a fews things would like to ask you.
    1. I burned calories about 2100 kcal a day. My weight is 80kg and I take about 200 protein,200 carbs,45 fat a day. Should I take calories more or less than my daily burn?(cutting)
    2. Last week I did not do cardio at all but I feel great also look fresh and strong. Do I really need to stick to the cardio program if I want to be able to see my muscle? ( like your) I’m about 15%body fat.
    3. After cardio I do lose muscle but not strength because I can put more weight each week at gym. Should I do only 10 mins at a time?
    4. Base on your research 190g protein,310g card, 55g fat will work for Cutting?

    Sry my English is not that good. Hope you get what I try to say.
    Thank you very much

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much! I’m really glad to hear you’re liking everything.

      Great on what you’re doing. That’s exciting.

      If you’re cutting you need to make sure you’re in a calorie deficit. Compare your numbers to the formula given in this article and let me know how it shakes out.

      You don’t have to do cardio, no. Check this out:


      Those macros sound really high for cutting. Go through the process given in this article.

  • Matthew

    Hi Michael.

    I follow the advice doing around 3 hours planned weightlifting and about 2 hours cardio each week.

    But 3 days a week I also work as a labourer (for builders) between 8 and 4. I dont know how to calculate this into the above. I just use the 1.2 calculator for my Tdee and eat the same every day work or not?
    (I would typically be on my feet all day)
    (pushing wheelbarrows, lifting bricks, shovelling sand etc)

    Does this put me at risk of under eating and stopping my weight loss?

    If so should I eat more everyday or change it to eat more only on the days I work? And by how much? Its very difficult to calculate what I burn in those days.
    Thank you, your work has really helped me, hopefully you can clear my worries here.

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question. You could start with 1.5 x TDEE on those 3 days and 1.35 on the others?

      Let me know!

      • Matthew

        Thank you for the reply.

        I will continue with 1.2 over the weekend and then switch to your recommendation on the Monday, Ill let you know how it goes in after a week or so in comparison to what I was doing.

        • Michael Matthews

          YW. Sounds good. LMK.

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  • Janie Hannan-Kearl

    I’m new to the macros style of weight loss. I’ve always just counted calories. I’ve lost a lot of weight but now I’m looking to get more lean and muscular. I saw that you wrote, one gram of protein for every pound of body weight and the leftover goes to carbs, can anymore be added to the fats? Or just add the remaining to the carbs only? And do macros need to change for rest days?

    • Michael Matthews

      Cool Janie!

      There’s really no need to go over 0.2 to 0.25 grams of fat per pound of body weight (or 0.3 grams per pound of lean mass) unless your body is particularly sensitive to carbs (which you would know–if high-carb meals make you bloated and want to fall asleep, you don’t do well with them) or you just prefer a high-fat diet.

      The most important points are your protein intake and daily calories.

  • Michael Matthews

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:


    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

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  • D

    Hi Mike,

    Figured I’d ask here rather than emailing you. I’m a guy, bulking for the first time. I’m gaining about 1lb per week, which is right on target, and I’m eating 0.8-1g/lb protein. I know you routinely recommend fat intake being at 20% ratio-wise, but I’m finding that mine is pretty often at 30% or even 35%. Do you think this is a problem? I’m still getting about 50% of the calories from carbs, which seems like plenty. Everything is going well, I’m just wondering if I would somehow be doing “even better” if I cut the fat a bit and raised carbs even higher. I often eat about 330g carbs, 140g protein (I’m 170lbs), and that’s like 50% carbs and 20% protein, which puts fat at 30%, which is higher than your ratio recommendations. What do you think?

    Secondly, doesn’t 2700 calories seem a little low for a guy on a bulk? I was sort of hoping I’d be able to eat 3.5k on my bulk haha, but 2700 is putting on 1lb/week. Just for reference, I was cutting at 1700 calories for a few months, and then reverse dieted for 10 weeks up to 2700 as I transitioned into a bulk. Thanks!

    • Cool on what you’re doing. I like it. You can eat more fats so long as your calories are right.

      You may find you have more strength with more carbs. Worth a shot.

      Haha no 2700 is right if you’re gaining 1 lb/week. Don’t explode your cals or you’ll get fat too quickly. 🙂

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

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  • Elmert Y. Pitis

    Hello Mike,

    So what would be a good macro ratio for maintenance?

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  • Brian Giffin

    Mike I have been cutting but finally plateaued so I recalculated my TDEE and started my reverse diet fully intending to go back down. My goal is 8-10 % and I’m having a tough time getting under 15%. Once I hit my new TDEE should I work down 100 cal at a time or cut my TDEE number by at least 10% to speed things up. My trouble is when I get to the end of my cut my strength is still good but I find myself an emotional wreck, depression, mental stress and so on.
    It sucks!

  • Sweaty Jain

    I think I’ve hit some sort of strange plateau in terms of Fat loss, I have had some muscle toning in my arms and legs but my lower abdominal area has certainly gained some bulge but its firmed up since IIFYM, (point being, that bulge only came post IIFYM) I started IIFYM a month ago, Im 5’6” with a NOW weight of 105 as of this morning. When i started i was 107 but I fluctuate between 104-108 regardless. My BMI is very low due to my height but I started with a 16.2% BF, now down to 14.6 in 1 month. which is progress but I cant really have any further weight loss.. I just need to tone up my abdominal area and some super lean muscle and i know this is by eating. I started by hitting my macros at 121P, 138C, 38F some days over carbs and lower in protein but I mostly tried to be very close and I’ve started taking supplements such as CLA/L Carnitine. When I first started I was eating strictly clean, very conscious and paranoid about everything. Over the month, after reading, Ive started eating more flexible, accepting fun foods again, and all of a sudden, now I’m over on my protein bc ive started eating meat and more shakes and i hit about 150-160 almost every night, my fats i’m hitting some days more or less but enough, but carbs in the past week and a half i’ve been in the range of 55-90 g, FORCING at 110-120. Now is that bad? Is that why abs are not coming in? Im not hitting my carbs, barely? Im lost and confused and this is such a confusing thing for my body Idk?! I also read you can do carb cycling a little bit with IIFYM, on lifting days do higher in carbs reaching your goal or more but on HIIT/rest days, try to do less carbs but still hit your protein fats. Everything is all over the place! I dont know what I am doing wrong! Also my calorie intake is at 1385, Ive been getting near that almost every nigt thanks to my fats & proteins but, should I be eating more? IM SO FULL by around 1250-1300 trying to still squeeze in extra calories at night….Not sure if thats a good way to go about it.

    • Hey hey,

      Have you compared your intake to the guidelines in this article? Intake really depends on activity level.

      Carbs aren’t the enemy.

      And why do you think you’re plateaued exactly?

  • Lindsay

    Hey Mike,

    So, I’ve hit a plateau and I think it’s because I’m not eating enough calories but I’m too scared to increase my calories for fear I will gain fat. I’m currently 5’6″ and I weigh 147 pounds at 20.9% body fat. I workout 5 days a week and I do 3-4 cardio (steady state) sessions a week when I wake up and on an empty stomach. I also do 5 heavy weight training sessions in the evening that last about an hour. They’re very intense but I do not sweat very much (I don’t really sweat unless I’m doing hardcore cardio or working on abs). I eat about 1,550 calories a day and the breakdown of macros is about 40% protein, 30% carbs and 30% fat. I admit that I am one who falls into the category of being really afraid to increase my carb intake. I work a desk job and don’t get a lot of exercise outside of the gym. So, I guess my questions for you would be:

    -Should I increase my calories and carbs if my main goal right now is weight and fat loss?
    -Should I decrease my calories on my 2 rest days or my leg day that involves no cardio?
    -Would changing all of my 30 minute cardio sessions to HIIT be better? Or just some of them?


    • Cool on what you’re doing. That’s definitely plenty of exercise. I would do HIIT instead of LISS, yes.

      Those calories sound about right actually.

      How strict are you on your intake? Are you following a meal plan or winging it? What are your cheat meals like?

      • Lindsay

        Should I eat the same calories every day? Even on rest days?

        I’m pretty strict on my intake. I meal prep every Sunday for all meals throughout the week. I don’t really do cheat meals often and when I do it’s usually some sort of dessert that I bake myself. I make healthy cheat meals so they’re not horrible for you – otherwise I feel really guilty. My breakdown is about 40% protein, 30% carbs and 30% fat. I just don’t understand how I’m not losing anything.

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  • Joelle Muro

    Hi! I am inquiring about meal plans. I know you provide one days worth of planning. But I work schedules switches from 11 hour work day and 5 hour work day with my lifting days on my shirt work days. Is there anyway for you to provide smoothie recipe/options for my early morning work days in addition to breakfast on my short days? Due to my schedule my eating schedule varies on a daily basis.


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  • joelle muro

    Another question, I am slightly confused on whether to eat for cutting weight or gaining muscle. I am generally pretty strong. 28 yrs 5’4″ female, 142 lbs, 18.7% body fat (give or take because I have my friend measure it with calipers). I feel like I have hit a plateau. I must admit that I have been using the Harris Benedict and BMR to find my daily calories which had me eating at a much higher intake than your TDEE. I will try your method for now on. Decreasing body fat is my goal but I also like to be strong. I don’t particularly care about weight because I know muscle weighs more than fat. Because of my goal of decreasing BF but enjoying lifting and gaining strenght, I am not sure to eat to cut or gain strength and then cut. But since I have been eating at a surplus until now (is what I am figuring since my BF won’t budge) maybe eating according to TDEE will essentially be my cutting? As you can tell… I need a bit of guidance regarding my nutrition. Should I start with the 40C, 40P and 20 Fat? I typically have been eating a higher fat diet but again, maybe it’s time to switch this up since I am not decreasing BF. I know this is lengthy, thank you so much for all of your advice!!

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  • jakeanvil .

    Hi Mike,
    I’m a bit confused by your suggestions of protein intake. I’m 6’2 254. Acording to your book you recommend 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight while cutting. That comes to about 304 grams. In this article you mention your protein macro should be at 40 percent while at a deficit. That comes 222 grams for me. Quite the difference.
    Thank you for your time.

    • Hey Jake!

      You can stick to 200ish. That will be fine. You can increase fat intake by 20 grams to make up the cals.

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  • Nick

    Hey Mike,

    Thanks for all the valuable info you put out man! I have read BLS and am applying all the diet and weight training guidelines to a t! I’ve been doing this for about a month. It’s awesome considering the way you used to eat and train is pretty much exactly how I was doing things.

    I’m just curious if my nutrition numbers are accurate. They seem off a little according to this article but exact with BLS. I’m 6 ft and figured my cutting macros at 182 lbs with about 17% body fat. Following the BLS cutting outline, my daily macros are 1,924 cals, 182g carb, 218g protein, and 36g fat. How do these numbers look to you? I try to get as close as I can to the numbers, within 5-7g on the carbs and proteins but within 10-20 on the cals, usually under.

    Just looking for some reassurance that I’m doing things right. Don’t want to waste anymore time!

    Thanks Mike!

    • Thanks brother! Awesome!

      Those numbers look fine. You could drop carbs to 180 and increase fats by 20g/day if you’d like.

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

      • Nick

        Thanks for the quick response!

        Im interested in learning what would be the benefit of that? It raises my daily cal intake by 172 and makes my fat at about .3 of my weight which is in between cutting and bulking.

        Thanks Mike!

      • Nick

        Thinking more about it, about it did you increase my fats by 2g or 20g…?

        • Doh sorry not sure why 180 came out. Basically for every 2 grams of carbs you cut you can add 1 gram of fat.

  • Ngoc

    Hi Mike. Thank you for this awesome blog it was so informative! I just started counting my macros two weeks ago. I started with 40 carbs, 30 protein & 30 fats. Then the week after I switched it up consumed more protein, 45 protein, 35 carbs & 20 fats. I saw that my body had more
    Definition and lol lend slight more beefy. Then I went back to 40 carbs, 30 protein & 30 fats and I can no longer see the definition in my abs & arms. I’m torn on whether I should go on a calorie deficit or surpass. Can you help? : ) photo in pink is 45 protein, 35, carbs & 20 fats. Photo in purple is 40 carbs, 30 protein & 30 fats.

  • Hi MIke!

    Just came across your site this evening as I am having a hard time figuring out why I have been stuck at the same weight for almost 3 months now. I was following an IIFYM kinda thing, but I was always playing around with the numbers when I didn’t see something work.

    I used your calculations and it shows that in order for me to lose weight, I should consume about 1500 calories with 174g of carbs, 174g of protein and 36g of fat a day. I was usually eating 1700-1900 a day, and didn’t see any inches lost. I’m 5’8 and 163 pounds. I would like to get down to about 145-150 pounds. Do those numbers seem ideal to you? Should i be eating that same amount on both workout and rest days? Thanks in advance!

    • Hey hey!

      Yup those numbers sound about right. Yes same amount every day.

      Let me know how it goes!

      • I bought your book and the numbers should be a bit higher, which one should I pay attention to? I’m going to be following your workout routine as well.

        • Thanks for buying the book!

          Hmm not by much? By maybe 100 cals or so?

          What did you think of the book?

  • Stephen Reyes

    Hey Mike,

    I’m at 165.8/14.9% body fat, workout 5 days a week, mostly heavy lifting. Should calculate my protein based on lean body mass or body weight?


    • Awesome! It’s gonna come out more or less the same either way. Bulking and maintaining should be around 160 g/day and cutting 180.

      • Stephen Reyes

        Alright. Thanks. So right now I’m at 1890. 180c/42f/198p. I’m trying to cut currently.

        • And that was calculated using this article or?

          • Stephen Reyes

            No. Your bodybuilding.com article. Says 15% male 1.2/lb. what should I be using?

          • Oh okay. Well yeah that formula is a little higher on fast. 18-20%. That’s fine. Your body doesn’t need more than 0.3 grams of fat per pound of lean mass.

          • Stephen Reyes

            And what should my protein be? Is 198 too high?

          • Nope that’s fine.

  • Mar.

    Hi Mike,

    First of all, I have to say you’re the best! Thank you for taking your time to share your knowledge with each of us! 🙂

    I would like to ask though, I’m hoping to decrease my body fat from 28% to a more leaner 20-23%. I’m currently 140lbs at 5’0, the calculator above tells me I should be eating anywhere between 1300-1400 cal, with Crossfit 3-4x /week. Does that sound right and do you think I can get to a leaner me within 4 months?

    • Thanks!

      That sounds about right. Check the numbers against the formulas in this article and see?

      • Mar

        Thank you for getting back to me 🙂 I’ll keep you updated! Keeping my fingers crossed on this one Mike!

        • YW! Great!

          • Mar

            Hi Michael! =) you are just too awesome, just wanted to update you and ask you for some advice. So far I’ve been cutting within the 1400 calories and cross-fitting 3-4x a week. I already have a couple of people coming up to me and telling me they notice a difference in my body. I took a picture and noticed a bit of a difference as well. I feel great. With the caloric deficit I hit a couple of PR’s last week (one by 20lbs), but when it comes to the actual WOD and the HIIT part of my workout, I feel sluggish. I know I can perform better than this, but my energy feels quite low. I feel like I’ve found my magic number as far as my cut at 1400, already lost 2lbs since last week. Do I need to up my caloric intake to increase energy levels or keep it the same and instead take supplements? My numbers currently are at: Protein 165g/Fat 57g/Carbs 73g. What would you recommend?

            Thanks for everything :), I’m feeling like I’m finally getting somewhere again.

          • Thanks. 🙂

            Awesome on what you’re doing. Yeah that’s normal. You can expect to have less energy in your workouts.

            What’s your TDEE according to this article?

          • Mar.

            Based on this article 1466, stay? I was thinking of purchasing vega protein sport which has bcaa’s included already. Is this something you would recommend? 🙂

          • If your TDEE is 1466 then you won’t lose fat eating 1400 per day. You’d need to be closer to 1000. Are you sure you calculated that correctly though? TDEE of 1466? Not BMR…

            Sure Vega makes good stuff AFAIK.

          • Mar.

            I re-calculated for a TDEE of 1476. Is this right?

          • What is your weight and how many hours of exercise are you doing each week?

          • Mar.

            141lbs, 5’0 and crossfit 3-4x a week. Am I headed in the right direction?

          • I’m not a huge fan of Crossfit but yes TDEE of 1400-1500 sounds about right.

  • Pat

    Hey Mike,
    I’ve been on BLS for 6 months and have had great success – thanks very much! I’d like to take a break from bulking and cutting and go into maintenence for a while. I’ve started reverse dieting out of a cut and am trying to determine where my TDEE stands now. My question is that I know I can still gain some muscle, so in maintenence would I try to find the spot where my weight stays the same, or would I actually want it to go up a little each week due to muscle growth? Thanks!

    • Awesome! That’s great.

      Good question and IMO you may enjoy the surplus/deficit approach I give in BBLS. It’s kind of a “fancy” type of maintenance routine that is great for staying lean and still making gains in the gym…

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  • Jason

    I have finished a cut and am down to 10-11%. But i need muscle. Do i go straight into bulking or maintenance calories for a while? Or slowly increase?
    Thanks, Jason.

    • Great job! Reverse diet like this:


      Let me know how it goes! And I’d love to feature you on the site once you reach your goal!

      • Jason

        Thanks Mike!
        HAHA cant believe i didnt see that on here. Just got a hard copy of your books and then you released the second edition so gonna get that soon as well! Love them! Thanks so much for all your help and i look forward to showing you the results. Do you know if your supplements are sold anywhere in Australia? I dont mind ordering them to here but was just unsure.
        Thanks, Jason.

        • No worries. Thanks man! I appreciate the support! No not yet but we will be sorting out international distribution next year…

  • Greg Gasco

    Hi Mike,
    I have my macros down so my meal plan is great! However, I have one thing that bothers me; chicken breast weight! I want to be sure my macros/calorie intake is correct, that I’m not cheating myself or over consuming calories when I increase at times. When weighing my chicken breast, do I weigh the chicken breast raw or cooked for accurate macro measurements? I’m currently weighing the breast raw, 1/4 lb (112 grams) subsequently 70-72 grams cooked in non-stick spray. According to Calorie King, 112 grams of boneless/skinless chicken breast yields 22 grams protein, 2.5 grams fat. However, the site doesn’t show cooked or raw? Any suggestions or direction where to gain info on this controversial subject? Thank you and I apologize for the long post!

  • Rebecca

    Great article I have a question I have been doing LCHF for 2 months now Lost 25 pounds Calories are 1465, fat 65, protein 30, and carbs 5 I am walking 7-10 miles daily, just started lifting weights, and I get on my rebounder daily My energy has crashed There are days I cant even move. Am I not eating enough calories and should I be eating more carbs. I am 41 years old, 209 pounds.

    • Thanks! Great job! If you’re lifting weights you may find a higher carb intake helps. You could raise to 0.75 grams per pound and eat then primarily before and after your lifting?

      Something like…

      150 pro
      150 carb
      40 fat

      Per day…

      • Rebecca

        Tyvm for the quick response. I just started to lift so I don’t lift a lot right now. So is it ok to eat more carbs since i dont lift a big amount of weight? And should I lift everyday or a couple times a week? And should I slow down on walking as much everyday? And what should my calories be? Thanks

        • YW! Yeah the carbs are fine. Ideally you’d lift 4-5 x per week for about an hour per workout and do 2 – 4 sessions of cardio per week (25-30 min per session).

          Your current calories and macros sound fine.

          • Rebecca

            My BMR is 1728.83 and I exercise 6+ hours a week and its saying my TDEE is 2593 amd minus 20% is 2074…is it saying I need to eat 2074 calories a day? And do u think if I lowered my macros to 20% fat, 40% protein and 40% carbs that will help me? Most of the time I don’t even eat 5 carbs and I literally have no energy. I am beat and I do believe I need carbs. I am t2 diabetic but my numbers have been good lately and Dr took me.off diabetic meds. And I have hypothyroidism. …I am trying to figure out what’s best for me and I ordered your book but needing to know what I should do in meantime 😉

          • Yup that sounds about right. Let’s start there. You may want to go lower carb. Something like 40/30/30 or even 40/25/35.


          • Rebecca

            Ok are you saying 40 fats, 25 carbs , and 35 protein?
            I want to make sure I get these macros right … But doesn’t 2000 calories a day sound like alot? Will I still lose with that many?
            Thanks for all your help..

          • Percentages yes not absolute amounts.

            If your TDEE is right then yup 1900/2000 is a good place to start…

  • allison

    Hello! I am 19 yr old girl, 5’3 and weigh 113 pounds. I have been weight training for 2 months already and I have been noticing my arms toning. I am trying to build muscle in my legs and tone my stomach. I eat about 1900 calories a day, drinking half (1.5 cup) of my protein shake (1 scoop of whey, banana, lactaid fat free milk) at 5:30am, at 9:00am ill have two packets of instant oatmeal with strawberries and flax seed, at 11:30am ill have a cup of fat free greek yogurt with granola and a banana, for lunch, id have lean chicken, veggies, and sweet potatoes, since i go to school at night, i dont really have the time to eat in the evening, i workout at around 9pm and have the rest of my shake after my workout without eating dinner since ive reached my calorie goal. although i can see the difference in my arms, my i still have belly fat, and my legs are still super skinny. my macros insist of 260g of carbs 160 of protein about 30g of fat. I drink 2.2 liters of water a day and my stomach usually looks small in the morning but bigger later on in the day. am i doing something wrong? if so, what should i do? please help meee!!??

    • Hey hey!

      Great on what you’re doing. You’re eating too much if you want to lose fat. Work out your macros according to this article and you will do better…

      • allison

        Well I was a little confused as to how much to eat since im trying to get bigger legs and butt but lose my stomach fat, would I have to be in calorie deficit or surplus?

          • allison

            Cool thank you! I calculated and the numbers look around the same that I intake daily. If I want to lose belly fat and gain muscle in legs and butt, I should eat 20% fat, 55%Carbs, 20% protein? (Fat:43.2 Carbs: 267 Protein:121) Im 110 pounds, 5’3 with 13.5% body fat. Im confused because I dont know if what i calculated is wrong.

          • Hmm are you sure on your body fat%? Check this out:


            This is relevant too:


            Those macros sound a bit high.

          • allison

            I used the Accumeasure caliper instead of the other PE one i and I got that Im 15.7% body fat. I calculated the macros using the surplus formula and I am still getting the about the same amount of macros.

          • Oh for bulking haha yeah that sounds good. Remember though you will NOT lose belly fat in a calorie surplus…

          • Allison

            Okay thanks!! So if i want to gain weight in my legs and arms would you reccomend that i bulk first and then when im satisfied with my weight use the maintenance formula to lose the belly fat?

          • You will need to use the cutting formula to lose fat. Have you read this article?

  • Nat Wray

    Hi Mike,

    I have been reading your forum and site and enjoying the articles and comments. I am a female national league hockey player who definitely over train. Illness has hit this week and it has stopped me in my tracks.

    I am 5 4′ and weight 140. I have seen a dramatic change in my body composition in the 9 weeks I decided to eat clean and get in the best shape of my life, despite my weight remaining the same. I currently train in the gym 13 hours per week as well as holding down a full time job and training and playing hockey (another (3-4 hours).

    I have been eating 1300-1400 clean calories 6 days a week apart from on match days when I have eaten 1800-2000. The are 40/40/20 roughly. Please can you advise how many cals I should be eating and the ideal number of training hours per week

    The amount of literature available is confusing and I don’t know if I’ve picked up an Illness through over training and want to ensure I look after my body. Your thoughts are gratefully appreciated.



    • Thanks Nat!

      Overtraining is common among professional athletes. And wow you really are exercising a lot.

      I think the first step should be reverse dieting you up to your TDEE, which should be around 2200-2300 cals. And I wouldn’t recommend a 7-day deficit with that much activity. If you want to lose fat, we would probably want you at TDEE for 3-4 days per week and then a deficit on the other days.

      Here’s how reverse dieting works:


      LMK what you think!

      • Nat Wray

        Hi Mike,

        Thanks for your response. Would you recommend exercising less or eating more clean calories based on the amount of exercise I am currently doing?

        You suggest eating at TDEE 3-4 days per week. What do you suggest putting the deficit days together followed by normal TDEE calories or alternating?

        I’m currently reading through ‘The Shredded Chef’ for new ideas for meals.

        Thanks again.


  • Ron


    In BLS you say macros break down for cutting is 1.2*BW for protein, 1*BW for carbs, and .2*BW for fat, but here you state 40/40/20. Which one is better to go on?

    • If you want to be as accurate as possible you can start with this article. The BLS formula is about 40/40/20 though.

