Body Recomposition Calculator

With Macro Recommendations

How the Calculator Works

We ask for your body fat percentage instead of guessing. Most calorie calculators use your age, height, and sex to estimate how much fat and muscle you're carrying. Those extra variables can make the calculators feel more sophisticated. Unfortunately, they're using that information to apply loose generalizations, making them less accurate.

For example, if you tell a calorie calculator you're old, it will assume you have less muscle. That's true on average, but if you lift weights, then growing older allows you to accumulate more muscle mass. You'll be more muscular at 50 than at 20.

That's why this calculator asks for your weight and body fat percentage instead of your age, height, and sex. It still isn't perfect, but we'll deal with that below.

Before and after photos of a skinny-fat guy building muscle and losing fat, achieving body recomposition.

Body-Fat Percentage

If you know your weight and have a rough idea of your body fat percentage, we can estimate how lean and muscular you are. This allows us to calculate your resting metabolic rate more accurately (using the Cunningham Equation).

If you're relatively lean, here's how to visually estimate your body fat percentage:

  • 10% body fat: chiselled abs.
  • 12% body fat: faintly visible abs.
  • 15% body fat: flat stomach, maybe some upper abs.
  • 20% body fat: flat stomach, maybe some love handles.

If you're over 20% body fat or don't want to guess, use this Navy body fat calculator. It estimates your body fat percentage using your height, weight, waist circumference, and neck circumference. It's accurate to within a few percentage points, making it far more accurate than BIA bathroom scales.

Lifestyle & Activity Levels

Once we know how many calories you burn at rest, we can factor in how active you are (using an activity multiplier).

  • Sedentary: You spend almost all day sitting. This is common with deskworkers, students, and people who write articles about body recomposition. You should try to bump up into the next category if possible.
  • Somewhat active: You spend most of your day sitting, but you also spend an hour or two walking around. Maybe you have kids or a dog. Your daily step count might be 5,000–10,000. This is a healthy minimum amount of physical activity, especially if you also exercise.
  • Very active: You spend most of the day on your feet. Think manual labourers, personal trainers, athletes, and nurses. Your daily step count is probably far north of 10,000. This is great, but you don't need to force it.

Exercise (Workouts Per Week)

Any type of exercise counts as exercise, whether that's cardio or hypertrophy training. Cardio tends to burn the most calories, but a hearty bulking workout can still burn upwards of 300 calories per hour. We need to factor that in.

You can count any workout that's at least moderately intense. Don't count warm-ups, stretching, yoga, or walking the dog. Do count weight training, brisk walking, jogging, rucking, cycling, and other forms of cardio. Playing sports counts, too.

If the workout is half an hour or less, only count it if it's more intense. For example, 15 minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) would count as a workout, whereas going on a 30-minute walk every morning doesn't count. (That's part of an active lifestyle.)

Weight Change

I know the goal is to recomp, but that doesn't mean your weight needs to stay perfectly stable. We need to know whether you want to prioritize fat loss, muscle growth, or a balanced mix of both.

Here's what you need to know:

  • A slight deficit to burn more fat will have you eating a small calorie deficit of about 200 calories. That's enough to lose almost half a pound per week. It will be harder to build muscle but easier to lose fat. I recommend this if your waist circumference is at an unhealthy point (NIH):
    • Men: waist circumference of at least 40 inches (100 cm) at the height of your belly button.
    • Women: waist circumference of at least 35 inches (88 cm) at the narrowest point.
  • No weight change has you eating about as many calories as you burn. You shouldn't gain or lose much weight. This maximizes your odds of burning fat to fuel muscle growth. This makes for a good default.
  • A slight surplus to build more muscle will have you eating a very small calorie surplus of about 200 calories. That's enough to gain almost half a pound per week. It's technically a lean bulk, but it can work well for skinny-fat people who are new to lifting weights. That's enough extra calories to build quite a lot of muscle. However, it's less likely that you'll burn fat.

If you want to maintain about the same weight, you can listen to your appetite, weigh yourself every week, and eat a little more or less as needed. If your weight drifts up or down, you're free to let it. If you're gaining strength and your waist measurement is getting smaller, you're doing great.

If you're intent on very slowly gaining or losing weight, you'll probably need to track your calories. It's very difficult to maintain a consistently small calorie deficit or surplus without meticulous tracking.

Macro & Diet Recommendations

The macro recommendations are the minimum amount of each macronutrient. You should have plenty of calories left over. You can spend those however you like. Most people spend them on carbs and fat.

We set a moderate protein target of 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. That's enough to maximize your odds of building muscle while eating a normal amount of calories. I recommend sources like chicken, lean ground meat, fish, tofu, nuts, seeds, and dairy, but protein shakes can help in a pinch (especially for vegans). You can have up to three protein shakes per day without any known negative impact on your health.

