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How Many Grams of Fat Should You Eat Per Day?

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How Many Grams of Fat Should You Eat Per Day?

If you want to know what types of fats you should be eating and how many grams you need to eat per day, then you want to read this article.

 

“Eat fat and get fat.”

That’s what mainstream diet “gurus” used to say not so long ago, back when low-fat diets reigned and low-fat foods crowded the shelves.

Much to obesity researchers’ dismay, though, the war on fat didn’t stop us from getting fatter and fatter.

And so the quest for a “better way” continued.

Well, fast forward to today and many people will tell you the hunt is over.

We finally understand the human metabolism well enough to say that the previous generation of scientists had it all wrong. Backward, actually.

“Eat fat and burn fat,” we’re now told.

This latest “revelation” has spread through the health and fitness space like chain lightning, giving rise to its own cottage industry of high-fat diets, cookbooks, and food products and supplements.

Unfortunately, though, this advice is just as flawed as its antithesis. In fact, and ironically, the exact opposite happens when you eat fat.

When you eat fat, you gain fat. But that doesn’t mean it makes you fat.

I know that sounds cryptic, but don’t worry–by the end of this article, it will all make sense.

You’ll know exactly how much fat you should consume per day, what types of fat your body needs and why, what types of foods are best, and more.

So, let’s start with a clear definition of terms and then move on to diet composition.

(And if you prefer a 12-minute video overview, just click below.)

What Is Dietary Fat?

What Is Dietary Fat

There are two different types of fat found in food:

  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol

Triglycerides comprise the bulk of our daily fat intake and are found in a wide variety of foods ranging from dairy to nuts, seeds, meat, and more.

Fats can be in liquid (unsaturated) or solid (saturated) and they help maintain health in many ways: they help you absorb vitamins, they are used to create various hormones, they keep your skin and hair healthy, and much more.

Cholesterol is scarcer in our diets and is found in foods like eggs, liver, some fish, butter, and more.

It’s a waxy substance present in all cells of the body, and it’s used to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest your food.

Several decades ago, it was believed that foods that contained cholesterol, like eggs and meat, increased the risk of heart disease. We now know it’s not that simple.

Eggs, for instance, have been more or less exonerated, and research shows that processed meat is associated with high incidence of heart disease but red meat is not.

One of the reasons for these subtleties is foods that contain cholesterol also often contain saturated fat, which can increase the risk of heart disease (which we’ll learn more about soon).

Another reason has to do with how cholesterol travels throughout your body.

It’s delivered to cells by molecules known as lipoproteins, which are made out of fat and proteins. There are two kinds of lipoproteins:

  • Low-density lipoproteins (LDL)

When people talk of “bad” cholesterol, they’re referring to LDL.

Research shows that high levels of LDL in your blood can lead to an accumulation in your arteries, which increases the risk of heart disease.

Here’s what this looks like:

Low-density lipoproteins

This is why research shows that foods that can raise LDL levels, such as fried and processed foods as well as foods with saturated fat, can increase the risk of heart disease.

  • High-density lipoproteins (HDL)

HDL is often thought of as the “good” cholesterol because it carries cholesterol to your liver, where it is removed from the body.

So, now that you have the 50,000-foot view of dietary fat, let’s zoom in on the type we eat the most of and thus are most concerned with: triglycerides.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

What Is Saturated Fat?

what is saturated fat

Saturated fat is found in foods like meat, dairy products, eggs, coconut oil, bacon fat, and lard.

If a fat is solid at room temperature, it’s a saturated fat.

The long-held belief that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease has been challenged by recent research, which has been a boon to the fad diet industry, not to mention the meat and dairy industries (we’ve seen a veritable renaissance of meat and dairy consumption).

The problem, however, is that the research used to promote this movement has also been severely criticized by prominent nutrition and cardiology researchers for various flaws and omissions.

These scientists maintain that there is a strong association between high intake of saturated fatty acids and heart disease and that we should follow the generally accepted dietary guidelines for saturated fat intake (less than 10% of daily calories) until we know more.

Given the research currently available, I don’t think we can safely say that we can eat all the saturated fats we want without any health consequences.

And I’d rather “play it safe” and wait for further research before joining in the saturated fat orgy.

What Is Unsaturated Fat?

What Is Unsaturated Fat

Unsaturated fat is found in foods like olive oil, avocado, nuts, and fish. If a fat is liquid, it’s unsaturated fat.

There are two distinct types of unsaturated fats:

  • Monounsaturated fat

Monounsaturated fat is liquid at room temperature and starts to solidify when it’s cooled.

Foods high in monounsaturated fat include nuts, olive and peanut oil, and avocado.

  • Polyunsaturated fat

Polyunsaturated fat is liquid at room temperature and when cooled.

Foods high in polyunsaturated fat include safflower, sesame, and sunflower seeds, corn, and many nuts and their oils.

Unlike saturated fat, there’s no controversy over monounsaturated fat.

There’s evidence that it can reduce the risk of heart disease, and it’s believed to be responsible for some of the health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet, which involvings eating a lot of olive oil.

Polyunsaturated fat, on the other hand, isn’t as cut-and-dried.

The two primary polyunsaturated fats are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and linolenic acid (LA).

ALA is what’s known as an omega-3 fatty acid and linolenic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid. These designations refer to the structure of the molecules.

ALA and LA are the only types of fat that we must obtain from our diets because they are essential to our health and our bodies can’t produce them, which is why they’re referred to as essential fatty acids.

That is, you could completely remove saturated and monounsaturated fat from your diet and survive, but if you were to eliminate ALA or LA, you would eventually die.

(Granted, this would be incredibly hard to do because even the worst of diets provides sufficient ALA and LA to prevent a true deficiency.)

Now, the controversy with polyunsaturated fat is centered on the ratio between ALA (omega-3) and LA (omega-6) intake.

