The Definitive Guide to Estimating Macros


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Estimating macros.

The macro counters worse nightmare.

Foods without nutritional info.

Shock, horror, you can’t track your macros! — Wrong, you can and you should still account for and allow yourself to eat foods without the nutritional information right there. This could be; baked goods, homemade food, restaurant food…anything without a nutritional label essentially.

Now I am not going to make this post any longer than it needs to be, you want a few quick steps to take to estimate your macros and you want it now.

So without further ado.

Step 1: A Simple Search

The earlier you can do this step the better.

Even if it’s just the morning of the meal, the sooner you know the more likely you can plan for it. For example, if you know you’re going out for a big night out with the lads; curry, some booze etc. Then during the week you can adjust your nutrition to make allowances for it, for example:

Macro Exchange

Move up to 20% of your macros to one day, so that day you have 120% of your normal amount, which means you need to subtract 20% from the rest of your week. For example your aim is 2000 Calories, and you plan to have 2400 Calories one day.

Protein & Calories only

Instead of trying to hit your fat and carb macros you just aim to nail down your protein and calories, this can give you some much needed flexibility.

So when you search for the food in question ideally you want to find the closest match possible.

Now if you’re eating out at a chain they probably have their nutritional information online, so you can use that to go from. If it’s a baked good from a supermarket again they probably have the information available online.


You’d ideally plan ahead if you were eating out, so you can plan your day around it.

If you cannot find the exact item you are looking for you’re going to have to make a ‘best guess’. For example, my girlfriend often cooks delicious baked foods; cookies, brownies, cake and doesn’t always know the nutritional info, in this case I look for:

An Equivalent

This would be something like the same food item but from a supermarket or restaurant. Ideally you’ll have eaten the food from that place before, and so you can be fairly confident it’s similar.

For example I recently ate some banana bread that Charlotte made, and used Starbucks nutritional information per 100g and weighed out a slice. Or it might be you’re out eating pizza, you’ve had pizza express pizza before and can use their nutritional information to help you estimate what you’re eating.

Split it up

Your meal may be made up of several parts, for example; steak, chips and peas. In this scenario you would split up your meal and find an equivalent for each component. Of course you can pick meals that are easier and harder to do this with, and whether you choose to do that depends on:

1. Your ability to estimate

2. How important accuracy is for you.

Once you have your estimate items you can start planning your day, eating meals that don’t take you outside your goals. However, I recommend you leave yourself some buffer, as you never know if you need to make adjustments when you’re eating your food.

Smug Git who estimated his macros

Of course that is only possible when you know it’s going to happen, if you’re eating something ‘on the fly’ you’re going to have to make realtime adjustments.

See also  A Strong Case For Muscle Confusion

Summary: search online or on a food diary app for your meal/food and pick a suitable equivalent. 

Step 2: Adjustments for Amounts

OK so you’ve successfully completed step 1 you’ve got your meal and some macros/calories.

You’ve planned it into your day, week or diet.

#1 Adjust Portion Size

Now comes the time for adjusting for how much you actually get. For example, you may have entered steak, chips and peas, and you put in for a Nando’s portion of chips, but your plate comes out and you’re at some fancy posh place and you have like 4 chips. You can then adjust the portion size, so rather than just leaving it as 1, you change it to 0.75.

You adjust in real-time.

#2 Adjust Cup Size

Cups can come into their own here, for something like rice, potatoes and vegetables, you can normally find a value that uses cups to measure the nutritional content. You can then look at your serving and have a good view on how many cups of the food you have been given.

Looks to be a cup of rice here

#3 Adjust Using a Scale

If you’re at home and you’re eating food made by someone else you can quite easily chuck a scale under your plate and weigh out what you’re eating. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that then refer to the methods above, but doing it this way will be pretty accurate. For example, when Charlotte bakes brownies I do step 1 and pick a Sainsburies brownie and then weigh out her brownie on a scale, using Sainsburies per 100g nutritional info.

Or you’ve eaten enough chicken breasts to know that 200g is a whopper, or that a fist full of potato is around 200g raw.

It’s not 100%, but it’s close enough.

Summary: once you have the food in-front of you scale it to size.

Step 3: Adjustments for Goals

Now something I think worth consideration is what your goal is.

Someone who is trying to lose fat vs. someone who is bulking might want to approach things differently. If you’re dieting and trying to lose fat you want it to be over and done with asap, you don’t want to risk going over significantly as that would impact the rest of your week quite a lot, however if you’re bulking and underestimate a little it isn’t going to stop your progress, you may gain a little fast and so you dial it back for a few days.

