How to Count Macros for Building Muscle and Losing Fat

To achieve the results you want, discover the basics of tracking macros and what foods to focus on.

Good news: you can build muscle and burn fat simultaneously and healthily. The key lies in tracking macronutrients and focusing on wholesome food sources. Read on to unlock the reasons why macros can help support a healthy, lean body and keep you healthy for the long run.

Whether or not you think you’re good at multitasking, your body is fully capable of building muscle and losing fat at the same time. To achieve the wellbeing results you want, start by familiarizing yourself with macronutrients and how to include the right balance in your meals and snacks. Discover the basics of tracking macros for muscle growth and fat loss and see how amazing it can make you feel.

Macronutrient basics: gain muscle and lose fat

To burn fat and build muscle at the same time, it’s first important to understand what macronutrients are. Macronutrients are all a source of energy, or calories, and include protein, carbohydrates, and fat. 

Each macronutrient has unique properties and, with consideration of your natural body type and healthy lifestyle factors like activity level, can influence the balance of muscle and fat you have (1). In general, aiming for a balance of about 30% protein, 40% carbohydrates, and 30% fat can help support building muscle and losing fat (2). Let’s take a look at what each macronutrient does, how it affects your body composition, and where you can find it. 

Protein (30% of calories per day)

Protein provides building blocks for our muscles, called amino acids. These amino acids are used to rebuild tissues, which is part of the muscle building process. When it comes to weight loss, protein makes appetite related hormones and has been shown to increase our satisfaction after eating (3). It also takes our body more energy to digest and break down protein when compared to carbohydrates (4). When your goal is to lose weight while building muscle, a protein intake of around 1.2-2 g of protein per kg body weight is generally recommended (2). 

Healthy sources of protein include poultry, fish, low-fat dairy products, eggs, and plant sources such as beans, tofu, and whole grains.

Carbohydrates (40% of calories per day)

Carbohydrates are our body’s main and most efficient source of fuel. That’s because carbs are the most easily broken down into glucose, the preferred energy sources for our brains and the first to be used during physical activity. 

When it comes to eating carbohydrates for building muscle and losing fat, it’s all about the type and how much you have. Some research shows that lower carbohydrate diets can be effective for weight loss because of reasons such as reduced appetite (5). However when we get carb-caused cravings, it tends to happen more from refined sources such as added sugar, white bread or pasta, pastries, sodas, and sweets. 

So for muscle building and losing fat, focus more on these excellent sources of wholesome carbohydrates: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes. 

Fat (30 % of calories per day)

Fats help our bodies absorb certain vitamins such as A, D, E, and K and support our cell membranes. Fat can also help protect organs and aid in hormone production which can support our bodies in building muscle and losing fat. 

Healthier fats can also help decrease the inflammation in our bodies, making it easier to recover from muscle building exercises. When it comes to weight loss, fats do have a higher amount of calories per gram (9 kcal per gram) when compared to carbohydrates and proteins (4 kcal per gram) but dietary fat is satisfying, so eating them can regulate our total calorie intake.

When choosing fats, aim for plant sources such as olives, avocado, fish, nuts, and seeds. The types that are not so good for us include processed types such as from packaged meals or snacks, baked goods, fried foods, and ice cream. 

Tracking caloires and macros for gaining muscle and losing fat

To determine the right macronutrient and calorie balance for you, start by calculating your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). Enter your gender, age, weight, height, and activity level into a TDEE calculator, which will use a standard formula to assess the total number of calories you burn in an average day. When you select your activity level, be sure to account for your muscle-building workout routine.

Next, account for the calorie deficit you’ll need to achieve for fat loss. Most experts recommend reducing your TDEE by 10 percent to ensure that your body will begin drawing on fat reserves for energy. When you have your daily calorie needs in hand, you can then convert it into macros. Keep in mind that we all have different bodies and our calorie burn can vary depending on factors such as our health state, genetics and even gut bacteria

For more information, check out our article: Calculating Calories: It’s Not Rocket Science, We Promise.


While your macro balance may vary slightly depending on your body and specific goals, a typical macro breakdown for fat loss and muscle gain is 30 percent protein, 30 percent fat, and 40 percent carbs. Converting your macro balance into calories and translating it into the food that fuels you is easy when you use Lifesum’s tracking macros app. This app monitors macros and tracks calories so you can ensure you’re hitting your goals every single day.

Keep in mind that everybody is different and it’s important to incorporate other healthy lifestyle changes such as enough sleep, stress management, and activity. By adding variety to your workouts, you can challenge your body to do more and gain muscle more effectively. Rather than repeating workouts for weeks on end, mix up your strength-building routines with more repetitions, extra weight, or fewer breaks. Plus it makes it more fun and engaging for long lasting lifestyle change! 

5 references (hide)

All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice. If you have or think you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, do not use the Lifesum app and seek immediate medical help.