The number of effects these two substances have in the body is enormous, and the chemistry is complex, but here’s what you need to know for the purpose of this article:

  • LA is converted into several compounds in the body, including the anti-inflammatory gamma-linolenic acid, as well as the pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid.
  • ALA can be converted into an omega-3 fatty acid known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which can be converted into another called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

EPA and DHA are also found in high amounts in fatty fish. When you take a fish oil supplement, you’re providing your body with EPA/DHA.

A massive amount of research has been done on EPA and DHA, and it appears that they bestow many, if not all, of the health benefits generally associated with ALA.

These benefits include…

It’s an over-simplification to say that the effects of LA (omega-6) are generally “bad,” and effects of ALA (omega-3) are generally “good,” but it’s more accurate than inaccurate.

And that’s why it has been hypothesized that a diet too high in omega-6 and too low in omega-3 fatty acids can cause a whole host of health problems.

Newer research casts doubt on this, though.

There’s no question that inadequate omega-3 intake is bad for your health, but ironically, studies have found that increasing omega-6 intake can decrease the risk of heart disease, not increase it.

Thus, scientists suspect that the absolute amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet is more important than the ratio between omega-6 and omega-3. This is why a considerable amount of work is being done to boost the omega-3 content of various foods like eggs and meat.

The bottom line is if your diet is even halfway sensible, you’re getting enough omega-6 fatty acids. You may not be getting enough omega-3s (and EPA and DHA in particular), though.

This is less likely if your diet provides a fair amount of ALA, however, because it’s converted into EPA, which can then be converted into DHA.

The problem with this, however, is the process whereby ALA is converted into EPA is quite inefficient (and conversion into DHA is even worse) and impacted by the amount of LA in your diet (a high-LA diet decreases conversion rates).

This is why relying on ALA as your sole source of omega-3 fatty acids may result in an EPA/DHA deficiency, and why it’s smart to include fatty fish or a fish oil supplement in your diet.

What Is Trans Fat?

What Is Trans Fat

Trans fat is a type of unsaturated fat that occurs naturally in some meat and dairy foods, and is manufactured industrially by infusing vegetable oil with hydrogen.

The result is a “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” which you’ll find in many processed foods because it increases shelf life.

I’m not one for dietary absolutism, but there’s little argument at this point that artificial trans fats should be eliminated entirely from our diets.

Studies show that relatively small amounts of these fats can increase the risk of a whole host of health problems, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, breast cancer, depression, and more.

To quote a review conducted by scientists from Harvard:

“TFA [trans-fatty acid] consumption causes metabolic dysfunction: it adversely affects circulating lipid levels, triggers systemic inflammation, induces endothelial dysfunction, and, according to some studies, increases visceral adiposity, body weight, and insulin resistance.

“…

“Consistent with these adverse physiological effects, consumption of even small amounts of TFAs (2% of total energy intake) is consistently associated with a markedly increased incidence of coronary heart disease.”

(Interestingly, research also shows that naturally occurring trans fats aren’t nearly as harmful to our health as artificial.)

How Many Grams of Fat Should You Eat Per Day?

how many grams of fat per day

Now that we understand what dietary fat is and its different forms and physiological functions, let’s talk intake.

If you’ve done any other reading on the subject, you’re probably expecting a pat recommendation like “20 to 30% of daily calories with less than 10% coming from saturated fat.”

Well, the problem with a rule of thumb like that is it works fine for your average, sedentary person, but isn’t optimal for us fitness folk.

Our bodies have absolute needs for essential fatty acids, not needs relative to caloric intake, which can be quite high due to body composition and activity level (especially when we’re “bulking“).

For example, I weigh about 190 pounds, and if I were the average, sedentary type, my body would burn about 2,000 calories per day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Based on that, the “20 to 30% rule would provide 45 to 80 grams of fat per day, which is a reasonable range.

I exercise 6 days per week and have quite a bit of muscle, though, so my body burns about 3,000 calories per day.

Based on that, my recommended fat intake skyrockets to 65 to 115 grams per day, but does my body really need that much more fat because it’s muscular and I exercise regularly?

No, it doesn’t.

Eating that much fat wouldn’t be harmful to my health, of course, but it would limit the amount of carbohydrate I could eat. And generally speaking, the lower your carb intake is, the harder it’s going to be to build muscle and strength.

This is why I’m generally an advocate for eating enough fat to support overall health while maximizing carbohydrate intake, which precludes high-fat dieting (you only get so many calories per day, unfortunately).

The bottom line is if your body does well on a high- protein, high-carb diet, and low-/moderate-fat diet, it’s going to serve you best in your quest to build a great physique.

So, with that out of the way, let’s look at how much fat you should be eating.

How Many Grams of Fat Per Day to Lose Weight?

how much fat should i eat per day to lose weight

If you’re to listen to some people, dietary fat is the key to losing body fat.

Eat large amounts of “healthy fat,” they say, and little carbohydrate, and you’ll lose weight.

Hogwash.

Energy balance and protein intake govern the rate at which you lose fat, which is why research shows low-carb, high-fat dieting offers no weight loss benefits.

In fact, a recent study conducted by scientists at the National Institutes of Health found that calorie for calorie, low-fat dieting is more effective for fat loss than low-carb.

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.

This isn’t particularly surprising given the fact that carbs help preserve resistance training performance and decrease muscle breakdown rates, mainly through replenishing glycogen stores and elevating insulin levels.

All this is why I recommend a high-protein, high-carb “weight loss diet” that provides adequate fat for general health needs.

And how much fat is needed for general health, you ask?

Well, research shows that around 0.3 grams 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. (And if you’re not sure how to work out how many calories you should eat every day, read this article.)

What types of fat you eat is also important.

As you know, you want to limit your saturated fat intake, avoid artificial trans fats, and favor monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, paying particular attention to your omega-3 intake.

This dietary approach to weight loss is ideal for both health and body composition.

Specifically, I recommend you get the majority of your dietary fat from monounsaturated fats, that you keep your saturated fat intake at or below 10% of daily calories, and that you attention to your EPA/DHA intake.

Regarding your EPA/DHA intake, 500 mg per day (combined) would be a bare minimum, but I recommend something closer to 2 grams per day because it confers a variety of health and performance benefits.

