How to Count Macros for Weight Loss
Updated: Feb 22
If you're trying to lose weight, keep reading. We're discussing how to count macros for weight loss, so you can achieve your weight goals.
Do you feel like you've tried every diet under the sun and none of them seemed to work? You're not on your own. According to statistics, 95% of all diets fail. And that's because they all have the same issue in common... They all tell you to avoid or limit something that brings you joy and happiness. Sometimes even entire food groups are banned, or you're told it's a sin to eat foods you enjoy.
With tracking macros, you can fit in all of your favorite foods and drinks AND still meet your weight loss goals. Sound too good to be true? It's not. In this article, I teach what macros are, how to track them, and how to fit them in with your lifestyle. Keep reading to learn a better way to think about food.
What Are Macros?
The word macros is short for macronutrients, which are protein, carbs, and fat.
All foods fall under one of these 3 categories. They are all equally important and needed for your overall health, regardless of your body goals.
Protein is important to keep your muscles and bones healthy. It also aids your immune system, promotes heart health, and helps your body grow and repair itself. When many people think of protein, they think of meat, but protein is found in many foods, including tofu and seitan if you're vegan or vegetarian.
Carbohydrates are our body's natural source of energy which is why sugar causes our energy levels to spike. The types of carbohydrates we consume are processed differently by our body depending on their glycemic index. Carbs include fruits and vegetables, and starchy foods like potatoes, pasta, and bread.
Fat is vital for our hormones and for vitamin absorption. We need fatty acids for our bodies to function. Healthy sources of fat include fish, nuts, eggs, yogurts, and olive oil.
How All Diets Work
The way all diets work is by putting you in a calorie deficit, they just do it in different ways. The key to weight loss is calories in vs calories out, and most diets are creating that by causing you to cut out certain foods, or sometimes an entire food group. For example, in a keto or Atkins diet, you cut out carbohydrates. In low-fat diets, you cut out fat. Even with intermittent fasting, the goal is to consume fewer calories by eating less often. But it's not healthy to cut out food groups, and it's not good for mental health to cut out foods you enjoy. A healthier way to lose weight is to track your calories and macros and strive for balance.
Counting Macros: Using an App
Want to learn how to count macros? The best way to do it is to use an app. One of the most popular food-tracking apps in the world is MyFitnessPal, but its competitors include MyPlate, and Lifesum. These apps allow you to search for and enter foods you commonly eat, and sometimes even scan supermarket barcodes. Many popular foods already exist in these apps, making tracking quick and easy.
Setting Macros For Your Goals
So how do you know how many calories you should be eating, and which macro split is right for you? Well, that depends on your body, your activity level, and your goals.
Setting Your Calorie Intake
There are 2 methods you can take to set your calorie intake. You can either track what you're eating now and then reduce the amount of calories by 200-300. Or you can calculate your basal metabolic rate (the energy expended by your body), and set your calories based on that. Either way, it's important not to take a dramatic drop down in calories overnight because this may make you feel bad and could have health implications. You can use a BMR calculator to figure out your BMR, and then multiply that by your activity level to reach a daily calorie intake. You can also use a TDEE calculator for this (total daily energy expenditure).
Setting Your Macros
Once you have a calorie intake you're happy with, it's time to split it into macros. For weight loss, it's recommended to consume 45-65% of your calories from carbs, 20-35% from fats, and 10-35% from protein. There isn't a perfect macro split that works for everyone, it comes down to personal preference and what you enjoy sticking to. Your macro numbers will also change over time.
Macros & Food Choices for Weight Loss
In macro-focused diets, the only focus is your protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake. No foods are good or bad for weight loss. You can enjoy food at restaurants, drink alcohol, and make room for any sweet or savory treats you enjoy.
Macros and Healthy Foods
You may find that foods you think of as healthy or good are actually causing you to overconsume calories when you start tracking macros. For example, a fruit smoothie often contains as many calories as an entire meal, so while you think you're being healthy, you're actually unconsciously adding an extra meal's worth of calories to your day, which could be the cause of your weight gain.
Picking foods that fit in your macros gets easier over time, and there are alternatives for everything. If you enjoy soda or energy drinks, opt for sugar-free options, but be mindful of overconsuming artificial sweeteners that are bad for your teeth and overall health.
How to Feel Full
The secret to feeling full is picking satiating foods, which often means consuming more protein than you usually do. One of the key benefits of protein is that it helps you feel fuller for longer. Think of protein as the main attraction on your plate. Pick alternatives that allow you to have a higher volume of food. For example, you can have a much larger plate of zucchini noodles compared to regular noodles, helping you stay full.
Other satiating foods that will help you consume fewer calories and lose weight are potatoes, oatmeal, greek yogurt, and egg whites.
Making Macros Fit Your Lifestyle
Life is busy, and you may not always have time to think about your macros, and that's okay! You don't have to be perfect every day, there are different tracking methods you can implement to fit in with your lifestyle.
Macros and Eating Out
What is most important is hitting a weekly average calorie target. For example, if you want to eat 1,500 calories per day, that's 10,500 per week to play with. So if one day you eat 2,500, you can make that up by reducing your daily calories so you still hit the same total in that week. You can also plan this if you know you will be going out for a meal on a certain day. If you're going to a restaurant and they don't have the calories labeled, don't panic! Try to choose options with minimal sauces and stick with lean cuts of meat, as this will be much easier to estimate later. Always slightly overestimate calories and macros, and you will rarely be over.
Macros and Alcohol
If you're going out for drinks, opt for spirits with sugar-free soda or tonic. White wine is another alternative. Remember drinks need to be tracked as well as food, so you need to allow room for drinks in your carbohydrate allowance for the day.
Macros and Meal Prep
If you have a busy lifestyle, one of the best things you can do for yourself is meal prep. Meal prepping is preparing your meals in advance, and this means you'll never be stuck for what to eat when you're at work or out of the house. In 2-3 hours, you can prep all of your meals for the entire week, saving you precious time during the busy working week.
Should You Hire a Personal Trainer or Nutritionist?
Should you hire someone to support you like a personal trainer or nutritionist? It's really a matter of preference, and it also comes down to your other goals and your ability to stay self-motivated. Following macros is not always easy, and a PT will be there to hold you accountable when you struggle, and to provide continuous emotional support. Education is important here because following macros isn't supposed to be a one-off diet; it's a lifestyle change. A PT can give you the education, tools, and skills needed to implement that effectively and fit macros into your unique life. On your own, you might also find yourself getting stuck in a rut and eating the same things over and over. A PT or nutritionist can give you variety in your diet to stop you from getting bored and potentially falling off the wagon with your diet. If you have other goals, such as muscle gain or improved cardiovascular health, a PT can help you fit your diet alongside your exercise routine.
How to Count Macros: Things to Remember
If you're trying to lose weight and you're looking for a method that makes sense, the best thing you can do is count macros. If you want to learn how to count macros properly, the key is to practice. Remember macros aren't everything micronutrients like vitamins and minerals are important in your diet too. No matter what your lifestyle is or how busy you are, macros can work for you. If you have questions or want to learn more, schedule a free consult to see how having a personal trainer could help you meet your weight loss goals.