  • eflyn ap

    Hey Mike,

    I’m an 18 year old female with 30% body fat, I’m 50 kg with 33-34 kg muscle mass at most and is 4’11. I already lost 6% percent of my body fat in four months calorie deficit diet and HIIT, weightlifting and cardio. I think I need to adjust my calorie intake to how many hours I workout but then I get confused on my calorie deficit. from the calculation above it says I need +1600 calories with six hours of workout (and I workout nine hours a week) does the calculation counts the calorie deficit already or should I lessen it accordingly?

    every single post I read made me learn new things and really try to apply it on my fitness plan really sorry my post has been confusing and thanks a lot for the info!

    • Great job on the fat loss! Yeah 1600ish per day sounds about right. 40/40/20 on your macro split.

  • Saw

    Greetings Mike,

    I’m 21, a guy with stretched marks on skin, 6 ft. 3, 202 pounds, body fat 19% on Omron scale, 14.5% on Tanita. It’s indeed confusing because I have no idea which is more accurate.

    I workout 5 times per day – basically Intensive Cardio and swimming ONLY, no weight trainings.

    The thing is, I have some fats(not sure whether it’s loose skin or not) slightly squeezed out of my hips.

    If the calculation on calorieking.com is correct, I should be eating around 1900~2100 to lose. My BMR is about 2000~2050 by the way.

    How should I actually break up my macros to lose fat efficiently? What are your suggestions? I’ve went through Keto diet to reach my current status, I was 242 6 months ago, should that explain the skinny fat(or perhaps loose skin?) What are your theories? 🙂

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  • Brett

    Hello Mike, I recently bought bigger leaner stronger and am enjoying the loads of information I am getting. I am just having issues figuring out my caloric needs to cut fat. I am currently 5`8″ and 225 pounds at about 25% body fat. I am looking to lose another 20 pounds at least for I am trying to join the military but currently am to big.
    I am no stranger to the gym,but where I am at right now does not have a gym I only have my body. Any idea how I may be able to shed these last few pounds? Thank you.
    – Brett

    • Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      Did you go through this article? It lays out exactly how to work out your cals and macros…

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  • Conman__

    Hi Mike!
    I’m roughly 196lbs at around 20% bodyfat so therefore my LBM is roughly 157lbs and BMR is around 1900 calories..

    I train in the morning 6 times a week before work (around an hour) and then go to work in an office based sedentary job – I therefore don’t really add much onto my BMR for these hours as I’m basically sitting there.
    Therefore my theory was that I burn 1,900 calories at rest, exercise for an hour weightlifting burning roughly 500 calories, so my total expenditure is 2,400 calories. If I therefore eat 1,900 a day, being a 500 calorie surplus (basically what was burned off in my workout) I should in theory burn around a lb of fat per week (assuming 3,500 calories to a lb of fat).
    Does this sound right? Apologies for the essay however it’s something I’ve never quite gotten right and I’ve always been confused as a sedentary office worker outside of my hour blast in the morning!
    Thanks a lot.

    • Hey man!

      If you go through this article it’ll show you how to accurately determine your TDEE and “cutting” calories but yes that sounds about right.

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  • Vanessa

    Hi Mike – great article, always my go to when I have to double check something macro related! Quick question though – how do you calculate carbs in your food? Do you use the total carb value or just the net carbs? Bit confused so would really appreciate some guidance here. Thank you, V

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  • Lee

    Mike! I love your website. I so appreciate your direct, straight forward and factual approach! I’ve ordered your book! I have a question to which I am unable to find an answer. It’s regarding protein intake. (long explanation, but I’m sure a very fast answer) I am female, 44 yrs, 5’7″, 127lb, and probably 20% fat. I want to lose fat (duh). I have begun HiiT and moderate lifting over the past month (can’t start with low reps yet until I build some sort of base!) According to the calculations for macros on your site my BMR is 1352, TDEE is 1622. I’ve always been a “healthnut” and flat out refuse to eat any processed food of any kind. I know in my heart that long term ingestion of denatured, artificial, lab-created foods will eventually cause disease, and no “research” in the world can budge me from this position. I’m stubborn, but have a strong belief in preventing late life disease this way. I eat only REAL food, all of which I cook myself. Anyway…before I did these macro calculations, I began tracking my caloric intake for several weeks just to see how I’m eating. I ate normally, following my instincts and body signals (didn’t try to manipulate my norm in any way). I eat until I’m full and I have absolutely no psycho issues with food (anoerxia or bulemia) and have felt confident in my healthy eating. I would have guessed I ate 1500 cals per day cuz that’s how full I felt. BUT….it turns out that I’ve been averaging 1200 calories per day! So when I came to your sight in order to improve my body comp I was stumped on how the hell I would eat 1622 cals a day just to build muscle! So, I went right for the 20% caloric deficit and assumed that I could probably eat the very same way I’ve always eaten and be at the 1297 mark. But then I’m just back at square one!!! I assume you’ll say I should start lifting heavy now and gain muscle. Fine, but to do that I’d have to eat 1622 cals a day! And that bump is definitely by adding more protein. But I’m totally against eating manufactured protein (powders) and really believe in whole foods. I’m averaging about 90g of protein per day by eating only real flesh (no suplements). I’m full as a hippo and can’t imagine chewing any more flesh than I already do! You wrote that “clean food” is less calorie dense, but I’m full as hell off 90 grams of flesh protein! Have I been undereating my whole life (no food complexes remember) or is it that whole foods naturally fill you up? How can I lose fat, build muscle and keep protein high while keeping my strict adherence to only real foods? How important are the numbers vs the ratios (that even if I don’t hit the numbers that at least by end of day protein is always highest, carbs matched or close, and fat lowest)? Or could I just continue eating the same way but adding exercise alone will do it? I truly can’t get myself to supplement; I need another way. Sorry so long! Thanks for your input. Can’t wait for the book!

    • Thanks for writing!

      I get a TON of comments and emails. Would you mind summarizing your questions and using proper paragraphs so I can read them?

      If I have ONE pet peeve it’s getting hit with massive walls of text to decipher, lol.

      • Lee

        I am so sorry. You are absolutely right: my text wall was too long and not user friendly. I was absent minded in my formatting and it resulted in poor communication. Again, I appreciate your direct approach!

        I’m trying to lose body fat and have a question regarding calories and protein. Female, 44 yrs, 5’7, 127 lbs, guessing 21% bf, returning to exercise-after years of hiatus-with moderate lifting to establish a base, and HiiT 2x week.

        1. Calorie Question: prior to starting this program a month ago I had been tracking my food intake with FitnessPal. Eating according to body signals it turns out that I consume about 1200 cals/day, and this is the way I’ve eaten my whole life. I feel FULL, I’m vibrant and lab tests are all perfect. With the added exercise my TDEE goes up to ~1600. Calculations say I’d need to increase protein to get to that level. But there’s the catch….
        2. Protein Question: I strictly avoid any type of lab-created, denatured, manufactured food and supplements. I do not consume powders or bars; I strictly eat REAL ACTUAL food, and will not budge on this. I see that most people consume protein shakes to increase protein intake. I’m not sure how I can get to ~150g of FLESH per day! Protein from other sources (avocado) also come with fat, so if I add those I consequently add fat, and thereby alter the macros.

        I’m wondering if I can reach my goal without manufactured protein. Doesn’t the nature of the flesh food itself act differently upon the body than powder? Did our ancestors need powder to get lean and buff? Do I have to eat another chicken a day to reach this goal (puke)?

        3. Quick ending: this is why I asked about caloric intake. I’m eating about 100g of flesh protein a day. Is that going to work to reach my goal, especially when I start lifting heavy?
        I hope I’ve written this a bit more concisely. Sorry….and THANKS!

        • No worries. 🙂

          1. We may need to start you on a reverse diet:



          2. Totally fine. Protein from ALL sources counts so a few 4-6 ounce servings of meat per day with some dairy, eggs, and grains is all you’ll need.

          The lowest protein intake I would recommend is 0.8 grams per pound of body weight.

          3. Yeah you don’t need more meat than that. Let’s just work in some protein from other sources?

          • Lee

            Thank you so much for replying. These days it’s the rare person who shares expertise without charging. This is “service” in the truest meaning of the word and thousands of your fans appreciate your generosity! The universe will reward you 🙂

            Reverse dieting (RD) makes sense. Two brief questions based on the macro numbers of:

            -TDEE = 1622 (must reverse diet from 1200)
            -1 g per lb of REAL protein = 127g (508 cal/~31%)
            -RD article indicates 35% of TDEE from fat = 63g (567 cals/~35%)
            -carbs make up the remainder = 136g (547 cals/~34%)
            -seems like an even split amongst the three macros.

            Questions to clarify:
            1. As calculated above, the bump up to ~1600 would come ideally from carbs and protein…..
            you suggested to obtain protein from other sources, All other REAL sources of protein have FAT (egg yolk, avocado, chicken thighs, lamb, nuts and seeds, etc), which makes me presume I will go over the 30-35% (as the recommended fat limit in the article). That would screw up my macro ratios!! So in this case, would protein and fat then be the nutrients I used to bump up to ~1600? In other words, should I eat the higher fat protein and reduce carbs as necessary to build muscle, or
            keep the carbs up and let protein be down at 100 so that I can have
            enough glucose to lift heavy?

            2. I am stressing over the macro split because I want to do this successfully. My biggest hardship is getting the macro ratios right every single day whilst eating real food. Can’t figure out how to reach high protein and low fat whilst avoiding supplements…. seems impossible. Mostly all real protein has fat! In the end, is it really just total calories? What should I concern myself with the most in terms of macros in my case?

            3. This thought occurred to me today: I render my own fresh liquid whey by fermenting raw milk. I have jars of this liquid stuff (which I use to ferment veggies, etc.). Is it possible to utilize this freshly rendered liquid whey as a “protein shake” and/or as an “amino acid drink” during fasted workouts? (all I can find on google about the nutrient profile of whey is about PROCESSED whey/powders). Cuz if so, this could be a solution!

            You rock! I truly am psyched to do this program correctly, despite my constraints. My goal is to be one of your “after” photos 😉


          • My pleasure. 🙂 Thanks for the kind words.

            Very true on the macros. You can adjust carbs down and fat up to hit your calorie numbers. This is fine. The key is high protein and slow gradual increase of calories.

            You know I’m not sure on the liquid whey. I think the liquid is quite low in protein for its volume?

            Can’t wait to see your results! 🙂

        • theresa

          How is 127 lbs for a female in her 40’s over weight? Even if your frame was quite small??

          • She just wants to be leaner! Doesn’t mean she’s over weight. 🙂

  • Marian Boricean

    Hey, above you only mention the macros calculation for “Caloric Deficit” and “Caloric Surplus”. What about for maintaining? Is it OK to keep the percentages same as when bulking? (obviously calories will be lower)

    • Yup you eat around TDEE when maintaining. 🙂

      • Marian Boricean

        Yeah, TDEE refers to the calories. I was refering to the macros. Is the macro ratio the same on maintaining as in bulking?

        And one more question to clarify (I realized when I was coding this into my app). If I am cutting (calorie deficit), will I always have the same amount (gr) of protein as in carbs? Because you recommend 40%, 40%, 20% approach, and proteins and carbs have the same caloric potential, ergo I will always have to match my carbs with my protein intake; is that correct?

        • Oh yeah I like 1 g/lb pro, 0.25 to 0.3 g/lb fat, rest from carbs.

          No the 40/40/20 split is just general advice but doesn’t exactly work in all scenarios (especially when calories get quite low or quite high).

          Better baseline for cutting:

          1.2 g/lb pro, 0.2 to 0.25 g/lb fat, rest from carbs.

          • Marian Boricean

            Thanks Mike. This really helps. This is how I have the logic working now:

            – Proteins: 1.2 g/lb (0.8 g/ lb if obese)
            – Fats: 0.2 g / lb (0.3 g/lb if obese)
            – Carbs: Remaining to reach recommended calories

            – Proteins: 1 g/lb
            – Fats: 0.25 g/lb
            – Carbs: Remaining to reach recommended calories

            – Proteins: 1g/lb
            – Fats: 0.3 g/lb
            – Carbs: Remaining to reach recommended calories

            I don’t recall where I got the data about the obese. Was it in your BLS book? Maybe…. I remember taking notes at the time 🙂

            So how does it look the above?

          • My pleasure.

            Those are the simplest ways of going about it.

            I talk a little about the change for obese people in BLS, yes.

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  • Kush

    Hi Mike,
    In a 30-50g post workout meal if I were to have a post workout protein shake of 30g protein does that mean it leaves 20g for (example) chicken?

    • Sure. But remember than 20 grams of chicken doesn’t have 20 grams of protein.

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  • Lyndal G

    Hey Mike,
    Quick question, I’d love to hear your thoughts – I’ve maintained my weight for the past six months (110pds, 5’1) however the past four weeks literally in the space if two day I gained 2pds – coincided with me completing my first marathon and starting my new job. I was eating 1700 cal but cut back to 1500 day after I did my race but nothing I do is shifting those extra pds and it’s messing with my head! I’m certain that I’m recording what IM eating correctly and sometimes I’ll know it’s water weight (I’ll go from 112-114overnight and back) but I’d really love to be able to go back to my ‘normal’ weight and quit with the mind games and stress over it! I work out approx 6-7 hours per week combination of weights, HIIT, and endurance training…:(

  • Thomas Wang

    Hi Mike,
    So currently I’m 16 years old. I’m 181cm (5 foot 9), 70 kg (155 pounds) at around 15~16% body fat. I really wish for a better physique, and I consider myself to be skinny fat. I do insanity workouts regularly, and sometimes if i don’t have time, i replace its workouts with lifting.
    I do not know whether I should bulk or cut right now. Please, any advice would be appreciated! Thank you!

    • Cool on your stats. I wouldn’t try to get really lean at your age because generally speaking a calorie deficit just isn’t a good idea while your body is developing.

      If I were you I would lift 3 to 5 x per week and focus on eating plenty of nutritious foods (around TDEE).


      • Thomas Wang

        Thanks for the quick reply Mike!
        Well, my plan is to go on a 30 day mild cut, hoping to drop a bit of body fat. Afterwards, when summer break comes, I’m going to do a very clean bulk where I will exercise and lift regularly. I might even find a personal coach (he’s a friend!)
        I’m doing this because I study abroad and live in a dorm. As cafeteria doesn’t fit my appetite anyway, I’ll just cut back on the calories for the final month.
        Do you think this is a good plan?

        • This sounds like a fair plan but don’t starve yourself. Use a mild deficit of 10-20% and don’t make this a routine (cutting every few months).

      • Thomas Wang

        (I just simply can’t deal with that layer of fat on my tummy and parts of my limbs.) Advice? Thank you so much! 🙂

    • Beau

      5’9″? Check your math. 181/2.54 = 71.259 – over 5’11”

    • Thanks for the info.

      I recommend cutting. Here’s why:


      I also recommend heavy lifting as opposed to circuit type workouts. Check this out:


  • Brock Wilde

    Hi Mike, I recently started cutting and doing a 20 percent calorie deficit. I’ve been weighing myself as I go through the first week and in 5 days I lost 6 pounds! That seems a little bit too much too quickly. I checked my body fat and it hadn’t changed from about 17% with the weight loss of those 6 pounds. I want to cut and get lean but I think I’m losing muscle right now. I am currently working out 5 times a week and have done HIIT three times this week. During this week I haven’t noticed much energy loss or loss of strength in my lifts. I’m following my calories closely which are at 2100 with the 40% carbs and protein, with 20% fat. I have gone from 196 pounds to 190 pounds this week. Any ideas on what I could change to get lean but not worry so much about losing size and muscle? Thanks! And love the books and advice on your posts!

    • Great!

      Water and glycogen come out quickly so don’t sweat it. Keep it up and let’s see how it comes down over the next few weeks.

      Your cals and macros sounds great.

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  • Rachel

    Hi Mike, your site is very informative! I’m a little confused on macros, though. I am 47yo, 145 pounds, 5’2 female. If I follow the macros to lose fat exercising 3 hours/week, I’m at 40% protein, 40% carbs, 20% fat. But then to gain muscle at the same time, as per your article on doing both simultaneously, they change dramatically: 1537 calories, 54% protein, 38% carbs, 8% fat. Did I calculate that correctly?

    • Thanks!

      Hmm no something is wrong here. If you want to lose fat, let’s do this:

      150 pro
      110 carb
      40 fat

  • Julie Kavanagh

    Great article! Very informative and logical. If I want to lose fat and gain muscle, should I be on a caloric deficit or surplus? I am 5’3, 121lb and 26% bf according to Fitbit scale. My goal is to drop my bf to 20-22% while gaining muscles in my glutes, legs, arms, etc.

    • Thanks! You want to be in a deficit. Check this out:


      • Julie Kavanagh

        Hello Mike, Thank you for your response! I read the article and am currently reading your book – great stuff! I calculated my TDEE and macro numbers based on my weight and body fat. Not sure if you know the answer to this but I am currently nursing my baby. My doctor said nursing burns between 300-500 calories a day. To be in a deficit, should I just eat my TDEE and the calories from nursing would then count as my deficit? Thank you!

        • My pleasure! Great!

          Yup add 400 cals to your TDEE to account for nursing and you should be good to go (calculate deficit from there).

  • Jessica

    Hello! i am a 19 year old female, I weigh 111.8 pounds, 5’3, and i am trying to build muscle (legs, butt, tone arms) and lose belly fat. I workout 4 days a week (Mon-Thurs) doing intense heavy weightlifting for 1-2 hour(s). I workout my legs Mon and Thursday, arms Tues, and back& Shoulders Wednesday. Since I’m bulking now to gain muscle, I eat around 2,300 calories a day with macros of 38g of Fat, 288g of Carbs, 201g of Protein. I’ve read most of your articles and by the info I’ve read, this seems like a lot of eating for my weight. My trainer tells me that I should be eating this amount due to my exercise performance. He has me lifting heavy weights of of 4 sets 12-15 reps of about 7 exercises each workout day. I’ve tried eating 1800 calories, but i was losing weight, now ive been eating 2,300 calories for about 3 weeks and i have not seen much of change in my size nor my weight. I’m not sure what to do since there’s so much different information from so many people, but I trust all of your research and information above all. Please help me!

    • Jessica

      I also drink 74.4 oz of water everyday, is that too much for my size? It seems that every time I drink a lot of water I get so bloated.

    • Hey hey!

      You’re eating too much to lose weight. Check this out:



      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Jessica

        But im trying to gain muscle in my legs and butt, I dont want to lose weight in those areas so I am a little confused on what to do.

        • Jessica

          according to your article i wll have to eat 1115.55 calories a day! 133.2 P, 83.25 C, 27.75 F. Thats two meals itself!

  • Julie

    Have you ever heard of Bret Contreras site? If so, what do you think about the information he posts?

  • Christopher

    Hey Mike quick question! I am a little confused on calculating my Cutting Macros. I have your book Bigger, Leaner, Stronger and I have seen a few different ways you describe to calculate the Macros. You mention using 1.2g per lb for protein. 1g per lb for carbs. And .2g per pound for fat. Then I have also seen to calculate your TDEE using your LBM, then making it into a 20% Deficit. Do 1.2 g per lb of pro , .2 g per lb for fat, and Fill the rest in with carbs? Then this article says to do a 40/40/20 split? Which one should I use??? I am 6’7 228lbs, 13% BF. I calculated my TDEE to 3128 and my BMR to 2317. My 20% deficit from my TDEE is 2502.. any help would be awesome haha!

    • Sorry for the confusion! Let’s keep it simple for you:

      250 pro
      200 carb
      60 fat

      Each of the different methods will come to around those numbers.

  • Lindsay

    Hi Mike,

    So, I don’t workout and have a desk job that has almost no movement. I’m not looking to build muscle right now though, I just want to cut fat first. I’m currently 5’6″ and 144 lbs and my BF is about 20-21%. Based on the formula above, it says I should be eating about 1,438 calories in order to lose weight, but every time I go above 1,200 I end up gaining. I eat healthy 90% of the time and I meal prep so I’m just at a loss for what I should do. Any tips?


  • Rajith


    Does it also matter the climate of where you live to calculate the daily calorie intake? Depending on winter or summer should we change our calorie intake accordingly?

    • The climate can effect your BMR but not enough to have to calculate it in your meal plan. 🙂

  • Luigi

    Hey there Mike, I was wondering, what would be the best way for me to shred fat into muscle, I’ve been interested in trying but never had the proper guidance in doing so.
    Also, is it better to do heavy weight, will it help me to get muscle tone or bigger muscle? I’m interested in both.
    Right now, I am 6 foot 1 at 275 pounds, I don’t necessarily want to lose weight but am more interested to shred and turn it into muscle, do you recommend me any proteins powders and workouts I can try out?
    One more thing, how much calories should I have a day to progress the muscle growth?

    • To build muscle and lose fat at the same time, check this out:


      The key to building muscle is hitting the heavy compound lifts while following a proper meal plan.

      The protein powder would help, but it isn’t necessary to achieve your goals.

      To set up your calories, check out the article! 🙂

  • Rajith


    Does this article applicable for females as well? Also calculating the TDEE as of Katch McArdle formula correct for females?


  • Scott

    As someone who has got completely fed up of tracking, do you think I could get away with a simple template of breakfast (oats/toast with PB for e.g.), lunch (carbs, protein, little bit of fat, veg) and dinner in the evening (same as lunch) and assuming the numbers were suitable from my visual judgement on training days I could add a bit extra?

    • Counting can get annoying, but if you set up the meal plan ahead of time, you won’t have to count, and you’ll just get to eat the food that’s on the plan.

      You could get away with not counting and just checking your weight each week to see if you’re getting results, but you won’t be as certain and it isn’t as consistent.

      I definitely recommend setting up a proper meal plan. If you need with that, check this out:


  • edarne11

    8 weeks ago I used your articles to build a google tracker sheet for cutting at about 15-20% of TDEE, adjusting weekly for my new weight/body-fat %, TDEE etc. I’m 35, 5’9″ and I’ve gone from 146 to 138lbs in these 8 weeks. I would judge that I went from about 12% body-fat to around 8% in that time. That would put me at about a 1.5lbs muscle loss but I would attribute that to the change in carbs/water weight and feel like i’ve lost 0 strength or muscle in that time. In fact, i’m doing heavier weights (lower reps) than when I started. So first off, thank you sir! So far so good. I was stuck at 145ish for about a year, sometimes dipping to 142-143 before bouncing back to 145-146. Tracking my meals and setting my macro ratios has really been key to whittling down the %. You have not steered me wrong thus far!

    Being that i am just doing this for good health and fitness, i think this is about as far as i should venture or at least not take it any further than another week or so and i don’t want to lose any of the progress i’ve made in leanness but would like to start eating more and swapping back to putting on additional muscle. Hence, finally my question: You’ve said to use a reverse diet to back out of a calorie deficit slowly to give my metabolism a chance to keep pace, which makes perfect sense for all of the reasons you’ve written about it. How many weeks should this take and what macro plan do i aim for?

    What i have currently is 1700calories broken into 1.2g protein/lbs, .2 fat and the rest carbs for my workout days (5 days a week) (40% pro, 20% fat, 40% carbs), (more like 40/30/40 for rest days). Do i keep that base and just add back 80-100g of carbs 1 week at a time until i reach my TDEE of 2260ish? That would take about 5 weeks, does that sound right? Do i wait until i hit my TDEE before changing my macro ratios to 1g of protein per lbs of bodyweight and keeping calories total constant but putting more into carbs to start building muscle? Also, i’ve been using refeed days once a week at about TDEE level calories + 5-10%, 20g total of fat, about 1.2-1.3g per body weight of protein and the rest carbs. Is it common to need a refeed day once maybe the first week or two while backing out of the calorie deficit or not now that i’ll be adding more carbs back to my diet slowly?

    Also, I’m doing heavy weights about 4.25-4.5 hours (5workouts x 45-50min) and about 3hours of solid state cardio (incline treadmill walking 30min per day 6days a week). Do i keep cardio consistent for the next 5ish weeks until i swap my macros back for muscle building before gradually reducing cardio to more like 1-2hrs per week? I think this is right if I’m trying to wake up my metabolism. I was thinking of swapping my 3hours of SS to 30min of HIIT and 1-3 sessions 30min of SS per week as needed.

    I know that the best answer is to ‘try’ and adjust/be flexible as needed but I want to start out on the right foot! I’d love to get back to the full TDEE level in 4-5 weeks and still be at 8-9% body-fat and primed to pack on muscle while staying lean (you said 9-10% was the leanest for you personally when building muscle) but I don’t want to muck this up!

    Thanks in advance for any advice!


    • Great job on the results you got on your recent cut! You killed it man.