The easiest way to get there is to eat several servings per week of fatty fish like Alaskan salmon, Arctic char, or Atlantic mackerel, or take a fish oil supplement every day.

I really don’t like the taste of fatty fish, so I opt for supplementation. Here’s what I use:

triton image

How Many Grams of Fat Per Day to Gain Muscle?

How Many Grams of Fat Per Day to Gain Muscle

Many people claim that a high-fat diet helps you build muscle faster by increasing testosterone levels.

This is only partially true.

Yes, a high-fat diet can increase testosterone levels, but no, it’s not going to help you build muscle faster.

There are several reasons for this.

A high-fat diet can increase testosterone levels…but not by enough to help you get bigger.

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. Another study conducted a decade earlier showed similar results.

That might sound good on paper, but research clearly shows it’s not nearly enough to move the muscle-building needle.

For example, a study conducted by researchers at McMaster University investigated if the acute hormonal changes that happen during weightlifting affect muscle and strength gains.

The subjects were young, resistance trained men, and they did 5 weightlifting workouts per week and followed a standard “bodybuilding” diet.

After 12 weeks, scientists found that exercise-induced spikes in anabolic hormones like testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF-1 had no effect on overall muscle growth or strength gains.

That is, the size of the hormonal responses seen in the subjects varied widely but there was no significant difference in terms of muscle and strength gains.

Another study worth reviewing was conducted by researchers at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

This involved manipulating the testosterone levels of 61 young, healthy men using a combination of testosterone and drugs to inhibit natural testosterone production.

After 20 weeks, scientists found there was a dose-dependent relationship between testosterone and leg strength and power (higher testosterone levels meant more strength and power)…

…but the effects weren’t significant until testosterone levels exceeded the top of the natural range by about 20 to 30% (about 1,200 ng/dL).

Now, this study does have an obvious limitation: the subjects weren’t exercising.

The strength and power gains would have been higher if subjects had been weightlifting, of course, but it’s telling nonetheless.

And just to lend further perspective on the matter, let’s review a bit of steroid research.

Scientists at Maastricht University published an extensive review of studies related to the use of anabolic steroids in 2004 and found the following:

  • Muscle gains in people lifting weights on steroids ranged between 4.5 and 11 pounds over the short term (less than 10 weeks).
  • The largest amount of muscle gain over the short term was 15.5 pounds over the course of 6 weeks.
    (In case you’re wondering why the large variation in gains, a multitude of factors ultimately determined the results including training history, genetics, workout programming, diet, etc.)

Now, compare this to what you can achieve naturally and my point becomes clear:

Even when you blast your testosterone through the roof with drugs and add additional anabolic steroids on top, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to gain “shocking” amounts of muscle.

And if that’s the case with the sky-high testosterone levels that come with drug use, what does that tell us about small fluctuations that can occur within the physiological normal ranges?

It’s just not going to make much of a difference except in the most extreme cases of, let’s say, going from the absolute bottom of normal to the top.

So, similar to my recommendations for weight loss, I recommend that you eat a high-protein, high-carb, and moderate-fat diet when you’re trying to build muscle.

This allows you to fully take advantage of the significant muscle-building benefits of both protein and carbs, as opposed to chasing negligible changes in hormones.

In terms of an actual amount, 0.3 grams of fat per pound of body weight is my general recommendation.

Everything we discussed earlier on limiting saturated fats, favoring unsaturated fats, and ensuring your EPA/DHA intake is adequate applies.

The Bottom Line on How Many Grams of Fat Per Day

how much fat should i eat bodybuilding

Years ago, we were told to keep our dietary fat intake as low as possible.

While that may help control caloric intake, it’s not optimal for health.

Since then, the pendulum has swung hard in the other direction and now millions of people are eating more dietary fat than ever before, including saturated fat, by eating large amounts of foods like…

  • Meat
  • Dairy
  • Coconut or coconut oil
  • Avocado
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts and seeds

This too may be increasing the risk of disease and, unfortunately, without even providing any significant health or performance benefits.

I believe the most sensible advice is this:

We should eat at least enough dietary fat to support our health, and only raise it based on our goals, fitness, and preferences.

For example, most physically active people wanting to build muscle or lose fat are going to do best on a high-protein, high-carb, low-/moderate-fat diet.

There are exceptions, of course, but that is true far more often than not.

Sedentary people needing to lose weight, however, will probably do better with a high-protein, low-carb, high-fat diet (carbohydrate is primarily energetic, so if you don’t burn much energy, you don’t need much of it).

The key is tailoring your diet to your needs, and I hope this article helps you do that.

 

What’s your take on how many grams of fat you should be eating per day? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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

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  • Aikas

    Mike,
    Isn’t supplementing with 3gr of epa/dha the most recommended daily intake for us bodybuilders? If the benefits over 2gr really diminish, I’d consider reducing my Omega 3 supplementation.

    Keep the good work going <3

    • 2 grams is plenty. I doubt you would notice any difference between 2 and 3 grams per day.

  • Becky Ramsay

    Is a low fat diet best for fat loss then?

    • Generally speaking yes, but not so low that it provides inadequate LA and EPA/DHA.

  • Alison Gillespie

    I’d like to know how many grams of fat you would recommend for me. I’m 24, been weightlifting (nothing girly, but nothing ridiculously heavy either) for the past 8+ years. I am 5’6″ and weigh 130 lbs with a body composition of approximately 23%. After moving overseas and kinda having my life turned upside down for a bit, I’m shifting back into consistent weight lifting (4 times a week) and HIIT twice a week. I just used iifym.com to try and estimate what I should be eating. (Typically my calorie range was somewhere around 1800-2000) before closely tracking it like I do now.) From the macros website, it said for “fat loss” I should be eating 1558 calories with 104 g protein, 52 g of fat and 168 g of carbs, but with this article’s information, if I’m only supposed to be taking in .3 g of fats per pound, then I should be dropping my fats down to 39g. I assume I’d up the protein to around 115 g or 130 g and re-doing the math on my carbs. I’m looking to definitely gain muscle and lose some fat, perhaps getting down to 15 or 18% body fat. If you could tell me, based on where I’m at now and where I want to be, how to get their best in terms of diet/macros (esp. fat), that would be truly & greatly appreciated!!

