Wondering how to start counting macros? Let’s start here:
Have you ever heard the saying that abs are made in the kitchen? And then we all joke that if it were that easy we’d have them by now. blah blah blah. But guys, that saying ain’t lying. Nutrition counts for 80% of things when we’re trying to lose weight, change our body composition, or just get healthier. That means you can’t out-exercise a bad diet (another saying that may or may not make you roll your eyes). What it all basically means is you could bust your butt in the gym every single day, but if your nutrition doesn’t have that same work ethic, you’re not going to see the results you’re working so hard to achieve.
For most people, counting macros (or tracking macros) isn’t necessary. If you’re someone who wants to lose a few pounds, or just make healthier nutritional choices, then tracking macros might be too overwhelming and cause more harm than good. If you fall into that category, I’d recommend first trying these simple habits before diving into the world of macros:
- Consume a diet of mostly whole foods
- Eat slowly
- Eat without distractions (no phones, no TV – sit down at a table to eat)
- Eat until you’re satisfied, not until you’re stuffed – learn the difference
- Don’t skip breakfast (eat within an hour of waking)
- Develop a pattern of eating more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day
- Put more emphasis on protein and veggies: add something “green” to every meal
- Stay hydrated
- Get enough sleep
- MOVE: exercise is key
Oh, and if weight loss is your goal – have a basic understanding of how many calories you’re consuming every day, so you can strive to burn more calories than you consume.
Here’s How to Start Counting Macros
If you’re someone who has tried all those things listed above and hasn’t had luck, or if you’re wanting to work on a specific body composition or recomposition goal (losing fat, building muscle, changing your overall aesthetic and athletic build), then it may be time to make the move toward understanding macronutrients and how you can use them to fuel your body and reach your goals, and learn how to start counting macros.
What are Macros?
All food is made up of macronutrients. These are the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that we eat on a daily basis. Each macro plays a specific role in our body and how we digest and utilize the foods we eat.
The Role of Carbs in Our Body
There’s this big misconception that carbs are bad for us; that carbs make us gain weight. Well guys – I hate to break it to you, but if you overate ANY macro on a consistent basis, you’d gain weight. It just so happens that carbohydrates are the easiest of the three to overeat. You know what I’m talking about. Things like cookies, cakes, candy, chips… Nobody sits around and binges on turkey jerky and hard boiled eggs until an entire carton is gone. It just doesn’t happen. Or if it does, you don’t hear about it as often. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy that our body utilizes. They’re that important!
Carbs also help us build muscle – along with protein. Think of it like carbs are protein’s lifting buddy. They’re going to get way more out of their time in the gym if they go together and keep each other accountable, and work together on building muscle.
The Role of Protein in Our Body
Protein doesn’t just build muscle; it builds EVERY organ. Kinda. It’s responsible for repairing and building muscle, of course, but also helping with the metabolic reactions that happen within our body, maintain fluid balance, coordinate bodily functions, aide in wound healing, the growth of our hair, skin, nails.. the list goes on and on. Protein also helps us stay feeling fuller for longer periods of time.
The Role of Fats in Our Body
There’s good fats, and bad fats, and people I am here to tell you that our bodies NEED good fats. Our brain needs good fats! So many times I see and hear people saying they follow a low fat diet, or they buy fat-free items from the grocery store. Eating healthy full fats is far better for you than any chemically engineered low fat option. Fats also provide a layer of insulation in our bodies to keep our organs safe and protected. It’s fact not fiction.
Why You Should Track Macros
Tracking macros takes calorie counting to the next level. Instead of just tracking your food to stay above or below a certain daily caloric intake, tracking macros also gives you a specific number of grams of carbohydrates, protein, and fats to consume on daily basis. The thing about macros is that everybody has a different need. So based on different factors, such as your body type, age, height, weight, goal, activity level, and more.. you may have a completely different macro breakdown than someone else. Further, your macro goals may change as your body composition goals change. You may see those numbers fluctuate based on if you’re wanting to lose weight and decrease body fat, or if you’re wanting to bulk up or build lean muscle mass.
How to Start Counting Macros
To count macros, you want to keep track of the amount of grams consumed daily for total carbs, protein, and fats. You can do this by reading the nutrition labels on the foods you’re consuming, and by weighing/measuring your food and either writing in a food planner or logging in something like MyFitnessPal.
Keep in mind, that it’s normal to be slightly under or go slightly over on your daily macros. Start with a goal of being +/- 10g of each macro daily, and as you get more comfortable with the tracking process, aim to be +/- 5g daily.
Here’s Why I Love Counting Macros
- I like having a laid out plan to follow that’s specific to ME, and my goals – and not something that’s a fad or that everyone else is doing just because it’s popular
- No food is considered off limits. As long as it fits your macros, you can have it! Now having said that, I’m always going to preach that whole foods are better for you, but I also know that life is all about balance, and sometimes we need the tacos, cupcakes, and popcorn. We just do.
- Tracking macros teaches you how to be in tune with your body; you learn how eating different types of foods by amounts and times of day, really affect your body as a whole, and you begin to listen to that more and really understand what your body needs and when.
- If you stick to your plan, you WILL see results. Because you’re fueling your body with the right amounts of food to get you there.