      On the reverse diet, yes, you’re going to want to reverse diet out of the diet to prevent rapid fat gain. You’ll reverse diet all the way to your bulking cals and then you can stick to those cals. 🙂 For all the info on how much to add and everything else, check this out:


      Regarding the cardio, you can keep the cardio up during the reverse diet, but once you hit TDEE you can start bringing down the cardio towards the amount you’ll be doing while bulking. Check this out:


      That should put you on the right track. LMK if you have any other questions!

  • Kyle

    Hey Mike,

    I like your website a lot and thank you for putting all of this information out there. I like that you talk about reasonable weight gain/loss – a main reason I’m trusting you with my body for the next couple of years (hopefully)!

    I saw this comment here about calculating needed fat by body weight in a bulk (0.3g/lb of body weight). I weigh 180lbs, work out 4-6 hours at least per week, 13-15% bf (I’ll make sure with an Accumeasure later), and need to consume around 2900 calories in my bulk right now. If I calculate based on calories I need about 65g fat, 180g pro, and 400g carbs. If I calculate based on body weight, I’m at about 55g fat, 180g pro and 420g carbs. Which do you think I should go with? I was mostly concerned with the difference in fat intake.

    While I’m here, I figured I’d ask a couple more things.

    I’m 18 years old. Is it healthy for me to be doing all of this? 4-6 rep range, supplements, all that jazz? Are there any findings as of late on creatine being the devil? Hahaha

    I read your article on routines. I’ve read stuff elsewhere about designing a routine based on recovery time. So the day your pecs aren’t sore anymore, you work them. If time and the awkwardness of not having a set routine werent issues, what do you think about this approach?

    In lower rep ranges, should your muscles recover faster in the coming days? My pecs feel strangely fresh compared to what I was doing before. Am I not pushing enough weight, or is this the way things are in lower rep ranges?

    Sorry about smothering you with questions, I just want to skip as much of the trial and error in this process as I can.


    • Kyle

      Oh gosh, one more thing. Are you supposed to flex when calculating bf%? Either by comparison with pictures or an accumeasure?

    • Thanks Kyle!

      Whichever on the fat honestly. You can’t go wrong either way. Choose the one that fits your meal planning preferences.

      Yeah definitely you’re at a great age to do BLS.

      Soreness isn’t a good indicator of much to be honest. Check this out:


      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • aditya

    can you suggest what can i eat in evening around 6-6:30.. i have my dinner around 9:30 so im confused about what should i have during the evening like can i eat 1-2 slice of bread or can i drink milk in evening . suggest something pls

    • It totally depends on what you like!

      You can eat whatever you want. All that matters is your total calorie and macro intake for the day.

  • Jess

    Hello there. I’m in need of some desperate help, as I’ve gotten in to a great mess. It started about 6 months ago when I had to gain weight in order to reach what’s considered healthy (I was only 85 lbs). So, that’s already been done as I’m now around 108 lbs (I’m 5’3″ and a 24 year old female). I began eating more and have fluctuated my meal timing. I used to be very consistent with my meals as far as timing goes (breakfast, lunch, a snack, dinner and another snack). They were all pretty balanced as far as nutrients go (grains/starches, proteins, fats, veggies, etc.) However, upon increasing my intake, I found I could eat more at one time. Gradually, I began eating only about twice a day with huge meals. My eating schedule now looked more like intermittent fasting, as some of my meals allowed me to go over my intake (counted it toward the next day once I reached a decent weight). Through all this, I also began exercising more. I went from doing strength training with weights about everyday to including HIIT, strength training still, and weights/cardio combined…everyday. I now currently workout about 2-3 hours a day. It isn’t exactly light intensity either and I don’t even know how I have done it all this time! There was a point where my body reached a more muscle-revealing state, but now, I feel as though I’m going backwards. I’m still eating too much and now I’m beginning to take days off where I do almost nothing. I look at myself and see more flabbiness and my muscles are barely visible now (and my stomach protrudes from perhaps bloat/water retention from too much food/nutrients at once). I will note that I also have Hashimoto’s where my thyroid levels tend to fluctuate often. I know this plays a factor as well, but the whole thing with overeating and overexercising is difficult for me to break. I can’t trust myself. So, I’m wondering, what would you say is the best way to reset everything? Should I begin by reducing both my exercise and food intake gradually? Reduce exercise first? Or take an entire break from exercise and reduce food intake much less? I’d really like your take on this. Thanks!

  • Richard

    I have a question about the macros for calorie deficit (40/40/20). I calculated my daily calories as 1,870 per day (20% deficit) based on my 25% body fat and I’m 215lbs. How am I supposed to know, in grams, what 40/40/20 looks like? I used a macro calculator and based on 1,870 calories, it said I needed 187g protein, 187g carbs and 42g fat. However, I’m concerned because my protein is below 1 gram per pound of body weight and I’m cutting. If I multiply 1.5g x 215lbs, I need to eat 320g of protein and 320g of carbs but I don’t see how that’s possible while only eating 1,870 calories.

    Please help!

  • Anna

    Hi there…I can’t use that formula because I don’t know what my body fat % is. Can I just use the regular ones? I’m an early 20s woman, medium frame 5’7″ & 143–145 lbs. Regular ones asking for height, weight, age, and gender I get 1495… I want to burn some fat. I’ve started exercising at minimum three hours a week (I’m finishing up week one of Shaun T’s T25 and that’s three hours a week, and I go for occasional walks usually for about two hours or so when I do). Multiplying the 1.2 I get 1794…so if I multiply the .8, that’s only 1435 calories. I don’t think I’m really comfortable consuming fewer calories than that…even 1435 seems like very few calories…any advice?

    • It’ll be more accurate using this one. You just need to figure out your BF%! This should help:


      For the numbers you have, you will have to see based off results. If you’re losing 1-2 pounds a week based off those numbers, then you know they’re right. If you’re losing more than that, you know they’re too low. It all depends on the results.

      • Anna

        I tried using the YMCA calculator and I got 28–29%. So according to this Katch Mcardle one can’t eat more than ~1325 calories a day. Sheesh. I’ve tried using the calipers in the past but have been unsuccessful, so maybe I’ll purchase a new one…because those calories seem dangerously low to me, but maybe not.

    • It’ll be more accurate using this one. You just need to figure out your BF%! This should help:


      For the numbers you have, you will have to see based off results. If you’re losing 1-2 pounds a week based off those numbers, then you know they’re right. If you’re losing more than that, you know they’re too low. It all depends on the results.

  • Scott

    Hi Mike one important thing you left out was about the best way to count your calories, do you count macros and get the calories like that or just count the calories and add up the macros, for example when your fixing rice the calories they list per serving say 170 calories when you add up the calories from the macros fat,protein and carbs can be off by a bit, what’s the best way to go about it to make sure you’re as accurate as possible?

    • I like to plan/count/track macros because that way the calories take care of themselves, you know?

      I like to be within 50 calories of my planned daily intake when cutting and 100 calories otherwise.

      • Scott

        I agree with you i add and count up macros based on the food etc but i wanted to make sure i wasn’t missing anything cause i’ve looked at a few labels now on different types of food not just carb based protein meats etc and when you add up the calories from the macros it’s either more or less and here’s a pic of the example i gave on rice, it says 170 but macro calories come to 173.5 per serving, what you think?

        • Scott

          The Pic

          • Scott

            In case the pic of the label does not show up the macros are Fat 1.5 Carb 36g Protein 4g

        • Oh right that’s because 4/4/9 is close but not 100% accurate. That said I just go off of calorieking.com and labels when possible and adjust up or down based on how my body responds.

          • Scott

            Ok so last question, and by the way you’re awesome thanks for helping me out for with this but i’m on a cut and want to be as accurate as possible but last question is ok so based on what we said if i go on calorieking.com and look up chicken from chipotle (some times when i can’t make my chicken i get it in a bowl from chipotle and bring a portable scale to measure it) it says per serving (4oz) it’s 180 calories right? Now if you add up the macros which is 0 carbs, 7g fat and 32 protein it comes to 191 calories, so with that it mind which one should i go by 180 or 191?

          • No prob.

            I’d go with the higher just to be “safe.”

          • Scoot

            ok cool thanks

          • My pleasure!

  • Alex Byrne

    Hey Mike, quick question for ya. Should I be eating the same amount of calories, and macronutrients ratioes on non-training days?

    I’m training roughly 5 days(Monday-Friday), but on Saturdays and Sundays I’m fairly inactive. I’m currently bulking right now, and I was just curious if I should change my calories (less, more, or keep them the same) on rest days.

    • Typically, if your goal is to put on as much muscle as you can, I recommend eating the same bulking cals for training and non-training days.

      However, if you’re pretty happy with where you are and just want to gain a bit of muscle while staying relatively lean, you can consider calorie cycling. Check it out:


      LMK what you think!

  • James Kearney

    Hi Mike, I’m currently bulking and finding it hard to get my daily calories in. I was thinking about going on a mass gainer (probably making my own). Any suggestions?

    • I’m not a fan of weight gainers because they’re just full of junk calories (mainly carbs). I much prefer eating real food, and just stick to calorie-dense foods like…

      Red meat

      Grains like brown rice and quinoa

      Oils like coconut oil and olive oil


      Whole-fat dairy

      Multi-grain pasta and bread

      Almonds and almond butter


      White and sweet potatoes

      If you focus on these types of foods in your meal planning, you should have no trouble reaching your daily caloric needs.

      What do you think?

  • Kate

    First, thanks so much for all the information in this site.

    I’m looking to lose ~30-40 lbs of fat and I am totally on board with the working out part of the plan.

    I’m stressed out just reading all the information on the diet. It seems like so much work and thought. Does it get easier? I like simple.

    Also, does your plan work for someone who eats little animal products? Mostly plant based, with occasional eggs and fish, very little dairy, and no animal meat (except fish).

    • YW!

      I like you’re goal of weight loss. 🙂

      Once you’ve worked out all the food you’re gonna eat that fit in your cals and macros, it’s really easy.

      Totally fine on not eating a lot of animal products. You can still follow the program. It’ll just be a bit harder for you to find sources of protein.

  • NB1986

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve just started fasted weight training/cardio and on a couple of occasions have felt really quite nauseous either during or after. I usually work out at about 4:30pm so will eat salad and 150g of chicken for lunch to keep insulin flat like you suggest then eat nothing until after the gym. Including breakfast and mid morning snack also, I probably only eat 700 calories before the gym (not many carbs) and just wondered whether this might be causing the nausea. I am currently cutting at 1800 caps, with a BMR of around 1650. Do you think I should be eating a bit more in the mornings or is it all in the mind?



    • Some people don’t do great on fasted training. However, it is possible that the nausea is being caused by supplements you’re taking.

      Are you taking anything before your fasted training?

      As to the cutting cals, as long as you’re losing 1-2 pounds a week, there’s no need to change anything.


      • NB1986

        It’s weird, I take green tea extract 400mg a day (1 tab x2 a day) – 1 tablet 15-30 mins before workout, creating 5mg once a day and Hmb 3g a day. If anything it’ll be the green tea like you’ve said before, but it doesn’t happen to me all the time, it’s strange. Sometimes I get a real sickly feeling, other times I’m absolutely fine! I’m losing about 1 pound a week anyway, so it’s progress! Thanks for your help always man, love your work.

        • Ahh okay. Well the days you do feel sick, it is caused by the green tea extract.

          Glad to hear you’re losing a pound a week. Keep that shit up. 🙂

  • Chenea

    Hi Mike,

    I just read 3 of your articles this morning and thanks for all the information. My question is will this work for someone with an under active thyroid? I have tried all of the fad diets and nothing seems to work. I want to lose about 30lbs of fat and I just want to know if this will work if I stick to it and put in work required?

  • Nikki Nicholls

    Thank you so much for the great information. I have just discovered Im 41.4% body fat and it has been a real shock to my system as I look like an average build on the outside. I have competed in body sculpting competitions in the past successfully and exercise regularly, so after having a DEXA scan I am in still stunned by the results. I am 5’7 tall and weigh 68.8 kg.
    I also am confused by the diet, but Im trying to work through it. Im also almost 50, so Im desperate to maintain my health and carry very little fat.

    I have used the calculator to work out the calorie intake, but the food choices are overwhelming as to what i can and can’t have or what I should have.

    I tried to dowload the sample menu, but I was unsuccessful. Where to from here..?

    Thanks again.


    • YW!

      I understand the shock. Don’t worry, we can bring the BF% down in no time. 🙂

      Good that you worked out your cals and macros.

      As to the food options, that’s the beauty of it. You can eat whatever foods you like, just make sure they fit into your calorie and macro quotas.

      If you’d like this done for you, check out my custom meal plan service:


  • madzo0omadz

    Even though I so badly want to believe in your ” gain muscle while losing fat” method, I keep finding contradictions between your articles. I’ve read your “/how-to-lose-belly-fat” and “build-muscle-lose-fat” and I got a bit excited. I started an excel sheet and I thought I can get my diet in order (with 20% calorie deficit as you mentioned) but then I read “This is true regardless of the dietary protocol you use. If you’re in a calorie deficit several days per week, you will build little-to-no muscle unless you’re brand new to weightlifting.”
    I am not sure if I should consider myself as “new to weightlifting” or not I’d be glad if you give me your feedback on whether I should try your fasted workout method or not.
    Info about me:
    -I started working out when I was 14, messed around in the gym and ate almost nothing ( genetically skinny as hell).
    -During high school I started working out again, poor diet and 15-20 hours in the gym per week. Barely got results. Now that I know better, I’m not surprised why that was the case.
    -Freshman year in college I start eating a lot, take caffeine pills and went from 135 lb to 160 lbs. My arms were starting to get bigger, chest bigger, it felt great, still didn’t break what I call (the size barrier), that jacked look I always wanted to achieve. I stop after that year and lost it all again.
    – I’m 25 now and for the past year I started getting serious about the gym, got my calories straightened out, got my exercise and a religious gym routine. Went from 135 to 155, everybody noticed that I’m getting “jacked” but I think I pushed it with the calories and started gaining a noticable belly.
    -Had to stop a month ago because of Ramadan ( fasting from sunrise to sunset, no food or water at that period) and I am losing it all one more time.
    My weight as of today is 143 lbs

    1) do you consider someone in my case “someone who regularly exercises and have achieved their natural muscle potential”?
    2) if not, do you think your method can work with ramadan fasting? which would mean taking “forge” or equivalent right by sunset, working out (HIIT + weight lift) , and eating the daily intake with 20% deficit. Remember, I won’t have water or food from roughly 4:30 am to 9 pm everyday.

    • There are no contradictions between those articles.

      You will probably gain some muscle back due to muscle memory but you may be too “trained” to go much beyond that while in a calorie deficit.

      That said, if you were doing high-rep isolation training and switched to heavy, compound work, you’d likely experience a second wave of “newbie gains.”

      Yeah you can train while fasting for Ramadan. It’s a little tricky because you have to eat so much food in your “window” but I know quite a few people that do it.

  • Josh

    If there’s a reason one is unable include HIIT during the week, should calories be lowered to compensate?

    • What do you mean?

      It’s totally fine to do HIIT during the week…

      • Josh

        If someone has physical limitations that keep them from certain activities, in this case HIIT, should he or she reduce calories to compensate? For example,you helped me out with a custom meal plan for fat loss which has me at 2,200 kcal/day but it assumes lifting 5 days/week per BLS and 3-5 days of HIIT.

        • Yeah. I replied to your email. 🙂

          • Josh

            Saw that, man. Thanks for replying. (Didn’t mean to stalk you, bro. Just wasn’t sure where you were more likely to see it. Ha.)

          • No worries! YW.

  • Mike

    Hi Mike i have a question, how do you get accurate macros and calories for foods that don’t have labels such as whole foods like potatoes?

    • With those, it’s tough. I use calorieking.com.

      Make sure you include any butter, oil, etc. that’s included in the cooking.

      • Mike

        Oh ok cool and yea it is tough lol, would you recommend carbs and foods with labels to be the most accurate? Like Rice?

        • Labels do keep it simple, but with using calorieking.com and scale to have the weights of everything, you should be fine.

          • Alex Wunder

            When you factor in the oil do you assume all the fat is absorbed or no? For example, if a restaurant used 2 tbsp of vegetable or coconut oil (28 g of fat) would we add all 28 of those grams to the food when calculating our daily intake?

          • Yeah, you kind of have to. It’s impossible to know how much of it is actually consumed…

          • Alex Wunder

            Gotcha.. That’s sad for the rest of my daily fat intake. Damned restaurants haha thanks Mike.

          • Lol yup. No prob.

  • Noah

    Hey Mike,

    I am loving your program. Couple of questions…
    You have been pretty consistent with a 40/40/20 macro ratio. I know I have loved the extra carbs! However I saw a different “safely losing weight” article that suggested low carbs higher fats. I was confused by this…Which way are you you thinking for cutting?
    Also I know we don’t adjust our calories for the 4+ hours we work out because it is already included in our numbers…but I have been using a fitness tracker which will sometime give me more calories if I walk a LOT of steps. Should I eat those extra calories or no?
    Thanks man!!

    • Thanks!

      That’s a low-carb approach for losing WEIGHT as quickly as possible, which includes water weight. When you cut carbs back you lose water, which can make you look a little leaner in the short term.

      I wouldn’t trust the readout. I would assume 1/2 cals burned personally.

      • Noah

        Makes sense. Thanks for the reply! Also I sent you an email about the TLS audible file.

  • Heather

    Hey Mike,
    I love your website! I have a few questions though. I currently do three days of heavy weight training(an hour each session) but I have recently got a job at a hospital as a tech. For three days a week I am constantly walking/running around for twelve hours with my only break being a 30 minute lunch. My question is do I figure in these active days at work when I try to figure out my TDEE? Before the job I used the 1.2 multiplier because my sessions were a total of three hours per week but lately I’ve been feeling really tired and I’m wondering if it’s because I haven’t adjusted my food much with the new job. Where do you think I should set my multiplier at? Any response will be appreciated, thank you for your time!

    • Happy to hear it!

      Cool on the job at the hospital. Let’s try a 1.3 multiplier and see how it goes.

      Adjust the cals as necessary based off results.

      Sounds good?

  • Chafin Pitts

    Hey Mike! Loyal followers here!

    My husband has started doing power fitness (cardio, MMA/boxing class) for one hour 3 X a week on top of brazilian jiu jitsu 5 X a week. The BJJ classes aren’t high intensity but do involve a lot of drilling. Trying to figure out the best TDEE multiplier. We thought 1.3 would be best, but wanna make sure! Thanks! 🙂

    • Hey hey! Let’s start with 1.35 and change it as needed based off results.

  • Mohammad

    It confuses me why we need to multiply our BMR into a figure over 1; and then follow this every day. This calculation automatically assumes that your workout is solid and set. If you skip working out during that week while following that figure, you’ll end up in a surplus. (Same thing applies if you work out more days than the calculation during that week, you’ll end up in a major deficit). Correct me if I’m wrong, but this calculation would only be reasonable if you are 100% sticking to your workout routine.

    So, in a cut, isn’t it better to simply multiply your BMR into 0.8 and account for workout calories as they come? What is the disadvantages of doing that?

    Love your work by the way.

    • It’s just an easier way of going about it because it looks more at overall weekly intake/output than slight fluctuations in daily numbers.

      Some people like to be really anal and adjust every day but the results in the end are more or less the same.

      It can also be tricky estimating actual calories burned while working out.

  • Hey Mike! My BMR is 1155. TDEEF at 1-3hrs/wk is 1386 and 4-6hrs/wk is 1559. When cutting on 1-3hrs, my daily calories would be 1108 (80% of TDEEF), which is below my BMR. Since going below BMR can lead to muscle loss, is it better if I go with the 4-6hrs/wk at 1247 calories (80% TDEEF)? I roughly do 3 hours of lifting, 3 15-20 minute sessions, and some light walking every week.

    • Hmm I’d probably just go with BMR then and see how your body responds.

  • Xuan

    Hey Mike! I have a question of advice.

    Do you have any tips/suggestions for someone wanting the follow the program while in a college setting? I mean, I get a free gym (not really free since it is in our tuition), so I might as well use it to get started on my goals! I have a meal plan, so I just have to eat whatever it is the dining hall serves that day. Any advice to kind of get a good estimate of how many calories and macronutrients I have consumed? I am also concerned about hidden calories since I don’t know what they put into it or what they used to cook it. Kind of hard, so if there is not really a good set method for this, do you have any suggestions for how I should eat?

    • I email with quite a few college students and what we’ve worked out is larger breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, with little on-the-go snacks like protein shakes, fruit, almonds, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.

      We also stick to foods they can quantify with an app like My Fitness Pal. We avoid stuff with sauces and other “hidden calories” you know?

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Xuan

        Thanks for the reply! Yes that definitely helps! Do you have any tips for the cutting phase? After reading your book, it seems that cutting requires us to be a little more precise with our calories, which is a little more difficult to do without cooking the food

        • It is trickier with cutting. Same thing though, you’ll have to count the cals you’re eating as best you can. Stay away from sauces and try to get snacks you can count the macros of.

          Other than that, you’ll just have to adjust based off results. If you’re losing 1-2 pounds a week you’re on the right track. If not, you know you need to eat less.

  • Robert

    What happens if I am getting the bulk of my protein from trace proteins? For example, I can have 4 eggs for breakfast, greek yogurt for a nightly snack, and a whey protein shake after my workout, with the rest of my protein from other sources such as rice, vegetables, beans, etc. I am consuming 175g P, 543C, 60gF per day on a 3500 calorie diet. I feel like even though there is a lack of “bio-available” protein, I am still way over my goal of 130g. (I weigh 130lbs.)… Thoughts? Thank you!

    • Personally I would shoot for getting as much of my protein from highly bioavailable sources as possible. No more than 20% of my daily protein comes from sources with low BA.

      • Robert

        The issue that I have is that I am consuming so many calories that my protein intake is naturally high (without adding protein foods)

  • Chad

    Hi Mike,

    Currently I’m on a 3200 calorie bulking diet (I am 160 lbs, but have a
    relatively fast metabolism) and have measured out my macros to be 160
    grams of protein (1 gram/ lb bodyweight), 71 grams of fat (20% of
    calories), and 480 grams of carbohydrates (remainder of calories). I
    can keep my fat in check easily and will always get at least 1 gram
    of protein/ lb bodyweight in, but it takes a bit more work for me to
    to get exactly around 160 grams of protein and 480 grams of
    carbohydrates in my diet everyday. I have to be much more careful
    about how much of everything I’m eating. If my macros fluctuate a bit
    from day to day say 160-200 grams of protein and my carbs fluctuate
    accordingly from 480 grams to 440 grams, will it make a big
    difference to my builking/health? Sorry in advance if this has already been answered in on of the comments below. Also just bought your book and I am
    very excited to start reading it. Thanks

    • Cool on the bulking and numbers.

      I do recommend sticking to your cals and macros exactly. However, what matters are results. Are you gaining .5-1 pound a week? If so, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

      Glad you’re excited about the book. LMK what you think of it!

  • Marc Schmidt

    Mike I’m so confused, I’m a combat athlete Bjj and a ambassador for a nutrition company. I want to gain weight I’m 140lbs approx 10.43 % bf
    Goal to gain lean mass. I train Gym 3 days a week plus bjj 4x a week. Should I keep calories consistent everyday or decrease on rest and bjj days. Do you recommend this bw x 17 plus 500 on gym days and rest are bw x 17 minus 100 cal on rest days. Goal is 150lbs lean ripped around 8% bf. Any suggestions high fat low carb, I feel like I’m spinning my wheels.


  • Nikola

    Hey Mike,i`m currently at 150 lbs and 20 % bf,so i have to do a looong cut.Anyways i`m following your advices on both nutrition and training,so i agressively cut my calories for 20%,and im taking about 1700kcal,150g of protein(it should be 170 but i just cant get it from food and i dont want to use whey),170g of carbs and 40g of fat.Now i pretty much fit my macro numbers perfect,except for fats…My limit for fats is around 40g,which is real low lol…I took hand of almonds,1 tablespoon of peanut butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil today and thats already 34g of healty fat,but i still have some fats in my other meals(chicken breasts,fish etc),so at the end of the day its like 52g of fat which is pretty higher then ideal.Should i reduce fats by avoiding almonds or olive oil for example?What is your opinion?Thanks. 🙂

  • Erin

    Great article! If we do two workouts a day do you recommend repeating the pre/post workout advise for each workout? I normally do my morning workout fasted but need to fix my post workout meal. For my afternoon workout I think I’ll follow your pre-workout advise and then have dinner follow the post advise. Do you think this is a good way to approach multiple workout days?

    • It depends. First, I don’t recommend doing to weight lifting sessions a day. That’ll lead to over training.

      If you’re doing one weight lifting session and one cardio session, I recommend following the pre and post-workout nutrition advice for the weight lifting session. For cardio, just make sure you get 20-40g protein afterwards.