  • abelcsabai

    Thanks Mike. I’m still curious where the 0.3 grams/lean pound comes from:) I see the review of Helms/Aragon but that only said 15% of calories. Is the 0.3 grams/lean pound an estimate you made based on that? thanks!

    • Well more based on several of the papers they cite in their review as well as the Institute of Medicine’s fat intake recommendations (which are more accurately interpreted when viewed against BMR as opposed to TDEE).

  • Christopher John Daniels

    The .3 per pound of lean mass is true. I went under by 5g for a while and my recovery got more and more difficult. Bumped it back up and bounced back in a few weeks. Live and learn every cut gets easier only because I learn more.

    • Yeah that’s a good baseline that you can increase if you want or need to.

  • Anthony Intensity

    I am at 700 grams of carbs per day! My weight gain has stopped for 11 days now. Already at 50 grams of fat and 220gr of protein. I am scared (for no reason) to increase my carbs futher more and increasing fat intake more will only lead to weight gain in the wrong places while eating in a surplus…. any adivce Mike??? Really appreciate that man!

    • Nice! I wouldn’t recommend more carbs. 600 to 700 g per day is going to keep glycogen stores fully topped off.

      So if you need to keep increasing calories, bump your fat up.

  • Chris Fitz

    Really good article Mike, thank you for writing this is exactly the question I had and it was sufficiently answered. Thanks Mike!

  • Bill

    high fat diet makes sense while maintaining bc it wont get in the way of building muscle while not puting alot of fat or losing fat while maintaining muscle. Increased Testosterone is good so let it be when its not a problem

    • Not when the decrease is nominal and well within the normal range. If eating a low(ish)-fat diet dramatically decreased T levels to the bottom of normal or below, THAT would be a problem.

      That said, when maintaining or bulking, 0.3 grams per pound of body weight is plenty.

  • Sheena

    I eat 74 grams of fat (and was likely more before I began tracking). I felt good the way I ate and didn’t even know I ate so much fat until I started using MFP to help me gain weight. I am a breastfeeding momma who only gained 14 lbs while pregnant (I tried to gain the recommended amount but that is another story). I don’t do cardio at all. When a trainer/former figure competitor checked my body fat with calipers, my readings were all single digits. When plugged in online calculators, it estimated between 8-9% body fat. All that to say, I cannot imagine only eating 0.3 g of fat per lb of body weight. That would be less than half of what I eat now. I am currently at 137 G protein and 247 g carbs and it is so hard staying under 45 g of fiber while eating that many carbs from whole food sources. I actually had to add in some processed cereal that lacks anything but carbs in order to hit numbers. Any thoughts on this? I just feel like I need to fat intake to support breastfeeding since I do not have the maternal stores for my body to use first. Oh and another side note, I am not at calorie surplus yet. I am still trying to find it. I just wonder if I should adjust macro percentages with my next increase

    • Nothing wrong with a higher fat diet if you like it and if your body responds well.

  • wrxdrunkie

    Wouldn’t it be the most beneficial to eat just enough carbs and protein to support training and progress and fill the rest with healthy fats? Performing well in the gym doesn’t require THAT many carbs. So if you are already on a diet that supplies more than enough carbs to keep glycogen toped off. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to add more fat to the diet for things like increased anabolic hormone production and decreased inflammation?

    I am not talking huge differences. But maybe 40% fat instead of 20 – 35% on 3,000 a calorie diet. Still getting over 300g carbs a day to support training but more fat just incase the increased testosterone and decreased inflammation help.

    This study was very interesting

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9286742

    • That’s the thing–most people are going to see noticeable increases in performance up to about 600 grams of carbs per day.

  • TD

    I was one of those people that was afraid of eating ANY kind of fat. Forgoing, avocados, nuts, olive oil, etc. This thinking was very backwards, and made me miserable on top of it. I found when I added the good fats back into my diet, I definitely felt satisfied longer, and overall just functioned better…more energized and focused.

    • Sorry for the late reply but I’m glad to hear you’re doing well!

  • Chintan Jariwala

    Hey Mike
    Currently m on bulking diet with cal intake of 3500
    Macros looks like : 450 carbs 185 protein 110 fat.
    My question is should I increase my carbs and protein (if so then by how much)
    Should I reduce my fat intake( if so then by how much)
    Currently m steadily gaining 0.75 lb a week
    What should be the ideal ratio of macros from 3500 cal to gain.
    PS: training 5 days a week in reps range of 6-8
    Thanks

    • I’d go higher on the carbs because you’ll probably notice improvements in the gym. I cap my carbs at 500 to 600 g/day when bulking.

  • Ani @ UnleashPT

    Thanks! Absolutely love the article and your work! I’ve been training and eating in a similar way for a long time and had the results I wanted with me and my own clients. But it wasn’t until a bit over half a year ago that I came across you and your page. I feel good in knowing that amongst all the research, training and nutrition approaches out there, this and similar ways prevail and challenge long standing principles about muscle gain and weight loss and make it really quite straight forward… except for all those fatty acids, oil and stuff which is a bit mind buggling sometimes ;o) Thank you for your hard work and dedication.

  • NoApoloG

    According to my Fitbit I burn on average around 3400 calories a day. That’s not including my weight training which I do in a 5 day split. I don’t know how accurate Fitbits are but is it necessary to incorporate cardio into my training? And how much of a surplus would I need to consider to gain muscle?

  • Christian Pinedo

    Hey Mike, great article! I am currently

  • Christian Pinedo

    Hey Mike, great article! I am currently about 188lbs/12-14% BF trying to cut down to about 175-180lbs. My current macros and calories are as follows
    Calories:1993
    Protein: 226g
    Carbs: 188g
    Fat: 38g.