Carbs improve workout performance, energy levels, and muscle growth (as explained here). They're great, but they're optional. You could even eat a ketogenic diet. I recommend getting most of your carbs from filling, fibrous sources like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, onions, garlic, peppers, bell peppers, frozen berries, potatoes, and so on.

A good rule of thumb is to eat at least ten grams of fibre per thousand calories. For example, if you're recomping at 3,000 calories, aim for at least thirty grams of fibre. You can eat much more than that, though, especially if you work up to it over time. Fibre is great for your health and digestion, and it will keep you feeling full for longer.

Fat is a valuable source of fat-soluble nutrients and is important for hormone production. You need a minimum of around 45 grams per day, so the calculator won't ever recommend less than that. However, if you have the caloric budget for it, I'd rather you get at least 20% of your calories from fat. I recommend getting your fat from seafood, nuts, seeds, avocadoes, olive oil, and fermented dairy (like kefir, cheese, and yogurt).

  • If you're eating in a slight deficit to burn more fat, your body is more likely to break down muscle for energy. You can reduce that risk by eating a little more protein. The calculator will add 10 grams of protein (about 40 calories).
  • If you're eating in a slight surplus to build more muscle, you can benefit from slightly more carbs. They'll pump your muscles full of extra glycogen, improving your workout performance and speeding up your rate of muscle growth. The calculator will add 50 grams of carbs (about 200 calories).

How to Control Your Weight

This calorie calculator should do a pretty good job of estimating how many calories you should eat, but it isn't perfect, and your metabolism can adapt.

  • There's a genetic component to metabolism. You might burn more or fewer calories than the average person.
  • Your metabolism might be adaptive. Most people adapt to how many calories they're eating. When you eat fewer calories, your body can subconsciously adapt to make you slightly less active, saving more calories. When you eat more calories, you might become slightly more active, burning more calories.
  • You can't perfectly track your calorie intake, and nutrition labels aren't perfectly accurate. For example, cooking with a bit of extra oil can add over a hundred extra calories, while leaving some olive oil in the pan when serving your food could remove over a hundred calories.

The solution is to weigh yourself every week and adjust accordingly. Add calories if you're losing weight or struggling to gain strength. Remove calories if your waist measurement is going up.

SHould You Track Your Calories?

You don't need to track your calories for body recomposition. Most people intuitively eat about enough calories to maintain their weight from week to week. If you focus on eating a good diet, you can probably let your appetite choose how much you eat.

I recommend weighing yourself once per week under similar conditions. For example, first thing every Sunday morning. That way, you'll know how your weight is changing, and you can eat a little more or less if needed.

But tracking your calories can definitely help. I did it for a few months almost a decade ago, and I'm still benefitting from it now. It taught me an incredible amount about my eating habits and the calorie content of food. I think everyone should try it at least once.

If you want to try tracking your calories, we're affiliated with Macrofactor. We think it's hands down the best calorie tracker:

  • It's great for both losing fat and building muscle.
  • It automatically adjusts your calorie targets based on how quickly you're gaining or losing weight.
  • It uses a verified food database, making it far more accurate than cheap trackers.

We've used it ourselves and with hundreds of clients over several years. It's fantastic, and it's constantly getting better. We have a full review here.

You can get an extended free trial of Macrofactor with the code "b2b". Try the app and see if you like tracking your calories. Not everyone does. It's a lot of work, especially during the first few days. Get through those first few days and then decide if you want to continue.

You Need to Get Stronger

Body recomposition is when you burn fat to fuel muscle growth. That muscle growth will make you stronger. Thus, if you're successfully building muscle, then you should be able to add weight or reps to most of your exercises most weeks. If you're getting stronger, you're doing great. Keep it up.

If you aren't getting stronger, there are a few things you can do:

  • Make sure you're following a really good hypertrophy training program, like this one for novices or this one for intermediates. A good workout routine is the most powerful way to encourage your body to spend energy from fat to build muscle.
  • Make sure you're eating enough protein. Maybe try eating a little bit more. Some people need more.
  • Make sure you're eating a good muscle-building diet.
  • Try to get enough good sleep every night.

If none of that is working, you might need to abandon body recomposition, switching to a more powerful method:

The Bony to Beastly Program

If you want a full fat loss and muscle-building program, including a 5-month workout routine, a diet guide, a recipe book, and online coaching, check out our Bony to Beastly Bulking Program. Or, if you want a customizable intermediate hypertrophy program, check out our Outlift Program. You can use either of these programs for bulking, cutting, or recomping.

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