      Hope this helps! LMK.

      • Erin

        Perfect! Yes, it’s normally one weight lifting and one cardio session a day. Thank you for the quick response 🙂

  • NoClue

    I had to postpone my final workout for this week by a whole hour because I was anticipated to read your entire article. I’m a sixteen year old female who wants to shed 22 pounds of fat, and relatively short! I’m 154 centimeters only and weight 46 kgs, and since that’s the case I find that my BMR is also very low, about 1180 calories expended at rest, and I’ve been meaning to cut 500 calories from that which is more than 20%, so I only eat about 680 calories or less a day. I’ve been trying to lose the pounds ever since last September, but I guess I wasn’t tracking my calories or doing the right thing. I would like to only cut only 20% off my BMR, but I am so timid now that things will go wrong like always and I wont lose fat ): It’s really been a struggle for me all my life. I heard many people say that a person is able to lose 10Kgs in about 2-3 months, thus I’m eager to lose all the fat quickly! However I’ve only been able to build muscle! Am I wrong with cutting more than 20% or will it enhance my fat loss and make it more efficient? Sorry for the long post, thank you in return.

    • The 20-25% deficit is fine, but you subtract that from your TDEE–not your BMR. Check out step 2 in the article again, and you’ll see what I mean. 🙂

      LMK how it goes.

  • As a type 1 diabetic, i get taking insulin FOR ME stores fat not like what is in this article. BUT i cannot stop taking it and for workiuts blood sugar is required to spike otherwise I get low sugars.

    Running the numbers Mike my macrobutrients are in target within 5% and my calorie intake is at ir below the allotted amount for weightloss and I do not lose weight and I do not lose fat. I am doing cardio 35-60 minutes and kift weights on your 5 day plan lifting heavy. I am a 5 foot female but my fat will NOT drop 29%.

    I am really cofused as to why it hasnt worked and my food is all organic meats, veggies, sprouted bread on occasion and for low sugars fresh fruit. I met with a body building trainer and he said first thing in the a.m. diabetics should do LOW IMPACT cardio for 30 minutes to actually burn fat…uh if u wake up with perfect blood sugar of 65-80, you CANNOT DO CARDIO lol. Seriously? Yea if i want to drop my sugar and have seizure.

    All my elements are correct but something has to be wrong, very frustrated as a diabetic who does literally everything right and works her ass off with no results in fat loss, but great muscle gains lol so there IS that I guess.

    • RuthWd

      Camden Smith, as a Type 1, if you want to lose weight you need to cut your insulin right back when exercising. There is a good book about this: Diabetic Athlete’s Handbook. Once you have worked out how to manipulate your doses of insulin while working out, then Mike’s book is useful to you for how to build muscle. (I am Type 1, female, too.)

    • Hey hey!

      Don’t worry–we can work it out. I’ve spoken with quite a few people with T1D that do just fine.

      Let’s look for any “low hanging fruit” first:


      Let me know.

  • Sam Stanton

    Hey Mike, I’m about to start bulking and I would like you to tell me what you think of these macros. This is before I play around with my calories to see what works best for me.
    5 ft 5inches, 140lbs
    365 carbs
    140g protein
    56g fat
    2530 Calories
    This puts me at .20 fat, right?
    Hope to hear from you soon!

    • Those seem about right. Yup, that is 20% of cals coming from fat.

      Try out those cals and macros and adjust based off results. Your goal is to gain .5-1 pound a week.

      LMK how it goes.

  • Dmon21

    Hi mike! Awesone article. I just wanted some clarifying.. Im 21 5,9 159 lbs and im trying to lose fat while gain muscle at the same time. I have been tracking my. Body every two weeks and in the last month have went from 26.1% body fat to 20.3% body fat, and I have also gained 4 pounds of muscle. I am New to lifting so I know it’s going to be easy for me at first to gain these results, but as I continue I want to start bulking slightly without effecting my BPF ( continue losing fat). How would I do this? Would I eat at a calorie deficit to lose the fat and keep lifting with high protein intake or eat at a calorie surplus slightly? Hope to hear from you soon and hope this makes sense. Thank you 🙂 !

    • Great job on the results you’ve gotten so far dude. Nothing better than lose fat and building muscle. 🙂

      If you want to continue losing fat while building muscle, you need to keep up the deficit. I recommend you keep the deficit until you reach your goal BF%. From there, you can go into a surplus and focus on building muscle. Check this out:


      LMK what you think.

  • Dmon21

    Also, do veggies and fruits count towards your total calories while tracking your macronutrients daily?

  • Nathan

    Hey mike, in your book bigger leaner stronger you said that for cutting you should eat 1.2 g of protein for 1 pound of body weight, 1 g of carbs and 0.2 of fat, here its different… Wich one should I follow?

    • The one from the book is workable, but the formula from here will give you more exact numbers. 🙂

  • Sarah

    MIke what are your thoughts on keto dieting. I am looking to lose fat, while maintaining muscle. I have been doing it for a few weeks, and can definitely tell I am losing weight (moved down a pants size) however i feel as though certain areas are getting softer with more loose skin. I am using the 5×5 training technique 3 days a week. I would appreciate your input 🙂 29 -5’2-128 lbs. female. thank you!

  • Christian Carrera

    Thanks Mr.Matthews for all this information . I have bought your BLU book 3 times; one book for me and two for friends. I wanted to share your book with everyone . I’ve also bought BBK and TL for my fiance . That was just so you know what an important role you’re playing in my progress . I’ve read this article and at 27 lbs with 27% bf my body burns around 2,990 cal. My new daily cal consumption will be 2,392 , which is much higher than 2,000. I’m so excited to be on this journey to reach 10%bf. People already think I’m jacked , just they wait and see! Thanks again !

    • Thanks for picking all my books and spreading the word man. It really does mean a lot to me.

      Cool on your cutting cals.

      I look forward to seeing your results!

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Vittorio Ranieri

    Hello Mike, I and my gf have decided to start to do some gym. I am 72 kg (158 lb)x175 cm (5.74 feet) with little muscle (skinny), fat belly and I suffer of hollowed chest and pelvic scoliosis (I use plantarii fascisti) and I do not know, on which food plan to focus first (bulking and gaining mass or cutting). I am actually a bit sedentary, but I will change this situation! I want to start krav maga too 3 times a week (1 hour session) together with the gym, because I started years ago and for some personal problems I never continued to learn it. Should I then eat more or less and how much should I train (is it ok to start krav maga right now, or should I wait a bit)? Do I risk overtraining? Many thanks for your article and your website!

    • I recommend you start with a cut. Here’s why:


      If you’re new to the program, you’ll be able to build muscle while cutting so it’s a win-win!

      It’s totally fine to do krav maga at the same time, but you may want to start with a 3-day split to prevent overtraining. Check it out:


      Hope this helps! LMK.

      • Vittorio Ranieri

        Thank you Mike! I just visited today another gym and the trainer is totally different from the first one… the first one tried to sell me products and did not have many times to spend to talk with you (even though he was at the bar talking with other ppl), the second one told us briefly (I brought my gf) exactly what you wrote in this article (included the 2 g protein/kg) and he suggested me to not start directly with krav maga but to become stronger first or I will risk overtraining and that I could start with boxe instead (parallel to the 3 times in the week training), because boxe include exercises to improve balance, strenght, endurance and power and it could help me a lot expecially with the position of the feet and my body. we will start this friday with a training test and if we want to start, he will make us a training plan and a personalized diet 🙂

  • Matthew Watkins

    I’m a bit concerned as my TDEE is around 1400 cals, a deficit of 20%-25% would only mean a deficit of around 300 cals a day. Is that really enough of a deficit to lose a pound of fat a week? I’m thinking here of the rule of thumb that you need a weekly deficit of 3500 cals to lose a single pound of fat. Should i cut further?

    • Matthew Watkins

      I just realised that I posted from my husband’s account which makes 1400 look very small for a man but I am actually a skinny fat woman at 120 lbs and 23% body fat.

    • Matthew Watkins

      How about kick starting my program with a short “crash diet” let’s say around 10 days at 800-900 cals and then increasing to a more manageable 1100-1200? Would that be advisable?

      • I wouldn’t recommend it. You’re not going to feel good, haha.

    • Hmm I would do something to increase TDEE like exercise more. Possible?

      • Matthew Watkins

        Oh yes! Yet another motivation for exercising! anything to eat more haha!

  • Cynthia

    This something that I am new too. I am a 34 year old female 5’1 121 lbs. I am very active as a Crossfitter I do 4-6 days of workouts as well as 3-4 days of strength per week. I would like to cut down to between 112-115 lbs without loosing my muscle mass. I figure my bf to be around 18%. I did the calculations on here and it says to cut I should be taking in under 1100 calories which seems a little low to me. Do you think that is where my calories should be around and what should be my macro percentages?

    • Thanks for the info and cool on your goal.

      Per the info you gave me and your activity levels your cals for a 20% deficit is 1500 (40/40/20 macro split).

      However, and this will effect your intake, I recommend reducing the volume of training. Either less days of Crossfit or not doing the strength training. The amount you’re doing now can easily lead to overtraining. Check this out:


      LMK what you think.

  • Jonathan Martinez

    Hey Mike,

    I am trying to cut (Calorie Deficit) and you recommend 40% of daily calories from protein, 40% from carbohydrate, and 20% from fat. For me, it means 200gr protein, 200gr Carbs and 44gr fat. I have been trying to get to that every day but it is really hard to get to 200gr of protein so I have been aiming for a gr of protein per pound (in my case 170gr of protein). Should I try to get to 200gr or you think a gram per pound is good enough?

    Thanks again!

    • I recommend getting the 200g. While in a deficit, I recommend 1.2g per pound of bodyweight. 1g could be enough, but to be safe, that’s what I recommend.

      With meat and protein shakes and snacks like greek yogurt and cottage cheese, you should be able to eat that much protein no problem.

      • Aron Jürisson

        I agree – it’s slightly confusing because in the book it says (for cutting) 1.2g (50%) of protein/1g (40%) of carbs/0.2g (10%) of fat PER pound of bodyweight but this article says 40%/40% and 20%. Which is the more recent recommendation?

        • They come to be around the same but just go with the book and you’ll be fine.

  • Robin

    Hello Mike,

    Right now, I am in a dilemma regarding meal planning. I’ve read BLS and I am now reading The Shreeded Chef, its very interesting. I’ve made a lot of preparation for going to the gym again and after many failed attempts, I’m almost at the end, yet now I’m stuck.

    To me, meal planing really feels like “a ball and a chain”. I’ve been reading your articles about meal planning many time over and over, this one and the one on Legion Athletics but can’t seem to get he hang of it. It makes my brain hurt.

    I even bought the Custom Meal Plan but I am kinda unsatisfied with it. Not that It isn’t good but simply because I feel like the macros and calories stated in it does not confer well with the food products I have with Sweden.

    I gave rather casuall answers to the Meal Plan guide and now I have the excel file and all and I am uncertain as to how much “help” he is able to give me this far out. To me it feel like I am on my own in terms of swapping out food and fixing the meal plan.

    And there is also the uncertainity as to how I add foods for example: There is a whole grain bread that has these Nutritional information per 100 grams Energy 1070/260 kilojoules / kilocalories Protein 8.7 grams Carbohydrates 45 g of which sugar 8.7 grams Fiber 6.9 g Fat 2.9 g of which saturates 0.8 grams salt 1 gram
    The whole of it is 600g. Does this mean I should put 100g into the meal plan? Should I divide,? Is 45 carbs too much…….???

    Also It would be nice if you could have a video about meal planning, not like one of your podcats, but more like step by step interactively on how to create one from start to end.

    Sorry about the lengh, but I am getting a headache trying to solve this massive puzzle…

  • Brina

    What about for a women trying to maintain her body weight and fat percent? I’m 5’4, 95 pounds and 8% body fat. I train every day and currently eat 40,40, and 20 fat at 1900 calls daily.

    • For maintaining, you can eat at your TDEE and follow the same macro breakdown as you would for bulking. Limit your protein intake to 1 gram per pound of body weight, get 20% of your daily calories from fat, and the rest from carbs.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Goffenhiemer

    I’m 38 years old, 5’11”, 219 lbs, 33% body fat, so I have quite a bit of fat to lose. Do you still recommend 40, 40, 20 for someone like me? I read your book and the info is different there and then you see sites like iifym.com and they say 40/40/20 is outdated. It seems like a lot of this info is for people who are already pretty slim and trying to lose those few extra lbs to get down to below 10% body fat and not for someone like me who is trying to lose serious weight. I’m doing the weight lifting workouts from your book but haven’t added much HIIT yet. I plan on adding 3-4 session of that per week starting next week.

    • Goffenhiemer

      you’re article here has different guildlines for macros as well https://legionathletics.com/flexible-dieting/ I’m not trying to cause trouble I’m just trying to figure out what is best for me.

    • Hey hey!

      40/40/20 isn’t outdated but it’s just best suited to a “normal” range of calorie intake.

      If you go with the Legion article you’ll be fine. I’ll be updating this to match it soon just to keep it simple.

  • Jimmy Bills

    Hey Mike, that calculator is a new addition to this page, isn’t it? It’s very handy, but it seems like there’s a bug in it. When you first come to the page, try inputting your body fat percentage, then weight, then select the activity level. The TDEE seems to be calculated on less than 1 hour of exercise, regardless of how many hours you input. For example, I put in 11% bf, 158lbs, and selected 4-6 hours, but the TDEE is calculated as 1926. When I then change the amount of exercise levels, the TDEE remains 1926 regardless, which would be based on less than an hour of exercise per week. Now it does correct itself if you go back and delete either the bodyfat field or the weight field and re-input the number, but initially, it doesn’t calculate it correctly, which is why I think some people are seeing their TDEE so incredibly low. Other than that, it’s a wonderful calculator, but that little bug can definitely throw people off. Check it out and you’ll see what I mean. Thanks for adding that though, it’s very useful!

    • Yikes that’s no good let me get my dev on this. Something is up!

  • Loretta

    Hey Mike,
    Your articles are amazing!
    Just a quick question. I stick to a 1300 calorie plan daily (calorie deficit), but lately I have had a few special occasions where I have gone over my calories. Say 1600 one day instead. I then use the following day and cut back to say only 1000 calories to make up for it so that my weekly calorie goal 1300 x 7 is still hit. Is eating less the next day or two to make up for it and reaching the same amount by the end of the week still going to produce the same weight loss results or am I better off trying to stick to 1300 per day. I find being able to make up for a not so good day really reassuring but I am not sure if looking at it in terms of weekly instead of daily is hurting my progress.
    Thank you!

    • Loretta

      I am not really looking to start a calorie cycling routine or anything. It is more just to know that if i screw up on a day or have a special occasion and exceed by 500 calories i know if I reduce the next day by 500 my weekly calorie goal is still met

      • Yeah I understand. 🙂

        • Loretta

          Thankyou so much for replying! I really appreciate it.
          Yes i think you’re right it could get a little complicated and unenjoyable constantly making up for it and my calories are low enough as it is haha.
          Just so I’m correct on the theory of it though, if i were to do that and cut down the next day to make up for whatever amount I went over and had the same calorie intake for the week, in theory would it still produce the same weight loss result if you were to look per week or would the fluctuations mess up the results anyway?

          • That’s right. Just can make you neurotic haha.

          • Loretta

            Sorry haha yes that’s right you would still lose weight at the same rate or yes that’s right fluctuating that much would ruin progress even if calorie deficit for the week was met?

          • More or less the same so long as your protein intake doesn’t get too low.

    • Thanks Loretta!

      IMO stick to 1300/day because those low days might go too low…especially if your high days go too high, haha.

      If you feel you really need more food on one day eat a bit more and just carry on as usual the next day. Don’t sweat it. Maybe that means you take a LITTLE longer to reach your goal but that’s preferable if the overall experience is more enjoyable…

  • Loretta

    Hi mike,

    I have recently purchased your Thinner, Leaner, Stronger book and The Shredded Chef, amazing! I only wish I’d bought them sooner!

    I am now keen to get started and I’m putting together a cutting meal plan and I just wanted to check I have my calories correct following your calculations.

    I’m 154lbs
    31% body fat
    Exercise 3 times per week
    LBM 106.26
    BMR 1413.28
    TDEE 1695
    80% TDEE 1356


    • Thanks for picking up my books!

      Those numbers look good. Let’s get you started on that cut!

      Would you mind taking a minute to write a blurb about the books where you bought them (Amazon, Apple, etc.)? You don’t have to write much if you don’t want to and I’d really appreciate it. 🙂

      • Loretta

        Thanks for getting back to me.

        Yeah sure, I bought these books from Amazon and they are great value for money. I love how you break everything down in Thinner, Leaner, Stronger and explain all of the details about exercise and dieting and I particularly love the sections on motivation as I feel this is so important when trying to reach weight loss goals. This book is amazing, it gives you all of the pieces to the puzzle for getting the body of your dreams and I only wish I had bought it sooner! I am just putting together my meal plans using the recipes in your Shredded Chef book and I’m excited about getting to eat delicious food while losing fat.

        Thanks for writing these books and giving me the knowledge and
        tools I need to start my fat loss journey!

        • YW!

          Thanks for the kind words and support.

          Glad you enjoyed TLS and are using TSC too. 🙂

          I look forward to seeing your results!

          Happy to help!

          Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Todd

    I’m 6’4″ 230# ~23% BF. Using your book and other site my protein intake on cutting ranges from 177g based on LBM to as high as 276g based on 1.2 multiplier, and even 320g off of the 1.4 multiplier from the book if I remember correctly. Some of those seem way too high to even be healthy if possible? Where should I start for cutting?

    • A lot of other sites overestimate the cals burned during activity. You definitely don’t need 320g of protein.

      To accurately calculate your intake, use the tool above in this article.

      LMK how it goes.

      • Todd

        Thanks for the reply. I guess I’m struggling with deciding which formula to use to determine cutting macros? In your book BLS it’s 1.2 per # protein, 1g per # carb and 1g per 5#s fat. Above you have 40/40/20 which drops the protein from 276g to 228g. Which is the most current recommended starting place for new guy cutting?

        • My pleasure.

          Let’s keep it simple:

          230 pro
          230 carb
          50 fat

          (per day)

          Should work like a treat. 🙂

  • Brian Natumanya

    Hello Mike, Wanted to ask if u also calculate your cholesterol in take and what are the effects of a high cholesterol diet. As i was making my meal plan, i also tracked my cholesterol intake found was consuming times 5 of the recommended. As 300mg is the recommended. But adjusting to lower it if affecting my macro nutrient, should I change my food choices, as i love eggs. also just found out the brand of protein supplement is high in cholesterol as one severing has 500mg.

    • No I don’t pay attention to cholesterol intake because my diet is very “clean” in that the majority of my food comes from relatively unprocessed whole foods.

      The “eggs are bad for you” crap is a myth.

  • Susan Stevens

    Hi Mike,
    I’m very excited that I stumbled across your site and have ordered a few books already. I just have a question regarding starting with a slight calorie deficit or surplus. I’m a 30 year old female, 5ft3 and 140lb. I have always weighed around the 127lb mark and was wondering if it would be best to start in a slight calorie deficit if my ultimate goal is to build muscle while dropping fat so I reach a better weight and then focus on building muscle after or would I more than likely be able to start in a slight calorie surplus for building muscle and be able to drop fat ? Im still very new to all of this but very keen to learn. Thank you!

    • Thanks for picking up my books. 🙂

      What you should start with depends on your current BF%. For help calculating it, check this out:


      LMK how it goes, and we’ll see what you should do from there.

      • Susan Stevens

        Thanks Mike! I really am looking forward to reading your books. I have used a caliper and its reading my BF% at 28%. Looking forward to your input =) thanks again!

  • MeReadBachelor

    Hi Mike

    First of all, a huge thank you for writing these articles! I’ve been recently hooked on your site as I really like that you back things up with actual science.

    I’m currently trying to lose weight. I used to tell my friends I would never count cals but you’ve made a liar out of me (thanks Mike!). I’m still getting the hang of it and like it so far as it really does put things into perspective and banishes most of the mystical demons of dieting.

    So the thing is, I’ve been gaining weight since I started moving into the heavy weight, low rep area. Visually, I look like I’m gaining muscle but I don’t trust myself to make a conclusion. Unfortunately, I didnt do a waist measurement when I started so I don’t have anything else to go by aside from the increase in strength and perceptively better physique.

    Here’s my question, I’m suspecting that it’s newbie gains but is that possible since I started training again last June? Isn’t newbie gains isolated to the 1st 4-6 weeks of training? Also, I’m not sure if I’m classified as a newbie since I already trained before my 2 year hiatus. During the break, I’ve been doing mostly body weight and dumbbell training at home. And before that I was consistently working out 5x/week but mainly did the 10-12rep routines. Got married and life happened. Now I’ve been back in the gym doing a modified stronglifts routine. I had to start light and get my form back in shape.

    Start weight: 153lbs (Aug 20)
    Current weight: 158lbs (Sep 17)
    Height: 5.6in
    BF%: 16% (visual comparison with your body chart)
    TDEE: 2,200*0.8 = 1,760

    BP: 120/6reps
    Squats: 120/12r
    Deads: 120/12r

    BP: 150/5r
    Sq: 160/6r
    Dl: 170/5r

    BP: 170/7r
    Sq: 180/6r
    Dl: 220/1r

    BP: 180/4r
    Sq: 210/5r
    Dl: 220/3r

    Apologies for the long post but I just wanted to get all the relevant info across. Thanks in advance!

    • My pleasure!

      Glad you’re tracking cals now. 🙂

      Newbie gains actually last 4-6 months and muscle memory is a factor too. Check this out:


      Great job on the strength gains! And yeah, it’s normal to build muscle and lose fat in a deficit at the beginning. If you’re getting stronger and looking leaner, you’re making progress!

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

      • MeReadBachelor

        Thanks for the quick turnaround Mike!

        I have read the musclememory article but didnt make the connection right away. Thanks for pointing it out. Re-read it.

        If I understand correctly, in my context, I was able to build in more muscle nuclei when I was lifting those X yrs 2 yrs ago. Some of which may have wasted away but some definitely stuck with me and now that I’m reintroducing stress they are more quick to build muscle?

  • Evan

    HI Mike,

    Came across your website for the previous information. I am a 38 yr old guy at 139lb weight and 5″7 height. My BF is 12%. I exercise at least 5-6 days a week (30-45 mins each time) and have successfully cut my weight down to current weight. I want to have slightly bigger biceps and chest and yet push my BF down to 10%. I am planning to go for 3 days HIT cardio + 3 days weight lifting instead of 5-6 days cardio + strength training which I was doing previously. What calories do you suggest that I eat at? I am currently averaging around 40 carbs/35 protein/25 fats

    • Hey hey!

      Great on what you’re doing. 40/35/25 sounds reasonable.

  • jdh


    I bought your book and am starting the program. My issue is that when I do the calculation, my caloric deficit at 80% is slightly below my BMR?

    I hate to eat at my BMR but want to make sure I have enough of a deficit.

    Do you have thoughts?

    • Hmmm. Did you use the calculator in this article? You shouldn’t be eating below BMR…

  • Morgen

    Hi Mike,

    I calculated my TDEE and multiplied it by 0.8 to get a caloric intake of 1332 calories. Is this ok? It seems really low to me, especially low in carbs. I’m lifting 5x a week with cardio at least 1-2x a week. Sometimes I do 2-4 cardio sessions; it just depends on how much my lifting took out of me. This is not too low calories and/or too low carb, right?

    Thanks! 🙂

    • It depends on your weight, BF% and activity level! Did you use the calculator in this article and did you enter all the numbers correctly?


      • Morgen

        I just double checked and got the same numbers. I am 140lbs and 5’4. I’m not sure about BF. Based on the picture guide, maybe somewhere in upper twenties (I used 28). Lifting 4-5x a week and cardio 2-6x (sometimes I do more sessions at 10-15 min and sometimes less sessions but for longer. Weekly cardio is no more than 1.5 hours). I used activity of 1-3hours (I don’t want to overestimate how much I’m actually doing)

  • Aikas

    Hello dear Mike,

    In BLS you mention that to further replenish your glucogen stores, it is a plus to eat the half amount of your post workout carbs 2 hours later.. My qustion is if it matters whether they are fast or complex carbs? So far I have been eating fruits with low Glysemix index at that time..

    • Yeah, you want to have your post-workout within 1-2 hours of working out.

      Doesn’t really matter whether the carbs are low or high GI.

      • Aikas

        I meant the carbs from the meal after the post-workout meal. The one 2 hours after it..