    I got these numbers from BLS and after reading this article, I don’t know if my fat is to low or not. It’s currently at 0.2 * BW but in this article you say 0.3 * BW. For trying to cut down and lifting 5 times a week, what number should I use for my fat?

    Thanks,

    Christian

    • Hey Christian!

      When you’re cutting you can go slightly lower (to around 0.2g/lb) and be fine, but if you would prefer to eat a bit more, you can increase fat intake and decrease carb.

      Can’t go wrong either way, really.

  • Alexander Mitov

    Hey Mike! Have you heard about labdoor.com? They have a ranking on Fish oil and your recommendation is really low in the standings.

    • Yeah hm interesting I’ll check it out. Thanks for letting me know.

      • Alexander Mitov

        You’re welcome, Mike. Btw, would be awesome if they somehow test Legion’s whey, as well

      • Alexander Mitov

        Hey Mike, have you checked it out yet? It’s been a week now and you still got it running as a recommendation although I suspect you’ll be putting your own fish oil supplement when the time comes

        • Their ranking system can be wonky. It’s not ranking low because of bad quality or purity, which is what I care about. But yes my product is coming soon.

  • Jeremy Smithes

    Hey Mike,

    Ever since I ended my cut, my sex drive has been nonexistent. Which messes up libido more: too little calories for energy expenditure or too little dietary fat? I’ve slowly reversed my calories up from 1600/day to 2100/day and it’s still not there. Strangely, I haven’t gained any weight during the reverse diet (in fact, I hit an all time low of 118.6 the other day that I couldn’t achieve when I was at the end of my cut). My workouts last about 1.5-1.75 hours normally but I take 3-4 min rests in between sets and lift heavy, plus I eliminated cardio. Am I just straight up over-training? I read the over-training article on here and I don’t feel lethargic in the gym.

    Stats: 5’3 Male, 120.5 lbs
    Current Macros: 125p/310c/40f

    • Hey man!

      I’d say both are equally detrimental (too large/long of a deficit and too little fat). Too much exercise while in a calorie deficit can tank it even more.

      Those workouts are pretty long. You probably don’t need to be in the gym that long.

      Are you sleeping enough?

      • Jeremy Smithes

        I tried to, but often times my heart would feel weak and I’d have an insatiable appetite. It was my first ever cut so I expected to make mistakes. Next time I’ll take it slower. Being at 2200/day feels much better! Lean bulking ftw.

        • Ah okay. Make sense. You’ll have a better idea how to do it next time around 🙂

          Gotta enjoy the bulking cals.

          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.

          • Jeremy Smithes

            Thanks a lot, Mike! I do have a question. I’m still not gaining weight and my goal is to lean bulk.

            5’3 Male, 120.5 lbs
            Current Macros: 125p/340c/40f

            Once I bump my carbs to 360g (~3x body weight), if I still need to increase, should I put the extra calories towards protein, fat, or more carbs? Personal preference?

          • YW! Simply put, you gotta eat more! Check this out:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/bulking-up/

            No need to increase protein. Ideally, you’d keep adding carbs, but I can understand how it gets tough to eat that much so you can add fat as well.

            Let’s add another 50g of carbs or 25g fat and see how you do.

            Thoughts?

          • Jeremy Smithes

            I’ll add in 50g of carbs. Thanks for the replies! You’ve really changed my life. 🙂

          • Sounds good! LMK how it goes.

            My pleasure. 🙂

  • Alexis Padillla

    So for a guy weight like me 188 with 13% body fat (163lbm) i should consume about 48 grams of fat?

  • Daniel Bui

    Hey Mike,

    Thanks for all your articles. They’ve been motivational and informative.

    During a cut, if I had a bad day where I ate too much fat, should I cut down on the fat calories the following couple days to make up for it?

    Also, what do you recommend for diet/workout while having a cold? Maybe an article to write about that? Thanks for all you do!

    • Hey Daniel! My pleasure! Glad you’ve been enjoying them.

      You could make up for the extra cals the following days, but ideally, you’d stick to your cals daily.

      I recommend resting and eating at around maintenance to help speed up recovery.

      I think I’m going to do a short video on the subject. 🙂

      Welcome! Talk soon.

  • SAB

    Hi Mike! Just for clarification: one time you wrote “Well, research shows that around 0.3 grams per pound of fat-free mass per day is adequate for maintaining health” the next you wrote “In terms of an actual amount, 0.3 grams of fat per pound of body weight is my general recommendation.” Have you made a different statement from that research or was it a typo? Please check!

    • That’s my general recommendation for bulking and maintaining, although you COULD eat less.

      That said, most people find it hard to hit their required calories when bulking and maintaining if they don’t eat more fat.

  • Jackson R

    Hi Michael,

    Here’s something I’m wondering. I absolutely HATE counting calories and macros. If I based all of my meals around lower to moderate fat meat, starchy carbs and a bit of veggies, do you think that this would cover my fat needs or is it necesarry to cook with oils or eat avocados/nuts to get enough fat?

    Thanks!

    • Hey Jackson! I hear you. It’s tough to say. It depends on the exact cut and type of meat and how much you’re eating of it.

      Your best bet is to check with calorieking.com or caloriecount.com to get an idea of how much fat you’re getting from the type of meat and the amount you’re eating on average daily.

      Thoughts? Welcome!

      • Jackson R

        Thanks for the reply Mike! That makes sense. I will do some calculations to see if it works.

  • Jordy Peri

    Is it .3 grams per pound of LEAN MASS weight or .3 grams per pound of total body weight? (My lean mass is 112 lbs, but my weight is 133 lbs.)

  • Serenity

    Thanks for this article! Finally someone who breaks it down simply.

  • Chris

    Honestly I feel like moderation is best. I used to do extremes and got results, but I feel like you can get just as good of results if not better if the diet is sustainable and also you look at it as a lifestyle. If you are waiting for the diet to end, then its probably not a good diet to be on because it wont last our you will go crazy with calories after its over. I like high carbs when Im bulking, 500grams is good with pound for gram for protein and about 70 to at most 90gs of fat.