Adjustments if Cutting

  • Add 10-15g to your estimated fat content
  • Subtract 10-20g from your estimated protein content
  • Limit the number of times you estimated e.g. once per month
  • Limit foods chosen to those you’re confident estimating e.g. steak & potato

Adjustments if Bulking

  • Leave as is
  • Unlimited estimated
  • Unlimited food choice

Adjustments if Maintaining

  • Add 5-10g to your estimated fat content
  • Subtract 5-10g from your estimated protein content
  • Limit the number of times you estimated e.g. once per week
  • Limit foods chosen to those you’re fairly confident estimating e.g. pizza

Adjustments if in Contest Prep

  • Closer to the show the stress of estimating probably isn’t worth it, avoid where possible

Let’s put this to an example; you’re cutting but not in contest prep, so you decide to go out for chicken and chips. You’ve done steps 1 & 2, you’ve made it come to 40P, 100C, 30F, now using step 3 you adjust and make the meal 30P, 100C, 40F, which makes it slightly higher in Calories too.

My Client Blair reduced the amount he ate out the closer he got to stage

The adjustments for protein and fat:

  1. Protein is very important for sparring muscle mass, when we’re in a caloric deficit this becomes more important.
  2. Fat is the most calorie dense macronutrient (9kcal per gram) and therefore an underestimation can lead to a lot of extra calories, it’s also very easy to add to meals; butter over vegetables, cooking meat in oil etc. Chefs love to splash fat over everything.

Summary: change your guesstimations according to your goals.

Step 4: Get on with your life

Finally, get on with your life.

Now don’t take this final step lightly.

— Don’t you dare think about skipping it.

This step is probably the most important out of all 4, in that you don’t want to stress about what’s happened. You had to guesstimate your nutrition, you could have eaten too much, too little or you could be bang on. Do steps 1 to 3 and be happy and content that you’ve diligently accounted for the food you’re about to eat.

See also  4 Variables That Impact Your Training Volume [MRV Series Part 3]

Most people don’t track their nutrition.

Most people are unaware how many calories they consume daily.

Very few people realise what the role of each macro is for their body.

You’re not one of those people, you unlike them have control over your body composition, you’re in a much better position than most. The fact that you’re even reading this article tells me that you’re an informed eater and the fact you’re going as far to guesstimate foods tells me you don’t need to worry about being slightly out.


Once here there is nothing more to do than get back to your usual eating, training and life.

Good job.

Summary: do steps 1 to 3, and forget about it.

Step by Step Example

This article was spawned due to a large number of posts in my free facebook group like:

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 18.43.58

I knew if there were posts like this in my group, there must be people struggling to guesstimate calories world wide.

Hence this post.

Now let’s break-this meal down into the 4 steps:

Step 1 & 2: Search & Adjust for size

So here we have what looks like a Sunday Roast, so lets split it into parts & find them in myfitnesspal:

  • Yorkshire Pudding – most are coming to around 50kcal for a small pud, this looks pretty medium so let’s go with 2, making it 100kcal
  • Gravy – now this would be hard, as it will depend if made from granules or from meat juices, and you’d be able to tell which you had when eating, lets go with something in-between, a pot of KFC gravy is 80kcal
  • Gammon – a small Gammon steak from Asda is 170kcal, there appears to be a good heap, so lets go with 1.5 portions
  • Brocoli – here you can use cups and find one cup of these cooked is 30kcal
  • Sweet Potato Mash – again like the gravy it depends on how this is made, did they add butter? How much? Again you’d probably be able to tell when eating, a serving of Nandos mash is 250kcal, there isn’t much here so we can half that.
  • Roast Potatoes – again cups come in handy here and can be found in myfitnesspal, looks like around 1 cup if we include the other root vegetable that is there too, coming to 200kcal.

With all that added in the meal has come to:

48 Protein, 86 Carb, 28 Fat and 788kcal

Step 3: Adjust for goal

I know Ryan is cutting, and so we could adjust the above macros using step 4. The degree to how much fat and how much protein you change by depends on how accurate you think you are:

  • Are you well experience in tracking macros?
  • Are you confident with your guess?

Lets say we’re not too sure due to the fact extra fat could be found in the gravy and mash, so we’ll go ahead and add 15g of fat, but we’re pretty confident with our meat and so just reduce protein by 10g, giving us:

38 Protein, 86 Carb, 43 Fat and 883kcal

Step 4: Get on with life

Right you’re done, you’ve accounted for the food you’re eating, enjoy it and get on with your life!

Remember, you cannot be perfect with your macros  unless you send each individual food item to a lab to be tested, so don’t get hung up on estimating macros now and then.

It’s literally as simple as the steps outlined above.


Want to learn more about Flexible Dieting? Read this.

Not sure what macro intake you should have? Read this.

Join my free facebook group or add me on snapchat (revivestronger) and ask your question there, I will respond asap. Or if you’re after a fresh training programme I have a free 4 week plan using DUP that you can download for free here.

One more thing…

Do you have a friend who would love the above? Share this article with them and let me know what they think.

[bctt tweet=”The Definitive Guide to Estimating Macros” username=”revivestronger”]

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