  • Hey Mike,

    I do exercise every day but one but I do less than you recommend and at the same time I eat fewer calories to compensate. I find I can do a lot of weightlifting in 45 minutes which I do three times per week and I do some cardio as well. On the other three days, I do HIIT which takes like 20 minutes. So in total about 4 hours of exercise per week.

    Is that not enough? I don’t sit around in the gym. I keep my heartbeat up and push hard. I find I can do plenty of lifting in 45 minutes. For legs, I can finish in 30 minutes doing squats, deadlifts, lunges, calves, hamstrings, and abs too.

    Also, I assume if you eat a maintenance level of calories it is still much better for building muscle than eating a deficit? I ask because once I’m done cutting I don’t want to go back to bulking. I just gain weight extremely easily and it is too hard to lose it again.


    • That’s great. I like it.

      Yeah TDEE is definitely better than deficit.

  • Melike

    Hey Mike! Sorry for the long post!

    I’ ll be competing in bikini division in a local show next year, in March. And it means I am 22-23 weeks out.

    Since it is going to be my first competition, my body fat is around % 23-25 at the moment, I have much fat to lose, at the same time I need to gain muscle a bit( esp. on upper body) since my off season didnt go that well, unfortunately. I am kinda worried since I am going to be dieting for 23 weeks because my body fat leaves no room for any bulking. But I just want to try it this year, no matter what the result is. So I wish to do the best I can for this season, this will make me know that I will rock next season.

    What do you recommend? I was thinking of a slight deficit with refeeds and may be 1-2 off weeks,keeping carbs and protein high, and progressive reduction in calories till the final week? For the sake of maintaining what I have and hopefully add some more?

    • No worries! Cool you plan on competing!

      I recommend cutting to 20% BF and then switching to maintenance cals or a mild surplus to focus on building muscle. Then 8-12 weeks out (or as much time as you need) you can cut and get comp ready.


      • melike

        I have nearly 22 weeks and I dont think I have enough time to cut to %20 and bulk again in 10ish weeks? thats why I was thinking about slow cutting with a slight deficit for a while. I dont know man. I am stuck.

  • Hannes

    Hi mike, and thanks for a great article and books. When using this formula for bulking I get 300 calories more than the macros from bls. What is the difference between the formulas?

    Regards Hannes

    • The formula in the book is workable, but this one takes more things into account and is more accurate.

  • Brennan

    Hi Mike, I recently started working out regularly and creating a calorie deficit, following several years of steady weight gain and then more weight gain as a result of a major car accident and long period of inactivity due to the resulting injury.

    I’ve lost just over 10 pounds in about 6-7 weeks (my early record keeping was a bit spotty) so that part is going great.

    I have a job that sometimes means getting home and eating my evening meal late, so I have two questions:

    1)does eating too close to bedtime have a negative effect on weight loss? If so, what’s optimal?

    2)is it better to eat before or after a workout for optimal performance/execution of a fitness plan?



  • Adam

    Hey, Mike! You have given me by far the most comprehensive and comprehensible advice, so thanks for that! Please excuse my lengthy post, as I am a layman and a 17 year old. So, let me begin:

    First off, whenever I see people talking about calories, I see digits in the THOUSANDS. For me, this seems incredible (as I recall running on the treadmill for 30 minutes only burned 250-300 calories) and I only faint (internally) at the site of those numbers. So, am I underestimating the extent of basal metabolic calorie-burning (burning calories just by existing)? Or am I just too lazy LOL.

    Second, do these plans apply for a 17 year old male? Or do juveniles need to take something else in account?

    Third, I starved myself and lost 50+ lbs. My body fat % is roughly 22-23 (yikes) ,and I do not look like it. So, I think I have the “skinny fat” issue. So, what would you prioritize? Should I bulk up and eat at a surplus? Or should I shed some lbs. to lower that %? I’m panicking right now as I just registered for the gym to get stronger, but I also desperately want that six-pack.

    Next, I do not know whether I am sedentary or active or what. I go to school from 7-1:30 (not MUCH walking). I head straight to the gym everyday and work out for roughly an hour and 10 minutes (just restarted, little sweaty, no panting). And after that, I just go home, study, play FIFA, and read. And if all goes to plan, I gym 6 days and run for 25 minutes on Sundays. Is that too sedentary? Or…?

    I sleep at 10:00 PM and wake up on weekdays at roughly 6:30. Is that enough sleep?

    And last question, and it may be a dumb one, but when you eat at an appropriate surplus, do you get fatter? Even slightly? Or is most gain muscular?

    Thank you so much, Mike. I really hope you see and answer this. And please help me find a solution to my skinny-fat issue. I don’t want to drift away from the six-pack, but I don’t want my gym trips to be in vain (if I choose the deficit route).

    • Thanks Adam!

      Haha yeah you probably burn around 1800 calories per day excluding physical activity. Put that in and you could be, on average, anywhere from 2300 to 3000+.

      IMO we should have you get your body fat to the 15% range for overall health reasons and then reverse diet to TDEE and remain there. Your body is developing and you don’t want to spend long periods of time in a deficit. It’s not healthy.

      You’re plenty active. I would go with a 1.4 multiplier probably. Maybe 1.45.

      Plenty of sleep.

      Yeah surplus = muscle and fat gain.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Anthony Renzi

    When bulking you recommend to keep upping carbs, but would there be a difference if I upped my calories using healthy fats (e.g. peanut butter ;D)? I know how carbs are good for fueling your workouts, but on a bulk there is plenty and I don’t assume the extra calories to stay in a good range would make a difference.

    In a more extreme way, would it be unhealthy to consume too much mono/poly unsaturated fats?


    • There’s a point where additional carbs just becomes unworkable and then I would recommend increasing fats.

      For most guys that seems to be between 400 and 600 grams per day.

      I mean sure you COULD make it unhealthy but it would be very hard, haha.

  • Vespin

    Hey Mike, I need your help 😮 my family is opting to follow a no-carb diet after watching a video about a Dr. Fred Hatfield who killed cancer by eliminating carbs. This contradicts what I’ve learned so far about energy balance, and it just adds more confusion. Could help me give your thoughts on this and whether this information is true? The same video can be found on YouTube if you type “Dr Fred Hatfield Ketogenic diet”

  • Jonathan Martinez

    Mike, I have seen some of your articles stating different things. Some of them say that the macros when cutting should be 40% PR, 40% CR. 20% FT while others say 50% PR, 30% Fat, 20% Carbs. I am 30, 166 lbs with BF 13-14%. What would you recommend for my macros? I go to the gym 5 days a week plus 1 – 1.5 hours of cardio/ week.

    • Sorry for the confusion.

      40/40/20 is a good baseline for cutting but it can be tweaked depending on a person’s situation.

      Generally speaking so long as your protein is around 1 gram per pound of body weight, your fats are around 0.2 to 0.25, and the rest of your calories are from carbs, you’ll do well.

      That breakdown is best for physically active people that do well with carbs, of course. If someone is VERY overweight and fairly sedentary, we would dial the carbs back.

  • Raman

    Hey Mike, I’m doing my calculations at the moment and I’m not really sure if I’m getting the ratio’s right. I’m 31, 5’5, fluctuate between 123-125 pounds. BF, unknown. Fitness goal is to gain muscle mass without looking ‘bulky’ with a concentration on building glutes and carving defined abs. 40% F, 40% C, 20% P and 2383 calories required/2166 calories burned based on 6 days of weight training and roughly 60-90 mins of cardio. Does my calculation seem appropriate for my goals?

  • Aikas

    Hey Mike <3

    Is it better to get 20% of my daily calories from fat or 0.25gr per kilogram of bodyweight while cutting? When I'm bulking I always get 20% of them.

    Keep the good work going!

    • Hey hey!

      Let’s do .4g per KG of bodyweight.

      Will do. Thanks!

      • Aikas

        And for Bulking, is it better the rule from your book (0.4gr of fat per pound), or intake of 20% of your daily calories from fats? : )

        • Yeah stick to around 0.4 g/lb. I mean really you don’t need more than 0.3 g/lb of fat-free mass.

  • SolomonBicakcic

    Hey Mike, I have problem to track my fat intake and to get that 20 % calories from fats. Currently, I’m eating about 2500 calories, and I get 160 g of protein, 270 gr of carbs and rest calories would come from fat and that would be around 80 gr of fat but when I look all foods that I ate that day I calculate it and get that my fat intake was about 45 gr, so where that another 315 calories (30 gr of fat *9) came from? Confused :/

    • Hmm. Not sure how that happens. You must not be tracking them right.

      For help tracking your macros, I recommend using Myfitnesspal or Calorieking.com.

  • Tuan

    hey mike, is this diet you recommend here better than the one in your book? which one should I follow because they have 300 cals difference. I’m 5’6 143 lbs 15% bf. I’m looking to cut fairly quickly but also preserve muscle mass. thanks a lot

  • Andrei

    Hi Mike. I have one quick question if you can help me. I just took a tanita test and my results were: 78KG 14.2% BODY FAT, 63.6 MUSCLE MASS and 1967 BMR. I want to bulk for the next months so what should be my total daily calories?( I go to the gym 5 times x 45-1 hours lifting weights and 3 times x 20 mins for HIIT per week). I used your calculator and resulted 2600 calories which seems to be a bit low.

    • Unfortunately, the Tanita test can be painfully inaccurate. Check this out:


      Those cals seem about right TBH.

      Try following them and see how you do. The goal is to gain 1/2-1 pound a week. You can adjust intake based off results.


      • Andrei

        Thanks a lot for your answer. I read that article too. For now i’ll just stick to 2700 calories per day +-200 (better + than – ) and see how it goes for a month. Even if that’s too low for me i’m ok losing fat too. Maybe i’ll come back with news.
        I really apreciate your pieces of advice. Keep up the good work.

        • My pleasure! Great. Sounds good.

          Remember the goal isn’t fat loss right now–it’s building muscle. You’ll focus on losing fat later.

          Talk soon!

  • Cesar Augusto Rojas

    Hi Mike, the above calculator does not differentiate from men and women. Can my wife and I use the above as is or is there any adjustments that we need to do?

    • Nope, it works fine for both men and women. No adjustments needed.

  • Chin

    Hi Mike, another question. I have 2-4 hours of martial arts training every week, should that be added to the exercise hours to determine TDEE? I stopped taking that into account because besides a short bout of HIIT, most of a session was technique drilling – static drills, kicking, takedowns, footwork, etc. Usually more taxing on my brain than my body. I don’t always leave training sore or winded.

    My weight hasn’t dropped for 2 weeks. But my waist measurement has shrunk an inch and I ‘think’ I have a slightly thicker upper chest. I ‘think’ my upper abs are more visible. Caliper measurement may have dropped a little, but I’m not always sure I’m pinching the suprailiac site right.

    • Chin

      Just today my weight dropped a further 0.7 lb, same conditions as above – fresh awake, clear bladder, weigh. After my workout I weighed myself again just for kicks and I’m down another 0.7 lb for a total of 1.4 lb weight loss today. I only took small sips of water here and there.

      Another detail I missed- the day before my sudden weight loss, I also upped my fish oil (omega 3) intake 4x to about 2.5g after reading your supplement guidelines article, since I’m at 1400 cal (about BMR) at the moment. I’m still doing 2.5g. I changed nothing else besides the 100 cal reduction and the fish oil. I still eat enough protein, train and sleep my fill. Strange.

      • Weight fluctuations are normal. Usually just due to water:


        • Chin

          So now I’m consistently losing weight again every week. Thing is, the drop is only 0.4-0.6 lb per week. However my current intake per day is already down to BMR. Should I drop it down past BMR to get to 1 lb a week? I’m probably gaining muscle at the same time due to newbie gains. Also, at BMR I’m down to 75% of my TDEE.

          Since 1 pound of fat is worth 3500 cal, 0.4 lb is 1400 cal. So I’m might only about 200 cal below TDEE. It could be that I’m overestimating my TDEE. But even so, 75% of my possibly lower TDEE would be below BMR. Does the 75% thing overwrite the negative aspect of going below BMR?

    • Definitely should be. You’re burning energy during that training.

      If your waist is shrinking you’re losing fat.

      Check this out:


  • Jesus Diaz

    Hey Mike, I bought your book, and I’ve a question about macro ratios… In the book you say eat 1.2gr of protein per pound of body weight, 1gr of carb and 0.2 of fat… that is a ratio of 50% protein 40% carb and 10% fat… is that correct?

    I’ve also read other articles from you saying… low carb diet is better to lose fat faster… and another one saying 40/30/30 is best… I’m a little confused, 50% of protein is hard to do… specially with only 10% fat… So my goal is to lose fat, currently at 21% and I want to reach one digit body fat %. How my macro proportions should look?


    • Thanks Jesus!

      It’s not 50/40/10. It’s more like 42/40/18.

      If you stay around 40/40/20 you’ll be fine.

  • Eric Kowieski

    Your TDEE calculator couldn’t be more wrong. Back in July I weighed 150lbs with around 19% bf. Your calculator said my TDEE would be around 1875 cal. Yet I regularly consumed around 1950 cal per day with working out (athleanx) and now sit at 138 lbs with 13% bf. So I lost weight in a surplus according to you??..lol. I came here as my bf % is stuck at 13%. But your calculator just made me lose all confidence in anything you might have to say.

    • Some people’s bodies burn a lot more energy than others’.

      Even if you used the standard Katch activity multipliers your cals still would have been low.

      Bottom line: you get to eat more than the average person.

  • radiotrib

    Mike is there anywhere in Europe where we can get hold of your supplements? I’m able to find a lot of alternatives, but not Phoenix … Can you advise please.

    • Unfortunately, no… I’ll be setting up distribution for the EU next year.

      In the meantime, I recommend picking up caffeine, green tea extract, synephrine and yohimbine (if training fasted) and making your own fat burner. It’ll be better than any fat burner product you could pick up.

      What do you think?

      • radiotrib

        Thanks Mike … As ever you deliver the goods 🙂 … I’ll get searching and compile the ingredients asap …. I actually started on the weights this week after another month of procrastination and woah am I feeling it 🙂 … Oh well … I’ve started now so there’s no turning back!

        • YW! Sounds good!

          Cool you’re back at the weights! At least you know you’re working hard. 🙂

          I look forward to seeing your results!

          Talk soon!

          • radiotrib

            ‘Fraid thr Yohimbine is out for me (hypertension) but I found a supplement with the other things )plus a few more probably unnecessary ones) at a very sensible price over here in Europe, so I’ll be going with that from now ’till Xmas. I’ll try to write a review of just what I have done, taken and how I’ve eaten and post up the results on my Facebook progress page. I’ll let you know when there’s something useful on there. Here’s the page … https://www.facebook.com/FatOldGit

          • Ah okay. Glad you were able to pick up the rest of them!

            Cool on the review! I look forward to seeing it. 🙂

            Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

      • Dan

        Do you have a rough estimate of when this year your supplements will be available within the EU, or specifically the UK? Quite keen to try them!

        • I’m thinking I will be able to get “serious” about it in Q2 or Q3. Sorry for the wait! I wish I could clone myself and never have to sleep again, hah.

          • Dan

            Haha. Looking forward to it! Will be keeping an eye out

          • Awesome. 🙂

  • ashokraju7

    Hey Mike. I’m starting to feel like I’m plateauing at 152 lbs (down from 158) and about 11.4% body fat. I’ve been using about a 25% deficit. I’m going to see how this week goes, but if I’m not losing fat after this week do you recommend I reverse diet? Probably not a good idea to keep lowering my calorie intake right? I’ve even adjusted my numbers in the calculator about and it seems like my TDEE increases now that I’ve lost weight? Is that correct?

    • Good job on the weight you’ve lost so far!

      You might not need to reverse diet just yet. Check this out:


      Your TDEE shouldn’t be increasing as you get lighter unless you’re losing fat and building muscle.


      • ashokraju7

        I’m an idiot. So basically I’m still losing fat/weight, but my abs seem to have disappeared :(. It’s been driving me crazy, but I was looking at your abs article and now realize that I’ve been slacking big time on my ab workouts. Such an idiot. Anyway, I used to be really disciplined with my ab workouts so I should be able to get back to norm soon hopefully.

        Ultimately my weight is going down, my protein is correct and I still feel strong in the gym, so that’s the only thing I can point to as the cause for loss of ab definition. Unless you can think of anything else?

        • Nah. Don’t sweat it!

          Good you’re still losing! Yep, that sounds like the problem. Let’s pick back up the ab exercises and get that core developed.

          Let’s give that a couple months and see how it goes.

          Talk soon!

  • Amy Taylor

    Hi Mike. I have just bought Thinner Leaner Stronger and it feels like a light-bulb has lit, which, for a woman who is getting married in just over a year and has rather a lot of weight to lose, is obviously brilliant!
    However, according to this calculator, once I start my training I should be eating around 1500 calories a day (or even just over 1300, depending on time spent training). Does this seem right? From watching a lot of your videos, this seems to be a lot lower than you generally suggest!
    I[‘d be very grateful for a little bit of guidance.
    Many thanks.

    • Thanks for picking up my book! LMK what you think of it!

      Yep, good timing! Let’s get you to your goal for your wedding. 🙂

      On the cals, it depends on your weight, BF% and activity level. LMK those, and I’ll check it out.

      Happy to help!

  • Manny G

    Bigger Leaner Stronger says that you should have 1g of protein, 2 g of carbs, and .4 g of fat for bulking per pound of body weight, but this article says to take in a bit more than your TDEE, (which makes more sense to me), so far I have been on the BLS diet for 2 weeks and i’ve lost about 4 pounds, so i think I am going to go with my new calculations here, and check for improvements!

  • valen23

    Hi Mike, Wow great article! good job! I am trying to start my cut. I am 5’4 137 pounds and 24% body fat! I calculated everything my TDEE is 1,879 I multiplied that by .75 to get my calories. It came down to be 1,409cal and im following the 40/40/20 and my macros are

    137g protein (548cal)
    27.4g fat (246 cal)
    153g carbs (612cal)

    Im a little scared that my carbs are too high.. does this look fine?
    Thank you for all your help! – valentina

    • Thanks! And thanks for all the info.

      Nope, the carbs are fine and the rest of the macros look good too!

      Let’s start with that and see how you do! My pleasure. 🙂

  • Vespin

    Hey Mike, in the calculator to determine our TDEE, why isn’t age and gender taken into consideration?

    • Crateria

      I was wondering this exact same thing… seem like pretty key factors to miss.

    • They aren’t necessary for calculation. They don’t change much, really. Body composition is what drives BMR/TDEE.

      • Vespin

        That’s eye opening. Thanks! Oh… One last thing, what do you think about my HIIT routine?

        5 sets of:
        1.High knees
        2.Straight punches
        3.Mountain climbers/Explosive alligator pushups
        4. Jumping Jacks

        Each of the four movements lasts 20 seconds, with no rest in between. 12-15 seconds rest between each set.

  • Brad

    Hi Mike, Love your site. Question, if I want to cut weight should I use my tdee for my current body weight -20%, or use my tdee for my target body weight? My current body weight – 20% is a bigger deficit than my goal weights tdee.

    • Thanks! Happy to hear it. 🙂

      You want to make your calculations based off your current weight.


  • pauldh

    Hey Mike! Questions here. I’m having trouble finding a good calorie number to cut on because I think I’m still eating too much. I know that for now, I can simply eat less and less calories until I see a shift in my weight over the weeks, but I needed an answer for future convenience.

    I’ve recently come home and am really doing nothing all day. I’m pretty sedentary throughout the whole week (sitting on the couch and watching Netflix, reading, writing, etc.). I don’t do anything else. When it comes to workout time, I hit the gym very hard for about 90 minutes. I know that these calorie calculators say “6+ hours exercise per week”, but does that apply to my lifestyle? What should be a more accurate multiplier? 4-6? Thanks Mike!

    Also, I know that you love HIIT in your cutting program, but how frequently are we to do this?

    Love your advice, man. I’ve been working out for over 10 years, and although I’ve gotten a lot bigger, I’m still at the moment where you took a picture of yourself in the gym with a bit of bellyfat. I’m 204 pounds, 5’10, and 15% bodyfat (many measurements taken with calipers, tape tests, etc), so I think I’ve done well. However, I’ve never cut in my life and haven’t had the interest until recently. I think that I’m actually close to my maximum genetic potential; it’s just that I still look like the Michelin Man in the mirror!

    • pauldh

      Also – third question (sorry for so many)

      I don’t think I picked this up in either of your books. If I was supposed to, I missed it. I know that you’re supposed to move up weight if you do 6 reps in a set, but I was wondering what you’re supposed to do if you’ve found a weight that you fail at on the 4th or 5th rep. Are you supposed to just move down to the next weight and do the 4th or 5th rep? or do you just stop there and wait for the next set?

      • If you can’t get more than 4 to 5 reps with a weight that’s where you want to be, actually. You keep working at it until you get 6 reps, move up, etc.

        Did I understand your question properly?

    • I hear you! To calculate your cals for cutting, check this out:


      Hmm. Let’s use the 4-6 hour multiplier and see how it goes.

      For your question regarding HIIT, check this out:


      My pleasure and awesome to hear the results you’ve gotten on my program. 🙂 Sounds like it’s time to get lean my friend!

      If you fail on the 5th rep, that’s fine. Just end the set there and rest for your next set. If you fail on the 4th rep, that’s fine too. End the set there and go down in weight for the next set.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • pauldh

        Thanks Mike! Infinite kudos to you for spreading the truth. I used to be one of those kids that followed people like Steve Cook, Kris Gethin, and Scooby religiously. I was one of their top fanboys that would fiercely defend them if someone called them out for steroids because I was deluded with the notion that their level is achieveable naturally. I’ve been on that horse for a ridiculous amount of years.. I just recently finished Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s Blueprint to Mass and have seen good results from it, but after reading your Bigger, Leaner, Stronger book I’ve been wondering if that was a wise choice for me (a natty) to do or not.

        I was that guy who was in the gym lifting for 2.5-3 hours 5/7 days a week, and I can definitely feel that my CNS is almost completely dead from it. I’ve recently got very frustrated because I’ve been lifting for 10+ years VERY rigourously, but I’m still not “that big.” Then, I realized the horrible truth that the standard I had been setting is not within a natural bodybuilder’s reach. I only found out last week in one of your articles that I’m only a few babysteps away from reaching my genetic peak for lean body mass.

        I was literally a click away from ordering dianabol and at one point in my life a few millimeters away from putting trenbolone into my body. I then went on Reddit one last time to seek advice from other roid users, and one wise person who is on a lot of gear advised me not to. Thank goodness. Since then, I’ve been following your book, listening to Sean Nalewanyj, and following up on a little bit of advice from that Athlean-X guy on YouTube. Thankfully, I now know that you three are the people leading true and natural bodybuilding from the front – not 99% of the popular Bodybuilding.com members I’ve followed since I was 16.

        Stay true, Mike. Good to hear from you!

        • I hear you brother. I’ve walked many miles in those shoes.

          Really glad to hear you steered yourself away from steroids.

          Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Phillip

    Hey Mike! been following the BLS plan for some time and its been going pretty well(expect for thanksgiving 🙂 ) Just want to pick your brain on my macro ratios. Currently I am consuming 200g protein, 170g carbs, and 36g fat per day. Does this seem sufficient? I really am trying to conserve muscle, but do you think these numbers add up correctly if I am doing a cut for a 150 llb man. I lift 5X/week and do HIIT cardio 4X week. What are the consequences of supplementing some of the calories from carbs and fat for protein?

  • ariel

    Hi mike! Another great article! Im using the 40/40/20 method with 1700 calories. Does this sound right? 170g of protein, 170 grams of carbs and 38 grams of fat?

    • Cool on the macro breakdown! The cals depend on your weight, BF% and activity level.

      You can use the calculator above to make sure you have the numbers right. 🙂

      Happy to help!

  • RobM

    Hey Mike! I’m looking forward to picking up BLS on Friday. Until then I have a question. I’m 45 years old, 6’1 and weigh 244. If my measurements are right with calipers then I am at 25% on my body fat, mostly in my gut. I decided to eat better and cut to only meats and whole vegetables at about 1400 calories and plateaued at my current levels. So, in three months I lost about 16 pounds, I thought I was doing well until it stopped.

    A friend told me I was eating too little so I have increased my intake to 1900 calories in a 35/40/25 split and still have not changed after three weeks. Then I stumbled on your calculator at the top of this page and it says 2925 is my TDEE and 2340 should be what I am eating.

    I am stuffed at 1900 calories, should I really go to 2340 on a 40/40/20 split? I am guessing the book will cover it? I am not sure how to eat more if I have a hard time with these calories.


    • Nice! LMK how you like it!

      Good job on the weight you lost! Yep, those cals were way too low. Sounds like you need to RD:


      As you RD, you’ll be able to eat more and more and shouldn’t have a problem eating the amount that you need to eat.