  • Mike–something new here. If use coconut oil for “oil pulling,” do I count that toward my daily fat macros? I spit the oil out after the pulling, but I’m assuming I absorb/digest some of it regardless, since it’s in my mouth and being broken down while I’m pulling, right? Thanks–totally just curious!

  • Dave Rosati

    Hi Mike/Roger,

    I find it difficult to make these numbers work.

    When cutting, the best I can do is 0.35g of fat per pound of LBL. Even to achieve that I have to stick to only lean protein sources (i.e. no beef or salmon) and cannot have any excess fat sources (i.e. no avocados, nuts, almond butter, etc.). That is, I hit my fat target just with the fat in the meat involved to hit my protein numbers plus my daily fish oil supplement and the minimal amount of cooking oil used for cooking carbs and veggies.

    When bulking the numbers work even less because the LBL (and thus, the fat per day target) stays the same and the protein stays the same (i.e. 1g per pound of bodyweight), but the carbs carbs go way up to create the calorie surplus. Unless I get my carbs solely from fruit and other sources which contain no fat (which prohibits oats and brown rice, two staple carb sources for me) and cook my carbs with no oil at all (pretty gross for rice, sweet potatoes, etc.), then the fats coming along with the large amount of carbs inevitably drives up the daily fat intake far above the target.

    Am I not supposed to be counting the fat in the meat or something? Just finding it hard to make this work and feel like I’m missing something.

    • Hey Dave,

      It’s definitely doable as 20% of your total cal intake. You count the fat in every food source. Smart food choices that are zero fat or very low fat will make it easier. If you need help, we do have a great meal planning service you can use!

      Aside from that, really it’s just picking the right combo of foods.

  • NickITF

    I dont think this stuff is true anymore. Well I guess it depends on your goal. Im hearing 75% of total calories to be fat.

    • That’s just flat out not true. I invite anyone who believes it to do that and see what results they get.

      • Oni

        He might be talking about ketogenic diets (but only 25% for protein/carb would be too low). These are recently very popular and well supported diets (through much research) for fat loss that use the ketogenesis pathway of metabolism.

        However, there is a debate on their usefulness for muscle gains. Some research shows benefits for strength and endurance athletes against a control, but I haven’t seen any comparative studies.

  • Heather

    I give up. Every site I visit has contradicting info… I am never going to figure out the best way to eat. UGU.

    • Heather, rest assured, you’ve come to the right place if you want the simple, straight-forward, no BS truth. What question did you have, or do you have?

  • Adrian

    Hi Mike. You said a lot of fat is not that good but what about the new research and science that doctors like Mark Hyman who preach high fat diet and he actually cure lots of people of many diseases by fixing their gut flora, and that through high (healthy) fat diet. He actually even wrote a new book “Eat Fat, Get Thin”. He back his claims with lots of new studies etc and he is a big figure in this industry of eating and health.
    Another personality(not doctor) who preach high fat diet is Mark and Marks Daily Apple. And people who follow his advice has nothing but good things to say.

    Both of them banish car intake from sources like grains (of any kind) and most of the legumes.
    What to believe any more??? It is very confusing now.

    Please leave a reply because I am curious of your opinion to this. Thanks.

    • Hey Adrian,

      I’m not saying it’s “not good,” just that it’s not optimal for those of us that work out regularly. Low-carb, high-fat makes sense for sedentary folk, but honestly those people would be much better off if they started exercising regularly…

  • sakib800

    Heyy! I think I found a typo

    “Specifically, I recommend you get the majority of your dietary fat from monounsaturated fats, that you keep your saturated fat intake at or below 10% of daily calories, and that you attention to your EPA/DHA intake.”

    shoudnt there be like a “pay attention”

  • Bruce Wayne

    Wait, is it 0.3 g of fat per LEAN BW or TOTAL BW?

    • Per total BW.

      • Jan

        Nice article with just the subject I was looking for (a more absolute number for fat-intake instead of a % of TDEE), but you lost me here: in your article you state research shows it’s 0.3 per pound LBW, your advice a few paragraphs down is 0.3 per TBW, a year ago you answered to Jordy Peri it’s 0.3 per LBW and here you state it’s per TBW.

        Whoaa 🙂 help me out here

  • Maria Ades

    Hi! I was wondering if there are any differences with women regarding fats? I’ve read that we should eat at least half of our protein target in the form of fat due to the role fats play on hormonal balance. Thanks! 🙂

  • Walk James

    Slightly off topic but still relevant. I am 40 quite fit but around 20% body fat. I intend to follow the bsl program. However should I start with a bulk or should I try and cut my body fat % first then bulk. I am 166lbs and 5ft 8in. I currently have my calories set at 2206 40 40 20. My promise to myself this year is 10% body fat. What would you recommend please.

    • Hey James, I recommend that you cut down to 10% first before bulking. 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.

      • Walk James

        Thanks really appreciated cheers

  • Taylor Kuzik

    I recently started eating whole eggs again, yolk and all because the yolk contains a lot of vitamins and minerals plus it plays a role in testerone production which is important because the higher your T levels, the easier you’ll build muscle. I add an egg white to up the protein so a 1:1 ratio with a piece of 100% whole wheat bread. If I do have bacon with my eggs, I go with turkey bacon, it’s a healthier alternative to regular bacon and has less saturated fat and sodium.

    • Good!

      • Taylor Kuzik

        Starting 2018, the FDA has ordered all artificial trans fatty acids be banned from foods like Twinkies, Rits Bitz crackers, etc because of their link to increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Natural trans fats in meat, milk are, well, natural and don’t have the same kind of negative health impacts the artificial trans fats pose. It’s said it will $140 billion yearly in health insurance. The FDA should have done this decades ago. They wait until a certain number of people die before stepping in. Don’t you think, Mike?

        • Well, I think it’s a good thing that people are becoming more aware of how to eat healthier, including limiting their trans fat intake.

