One of the more popular dieting methods to gain notoriety over the past year or so has been macro counting. But unlike a lot of the other popular diet trends like keto, carnivore, intermittent fasting, etc, macro counting has one huge advantage over all of those:
It works for everyone.
Why? Because macro counting is non-restrictive, flexible, and allows you to eat the foods you enjoy while still seeing results.
Sound too good to be true? It’s not. It’s the approach I used myself to lose over 80 pounds of fat and put on over 20 pounds of muscle. It’s the approach I use with all of my clients as well. And over the next two articles, I’m going to teach you how to do it for yourself, so you can incredible results for yourself as well.
What are Macros?
Macros – or macronutrients – are simply the nutrients that make up the calories we eat; specifically protein, carbs, and fat.
Each nutrient contains a certain amount of calories. Protein and carbs each contain 4 calories per gram, and fat contains 9 calories per gram.
So for example, a food that contains 25g of protein, 10g of carbs, and 5g of fat would have 185 calories: (25×4)+(10×4)+(5×9)=185
What makes counting macros such an efficient way to lose fat, build muscle, and fuel your body is that it allows you to eat the foods you enjoy, as long as they fit within your individual macro numbers, and therefore, your calories.
This helps ensure you’re eating the right amount of calories AND giving your body the right amount of nutrients for what you want to achieve.
Let’s take a look at how to find your own macros and set them up for your goals…
Setting Up Your Daily Calorie Intake
To find your daily calorie intake, you’re going to take your bodyweight and multiply it by a certain number, based on your goal.
If you want to maintain your bodyweight, increase strength, or improve performance, take your bodyweight and multiply it by 13-15.
If you want to lose fat, multiply your bodyweight by 10-12.
If you want to build muscle, multiply your bodyweight by 16-18.
(Note: If you have a job that has you more active during the day, use the higher end of these ranges, and if you’re less active, sitting most of the day, use the low end)
For simplicity’s sake, we’ll use a 200 pound, lightly-active man looking to maintain his body weight as our example:
200 x 13 = 2,600 calories
So to maintain his weight, he needs to eat roughly 2,600 calories per day. So now that we have that, we can set up his macronutrient intake.
Setting Up Your Macro Ratio
The first macro we’ll start with is protein, since that’s the most important. You need to be sure you’re giving your body enough protein to both support the muscle you have, and build more.
For that, you’re going to set your protein intake equal to 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. So since our man weighs 200 pounds, he’s going to eat 200 grams of protein per day. This equals 800 calories coming from protein:
200 grams x 4 calories per gram = 800 calories from protein.
Now that we have protein intake covered, next we’ll figure out fat intake.
I generally recommend setting your fat intake between 0.25 to 0.4 grams per pound of bodyweight. This ensures that you’re eating enough fat to cover what the body needs for optimal health.
You can eat more than that, but I don’t recommend it if you’re performing high intensity activities like HIIT or strength training because your body needs a certain amount of carbs to be able to perform efficiently, and recover.
If you’re looking to lose fat, I recommend setting fat a little higher in that range so you don’t drop below an unhealthy level. If you’re looking to build muscle, I recommend setting fat lower, since you’re already eating in a surplus, and too much fat intake will be stored as body fat.
For our purpose, we’ll use 0.3 grams per pound of bodyweight.
0.3 grams x 200 pounds = 60 grams of fat per day
In calories, this would be:
60 grams x 9 calories per gram = 540 calories from fat.
The last step in setting our macro intake is finding out how many carbs we need. To do this we simply subtract the number of calories from protein and fat from our overall daily intake, and then divide that number by 4.
800 + 540 = 1,340 calories from protein and fat
2,600 – 1,340 = 1,260 calories remaining
Now we just divide by 4:
1,260 / 4 = 315 grams of carbs per day.
And there we have our macronutrient breakdown for each day:
The next step then, no matter what your goal is, would be to eat these numbers every day for two weeks, monitor your progress, and adjust based on the results you’re seeing.
But that begs the question: Now that we have your macronutrient intake, how do you count macros? After all, if you can’t accurately and consistently hit these numbers, then you’re not going to reach your goals. Period.
But don’t worry. I’m not going to leave you high and dry to fend for yourself. In Part Two of this article, we’re going to breakdown a very simple, effective, and non-stressful method for counting macros you can use to hit your numbers and your goals.
Jorden is a cookie-loving former fat kid turned online fitness consultant; who lost over 80 pounds and has now helped over 600 of men and women get in better shape and improve their lives. You can find him on Instagram musing about fitness, life, and cookies. For coaching inquiries, you can contact Jorden here.