      Once you’re done with the RD, you can go back to cutting cals (20-25% deficit from TDEE) and see how it goes. The goal is to lose 1-2 pounds a week.

      What do you think?

      • RobM

        Sounds like a plan. I will let you know how it goes.

        • Great! Sounds good.

          • RobM

            The book was fantastic! I like all of the supporting information you provide with it. I liked it so much I ordered the meal plan and just got it today. So much food. I can’t wait to get started. I will let you know how it goes.

          • Thanks!

            Awesome you ordered a meal plan. Hope you enjoy it. 🙂

            Definitely LMK how it goes!

  • Ryan

    Hi Mike!

    I really enjoy reading your articles! You’ve helped a lot! Quick question, I’ve heard that you have to combine a carb with a protein to slow carb absorption and knock out potential fat gain. Is this true?

  • Indi Hart

    Hello Michael!

    I have a question, i worked out my daily calories and macros but my math skills aren’t great so i’m finding it difficult to work out how many grams for each.
    My daily calories=2150
    30% carbs
    35% protein
    35% fat

    Thanks in advance!

  • John

    Mike, you say a 40/40/20 split of carb/protein/fat to lose weight. This is similar to the zone diet’s 40/30/30…and somewhat different from what you say elsewhere. Do you have two formulas, one for fat loss another for gain?

    • Yep, the macros break down differently depending on if you’re cutting or bulking.

      40/40/20 is a simple and effective breakdown for cutting. I also use this one:


      In most cases, the results between the two are very similar.

      Hope this clears it up for you! LMK!

  • Brittany

    Hi Mike, hoping you can help a bit. I want to start focusing on my macros more for weight loss (I only have about 14lbs. to lose) but I am a runner. I have a half marathon in 3 weeks another 5 weeks after that and my first full marathon May 2016. I don’t weightlift, but I do incorporate strengthening moves (single leg dead lifts, squats, lunges, etc.). What ratio would you recommend? 40/40/20 still? And if I do a protein supplement, should it be a fast or slow metabolizing one? Thanks for the help! I’ve had so much clarification from your articles/website!

    • Cool on all the running events you have planned!

      Yep, that macro breakdown is still good! Just make sure you include all hours of running and training weekly in the calculator so you get an accurate number for your TDEE.

      For the protein powder, it depends! Pre-workout and/or post-workout, I recommend a fast one like whey protein isolate. For before bed, I recommend a slower one like casein or egg protein.

      You can see the protein powders I recommend here:


      My pleasure! Glad the site has cleared some things up for you. 🙂

  • ariel

    Hi! Do yoy personally eat the same things everyday with a little variation here and there?

  • Laura

    Hey Mike, I’m a breastfeeding mother and I’m trying to calculate my diet to lean down, build muscle, and keep a milk supply. You read everywhere that you should add about 200-500 cal for breastfeeding and most of that as protein but I’m curious what you think would be best? Should I keep a 40/40/20 and up my calories or change my ratios?

    • I recommend you account for 500 to 700 cals burned per day from breastfeeding, and don’t be too aggressive with your calorie deficit (20% is fine). You can keep macro breakdown the same.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Mike

    Hey Michael,

    I’ve been working out on an off for 10 years and am a naturally skinny guy. I’ve put on a bit of muscle over the years, to a point when you wouldn’t say i’m skinny, but also a bit of fat from eating too many calories in my attempts to bulk up. I want to get back into it properly but wonder is it better to lose the fat first (only a bit mainly around my waist and pecs but enough to hide abs and good definition etc) or to bulk up first and then lose the fat. I don’t want to lose too much size as like i said i’m already naturally small but am not sure what is the best way to go about it. Thanks, Mike.

  • Robin

    Hey Mike!

    I’m almost done with my meal plan, though I have a problem. How can I juggle between calories and macros on a safe plane? For example, My target is 2.3k calories and I’m almost at my calorie limit and I haven’t yet maxed my macros which are 143 protein, 286 carbs and 57 fat. How do I go about removing and putting in foods without the calorie limit exceeding too much?

    • The macros are broken down based off your total calorie intake so you should be able to hit all your macros and have it match up with your cals…

      If you ever are in a position where you’re reaching your intake for the day and you won’t be able to hit your macros, what’s most important is that you stay within your cals and reach your protein intake goal.

      Check this out:


      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Adam O’Brien

    Hey Mike,

    Not to discredit your products at all, I’m just not one for supplementing. Your blog is one of the few I trust and read on a regular basis and if I did feel like I had to supplement at a more advanced level I’d most certainly consider your products first. The only thing I do occasionally is whey protein because it can be difficult to get all the protein I need throughout the day. May try out your Whey!

    I’m very interested in Fasted Training but I want to retain as much muscle as possible (Or if I’m lucky, build some muscle) and I was wondering if there are any alternative ways to muscle loss prevention while training in a fasted state than supplementing? Is there a certain time window when your body starts to tap into your lean mass for fuel?

    Thank you for your help!

    • I totally understand Adam. Thanks for the comment and definitely let me know if you try the whey!

      Not particularly, no, but if you eat protein immediately after exercise that will be your best bet…

  • Dan

    Hey Mike,

    In regard to a muscle-building diet, would 1.1 x TDEE be a reasonable starting point? or would it be better to start around 1.5 x TDEE? Thanks.

    • Nah I recommend 1.1 x TDEE.

      And remember, the goal is to gain 1/2-1 pound a week so adjust intake accordingly.

      Happy to help!

      • Dan

        Apologies for the late response. Thanks v much for getting bk to me so quickly and for answering my question. Much appreciated.

  • ariel

    hi mike.. i read comments on ur articles for answers but im getting confused. if im cutting, how many g of protein should i be eating. im 14 percent now.. i read on ur comments that eating 1g per pound is enough until u wanna reach lower than 10 percent to get really lean when u should change it to 1.2g. but then also in a different comment you said that you should eat 1.2g of protein per pound of body weight for cutting. can you confirm please! thankyou!

    • Let’s stick with 1.2g per pound of body weight.

      LMK how it goes! Welcome. 🙂

  • Dan

    Hi Mike, on non-workout days should the meal plan we make still have the same amount of calories as on workout days?

    So, in terms of planning, if i make one plan with meals that work with the pre and post workout nutrition advise above I should make a second one for non-workout days with carbs and protein spread out a bit more?


    • Yep, I recommend keeping the intake the same daily–regardless if you’re training or not.

      You’re welcome to keep the meals and the timings the same as on your workout days, but if you prefer you can change them too. All that matters is that you hit your totals for cals and macros by the end of the day.

      If you do that much it’s totally fine, but you don’t have to. 1g per KG of weight is enough.

      Hope this helps! My pleasure.

      • Dan

        Yeah that’s really helpful thanks, Determined to make a really good diet plan!

      • Dan

        There was actually one more thing I wanted to confirm that I only just remembered! Ive seen advice elsewhere about having your post-workout meal – usually always a shake -and then having a solid meal about an hour later. Do you advise this or does the post-workout meal simply count as another meal,, and so you would just wait the normal 3-4 hours before eating again (if that’s how you are dividing up your food for the day).

        Thanks v much for your help.

        • You can count the post-workout as a meal. No need to eat again an hour later. You just want to make sure you get the post-workout in within 1-2 hours of exercising.

  • amos

    Hi Mike! I’m 115lbs bulking at 2700kcal 40F/40C/20P ratio.Will eating 80% of my calories at the late evenings and at night before bed affect the muscle to fat ratio gained from the calorie surplus as compared to earlier in the day?

  • Dominique Chau

    Hi MIke! I have used this site http://rippedbody.jp/how-to-calculate-leangains-macros/ to calculate my macros to lose body fat. I am 6’1 and 197lbs and the calculator told me I needed 197g protein, 69g fat, and 425g carbs which equates to 3110 calories and my TDEE on that site was at 3141. On your site, the calculator showed me that my TDEE was around 2730 and by multipling that by .8, it said that I can only eat 2192 calories per day. Is there a particular reason why there is such a big difference in recommended calories intake between your calculator and rippedbody.jp’s calculator. Thanks and waiting for your reply.

    • That doesn’t sound right… Let’s stick to the numbers you got using my calculator and see how it goes. The goal is to lose 1-2 pounds a week so we can adjust intake based off results.

      Most other calculators severely overestimate intake.

      NP. Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Raymond Tawil

    Hi Mike, in your first version of your book you said that hen cutting we should do 1.2 g of protein per body weight, 1 gram of carbs, and .2 grams of fat…..now in the second version i did the calculations with the tdee, its telling eat 200 grams of carbs and protein and 45 grams of fat. I’m 180 pounds though, does this seem a lot for someone who is trying to cut. i workout 5-7 hours per week …. or should i stick to first version of the book and cut with way less calories

    • Hey Raymond! Nope, those numbers seem about right.

      Let’s stick to the numbers from BLS 2.0 and see how it goes. The goal is to lose 1-2 pounds a week.

  • Aidan Vosooghi

    Hi Mike! I’m running BLS (bulking) and my results so far have been astounding, so thanks for that!

    Quick question — based on your recommendation here to eat 30% of my daily carbs post work-out, that comes out to 116g of carbs, which seems like a lot.

    For reference, I weigh 140lbs at ~11% BF. My macros come out to 140g protein, 353g carbs, 42g fat.

    Also, when would be a good time to recalculate calorie needs on a bulk?

    • Cool you’re rolling on BLS

      Hmm. That is a lot of carbs. Instead, just have 1g carb per pound of body weight post-workout.

      Keep intake the same on the bulk as long as you’re getting results. Once you stop gaining 1/2-1 pound a week. Increase cals accordingly.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Aidan Vosooghi

        Hi Mike! Thanks for the reply!

        Sorry — did you mean 1g per kg of bodyweight? Because one gram per pound would put me at 140g post-workout haha

  • Hey Mike, I have a female friend who uses MyFitnessPal every day to lose weight. Should her macronutrient ratios be different if she never weightlifts and only occasionally does steady-state cardio? And should she still aim for losing 2–3 pounds a week and no more?

    • Yeah I would say something like:

      0.5 to 0.8 grams protein per pound
      0.5 to 0.75 grams carb per pound
      Rest of calories from fat

      2 to 3 pounds per week is quite high. If she’s very overweight, that’s fine, but if she’s not, we’d want to see something closer to 1 lb/week.

  • Franken Steine

    I’m trying to come up with a meal plan for tomorrow. I’ve calculated all the carbs, protein, and fats present on the nutrition labels which totalled at 1086 calories. But then I added up all the calories present on the nutrition labels and only totalled 920 calories. I don’t understand how that could be, or which one I should calculate into my intake.

    • The 4/4/9 multipliers aren’t going to be 100% accurate. Go with labels.

  • Dominique Chau

    Hey Michael, I started my caloric deficit this Tuesday and I weighted out as 198.2. As the week progressed, my weight decreased greatly during each measurement and my weight today was at 193.6. Is it natural to have this much weight loss during the first week of your diet? My macros are 217 protein, 280 carbs and 55 fat which comes out to 2485 calories per day. Thank you and waiting for your reply

    • Hey Dominique! Cool you started on your cut!

      It’s normal to lose more the first couple weeks due to water and glycogen. After that, it should level out. The goal is to lose 1-2 pounds a week.

      The calculator will give you a good estimate, but you’ll always have to see what works for you and adjust intake based off results. For now, it seems 2485 is good for you for cutting. No need to lower your intake until you stop losing 1-2 pounds a week.

      My pleasure! Talk soon.

  • Frey DeJesus

    I know you have answered this question regarding bulking. But for fatloss/cutting, should I maintain the same number of calories ”TDEE” from training days onto non training days?

    • I recommend you keep your intake consistent on training and non-training days. So, if you’re cutting, you’d stick to your cutting cals.

  • Jackson

    Hey Mike,

    Will you still be able to lose 1-2 lbs per week while implementing 1 refeed per week (running a 20% calorie deficit the other 6 days)

    • Yep, you should! If you’re not, you just need to adjust your intake accordingly.

  • P Mort

    I’m struggling trying to adjust my current meal plan to accommodate more protein. I’m already factoring in Whey Plus and TWO meals with chicken breast in it, and I’m still about 80 grams short. I’m north of my carbs target by about 15 grams. And treating myself to a dark chocolate bar which puts me in line with my total calories for a cut skyrockets my fat from 10 grams under to nearly 13 over. Meal planning is a massive PITA.

    • I hear you! It can be tough to fit in all the protein! To help, I recommend high-protein snacks like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, jerky, etc.

      Hahaha you may want to use a different protein powder. Whey can make some people gassy.


      • P Mort

        I’ve made some adjustments since and finally got things in line. I’m already eating some cottage cheese, which is OK. I can’t stand Greek yogurt (mmmmmm, paste-flavored pudding), but doing egg whites with one whole egg has gotten me there without all the extra fat, and I made a few other moves elsewhere. I’m still finishing off my other whey powder before getting to the Whey Plus, so it’s definitely not that. It just seems to be whenever I step my protein up in general, well…[repeated fart noises].

        • That’s good!

          Hmm. I have also seen people that get gassy just from having a high-protein diet. Let’s keep up the diet for a month or two and see how you do. Your body should adjust to it.

          Hopefully, the “noises” go away. 🙂

          • P Mort

            I’ve since adjusted almost all but completely and am not so farty. Maybe it was something else. Definitely not the Whey Plus haha.

          • That’s great! Glad the Whey+ wasn’t the issue too.

  • Chris

    Hey Michael,

    I’m 17 years old and looking to both lose a bit of body fat percentage, and build muscle, but NOT lose weight. I’ve read your other articles about both losing fat and building muscle, but I’m still unsure as to what my diet should be. Should I have a calorie surplus or deficit alongside with heavy lifting five days a week? Definitely want to build muscle and lose fat, but I’m 180 pounds right now and not looked to lower that. Thanks!

    • Hey Chris! Cool on what you want to do! You want to start with a deficit.


  • Vespin

    Hey Mike, at the moment i can only do 3 sessions of 12 minute bodyweight HIIT per week. But should I still put my Activity Level as <1 hour exercise per week? I mean, HIIT is pretty intense. And to only eat 1379 calories a day(.8 x TDEE) to cut feels like a big calorie deficit. I'm 66kg with 16% BF btw.

    Oh and I just bought your book. Good stuff mate. Now my friends are keen on buying it as well. Keep doing what you do!

    • Yep, you should stick with the 1.1 activity multiplier. The goal is to lose 1-2 pounds a week so adjust intake based off results.

      Thanks for picking up my book! Glad your friends want to pick it up now too. Thanks for spreading the word. 🙂

      Will do! Talk soon.

  • Garrett

    You state “100% naturally sweetened” in the description of most of your products. Naturally has no FDA definition, so what are you trying to say here? Your products are sweetened? If so, then why not just say that your products are sweetened? Using undefined words with positive connotations in hopes of misleading your readers makes you seem shady. Otherwise I enjoyed your article.


    • Lol comments like these baffle me.

      If you were to actually look at any of the products, you would see that they are sweetened with a combination of stevia and erythritol, as opposed to artificial chemicals like sucralose and aspartame.

  • Kal-El

    Hey Mike,
    I need your help in fixing my diet. I’m bulking now. Taking 2550 calories, 360g carbs, 165g protein and 51 g fat.
    This is what my diet looks like now:


    Post workout
    Whey -30g
    Raisins- 50g
    Honey – 2 tbls
    Creatine – 5g

    Mid morning snack
    Cashews – 30g

    White rice – 300g
    Chicken breast – 100g

    Milk – 200ml
    Cheese – 2cubes
    Banana – 1

    Rice – 300g
    Chicken breast – 100g

    Casein – 35 g

    Total calories – 2580
    Carbs – 365
    Protein – 168
    Fat – 51

    How does it look? What changes would you make?
    Should I add whey or other protein before workout?
    Am I taking too much sugar?
    Should I vary my protein sources?

  • Dominique Chau

    hey Mike, i tend to cook my eggs in the morning with some onions and bell peppers (not the whole vegetable). Should i include the onions and bell peppers in calories count since they are so low in calories (44 calories for a whole onion and 24 calories for a medium green bell pepper)? Thank you and waiting for your reply

    • Yep, all cals need to be counted! I know it isn’t much, but they add up.

  • Ransom

    Hey Mike,

    Just discovered you and this site, oddly enough via your podcast.

    Question about how literally i should take the TDEE and subsequent cut and bulk calorie calculations. Generally i trust the science and math easily over “anecdotal” observation. However, I feel like that calculator underestimates my TDEE.

    I weight 180lbs now and have roughly 18% body fat. Per the calculator my TDEE should be 2500 calories a day. That puts me at 2850 for my bulk. When i started to bulk several months ago i stumbled across a similar number in several other locations. After doing that for 2 months with 3-4 heavy lifting days a week, i had gained exactly 0 lbs.

    I went up to 3200 a day and quickly jumped up in weight.

    I worry because now i’m about to cut and i worry the cutting calorie number that was spit out: 2000 a day, is way to low given what i said above.

    Should i just go trial and error with gradually decreasing weights? Any advice?

    • Welcome!

      The calculator is just a general workable formula. Things will always have to be adjusted based off results. The goal when bulking is to gain 1/2-1 pound a week.

      Check this out:


      Same goes for cutting. The goal is to lose 1-2 pounds a week. Adjust intake based off results.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Ransom

        Makes sense, though i always hate the “guess and check” game.

        Follow-up: how long after the beginning of a cut should it settle into that 1-2 lbs a week (if you’re doing it right). Or more/less if you’re doing it wrong. I recall reading that in the beginning of a cut you may lose weight faster for water weight and other temporary reasons before the losses “stabilize”.

        • Yeah, I hear you. It shouldn’t take much for you to find the sweet spot though.

          Good question. The first week or two it’s normal to lose faster due to water and glycogen. After that, if you’re not losing at least a pound or if you’re losing over 2 pounds, you need to adjust your intake.

  • Milli Gi

    Hey Mike,
    I discovered your website last week, I really liked it and I bought the book right away! So first of all – good job!!! Everything is written clearly and made me realise how many mistakes I was doing with dieting and working out.
    I gained lots of weight recently, due to stress/overeating/not moving at all. I am getting back on track now, with lots of working out that feels just amazing 🙂
    There is just one thing I don’t understand:
    I weigh 211 pounds ( 5.6 feet tall). Comparing myself to pictures, I would say I am at around 35% body fat.
    If I calculate my macros using the formula from your book, I should eat 168 grams of protein, 126 grams of carbs and 63 grams of fat per day.
    However, if I use the macro calculation tool from this article, it comes out I should eat 197 grams of carbs, 197 grams of protein and 44g rams of fat per day.
    As you can see, the numbers are different, especially when it comes to carbs.
    So I’m a bit confused… which one do you think is better?

    All the best and keep the great work!


    • Hey hey! Welcome, and I’m glad you enjoyed the book. 🙂


      Sorry to hear about the weight gain. Glad you’re getting back on track now.

      Both formulas are workable, but I’d go with the numbers from the calculator. It’s more accurate since it takes into account more info.

      No matter what, things will have to be adjusted based off results. The goal is to lose 1-2 pounds a week. So, adjust the intake accordingly.

      Hope this helps!

      Thanks. Will do!

  • Andy

    Hey Mike,

    Thank you for writing an article that doesn’t say, “If you want to gain serious muscle you need to eat a ton of food and you need to do it every 2-3 hours,” and then not mention the fat gain that will accompany it. I feel like your approach of a 10% surplus is a much more healthy calorie consumption than what is typically recommend. Most of the literature out there would have a guy like me eating almost 30% more calories than my TDEE. I can do that for about 2 months and then I can’t maintain it any longer and find myself eating less than 1200 calories a day because I have no appetite. A 10% surplus seems doable and sustainable.

    • My pleasure. 🙂

      Yep, it allows you to bulk for longer period of time so you build more muscle and without getting fat!

  • Jessica Rogers

    Hey Mike!

    Amazing articles, extremely helpful. Wondering if I could pick your brain. I’m currently in a caloric deficit/cut and have been for the past 8 weeks in effort to drop some body fat for the summer shred season. I lift heavy 6 days/week and incorporate 3-4 cardio HIIT sessions weekly. Current stats are 136pds, 15-18% BF, and I’ve dropped 2-2.5pds of BF throughout this time, which is where I’m struggling to understand. Per a lifting coaches advice, I drastically cut carbs down to 75-85g per day (in maintenance mode I was in the 210g range) and caloric deficit of -500cals/day. Fats have remained relatively neutral at 30-35g and protein high at 140g. Through progress pictures I can see I’ve been able to successfully maintain as well as build some muscle throughout this time, but I’m not stoked about the numbers on the scale (and I know this is a really poor indicator of progress, but I feel I could be shredding ‘better’).

    Any thoughts on implementing potential changes here to increase results?

    Appreciate the guidance in advance!!


  • Russ

    I needed this. I’ve followed your book awhile back and it was extremely helpful, but had to stop going to the gym because life got in the way. Now I’m back at it trying to get into very lean shape. I’ve seen some of the “transformations” posted on the sight and I’m surprised by what they achieved in as little as 3-6 months. Im 186lbs and about 25-30% BF. I’ve been at it for about a month now 5 days a week, hitting my calorie numbers etc. and haven’t seen the results that i wanted. I’ve slimmed down a bit but nothing really noticeable. I think its because I haven’t been eating enough. You mentioned in the comments earlier that using the calculator on here to figure out the numbers would be more accurate. After reworking the numbers, its saying i should be eating about 300 calories more than what i was doing. I’m sure it’ll need some adjusting but this should help, right? Also, how long should someone be in a deficit?

    Any and all advice is appreciated

    • Glad you’re back at it again!

      Yep, it’s pretty crazy what you can do in just 3-6 months!

      Good job on the results you’ve gotten so far. To help get the weight moving faster and keep it moving, check this out:


      Try sticking to the numbers you got from the calculator and see how you do. Remember, the goal is lose 1-2 lbs a week while cutting so adjust intake based off results.

      You should be in a deficit until you reach your BF% goal or until you reach BMR and aren’t getting results. At that point, you need to RD:


      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Ghazaleh Fatemifar

    Hi Mike,

    I have used the calculator in the article to estimate my TDEE. I weigh 56 kg and have body fat % ~21/22% and exercise 1-3 hours a week. My TDEE works out to 1,576. If i want to create a calorie deficit then i would multiply this by 0.75 as you say in your article, which would mean i would need to consume 1,182 calories a day. I was wondering whether this amount of calories is too small to consume? I don’t want to send my body into starvation mode and halt fat loss. Any advice you have would be great. Also does the macro calculation of how much protein/carbs/fat you have in a day effect fat loss if you stick within your daily calorie intake. I have been setting myself a target of 50% protein, 40% carbs and 10% fat, although on average i find that the fat % tends to go higher and carb lower. I recently stopped the Atkins diet after reading your book and am finding it hard to increase my intake of carbs and reduce fat. I’m looking at loosing another 4 kg of stubborn fat. Any Advice you have would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance


    • Hey hey! Thanks for all the info. Yep, that’s right for calculating the deficit from your TDEE. However, with how low your activity level is, that’s puts you below BMR which I don’t recommend. So, let’s just eat at BMR, 1313 cals.

      Remember, the goal is to lose 1-2 lbs a week so adjust intake based off results.

      Yep, the macro breakdown does matter when it comes to composition. No need for that much protein and you need more fat. Let’s break it down like this 40P/40C/20F.

      To help with the stubborn fat, keep these in mind:



      My pleasure. Hope this helps! Talk soon.

  • Andrew

    Hi Mike,
    I am trying to figure out what my macros are on my training days and on my rest days. Can you help me? My TDEE is 2746 and my weight is 225. When I use the calculator provided in this article it seems to be different when I change the presets. Can you guide me through this and also I am having somewhat of a time trying to figure out what my BF is based on the pictures and was wondering if you could help me if I sent you a photo to you so you can gauge my BF? Also just another detail I am Type 1 diabetic which I carry most of my fat in my mid section and was wondering if that can be addressed in my macros to help lose the fat.

  • Mihnea Munteanu

    Hi Mike,

    I recently did a DEXA scan and RMR + VO2 tests. Got some interesting results and I wanted to see if / how I could include this information to you if I order a custom diet plan from you. This is obviously more precise than any calculator. I was surprised to find out that my RMR is very fast and thus my body is eating away at muscle because i’m not giving it enough calories/taking enough protein. Is this something you could incorporate in the diet plan?

  • MusclePlease

    Hey Mike great Article!

    I am a short-order cook and work average of six hours a day constantly standing,cooking, washing dishes, and sweating. To compensate I have added about 50 carbs to my current macros. Do you recommend I increase or am I good?