          • Taylor Kuzik

            Another thing the FDA needs to ban is high fructose corn syrup since it’s linked to the obesity epidemic that plagues our country. HFCS is banned almost everywhere else in the world. For example, the obesity rate in Germany is only 10% compared to the 30% here in the USA and shows no signs of stopping. You can’t get away from sugar because it’s found in virtually every food but you can get away from HFCS.

          • Hey Taylor, I think that might be a little premature. I wrote about why here: https://www.muscleforlife.com/sugar-facts/

  • Liv Crin

    Hi Mike,
    So according to thee book I should be doing this for cutting
    126 lbs
    0.2 grams of fat per lb so 25.2g
    1.2 grams of protein per lb so 151.2g
    1 gram of carbs per lb so 126g

    …but according to the calculator above I am seeing this:
    Imperial (lbs.) Metric (kgs.)
    Weight
    126
    Body Fat Percentage
    (Click here to learn how to measure.)
    20.6
    Activity Level
    4-6 hours of exercise per week
    Activity Multiplier

    1.35
    LBM 100
    BMR 1352
    TDEE 1825
    Presets
    Deficit Surplus
    -20%
    Total Calories
    1460
    Protein
    40%
    146g
    584 kcal
    Carbs
    40%
    146g
    584 kcal
    Fat
    20%
    32g
    292 kcal

    Which do you recommend?
    Thanks!
    -Olivia

    • Liv Crin

      Any insights?

      • Hey Liv, the first formula doesn’t take into account your activity level or BF%. So, to customize your targets, use the second set.

  • Filipa C

    Hi Mike

    So i am a 23 year old female, weighing 154 pounds with 33% body fat percentage. My goal is to get to 126 pounds. At the moment i can’t afford a gym so i’ll start jogging and doing some exercises at home targeting different areas of my body.

    So my questions to you are since iam starting for how long and how many times a week should i jog and exercise?

    Another question is what do you think is a suitable macronutrient distribuition (%) for me to start my diet? and how many total calories?

    Many thanks in advance.

  • jesus p

    I see that you are still responding Mike, so hopefully i get a reply as well…im a pretty lean person 198 lbs 6ft, around a 32 inch waist, around 17 inch arms…i workout each body part every 4 days….Im having a really hard time getting lean enough to have visible abs. i figure i need to get to around 190 to achieve this.

    For example, the week of April 1st i averaged 2290 cal per day, 215 c, 63.6 f, and 229 P. I looked really lean that week and my stomach veins were starting to pop( from the sides and up the middle of my stomach, but this isnt new to me as i had visible veins all of last summer and still weighed around 198) but still no visible abs, unless i flex. I didnt do any cardio this week. I weighed 198. So i made some changes for the next 2 weeks:
    My averages for this past week: 2364 daily cal, 237 c, 67 f, and 221 p. This week i did around 10 min of hiit on a stationary after my workout every other day, i burned 50 cals each session. Weight still 198 but i dont have the lean look that i had the week of april 1st, i look really “soft”, specially my arms. My stomach veins are less visible and i dont feel that I made any progress.

    so in conclusion im lean but not lean enough( i feel “pudgy” with no visible abs), i upped my calories slightly (mainly from carbs) and added cardio and now i feel that i look worse…I plan on lowering fat to 60g a day and do regular cardio at a different time instead of after my work out for this week…other than that any advice? Im scared of doing alot of cardio since i know my calories are on the low side..so im not sure what to do. it seems that i look my best when my carbs are lower and i dont do cardio…

  • heather

    My question is about bulking. I calculated my daily protein/carb/fat and calorie ratio, and I found that my daily intake of good fats is extremely high. I eat tons of eggs, avocados, nuts, nut butters, full fat plain yogurt, etc. which are all healthy sources of fat. I wonder if the high-fat intake is hindering my ability to gain weight? I am 108 lb female, 5’3″. Thanks

    • No problem! Ideally, though, get most of those cals from carbs. Ultimately, it’s the calorie surplus that helps you gain weight–not the macros.

  • Terri

    Just ran across your site and info a day ago. Been reading through everything. Reader’s Digest Condensed Version up front: When you’re obese starting out, should you focus solely on fat loss until you reach a certain weight/bodyfat %, or should you dive in and start weight training along with fat loss right from the start?

    I’ve done a lot of lifting weights over the years at all my different body sizes. I’m not any kind of pro, but not a beginner either.

    Psychologically, at this point, I find weight loss on the scale is important. It’ll be less so as I approach a healthier weight, but right now, I need to see the number changing pretty consistently.

    But on the other hand, if you weight train right from the start, don’t you get leaner faster? So even if the scale doesn’t move, your clothes fit better?

    I’ll probably pick the one I think will keep me motivated here at the beginning with the option to change it at any time. I still do a little cardio, 30 minutes 4-6 times a week, but not enough to demand more calories. Just enough to keep my heart from quitting out of boredom.

    I started at 255 pounds and am now down to 239, 25 days in. No, I am not starving, and it’s faster than I expected to lose weight. I did all the calculations and math problems from your various site pages and discovered that with my own adjustments, I’ve already nailed calories per day and a couple of the other factors on my own. It was good to see that I’m on track and not off in the weeds. I’ll be adjusting my fat and carb intakes, though.

    One other query and this is purely subjective: When I do the math, it’ll take about two years, a bit more, to get where I want to go. Mathematically (and in my eating) it’s entirely do-able, but I get discouraged when I think of it being another two years before I’m back to fighting trim. I don’t think it’s a super-great approach to not allow yourself to think about that from time to time, though, either.

    How do I keep the discouragement at bay? One can’t succeed at this by pure willpower alone because that engine doesn’t drive for two years straight. You succeed in the long term by developing better *habits* which then require less willpower. So what do you do for the longer-term weight loss?

    Thanks so much for all of your content. Still wading through it all. Finally some things are making sense.

    • Hey Terri, nice work with the cut so far! What works for me is to remind myself what my goals are and picture how awesome it’s gonna be when I’m there. As long as you’re making consistent weekly progress and keeping your goals in focus, you’re on the right track. And, you’re right. Developing good habits makes things a heck of a lot easier far as willpower is concerned. Just maintain those good habits and you’re set for life. It’s like cruise control in a car.

