How to Count Macros
So, you’ve decided to track macros!
I’ve been doing this a long time and coach women to do this same and I am here to help you if you’ve ever wondered how to count macros!
Let’s dive in!
What are macros?
Contrary to popular belief, macros aren’t some scary, ultra restrictive diet.
Macros simply stands for “macronutrients” which are protein, fat and carbs! All food is made up of macros, therefore macros really just describe what the food you eat is made up of! Nothing scary to see here folks!
Why Track Macros Over Calories?
What you might not know is that there is a difference between weight loss and fat loss, and most people want FAT loss. There is also a difference between weight gain and muscle gain, and most people trying to gain weight want to gain muscle.
This is where macros come in.
You need to be eating an optimal ratio of macros, and typically eating high protein if you want to keep your muscle and lose fat OR if you want to maximize muscle growth and minimize fat gain.
If you’re just tracking overall calories, you likely won’t be eating this optimal ratio.
You might undereat protein or eat too many carbs and/or fats to get optimal results!
If you’re not eating enough protein you might end up losing your muscle which will slow your metabolism!
Not to mention, having muscle on your body gives you a “toned” look, so you definitely want to keep it!
Tracking your macros during a weight loss phase will allow you to keep you muscle, lose fat and actually change the shape of your body!
If you want to just lose weight, you should track calories.
If you want to lose FAT, you should track macros.
On the flip side, if you want to build muscle and minimize fat gain you should track macros, not calories.
Macros really are king if you a body composition related goal like weight loss or muscle gain.
Why I Love Macros
Keeping track of your macros can help you support in other healthy ways like balancing your blood sugar, hormones and optimizing stress and sleep as ratios of protein, fat and carbs that you eat all come into play in these scenarios.
Plus, you can customize them based off your own likes! Like more fat? Go for it! Prefer more carbs? You can do that!
I’ve been tracking them for years and absolutely love it.
Not to mention, when you track macros, you CAN track some food you think is “bad” and this allows you to see that there are no good or bad foods. You can include all foods in your diet to reach your goals.
Contrary to popular belief, macros helps many people actually have a better relationship with food!
The Importance of Each Macro
Now, let’s look at the importance of each macro nutrient!
Protein helps build muscle and aid in muscle recovery. It helps repair all our cells and tissues. It helps us make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals.
It’s also an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage and skin, and it also helps with satiety, meaning we feel fuller and more satisfied for a longer period of time! Protein also keeps your metabolism revving because protein burns the most calories to digest!
My favorite high protein recipes:
- Healthy high protein French toast
- High protein hummus chicken salad
- High protein banana bread
- How to make protein oats
Dietary fats are essential to give your body energy and to support cell growth. They also help protect your organs and keep your body warm.
Fat helps your body absorb some nutrients and produce important hormones too, especially women’s sex hormones, which can be very essential for fat loss!
Just like protein, they also keep us satisfied and full since they are the last macro your body digests and the last macro to leave the stomach!
My favorite high fat recipes:
Carbs are the gold standard of food energy for the body because the brain, the nervous system, and the red blood cells rely exclusively on carbs to function.
Our thyroid is also pretty dependent on carbs and not eating enough can lower your metabolism.
When your body doesn’t have enough carbs, it’s in a very stressed-out state, which raises your stress hormone, cortisol, and makes weight loss and muscle gain very hard.
Adequate carb intake also helps release serotonin and tryptophan which are important for feeling good but also for sleep!
My favorite high carb recipes:
- Roasted russet potatoes
- Air fryer roasted potatoes
- Instant pot boiled potatoes
- Air fryer potato wedges
Let’s look at how macros work from a nutrition label.
First, you have to know that protein has 4 calories per gram, carbs also have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram.
So you can see here that per serving of this food, there are 8g fat.
8×9 = 72 calories from fat per serving.
It also has 37g of carbs per serving.
37×4= 138 calories from carbs per serving.
