How to Count Macros: A Beginner’s Guide

Do you want to lose weight and get healthy? Learn how to count macros to help you meet your goals.

woman learning how to count macros

Over the past few years, macro counting has become extremely popular on social media and in fitness groups, but what exactly is it? If you’ve heard the term “macros” thrown around but are unsure what it means, you’re in the right place! 

In this beginner’s guide, I’ll explain macro counting, how it compares to other diets, the benefits of counting macros, and how to get started. 

Whether you want to lose weight, change your body composition, or gain muscle mass, counting macros will help you reach your goals. 

Unlike other diets that restrict certain food groups or macronutrients, macro counting is all about finding the right balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to fuel your body and support your goals. This approach allows for flexibility in food choices and focuses on overall nutrition rather than strict rules or restrictions. 

What Is a Macronutrient?

Before jumping into how to count macros, it’s important to understand exactly what a macro is.

Macro is short for macronutrients, the three major components of our diet: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Our bodies need these nutrients because each one is essential for various bodily functions and gives us energy.

Protein is crucial for building and repairing tissues in our body, like muscle tissue. It also plays a role in maintaining a healthy immune system and hormone production. Each gram of protein is four calories.

Fat is another vital macronutrient that often gets a bad rap. However, healthy fats are essential for the insulation and cushioning of our organs, hormone production, and vitamin absorption. Each gram of fat is nine calories.

Carbohydrates are our body’s primary energy source and are crucial for brain function. They can also play a role in muscle growth when consumed at the right times. Each gram of carbs is four calories.

Every food we consume comprises these macronutrients; combined, they make up the calories in the food and drinks we enjoy. 

Why Count Macros?

Now that we’ve broken down what a macro is, let’s talk about why we count macros.

Macro counting has become extremely popular over the years because it allows you to be flexible. There aren’t entire food groups off-limits or macro groups to avoid, like bread or dairy – you can enjoy anything you’d like, as long as it fits inside your macros. 

Another benefit is that it’s personalized to you and your goals. Every person gets specific macro goals based on age, gender, weight, activity level, and goals. For example, someone looking to lose weight will have very different macros than someone training to run a marathon and gain muscle mass.

What Is Macro Counting?

So, how exactly do you count macros? It might initially seem overwhelming, but it can be easy with some practice and consistency. Here’s a basic overview of the process:

  1. Determine your macro goals: Your goals will depend on your needs and goals. You can use online calculators or consult with a registered dietitian to determine what your targets should be.
  2. Track your food and drinks: There are many methods for tracking macros, including using a food-tracking app, writing them down in a journal, or using a spreadsheet. Find a method that works best for you and stick to it.
  3. Adjust as needed: As your body changes and evolves, so should your macro goals. It’s important to regularly reassess and adjust your macros to ensure they align with your current goals. A general rule is to reassess every 2-3 months or whenever you experience a plateau.

Benefits of Macro Counting

There are many benefits when it comes to macro counting. A few of them include:

More Accurate Than Calorie Counting

Calorie counting was extremely popular; however, food nutrition label calorie counts have become inaccurate over the years. Many companies have begun calculating calories based on a new metric called net carbs (carbs less fiber), which is incorrect unless you follow a diet that uses net carbs, like the ketogenic diet. This can lead to calorie counts being extremely understated and inaccurate. 

Food Choice Awareness and Portion Control

Counting macros requires tracking your intake, which can help increase awareness of your food choices and portion sizes. This is especially important for those trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy lifestyle. By keeping track of your macro intake, you can make more informed decisions about what and how much you eat. This can lead to better overall health and wellness.

Flexible Dieting

Another advantage of counting macros is its flexibility. Unlike strict diet plans, where certain foods or food groups are eliminated, counting macros allows for a more balanced and sustainable approach to eating. Instead of cutting out your favorite foods entirely, you can incorporate them into your meals as long as they fit your macro goals. This makes the diet more enjoyable and helps prevent feelings of deprivation and restriction.

Long-Term Sustainability

Counting macros is not a quick fix or temporary solution. It is a long-term approach to nutrition that can be maintained for years to come. This makes it sustainable to maintain a healthy weight and overall wellness. Focusing on macronutrient intake rather than strict calorie counts allows for more flexibility and enjoyment in your everyday meals. As a result, it is easier to stick to and can be sustained for the long haul.

Better Understanding of Nutrition

By counting macros, you better understand the nutritional content of your foods. This knowledge can help you make more informed food choices and portion sizes. It also allows you to identify any potential deficiencies in your diet and make necessary adjustments. 

How To Get Started Macro Counting

The easiest way to start with macro counting is to use an app with a macro calculator and food tracker to track your food. Apps will not only be able to assign your goal macros based on your body weight goals, but they also have large food databases, making tracking easy.

A popular macro counting app is the 1st Phorm app. This app includes a coach to calculate your macros and a food tracker. One of my favorite features is that it also has a barcode scanner to scan and track your food quickly.

Other popular apps include Cronometer, My Fitness Pal, and Healthi.

Tips for Success

To be successful with macro counting, it is crucial to accurately track your food intake and consistently meet your daily goals. Here are a few tips to help you stay on track:

  • Plan ahead: At the beginning of each week, plan your meals and snacks. This will make it easier to stay on track and avoid last-minute unhealthy food choices. 
  • Use a food scale: Measuring your food by weight rather than volume can provide more accurate nutrient information for tracking macros.
  • Be flexible: While hitting your daily macro goals is important, don’t stress over being exact with every meal. As long as you consistently hit your goals over a week, you will see progress.
  • Be patient: Macro counting is not a quick fix. It takes time and consistency to see results. Trust the process and be patient with yourself.

Macro Counting for Your Health

Macro counting can be an excellent tool for weight loss or fitness goals. It allows flexibility in your food choices while meeting your nutrient needs. Remember to listen to your body and adjust your macros as needed. 

With consistency and patience, you can see progress and reach your health goals using macro counting.

This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.

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Ali Van Straten
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Ali Van Straten is the founder of Champagne and Coffee Stains, where she provides tips for Peloton, running, and recipes. Ali is a certified running coach, certified nutrition coach and marathon runner. Her mission is to provide information to help busy moms achieve their fitness goals. She has been featured on The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! Lifestyle, NASDAQ, and Parade.

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