  • Hey Mike,

    I’m a 150-pound dude at about 10% body fat. I’m eating 62 grams of fat per day (not sure where I got that number), which is about .4 times my total weight (not fat-free mass). Sounds like way too much. Should I bring that down? (I eat 50% carbs, 30% protein, 20% fats.)

    • About 2800cals at maintenance? Sweet. 20% isn’t bad, but if you want to allocate more to carbs that’s totally cool too.

      • That may happen. I like my peanut butter, but if I ever need to, I know I can draw from fats to put more carbs/energy into me. Is it okay to do a semi-lower fat day the day before the more exhausting training (i.e. back/deadlift and legs/squat) and keep it at the same level for chest, shoulders/military press, etc. where it’s not as exhausting?

  • Agnes

    Hello!

    First of all I’d like to apologize for the long post 🙂

    I am a bit confused on how to calculate my macros for cutting.
    I don’t know my exact BF%, nor do I have any access to more accurate methods – but based on pictures, I should be around 22-24% – I can see some very slight muscle definition on my arms, legs and upper body and there’s a small line starting to show on my stomach area. I was always kinda lean, but I would really like to have a bit more of nice visible muscle 🙂 I would like to go down to 19%-20% and from there on I’d like to bulk.

    I’m still a bit confused on whether I should set my macros to higher fat or higher carbs?
    It says that sedentary people should eat more fat and less carbs. Well, I can be considered sedentary, since I have a desk job and even at home I have an online job which, well, also includes lots of sitting.
    But on the other hand I like to work out and spend minimum 40 minutes working out ( weightlifting 4 days and kickboxing 3 days with 1 combo day of these, since I like to take one day off for recovery ) and when I get a chance to step outside, I like to go biking or swimming.
    So this more fat, less carb recommendation is only for sedentary people who do absolutely no exercising?
    Based on my daily activities which activity multiplier should I use?

    Thank you in advance for the answer, and you guys rock, great site!

  • Luisa

    Hello Mike!
    I have a question that’s been haunting me. I am 5’2 and weigh 103 and I’ve always been a very tiny and skinny girl. I would like to gain more muscle and strength but I have some belly fat I’ve never been able to get rid of. Lately I just began working out 4-5 days a week by doing HIT cardio, doing weights and I also began to do yoga 3-5 times a week. I’d also say I’ve been pretty active, I’ll walk 6k-10k steps a day. I just downloaded an app to track the calories and nutrients I consume in a day and it says I should be consuming 1,890 a day so that’s what I have been doing. I am burning more calories then I consume, it shows I’m consuming the proper amount of carbs and nutrients that I am supposed to and I am eating a high percentage of protein as well. I’ve been eating all healthy fats and completely quit junk food and the only beverages I consume are water and tea. My meals consist of veggies, fruits and protein, BUT in the macros chart it does show I’m consuming 69-80grams of fat…. I eat less then 10% of saturated fat for sure but my question is, am I consuming too many grams of fat that won’t allow me to get rid of that belly fat or that may even actually grow my belly even more? I know that healthy fats are good but I’ve also heard too much of it can be a bad thing. And if so what’s the max percentage of fat I should take in on a daily basis? I think maybe even though I am consuming the right foods I’m filling my plate up a bit too much? Cant wait to hear your advice!!! I’d appreciate it so much! Help!! 😣

  • Mark Samuels

    Yet more conflicting information that just confuses me further and really it’s just an ad to sell your book. I’m taking it all with a grain of salt.

    • Hey Mark, what are you finding conflicting? A high-protein diet is not unhealthy unless you have a pre-existing issue with your kidneys. Check this out:
      https://legionathletics.com/how-much-protein-do-i-need/

      My book lays out everything you need to know about diet and training to lose fat and gain muscle, but I have a wealth of information available for free on this blog. Let me know if you have any questions!

      • Mark Samuels

        The body can only use a certain amount of protein. Consuming 250-300 grams suggested by some sources and calculators is just a waste of time and money. I tried for a while and I was farting rotten egg gas to kingdom come. It’s just blatant bullshit to sell supplements.

        • I would agree. I recommend around 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight. If you’re obese, you can use lean mass instead of bodyweight. Three hundred grams of protein each day is unnecessary. Did you check out the article I linked?

  • TJ rohr

    Hello mike
    I have a question I weigh 220 pounds and I am wondering how much protein I need to consume to gain muscle while losing fat and how much fat I need to eat I keep reading all these different articles that tell me so many different things

  • nouseforaname

    0.3g/lbs is way too low. I weigh 155 and want a LBM of 165-170 which means I could only eat around 40g of fat. This is ridiculous! 1/4 cup of almonds already has 15g of fat and nuts are really healthy. Soy, almond, coconut and normal milk would be off limits becuse of its fat content but they deliver protein and other nutrients. I couldn’t at anything at all. Fat is not unhealthy and you can be shredded and strong with a normal amount of fat and carbs. You just have to eat enough carbs to fill up your glycogen storages. 2.5g/lbs is a lot already! I eat around 0.4-0.5g/lbs if fat. I can eat nuts and seeds which are super nurriotios and healthy. Also research has shown that 0.8g/lbs of protein is enough if you’re a natural athlete. If you eat more you won’t notice more gains unless you’re on steroids. You can be lean with a normal amount of fat in your diet. No need to go beyond 2.5g of carbs per lbs of body weight. It’s not even healthy to eat more than 60-65% of carbs. Recent studies found that high carb diets lead to higher mortality.

    • Hey there! 0.3g of fat per pound of fat free mass has been shown to be an adequate amount of fat. You can go higher if you want, but you’re really not gaining anything by increasing fat and lowering carbs. 0.8g/lb is a good protein target if you’re bulking, but you probably want to go a bit higher if you’re trying to lose fat. Check this out: https://legionathletics.com/how-much-protein-do-i-need/

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