    • Hi,
      That depends on your goal. Do you want to Cut? Maintain? Or Bulk? If you’re cutting or maintaining, That may not be necessary. Track your stats and adjust as needed.

  • Arafat Sultan

    Great article man. How you can make such interesting writing on such boring topics? You are wasting your time here, be a writer and exceed Dan Brown or Willbur Smith :). Bravo man! If you ever write novels, please let us know.

    Everyday I am taking 200g peanuts. You know peanuts is very rich in protein (24g in 100g!!). But also very much high energy counts (585Kcal in 100g!). I read on some articles over internet that though peanut is very high on calorie, this is still great for fat loss for some very boring scientific facts like other foods, all energy in peanuts are not consumed by body and etc etc. What is your thoughts on peanuts?

    Thanks man for your great effort.

    • Thanks! LOL Will do.

      Peanuts are pretty high in fat too. If you can make that work in your macros, great! But, it’s going to make meal planning really hard if you’re already filling up on all your calories and fat by eating peanuts.

  • Mariana

    Hey, Mike! I have just started a cut and i am consuming 1600kcal as a start point. I am 164cm tall and 58kg. Might have around 22 to 24% bf. Training around 6 hours per week of weightlifting And 1h cardio. However i wouldnt like to drop calories too low, like below 1400kcal… What do u recommend when i reach a plateau? Reverse dieting? IncreAse cardio? Change macros ratios? I have experienced some eating disorders and i know dropping calories below that would not be sustaineable for more than a week or so hahahaha btw, love your articles!!! Ohh and what do you think about wheat fiber? Like those cereals all bran and stuff? I am currently following iifym but not eating much crap food, pretty clean 80%of the time. And not caring about gluten or dairy. Even though i lowered my dairy consumption for personal preferences haha 😀

    • That’s great, Mariana! When you plateau, first take a look here:


      You can lower calories (but not below BMR) or increase activity (I recommend HIIT over normal cardio)

      Now, if you’ve already done all you can, then reverse diet back up to your newly calculated TDEE, stay there for a week or two, and cut again.

      Wheat fiber’s great!

      • Mariana

        Thaaaaaaanks Mike! You are always replying everyone, omg. You are wonderful haha i see so many girls eating soo little, like 1000 to 1200 calories everyday….as little as they can… It’s kinda sad haha lets see if I can meet my goals 🙂 I will let you know my progress! Thanks again!!

  • Rodrigo

    Hi Mike, whatsup?
    I see in your articles that you usually recommends for a cutting phase to lose 1-2lb/week. But in this specifically, you said that for people under 10%BF the ideaaly is about 0,5lb/week. Sure, as your BF goes down, you should be more conservative.
    My questions are:

    1 – How do you plan this “shift” in the ratio of weight change? You would lose 1-2lb/week until 10% and so 0,5lb/week?

    2 – You said that after make an adjustment, you should wait for 7-10 days and see how your body reacts. But what if the cases of water retention? How would be the correct way to adjust the diet?

    Thanks a lot!

    • Rodrigo,
      1. around the 10% mark, that’s when it usually happens. I don’t quite understand what you mean by planning for the shift, however. You’re still maintaining a calorie deficit, and HIIT cardio becomes even more important.
      2. To fix water retention:

      • Rodrigo

        “Planning for the shift” I mean when you should change the ratio 1-2lb/week to 0,5lb/week. Around the 10%BF? And then, you should lose 0,5lb/week until you wish (like 5-6% BF?)

        • Gotcha. I don’t know about planning for it, but definitely anticipate it once you’re about to hit single digit BF%. You’ll notice it getting more difficult to consistently lose 1lb/week and that you have to be tighter and more disciplined with your diet plan.

  • Miz Eloise

    im 31 yo female. skinny fat i weigh 121 lbs but body fat of 41 percent. the tdee calculator said it is 1456. and if i wanna lose fat it will be down to 1156.

    question is isnt that too low? i am also going to lift heavy. i dont wanna be just skin and bones

    • Nope, given your body composition and activity level, that is a good estimate of where to start. Then, adjust your daily cals based on results.

  • Miz Eloise

    does the tdee deficit already take into account the exercise lifting ?

  • Miz Eloise

    oh wow! thanks for responding. i have done the chest and back workouts and i love them. i have also measured and could see that body fat has gone down considerably. all along i have been eating too much! i was eating clean but damn it was too much.

    whats your advice cause i tend to get hungry when i stay within my tdee.

    • Great to hear it, Eloise! Yup, eating clean doesn’t guarantee you’ll lose weight. It’ll take some time for your body to adjust, and in the meantime, you can pick foods that are higher in fiber and volume so that you’ll feel fuller.

  • Gabriella Leu

    Hi Mike,

    I was wondering what you thought about IF for women? I have heard negative results saying it can effect hormones etc, and I wanted to know what you think about it?


  • Miz Eloise

    hello. first of all ty for your no nonsense approach to fitness!!! im skinny fat but since doing your heavy lifting and following the nutrition guide i have improved on body fat percentage. i am currently at 33 percent body fat 121 lbs female 5 feet 4 inches height. my questions are

    1) at what point should i start eating normal tdee . my goal is to lose fat gain muscle. i m afraid further calorie deficit will make me look emaciated.

    2) what is the rate of muscle growth for women? for someone who is cutting and lifting heavy

    • YW! Happy to hear you’re making progress on your recomp.

      1. Once you reach your cutting goal, or 20% body fat, you can start reverse dieting to your new TDEE:


      2. Varies, but when cutting, you won’t be making significant muscle gains. There will be newbie gains, yes, if you’re new to this style of training. But, it won’t be as fast and effective as when on a bulking diet.

  • Rodrigo

    Hello Mike !

    How do you know exactly what the rate of fat loss or weight gain are you having? You subtract the average current weekly weights with the average of the previous weekly weights or you wait for at least 2 or more weeks and calculates average between them , to have a more real value of this rate , so you can adjust the diet according to the your objective?

    • Hey hey. More data obviously gives you a more accurate rate. But, no need to wait that long. You should be losing about 1lb/week on a good deficit. If you’re not, then increase activity or drop the cals.

      • Rodrigo

        Cool! Thanks for the answer!
        But how do you know what’s the rate of loss or gain? You should consider only the last 2 weeks of data or the average of the last 3-4 weeks?

        • Last two weeks is enough data. Even one week would be enough, assuming you followed your exercise and marco targets exactly.

  • Ransom

    Hey, quick question about cutting:

    I’ve been cutting for coming on 12 weeks now. It’s worked as planned and i’ve lost almost perfectly a lb a week. However, I’m still not quite where I want to be body composition wise, I was playing it by eye because I didn’t have a good way to measure body fat on hand at any point.

    I have read and heard many places that you shouldn’t cut at this pace for more than about 12 weeks. However, I have not lost any strength in the gym. In fact, many of my lifts have gotten better during this cut (not by a ton, but still). Given that, should I go a little longer, maybe another month, to try and hit my goal. Or are there other thing I might be missing that are bad for on a cut lasting beyond three months?


    • Nice work sticking with it for 12 weeks! The cut will take as long as it needs to take, and it looks like you still have momentum going. Keep it up!

      • Ransom

        Thanks! Yeah, I just remember that keeping a caloric deficit long than the 12 weeks or whatever can have other negative effects, but i’ll keep going!

        I have another question about cutting while I’m at it: sometimes i mess up my macros on a day (a beer too many, etc) and I wind up at the end of the day, at my calorie limit, but without having gotten enough protein. In that instance, what do i pick? Go over calories to hit my protein goal (with an extra shake let’s say), or stay at/under and get too little protein.

        I know your answer will most likely be “it’s just one day, don’t worry about it either way.” but if you had to pick…

        • Welcome! As long as you have fat you want to lose, you’re getting results and are above BMR, you can keep cutting.

          What’s most important in terms of weight loss is a caloric deficit. If you’re not in a deficit, you’re not losing weight. That being said, if you frequently aren’t getting enough protein that will negatively affect your ability to retain muscle.

          So, the simple answer is just stick to your cals and macros. 🙂 However, if every once in a while you end up being in a position where you have to choose, stay within your cals.

          Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Rodrigo Malanquini

    Hello Mike!! When I calculate my TDEE (an estimation, I know), I have to consider aerobic in the equation, right? Considering doing 4-5 hours of wheight training, how should I include the HIIT training in the equation? By Simple adding the number of hours of Hiit in the hours of weight training to calculatebthe TDEE? Or you should consider Hiit separately, adding the trend of kcal of Hiit after calculate your TDEE? Ex:
    If I train 4 days (1hour a day) and do Hiit for 30 min for 2-4 days in the week, I should consider 4 hours of training plus 1-2hours of Hiit, so 5-6 hours of training in the week?

  • Rodrigo Malanquini

    Another question:

    When you calculate your BMR initially, with the equation in this article, and after the TDEE, it’s an estimation. So you should adjust for next weeks, as your body weight changes. But after several weeks of dieting and some metabolism adaptation, how would you know what’s your new BMR? You should simple calculate your BMR using the same equation and your new weight/body fat or another way? Because the equation probably will miss the metabolism adaptation. So, how is the correct way to know what’s your new BMR and TDEE after several weeks of dieting, to see, for example, if you need a reverse dieting? (When you reach your BMR after the deficits)

    Thank you so much, Mike!!

    • Rodrigo

      My doubt is because when you cutting, you try to mantain all you muscle mass, right? As the equation to calculate BMR and TDEE consider the muscle mass, if you mantain your muscle mass after several weeks of cutting, in teory the BMR and TDEE wouldn’t change, but we know that metabolic adaptation happens in the process that reduces BMR and TDEE. So, what’s the “new” BMR and TDEE after these weeks of cutting?

      For example: in the beggining of cutting, let’s say your BMR is 2000kcal and you do a 20% deficit. After something like 12 weeks of cutting, including some deficits in the process, your metabolism will have some adaptation. How to know what’s the new BMR? I should consider the same BMR that I calculate in the beggining (2000kcal) to check if I need to reverse dieting? I miss something Mike?

      • Rodrigo

        I’m so boring, I know.. LOL
        But help me, please!!

    • Rodrigo

      I’m so boring, I know.. LOL
      But help me, please!!!

    • Hey Rodrigo! It’s a workable formula that will put you about where you need to be, but you will always adjust things based off results.

      As to the BMR and knowing when to RD, I’d just go off the number the calculator gives. So, if your intake ends up all the way down at BMR and you’re not losing 1-2 lbs a week, it’s time to RD.

      Hope this helps! My pleasure!

      • Rodrigo

        I think that I am confusing.. Sorry for the poor English! I’ll give an example:

        In the begging of cutting, I calculate my TDEE and the value is 2800kcal. After several weeks of dieting and adding some deficit to the equation and some metabolic adaptation, probably my new TDEE will change together. Let’s saying that in the begging I lose 1.5lb/week (with a 20% deficit of TDEE) and now I’m losing 0.7lb/week with the same deficit and I didn’t lose any muscle mass. In teory, my new TDEE would be the same (same muscle mass than beggining), but because of the metabolic adaptation, this value changes. I know that I have to add a new deficit to continue losing weight, but how I know what’s the new TDEE or my new BMR?

  • David Dietsch

    Should I count fish oil calories? I use the supplement, so 20 calorie. I think yes?

  • David Bruce

    If I multiply my TDEE by 75% to figure out my safe deficit, I get a number of calories that is below my BMR. Is it okay to eat a # of calories below my BMR?

    • Hey David, I suggest increasing your activity so that TDEE increases and the 25% deficit takes you above BMR.

      I do not recommend eating below BMR.

      • David Bruce

        Thanks Mike! That’s what I thought!!

  • Sonya Cuellar

    Mike – just finished your book Thinner Leaner. I’ve been working out and eating well for three months so your book was a great refresher and loved all the extra knowledge I gained. So thank you. I just wanted to comment about the GIF you used (full retard) this word is very offensive and hurtful. As the aunt of two special needs boys, I almost felt like I didn’t want to support you anymore BUT I think you are great and extremely informative with your information and I love that no bull approach. I just wanted to give you my thoughts on that.
    Thanks for your time.

    • Thanks for the support Sonya and I’m sorry I’ve offended you. I can see where you’re coming from and it definitely wasn’t my intention.

      • Sonya Cuellar

        Thank you, Mike.

  • Ed Furst

    Hey Mike,

    I’ve just started week 2 of your 1YC and am loving it so far. Your team built me a great cutting meal plan, and so far I’ve been full of energy. Just a couple quick questions regarding meals:

    1. Should I be switching out pre and post workout meals/shakes for regular meals on non-training/cardio days? (usually 2 non-lifting days per week, as I’m following the 5-day split)

    2. When and should I be taking creatine on non-training/cardio days?

    Thanks in advance for the feedback and providing a great workout routine.


    • Hey Ed, that’s great! Glad to hear you’re enjoying the meal plan too.

      1. You can keep them the same, or sub it out for the equivalent macros.

      2. Any time during the day.


  • David Dietsch

    I’m starting a new physical job. 1.35 activity multiplier worked perfectly for years before the job. 8 hours a day on my feet. What would be a good estimate. I’ve been cutting for 4 weeks and lost roughly 6 pounds at 11-12% bf. I don’t want to lose progress! Thanks

  • Eric Merkley

    Hey Mike,

    I absolutely love the diet plan that you present in your programs, thank you. I had a questions about adjustments on my marcos. In about a month and a half I have gain about 6 lbs with all of my fundamental compound lifts going up by at least 15% in weight. When should I increase the amount of calories that I can taking in?

    Thank you for you help and advise!

    Eric M.

  • Tuan

    Dear Mike and Roger,
    Do I eat the same amount of calories or do I lower my calorie intake during rest days when I’m not burning as much calories?

  • Daniel

    Hi Mike and Rodger,

    Do either of you have and advice for when it is time to transition from a cutting phase into a mass gaining phase? Do you start eating your TDEE +10% straight away or do you gradually work up to that number over a period of weeks?

    Great articles by the way, very insightful and informative


  • Brandon Dedic

    Hey mike, I was wondering if I should be counting protein mainly from just meat, eggs, dairy, etc. or if I should also be counting the protein in things like potatos and other carbs towards my protein numbers? I only weigh like 130 so if I count every little source I always end up with way too much protein

  • Spenser H

    Hey Mike,

    I just finished your book, Bigger Leaner Stronger, and I am excited to put my new found knowledge to work. I grew up playing competitive ice hockey and could never put on the weight and size i wanted. I was so physically active with such a high metabolism that i dont think i could eat enough to keep up. Now 10 years later my weight has been slowly increasing due to poor diet and lack of exercise, and recent blood tests did not come back well. I want to make some life changes before things get out of hand.

    I am currently 6′ 190 lbs with around 19% body fat. I plan to do the one year challenge on the 5 day split. Although i do not appear to be very overweight, i definitely notice it in my mid section while my upper and lower body seem to be pretty average. My overall goal is to look like, well… you i guess. I have no goals to be the worlds biggest body builder, i just want to achieve the athletic body where everything seems to mesh size wise. When looking at the diet portion of the book, i am unsure on which way to start out. Should i be doing the bulk diet, or the cut diet? I would love to hear what you think on that. Obviously i know this is going to take time, but i don’t want to hinder my results by starting off on the wrong foot.

    Please let me know if there is another way i should be communicating with you about this. Your help is much appreciated!

    Spenser H.

    • Hey Spencer, that’s great you picked up a copy of BLS! Given your stats, you should definitely cut down to 10% first. This is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts.

      Work out your macros here:

      P 1.2g/lbs body weight
      20% of cals from Fat, rest goes into carbs.

      Hope that helps!

      • Spenser H

        Thank you Mike for the advise! How often should I adjust my numbers based on my body weight and body fat% to calculate the Macros? Should then be done daily, weekly, monthly?

        Spenser H

  • Brandon Dedic

    Hey mike, I have been trying to build muscle for a couple weeks now (5’9 130 lbs). I have been shooting for 2800 but realistically probably have been eating at least 3000. All my main lifts have been basically stalled for the past 4 months at least. Since upping my calories I still have not gained strength. what should I do?

  • Leon Evans

    Hi Mike,

    Great article and it’s suddenly dawned on me why/how I keep ending up skinny fat!
    I just have one question: you say that meal timing isn’t really important so, for a given number of calories, macro split etc, 3 meals/day are as good as 6 or 7. What about the widely held belief that you should drip-feed your body protein so that there are always amino acids in the bloodstream? That seems to be the main argument for people who subscribe to that way of thinking. It does kind of make sense, but then again so does all ‘bro science’ 🙂

  • sakib800

    Hey Mike, In my culture rice is one of the main foods. My entire life i have been eating like white rice everyday, and i basically got used to it. (and since i used to run around and play a lot as i was a kid, i stayed pretty lean)

    So i was wondering if i suddenly started eating way more meat for protein will i store extra fat (maybe since my body is not really used to it?)
    or does this not matter??

    • I’m Taiwanese, and we love rice and carbs as much as any carb-based culture. Made the shift to less rice, more protein ages ago and it was a great move. You will not gain fat unless you eat more calories than you burn. What you eat has nothing to do with it, it’s how much you eat that really matters.

      • sakib800

        Hey thanks for clearing it up! Lol Us Asians really do love our rice!

  • Israel

    Hey Mike!

    I just recently went to a maintenance diet and my daily intake for protein is now 163g. Would it cause me to gain excess bodyfat if I went a little bit over that (170-175g of protein) even though im still well within my daily caloric intake and hitting the rest of my macros? I do fasted cardio in the morning and workout at night if that helps.

    Thank you!!

    • Not at all! As long as you are still within your calorie target, you’ll be fine.

  • steph james

    Hi Mike, I am a crossfitter (ssh, I know) And when I first began crossfit 2 years ago I lost weight rapidly – which I now know also lost muscle – fast forward 2 years and I have gotten alot more muscle but it is now hidden under a layer of stubborn fat, making me look very bulky for a woman. I would like to burn fat not muscle and aim for an athletic figure as you describe in your articles. 18% sweet spot would be a dream!
    I have just spent the last 3 days in putting my current daily intake (80% paleo wholesome food) of food into my fitness pal and have realized I surprisingly don’t eat enough of a calorie intake for the 4-6 hours of exercise I do a week (according to your calculator).. .. is it possible this is why I have stacked on so much extra fat in the last year? because it doesn’t make sense that if i’ve been in a calorific deficit for so long that I’ve infact gained weight?
    Help! please.
    I have also just worked out my split with your calculator
    158 pounds approx 26% body fat TDEE 2053 Total calories 1642 164g protein, 164g carbs, 36g fat. Does this sound correct?
    Thank you

    • Hey Steph! Haha don’t sweat it. That’s great you’re having a blast in Xfit! Check out these targets:

      P 190g
      C 138g
      F 36g

      If you’re not losing weight or fat, it’s because you’re still eating more calories than you’re burning. This can come from incorrectly logging and/or portioning your food, or simply just eating too many cals for your activity level.

      Take a look at this:


  • Tate.F

    Hey Mike,
    So I’ve read your book (BLS and TLS for my wife) and loved it, and I’m trying to get started with calculating our cutting diet and I’m a little confused on the macros. When I added mine up for protein, I did 1.2 times my weight (195 lb) and got 234. But when I used the tool above it told me I only needed 173 grams and the same for carbs. My question is, if I’m lifting for about 3-4 hours per week, which number should I go for?

    • That’s great you’re setting your targets, Tate. The tool above has sliders and manual input you can use to fully customize your targets. Simply punch in 234 for protein, 20% for fat, and you’re all set.

      • Tate.F

        I’m still a little confused, I just want to make sure I do it right the first time. So if I do that, over half (56%) of the calories come from protein. Is that the way it needs to be when cutting? If that’s right then protein intake needs to be more than carb intake when cutting, correct? I’m just paranoid I’m going to end up planning meals and do it wrong.

        • Give me your BF% and I’ll run the numbers.

          • Tate.F

            It’s 25%. Thanks for helping me out, I just really want to make sure I’m doing it right.

          • No problem Tate. With an activity multiplier of 1.25x, your target is right at BMR:
            P 234g (52%)
            C 127g (28%)
            F 40g (20%)

            I recommend that you increase your exercise activity to 4-6 hours a week. Targets will look like this:
            P 234g (48%)
            C 156g (32%)
            F 43g (20%)

  • ak10

    hey man great article n research, really helpful. When u mention pre workout requirements protien 30-40gm n carbs 30-50gm, what are the pre workout timings in which it should be consumed n the same for post workout timings?

    • Within 1-3 hours prior to your workout. It can be a meal like breakfast or lunch–not necessarily a snack between meals.

  • Jack96

    Hey Mike,

    do you maybe have a food table that contains calories, protein, carbs and fats in it.

  • Thierry Parmentier


    I have read the books but something wasn’t that clear for me with the meal planning. For example on start weighing 100Lbs. With that number you calculate your protein, fats and carbs. After a few weeks you weigh 110lbs, do you recalculate all the macro’s for 110lbs or keep the original numbers calculated at 100lbs for protein and fat, and then just ad extra carbs?

    • Great question! If you’re cutting, then you stick with the same targets until you hit a weight loss plateau. At that point, the first thing to do is to increase activity. If that doesn’t get your weight moving again, then drop 100 cals by taking off 25g carbs.

      When bulking, add calories when you hit a weight gain plateau:


      Hope that clears it up.

    • Zend HetMij

      you can do both, but after a few weeks you gained significant amounts of muscle and should recalculate your macros to stay in range of the given protein and fat ranges.

    • Hey Theirry, check this out:


  • Rich

    Hi Mike, ran into your awesome articles about 6-7 weeks ago. I was having the hardest time getting my abs ripped and realized I was doing everything wrong. I tried your cutting method over the last 6 weeks and it worked like a charm. I went from about 165 to 150 lbs and maintained much of my strength. Been working out for a very long time but have been very stagnant. I am very excited to try a bulking cycle since the cutting worked so well, of course it required alot of discipline on my part and some very hungry moments. Anyhow, my question is during bulking do you recommend the same strength training routine of heavy overload 4 to 6 rep range as when cutting. Thanks for your time, and the chocolate protein is great btw, also I did use the Forge supplement during fasted weight training in the morning.

    • Glad to hear you’re seeing awesome results, Rich! When bulking, the exercise routine remains the same.

      By the way, don’t forget to reverse diet after a cut:


      Great! That’s awesome you enjoyed the Legion supps. Forge was a great buy for fasted training.

      Keep up the good work.

      • Rich

        Results were phenomenal, I have read many of your articles and watched alot of your youtube videos, thanks for the honest work your doing, your a gem man, truly appreciate it. I can totally relate to your story which is why I am so motivated, I have spent and wasted years lifting and seeing little to no results, time for a change and I like this heavy lifting compound movement idea. Thanks for the heads up on the reverse dieting, you may have saved me some heartache as I was planning to just up my calories overnight to 10% over TDEE!!!! lol, now I will gradually increase 150 at a time and juggle the carbs and fats till fats reach .3% of weight, then the rest in carbs. Man thanks so much Mike!!!!! Just started audio reading your book Bigger leaner faster, great so far. Take care, and thanks again!

        • Great! I’m really glad I mentioned the RD. Whew! We dodged a bullet there. Keep up the great work 🙂


  • Zak Smith

    Hey Mike,
    Are there any protein or energy bars you would recommend?

  • Hey Mike, I have almost finished reading your book Bigger Leaner Stronger and have a few questions. I am 5.9 and weight 130 lbs. Don’t have that much muscle mass, maybe 15-20% body fat.
    I have been training with bad nutrition and the wrong exercises for a few years until I got injured in my shoulders so I start over now with a better plan.

    Should I start with cutting? Bulking? What is the lowest weight recommended to cut at – don’t want to get to skinny. What are the benefits?

    I am also trying to create my own meal plan but have a hard time trusting that it will give the best results. How important is variety? How do I know if my meal plan is good enough? How much time should I spend creating my meal plan?

    Thank you.

    • Welcome, Oliver! That’s awesome you are reading BLS. At 15-20% BF, you should cut down to 10%. This is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts.

      Great idea to make your own meal plan. You’ll need to know your macro targets:


      Variety can make the cut more enjoyable, so feel free to create multiple plans or substitution options. As long as your hitting the macro targets and are including fruits and vegetables, you’re doing great!

      • Thank you, I read the articles. How much should I pay for a fat caliper? Its so hard to guess my body fat. In europe the One you recommend costs 25 usd instead of others that cost 10

        • Awesome. You can pick up a pair of AccuMeasure Calipers for about $7 USD right off Amazon. They don’t have to be pricey.

          • I bought a pair of AccuMeasure. Problem is that they don’t show a reasonable body fat percentage for me, not sure if I am doing it right.
            The reading gives me 8-10 mm every time on Surpalis, mostly 9 mm average which lands me at 10 % body fat.