It has 3g of protein per serving.
3×4 = 36 calories from protein per serving.
Total calories: 246.
As you can see this is a little off because nutrition labels usually subtract the fiber from the total calories.
Which would be 4g x 4 (as fiber is a carb) which equals 16 calories.
246 – 16 = 230 calories!
And, this is the calories we see on the label!
Don’t worry, you don’t have to always do these calculations as your app will do them for you, I’m just showing you how to understand how macros work to create overall calories!
So, if you’re tracking macros, you’re also tracking calories. Just better.
How to Count Macros
How do I figure out my macros?
First, you have to figure out your own macro ratio.
First, you have to figure out your daily calories from any calorie counter online. However, I will say many of these will give you a VERY low number of calories.
You’re best bet is to work with a coach or join a trusted macro program.
Good thing for you – I am a coach and I have a mini course called Tracking Simplified that will teach you exactly how to set your own calorie and macro targets and tweak to get the best results.
Once you’ve set your daily calories, you need to pick your macro ratios.
I typically recommend setting your protein at either 30% of your daily caloric intake OR 1 g per lb of body weight – whichever is lower.
From there, you must set your fat grams. I typically recommend 30-35% of your daily caloric intake from fat.
Then, you fill the rest in with carbs.
For example, let’s say your daily calorie intake is 2000.
To set your protein, you would multiple 2000 x .30 = 600 divide by 4 (as protein as 4 calories per gram) = 150g protein per day.
For fat, you could multiply 2000 x .35 = 700 divide by 9 (as fat as 9 calories per gram) = 78g fat per day.
Then take the total calories you’ve already figured out (protein + fat = 1300) and subtract from your daily intake (2000-1300= 700)
Then divide that by 4 (since carbs have 4 calories per gram) = 175g or protein per day.
Now, you’ve set your macros!
To track macros properly you need a tracking app. I recommend MyFitnessPal. You will need to upgrade to the pro version to track macros.
Many people also recommend Cronometer.
You will also need a food scale to weigh and measure your food. I use THIS ONE and love it.
Log Your Daily Intake
From there, log your daily macros in my fitness pal and try to hit them within 5-7g either way each day (being under or over by 5-7g)
Top Tips for Tracking Macros
Tracking macros does have a learning curve. It takes a lot of time at first but, like anything, once you practice it truly becomes easy.
My top tip for making macros work for you is to pre plan your day.
This ensures you actually eat the appropriate amount and that you don’t just track as you go and end up with a weird “frankenmeal” that is all protein and 1g of fat.
That’s not enjoyable.
I also suggest starting with a range of macros if you are new. For example. Instead of saying you have to hit 150g protein, maybe you start with 130-150g.
Then, you can tighten it up as you get used to tracking macros!
Common Macro Tracking Mistakes
The biggest mistake I see with tracking macros is the “if it fits my macros” mentality.
Yes, you CAN eat fun foods when tracking macros and, in fact, you should!
But, ONLY trying to eat “fun” foods is doing yourself a disservice. You still need to make sure you are focusing on whole, nourishing foods and not just eating chocolate bars all day long because “it fits my macros.”
Another mistake I see is obsessing over doing it perfectly, avoiding situations where you can’t track or not eating something because it has no nutrition label.
View macros simply as a framework and a TOOL, not a set of rules that you MUST ALWAYS FOLLOW.
This makes macros into a prison and does not foster a healthy relationship with food.
Remember: one salad doesn’t make you fit overnight, so one day of not being able to track won’t do ANYTHING to your progress.
Play the long game and prioritize your quality of life!
How To Make Counting Macros Easy
Want to make macro tracking the easiest it could possibly be?
Grab access to my Tracking Simplified mini course that will teach you how to set your macros, tweak your macros and ALL the ins and outs of making counting macros successful for your goals!
Here’s to your macro success!
This post contains Amazon Affiliate links! Thanks for supporting FFF!