How To Count Macros Without Losing Your Mind

How To Count Your Macros -
Easy IIFYM Guide For Beginners

This post is meant to be a shorter yet effective guide to show you how to count your macros.

For a more comprehensive look at what a macro diet is, click here.

Macro dieting or If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM), as it’s often referred to, is not a new concept and while it does sound like an exciting idea it also begs the following questions –

What does it take?” and “How exactly do you begin counting macros?

I believe if you want to effectively learn how to count macros, it is worth going back to the basics.

Understanding the smaller details makes it easier for you to understand what the bigger picture is about.

What is A Macro Diet

how to count macros

Macro is short for macronutrients.

As the name suggests, a macro diet is one that takes into account the total amount of macronutrients you consume daily.

There are 3 types of macros:

  • Carbs
  • Fats
  • Protein

Your body requires a certain amount of each macro in order to function properly.

The whole idea behind the macro diet is to help you make healthier food choices to meet your appropriate nutritional requirements without necessarily starving yourself or worrying too much about how much you eat.

It doesn’t mean you can just resort to unhealthy options but there are less restrictions on what you eat.

Compared to other dieting regimens out there, you get some more leniency with a macro diet which makes it a good starting option to reach different health goals.

Counting Calories or Counting Macros

When you hear both terms it can start to get really confusing so it is important to understand the difference before you get started.

Counting calories tends to be restrictive because people focus more on the numbers instead of the quality and type of food they’re eating.

Counting macros on the other hand focuses instead on the ratios of (healthy) carbs, fats and protein you should be eating daily.

Let’s take a look at an example to show you what I mean:

1 slice of the oreo dream extreme cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory contains about 1620 calories.

Compare that to this Lemon Sopressata Chicken recipe that contains only 242 calories per serving (13g Fat, 5g Carbs, 25g Protein).

You can already see the difference.

Calories don’t tell the whole story.

If we assume you had a daily target of about 2000 calories you could have 2 servings of the lemon chicken recipe and still have plenty of room for a healthy snack or 2.

Conversely 1 slice of the cheesecake alone will force you back to the gym almost immediately.

That’s a stark reminder that not all calories are the same. 

As you’ll soon see if you focus on hitting your macro count you’ll also be able to meet your daily calorie target which eliminates a lot of stress about your diet.

How To Count Your Macros

Prephase

Before you begin counting macros it is important that you devote some some time to figure out exactly why you’ve chosen to do so.

If you don’t, you’ll really just be doing it blindly and may not even get the results you’re looking for.

That said, there are typically 4 main reasons why you’d be interested in how to count your macros.

  1. Build muscle
  2. Lose Weight
  3. Maintenance
  4. Ketosis

Your first step then should be to determine which one of those four you’re trying to accomplish because the macro ratios for each one varies.

It only makes sense that the diet for someone trying to gain weight (or muscle) will differ from that of someone trying to lose weight and vice versa.

In fact here are the recommended ratios for each one of those options:

Macro ratios for Muscle Building: 40-60% Carb, 25-35% Protein, 15-25% Fat

Macro ratios for Weight Loss: 30-50% Carb, 25-35% Protein, 25-30% Fat

Macro ratios for Maintenance: 10-30% Carb, 40-60% Protein, 30-40% Fat

Macro ratios for Keto: 5% Carb, 25% Protein, 70% Fat

(See: 3 Keys to Dialing in Your Macronutrient Ratios)

Please keep in mind that these are just recommendations.

If possible you should always consider consulting with a nutritionist, dietitian or trainer to determine a ratio that works for you.

Understanding Your Current Situation

It is important for me to reiterate the fact that the ratios above are just recommendations.

They are meant to be more of a guide and are by no means set in stone.

The next very important step you need to consider is taking into account your own situation.

An effective macro diet will depend on a few key factors:

  • Your age
  • Level of Activity
  • Your Gender 
  • Food tolerance
  • and of course Your Goals (outcomes)

Since everyone’s situation is different and counting macros allows for some flexibility, those are all things you should keep in mind when on a macro diet.

What works for another person may not necessarily work for you.

The best macro diet/ratio is the one you can actually stick to.

Counting Macros

When it comes down to it, the actual counting process itself can be broken down into 3 steps.

  1. First you need to determine your target caloric intake i.e. Your daily calorie goal.
  2. Next you’ll need to figure out how you’ll break down that target among the 3 macros (use one of the ratios mentioned above).
  3. Finally you’ll need to keep track of everything you eat.

That last step is the toughest one.

You need to keep track of everything you eat. Yes, EVERYTHING!

It’s easy to tell yourself that those tiny snacks won’t matter but over time all those little things add up and throw everything off balance.

A good habit you should consider is planning your meals ahead of time.

When you plan ahead, you have an idea of what you’ll eat and you can get all the nutritional information ahead of time.

Again saves you a lot of headaches.

Remember how I mentioned that if you meet your macros you’ll meet your calorie intake?

Here’s the simple math that explains why:

 – 1 gram of Carbs = 4 calories

– 1 gram of Protein = 4 calories

– 1 gram of Fat = 9 calories

When you’re counting macros your goal is to determine the total number of grams you need per per protein, carbs and fat.

By determining and consuming the amount of grams required you also in essence meet your total calorie goals.

This will all make sense with the example below.

Let’s take a look at what the entire process for counting your macros looks like.

We’ll use Raymond in our example.

Raymond is a 33 y.o. male, moderately active, weighs 200lbs and is 6ft tall.

He wants to lose some weight and based on his calculations he’s determined he should be eating about 2300 calories per day to meet his goal.

He’s also chosen a macro ratio of 50% Protein, 25% Carbs, and 25% Fats.

With all the pre reqs in place here’s how he’ll do the math:

Protein

– 50% x 2300 calories = 1150 calories

– 1150 ÷ 4 = 287.5 grams

Carbs

– 25% x 2300 calories = 575 calories

– 575 ÷ 4 = 143.75 grams

Fats

– 25% x 2300 calories = 575 calories

– 575 ÷ 9 = 63.9 grams (approx.)

So Raymond knows he’ll need about 287.5g of Protein, 143.75g of Carbs, and 63.9g of Fats in order to lose some weight.

Makes it easier for him to plan his meals accordingly and a world of difference compared to looking at calories alone.

Keeping Track

Since there is a lot of recording involved you need something handy so you don’t forget to log everything you eat.

There are plenty of apps out there to help you with that.

Here are a few recommendations for you to choose from:

  1. MyFitnessPal
  2. MyMacros+
  3. Lose It!
  4. MyPlate
  5. LifeSum

Summary

A macro diet is an ideal way for you to eat healthy and give your body the essential nutrients it needs.

When you focus on macros instead of calories alone it prevents you from having a deprived or restrictive diet.

Here are the important steps you need to keep in mind:

  • Understand exactly why you chose to count your macros (Your goals/outcomes).
  • Keep your current situation in mind (Age, gender, exercise, time, budget, etc).
  • Determine your appropriate macro ratio and daily calorie requirements.
  • Record and keep track of everything
  • Make adjustments when necessary.

The fifth point is just a reminder that a macro diet allows for some flexibility.

If you notice you’re not getting the results you set out to accomplish then you need to make the necessary adjustments.

Remember counting macros is meant to be a fun and enjoyable process. Tweak as you see fit but be sure to keep track of everything. 

Eat healthy, exercise regularly and reach your goals!

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