            I posted a picture of my body on BB and they say that I have around 16 % body fat which seems more reasonable than 10 % What should I do? What should I go after? I want to know if I should cut or bulk first.

          • Thanks, the photo helps a lot. I wouldn’t say 10%, and would agree with the 16% visual estimate.

            Calipers can take some practice to use and obtain accurate readings, but well worth the effort.

  • Michael

    Hey Mike,

    I’ve been reading through your site and your book BLS, and I need some help in determining my activity level.

    I don’t exercise at the moment, but I do have a 10-hour warehouse job that I work at 4 days a week and I’d estimate that I walk at least 10 miles each day there.


  • sakib800

    Hello team!

    I dont know if I mentioned this before but I am from Bangladesh and sometimes my parents cook cultural foods that I literally dont know the nutrient info.

    I might know some of the ingredients, but I dont exactly know how much calories or macros

    Is there an article that explains how I should be counting calories from recipes?

    For example lets say I cook a scrambled egg and use about a tablespoon of olive oil

    Large Egg (80 cal)
    1 tablespoon olive oil (120 cal)

    Does that mean my scrambled egg will come out to be 200 calories? How can I tell how much oil my egg absorbed and how much calories from oil to add.


    • Hey! Yup. I remember. The best thing you can do is to make your best guess based off the ingredients and serving sizes. It would be wise to over-estimate just in case. In the example of your cooking an egg, it depends how much oil is left in the pan… Or, you can count all of it to be safe.

      • sakib800

        Hey Thanks a lot! You guys should write some food articles lol Maybe some food tips and food recommendations on a cut or stuff or maybe what you guys usually eat in your day.

  • Dylan

    So, I’m new to cutting. I just finished running a linear progression on SS. I was on GOMAD and went from 155 to 185 in about 4 months. Gained a bit of body fat obviously. Didn’t really care at the time. I was just so damn weak that I needed to get my numbers up, and SS will do that for sure.

    But now I’m looking to cut back down to about 10% (and after that, I’m not going back to GOMAD; will use your bulking method instead; hopefully Rip won’t come breaking my door down.)

    So 2 questions:
    1) I’ll be cutting for 2-3 months, or however long it takes to get to ~10%. Do I reduce caloric intake every couple weeks, or just remain at 20-25% of the original TDEE (the TDEE @180# and ~15% bf)? I know you’ve answered this somewhere, but I can’t find it now. Intuitively, I’m thinking I want to remain at 20-25% of original TDEE until I’m no longer losing ~1# a week, i.e. dont fix it if ain’t broken.

    2) Do I adjust caloric intake on rest days, or, if not kcals, then at least adjust my macros (reduce carbs, up protein maybe)? (Again, you’ve surely answered this somewhere, so thanks for tolerating my forgetfulness and ignorance.)

    Thanks for what you do Mike!

    • Nice work getting your strength up on SS. For the cut,

      1) Remain at 20-25% deficit, and increase HIIT cardio activity and/or drop cals if you reach a plateau.

      2) Nope. Cals and macros stay the same on rest days.

      Hope that helps!

  • Marian Boricean

    Hey Mike,

    If I have weeks with less than 3 hours activity (workouts), my calculated cutting calories is below BMR. Should I eat at BMR, or go with the calculated value (usually around 200 calories under BMR)?
    Example: currently, my Body Fat is 17% (I know, after the holidays), I weigh 71.4 Kg. At 2.2 hours of activity (Just started again) average in the last 7 days, my BMR is 1639 Kcal. If I choose a 20% deficit, the cutting calories is under BMR (1573). I want to do a 25% or 30% (aggressive) deficit, but I am not sure if I should do this. If I do a 25% deficit, my calculated calories would be 1475. Please let me know your advice in this situation (I know I should be working out more).

    • Marian,

      I strongly recommend that you increase your physical activity in this case. If you absolutely cannot, then I suggest eating at BMR.

  • Meredith

    Hi Mike! I’ve been reading/doing TLS and so far its great! I have been cutting for a week and have lost 5 pounds so far. However, I am not reaching my macros everyday. I used the calculator above and right now they are 147g Protein, 146g Carbs and 32g Fat with 1460 calories (25% deficit with a 40/40/20 plan). I only reach 100g protein everyday, exact carbs (146g) and about 10g over on fat. I have not gone over calories at all, most days I am 100 calories under. Any advice on upping protein without upping fats and carbs? Also, is it ok if I go over a little my macros for carbs/fats but I stay under for my calories?

    current weight: 146 pounds (I calculated using my starting weight (151.6))
    Age: 18
    Body Fat %: 27 (Most of my fat is on my sides)
    Activity level: 6 hours of working out in a gym per week, sedentary during Mon-Fri because of school, but have an active job on Friday nights/afternoons which is my rest day.

    • Hey Meredith, nice work so far! That’s great you’re staying within your calorie target. I suggest you re-evaluate your food choices so that you can reach your protein target. Here are some great sources:

      * Lean meat (chicken, lean beef, fish, and so forth)
      * Zero-fat dairy
      * Egg whites
      * Whole grains like wheat, brown rice, oats, and barley
      * Vegetables like green beans, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower
      * Legumes like green peas and beans
      * Tubers like white potato, which is incredibly satiating, and sweet potato
      * Whey protein supplement

      Hope that helps!

  • Brandon C

    Mike: what are your thoughts on calorie deficit and using a fitness tracker like a fitbit to track calorie intake. For instance, I use a fitbit charge 2. I’m currently using BLS principles and a 20% deficit (1660 cals/day) to cut 15lbs. The charge 2 will tell me that I can eat up to 2200 calories or some variation similar based on my activity for the day. This just doesn’t seem right. Should I maintain my 1660 or bump up my calorie intake based on my daily activity?
    P. S. – I also read the article on trackers and using TDEE, MET and TEF to determine total calories burned.

    • I wouldn’t trust those devices to tell you how much you’re burning or how much to eat. Use the calculator above to find out what your daily total intake should be.

  • Kelly Lancaster

    Hi, this may sound like a silly question but if I am doing the 5 day split workouts which equal to around 4.5hrs of weight training per week, do I include this in my activity level or is the activity only for including HIIT/ Cardio?

    Thanks, Kelly

    • Hey Kelly, it includes both the HIIT/cardio and weights. Use “4-6 hours of exercise”.

  • Amin Abaee

    What happens if you overeat protein? Sme experts claim ecess protein is stored as far, while others think it will be excreted, who to believe?

  • Jordan

    Hi Michael. I just finished the Nutrition/Diet section of BLS, loving it so far, but my numbers aren’t quite adding up. I’m about 155lbs and 11-12%BF and I really want to get down to a flat 10% before I start a bulk. Using the 1.2/1/.2 macro ratio I’m getting 1,643 cutting calories. For BMR, which you said

    • Hey Jordan, that’s great you’re working out the macros and reading the book! Use this calculator to make things easier:


      At 11.5% BF, a good starting point would be 1854cals/day, and your BMR is 1716. Adjust based on results.

      • Jordan

        Awesome thank you. Finished the training section last night. Grocery shopping tonight after work and my new improved workout soon after!

  • Dre180

    Mike –

    I’m starting a cut. I’m 35, weigh 168 and I believe i’m somewhere around 20 % bf currently and most of that weight hits my lower stomach and obliques. that being said, you say not to dip below BMR, however my bmr is roughly 1680. My TDEE is approx 2280. i’m putting myself in a 25% deficit as i’m trying to cut as quick and safe as possible with minimal muscle loss. That would put me at approx 1710 cals for my cutting diet. Being that is so close to bmr, I started at 1850 cals and i was essentially not moving on the scale (and yes i gave it the appropriate time frame before dropping the cals. I have cut it to 1730 cals and my macros are as follows. 198g P, 151g C, and 40G fat. While I now see movement on the scale my concern is when i ultimately stall (which i will, I always do) how am I supposed to cut my cals further as i’d dip below BMR?

    I’ve read every article you have on cutting and setting your diet multiple times, and I don’t see anything with an answer to my issue without dipping below BMR. This is my starting caloric intake for a cut, so it seems wrong that i would have to go back up to maintenance almost immediately once i hit my first plateau. The leanest i’ve ever been is roughly 12% and i want to get to 8-9% before bulking. I can’t imagine i’m doing anything wrong here. I eat the same diet every single day (which is all healthy nutritious food with plenty of fruit and veggies), track every single calorie to a tee, and use the 5 day bls split. essentially everything is on point where it should be. Can you please advise on what i should do in this instance?

  • Andrew Rodriguez

    Hey mike. I’m 5’10”, 166lbs, about 17% body fat percentage. What do you think about starting a long term bulk now?

    • That would not be a good idea. Cut down to 10% first. This is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts.

      • Andrew Rodriguez

        Ok. So if I want to follow the One Year Challenge, I’d cut down to about 10% and then spend the rest of the year bulking?

  • Oldog94

    I think your recommendations to use the rest of your calories as carbs once you figure the protein and fat is good for muscle building for sure. However, there are a ton of guys staying lean and maintaining strength using a ketogenic diet. There is a ton of evidence supporting the benefits of a ketogenic diet in regards to improving overall health (diabetics, obesity, neurodegenerative disorders, better overall energy balance, seizure control, longevity combined with intermittent fasting, cancer, and a host of other areas of recent research). I’m not arguing that your approach to gaining muscle or even maintaining muscle with your recommendations isn’t correct. I just think there is a lot of good research recently promoting the benefits of a ketogenic diet. It’s especially beneficial to endurance athletes. I’ve been doing it for a year and can honestly say that it has definitely helped with my energy levels throughout the day, but I’m now doing carb days here and there which seem to help too.

    • There definitely are people that could benefit from a low-carb diet. I talk about this here:


      As you said though, for active people I recommend going higher carb. They improve performance and recovery. That being said, even for active people, as long as you’re hitting your target cals and getting enough protein, you can get great results.

      So, if it’s working for you, keep doing what you’re doing. 🙂

      • Oldog94

        Well, after reading more of your articles the past couple of days I’m starting to implement your diet regimen. I’ve been keto for about 1.5 years and have done really well and do feel really good. However, I’ve noticed that as I’ve been doing a lot more HIIT in the past month that my energy while exercising has been taking a hit (haha). Anyhow, I do have a couple of questions if you could maybe answer them for me. First off, I do HIIT type of stuff at least 3 days a week and some cardio about 2-3 days a week too. I think I’m about 12% body fat by looking at pictures on your website. I’d really like to get down into the 8% range (drop some of the lower abdominal stuff refusing to relinquish it’s hold). I’m 41 years old, weight 165-170lbs and am 5’9″ tall. I’ve been doing a Murphy once a week for the past 4 weeks to try and get a good time for memorial day. I was wondering what if you think that by me switching to the higher protein and carbs that it would get past this seemingly never ending 12% body fat range (it might be lower by a little but I’m not too sure).
        I’m almost afraid to start eating carbs again. I’ve been keeping my carbs to less than 50 grams/day (total) for the past year. Any suggestions would be appreciate. Thanks again for the plethora of fitness info on your site. Very good stuff!

        • Nice HIIT pun!

          Switching your macros won’t help you lose fat any faster. But, an appropriate caloric deficit will.

          Once you’re done with the cut and start on the reverse diet, it should take about a month to get back to your TDEE.

          There’s nothing about carbs to be scared of. It’s the over-consumption of calories that will do you in.

  • NicoletteBarnes

    Wondering about the accuracy and or hows of pushing through the recommended deficit for cutting/leaning out. I am currently consuming 1900 calories a day (cut back a little over a week ago from an average of about 2300 which still more often than not left me hungry) and I am frequently feeling very light headed, spaced out, and weak. Based on the calculator here however, My TDE is 1816 calories, which brings my recommended cut to 1362 calories.(As someone recovered from anorexia who got down to an unhealthy 80 lbs on about 1300-1600 cal/day, I don’t see how this recommended amount would allow me to lean out while maintaining any strength, metabolism, or muscle maintenance .Wondering if I am calculating wrong. I

    • Hey Nicolette! The calculator works for most people, but some folks have much faster metabolisms. Sounds like you’re one of them. So, in your case, adjust based on results and what you know based on experience.

  • Tristan

    Hi Mike, Roger or whomever has the time, I’m in bit of a bind. According to the books and using the calculations within, with my vegan diet, unless i eat exclusively protein powder, i can’t stick to my macros. My Data is as follows: Height: 2.00m Weight: 100kg Body fat 20%. According to this, with a decent cut, i should be looking at 1730 Calories of which 211g Protein (lean massx1.2) 53g of fat and around 101g of carbs. doing my own bit of research, i’ve not yet found a way (nearly protein powder only diet excluding) to get those macros with actual food. My first question would be, did i calculate wrong? or is my food nutrients know how out of date? either way i’d appreciate any kind of feedback. -Tristan

    • Hey Tristan, that’s a lot of protein to hit on a vegan diet. This can help you pad those numbers a bit:


      You can get away with as low as 176g protein though. (0.8g/lbs bodyweight) But, ideally aim to be higher.

      • Tristan

        Hi Roger,

        Thanks for getting back to me, i’ve read the article before, and in retrospect it would have been better to comment there, it doesn’t give me anything new unfortunately but i’m sure i’ll figure something out. i’ve been wary of going below 1g/lb so i’ll keep my target, i suppose i’ll up my caloric amount and add more HIIT to burn away the excess.
        Thank you for your insight.

  • Lindsey Marchant

    Should I be eating differently on days I’m not lifting? I am doing 3 days a week lifting and 3-5 of cardio. so I wasn’t sure how to eat the days I’m just doing cardio or neither, resting.

  • Calvin

    HI Mike, under “How to Calculate Your Macros for Losing Fat” in the article above, it is stated that if you are sedentary, then 25% of daily calories from carbohydrate should be plenty. In that case, are the rest of the calories to come from protein or fat? How is the split between protein and fat going to look like in that case? If is largely fat, then I am effectively reprogramming the body for a ketogenic diet. Have you have any experience on a keto diet?

  • Miss Lamb

    What percentage should your protien intake be for a high-protien diet geared towards fat loss? Should it still be 40% protien, 40% carbs and 20% fat ?

  • Hey Mark, you’re right that the calculators will not be 100% accurate for everyone. What they do provide is a good starting point from which you can adjust as needed 🙂

  • The calculators give you a starting point. From there, you will need to make adjustments based on real-life results. Some people have faster metabolisms, and require more calories than others to gain weight. Sounds like you found a calorie level that’s helping you gain weight, so that’s great!

    Check this out: https://legionathletics.com/hardgainer/

  • Trent

    Big fan of your books and several articles from this site. Forgive me for posting on a completely unrelated article but…why do so many of the models that are pictured throughout this site clearly look like they are on steroids? One reason I love your books and philosophy on exercise industry is that large majority of models you see pictured on books/magazines and marketing supplements aren’t using the products, regimes or diets they are promoting. Am I wrong in thinking these models aren’t “natural” or have they been blessed with superior genetics and adhere to a strict diet and exercise routine? Thanks

    • Hey Trent, I hear you. We are actually going to be changing up some of the pictures we use on articles. We don’t want to feature guys on steroids. Thanks for the feedback!

  • Oli

    Hey Mike,

    How can my wife factor in her medical condition around a macros?

    She is type 1 insulin dependent diabetic since a very young age. I have set her up on a cutting macros using the calculator on your site. The problem she’s having is although carbs are not the enemy, she tends to eat more like 60-100g carbs per day to limit her insulin demand.

    She is on an insulin pump and has to manually count for any carbs as she eats them explaining the low carb intake. (Also how would an insulin pump fit in with fasted training?) Could she eat without manually injecting and technically still being fasted and then inject after training? Max energy with max fat loss or does it just not work like that.

    She is 165cm and 160 lbs. Approx 30% fat with 3x hiit circuits per week and 1 x all over weights session. Post pregnancy regime.

    Mike, what options are there for her macros? Keep protein same, lower carbs and up fats? What variations can someone do in this scenario to stay on a cut but reduce carb?

    Im all ears Mike.

    Thanks again


    • Hey Oli,

      That’s a tough one man, as everyone with diabetes has different needs and tolerances for carb intake. That can also change based on exercise levels, diet quality, body fat percentage, etc. That said, I think in general a good rule of thumb is to err on the side of fewer carbs and more fat. For most people that’s not ideal, but it’s a better approach when it comes to diabetes.

      I’d also work closely with a doctor through this whole process though. Once some people get leaner and start lifting weights more frequently, they’re often able to tolerate more carbs even despite conditions like diabetes.

      • Oli

        Hey Mike,

        Thanks again man. We were thjnking lower carb and up the fat to meet the macros.

        Shes doing well on the new higher fat ratio and were bringing in low/high carb around training and non training days.

        FYI. Shredded chef cookbook very nice. Good job.


  • Is it just me, or are the calulators not calculating?

    • Hmm, it seems to be working. Just enter your weight and TDEE, and select a preset. You can also give this calculator a shot if you don’t know your TDEE: https://www.muscleforlife.com/macronutrient-calculator/

      • Mark M

        Amazing article Mike!
        But its true,Calorie Intake calculator for building muscle doesn’t seem to be working.

        Aside from that everything else seems to be working fine.. (Android)

      • Mark M

        Amazing article Mike!
        But its true,Calorie Intake calculator for building muscle doesn’t seem to be working.

        Aside from that everything else seems to be working fine.. (Android)

  • OriginalPouzar

    Hi Mike,

    So I’m a few days in to my clean bulk and I’m essentially at 150g protein and apx 330g carbs/day. Its great but I’m a little worried about carb timing. I’ve read quite a bit about the desire to eat most of your daily carbs around your workout.

    I workout at 4:30-6am – while I do eat carbs right before and quite a few right after (apx 70g), I’m obviously eating alot of carbs later in the day

    I am having breads and cereals in the late morning afternoon (sometimes oats, quiona pasta, etc.). I’m not too concerned about that but what about stuff like sweet potata, quiona, english muffin, fibre 1, etc. in the evening?

    I’ve read that these types of carbs should only be eaten in the 3 hours post-workout and carbs at other times should essentially be vegetables and beans and such?

    • You’re overthinking it a bit here. The types of carbs and timing isn’t too important. Just get a good amount post-workout, and hit your numbers for the day 🙂

      • OriginalPouzar

        Definitely overthinking – I’m just remiss to gain any more fat than I need to in this clean bulk so I’m trying to take advantage of all the secondary and tertiary techniques but there is only so much I can do.

        Appreciate your response (as always) and your advice.

  • OriginalPouzar

    At the end of the day:

    1) I’m doing the MFL 6 day PPL program
    2) I’m nailing my overall calories and macro numbers
    3) I’m getting proper calories and macros pre and post workout – even the types of carbs and protein I eat at 4am has changed to ensure they are quick digesting – I spent 7 hours on Saturday tweaking this
    4) I’m supplementing as suggested (Pulse, Recharge mainly)
    5) I don’t skip workouts or cheat on my nutrition – they aren’t options for me – I can be obsessive.

    Given the foregoing, if I’m eating some quiona and cereal in the afternoon (low calorie cereal) and I have 120 calories of baked sweet potato and a whole grain rice cake in the evening, do I really need to worry about it they type of carbs?

    There are only so many mental resources I can put in to all these things.

    • No need to worry about those man. Just hit your overall macros and you’re all set

  • Taylor Kuzik

    Following a meal plan has never been a possibility for me. A couple of reasons.
    1) I’m pressed for time on my workdays Monday-Friday thus don’t have time to cook a meal that requires preparation. The weekends are the only time I can do this but that’s also when I want to sit back and chillax after a hard week of labor, after all we’re only human, not robots. That doesn’t mean I’m lazy for the sake of laziness. It means I do it for the sake of letting my body and mind recharge. If you’re active 24/7 without breaks, you’ll burn yourself out and that’s something I want to avoid.
    2) I recently started having cravings for “sinful” foods that self-proclaimed gurus call it. I typically have a cheat meal or my favorite treat on the weekends for sanity sake. When I do have a cheat meal, I reduce my carb and fat intake while keeping protein intake moderate to high and workout the next day to get rid of the excess water weight gain. Does that mean I eat fast food all the time? No. I also started drinking soda again after a good amount of years doing without it. I guess it’s simply for the caffeine. I don’t know. There are also some foods I just don’t like.
    3) My life is hectic between work, being an uncle to two nephews, trying to eat right 80% of the time, still coping with the loss of my older brother from Meth overdose in May 2016 and keeping my stress levels in check, it takes a psychological toll.
    4) I do take Whey+ and ON natural flavor miscellar casein protein powders to meet my protein requirements since it’s tough getting through food alone.
    Sorry if this sounds like a rant or excuses but I don’t know what else what I can do to get the lean, muscular body I want. 10% BF is the range I want. 9% would be great. I’m relatively lean as it is with nice amount of definition and I can see the top 2 abs and somewhat the next row but visible/big enough. My guess is probably build more muscle.

  • Chris Baltusnik

    HI Mike,

    I am just finishing up a cut where I am now down to 6% body fat which is great but I would like to look less skinny so I am about to start a bulk. My question is should I go straight from my current macros to the macros you suggest for a bulk or should I ease into it? You recommend dropping protein and fat down a bit which is fine but you have a huge increase in carbs. Is that OK to just start doing immediately?

  • Sound very interesting! Looks like a great diet plan, the basic thing is consume diet full of nutrients and be disciplined in daily life. It is necessary to keep hormones in balanced state. I also have an article related to this, hope you will find it interesting too. Check it here https://PianoIn21Days.com.

  • Dan V

    Hi Mike,
    I calculated my daily caloric intake using your calculators with a 25% deficit and got 1770 cals. I am about 22% BF, 6ft, 191lbs and just wondering if i am correct here – it seems really low! Do I taper down to 1770 cals, or do i start at that amount and if plateau, adjust down further? Also, you mention in your podcast that its not recommended to go below your BMR, but this is well below my BMR already (1820).
    Thanks so much for your time in advance. Love your work!

    • Hey Dan! I recommend increasing your activity levels so that you can be in a decent deficit while still eating above your BMR. For example, if you’re doing BLS, you’d typically select the 4-6 hours/week activity multiplier, which multiplies your BMR by 1.35 to get your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). From there, you can be in a 20-25% deficit without being below your BMR.

      I hope this helps!

      • Dan V

        Thanks Mike, that does help. However, do I start at that 25% deficit right off the bat or taper down toward it? The calcs based on 1.35 multiplier puts me (just) above my BMR so don’t have much room to go lower!
        Thanks again for your time!

        • You can jump right in to a 20-25% deficit. No need to taper down or increase activity until you reach a plateau (no fat loss for 7-10 days).

  • Olivia Meiners

    Hi Mike,

    I’m currently 132 lbs. 5’7″ Female, 14.5% body fat. I’m looking to go down to around 12-12.5% body fat and bulk up by putting on about 15 lbs of muscle or so…If you were me, what kind of caloric intake would you have?

    Thanks so much, you’re epic!
    Look forward to hearing back.

    • Olivia Meiners

      Also, what would your base workout regimen look like?
      I was thinking of doing 4-6 hours heavy lifting, and 1.5-2 hours of HIIT training per week.

    • Hey Olivia! Check this out:


      Around 1600 calories would be a good starting point for you with your proposed routine. As far as cardio goes, you can start with 3 HIIT sessions, and add more as needed.

      Keep me posted on your progress!

  • Glenn C

    Hey Mike! I’m a 24 y/o male, 6ft tall. After a severe stomach surgery I went down to 129lbs but now I’m back up to 156lbs at 14% bf. I’ve got a few questions regarding my diet:

    I’m currently eating 2500-2700 calories a day and whilest I’m seeing slight improvements, the last say 2-3 weeks I’ve only gained about a pound. According to the calculator, my caloric need is spot on. I also track everything. The only thing I can think of that might explain it is the fact that I often only get about 100 grams of protein in a day. Could this be the cause? I am still getting stronger ‘tho.

    Regarding sugar: how does sugar impact you when trying to build muscle? Besides that it doesn’t have any nutritional value, should you just see it as a carb source or would rice/potatoes/pasta etc. be a better choice? (speaking in terms of bodycomposition and building muscle/losing fat)

    Regarding training: I can bench press 155lbs for 5 reps now. This is with ‘good’ form’ but I’m not really feeling my chest work. Now if I drop the weight down to 135 and I use ‘perfect’ form and really control the eccentric (2-3 seconds) and try to squeeze my chest when coming up I can also get about 5-6 reps. Which of both is better? To rephrase it: how important is progressive overload vs actually working the muscle? Should you be aiming to add weight as fast and as much as possible or only add weight when you can perform all reps clean and with perfect form?


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