How to Count Macros in 3 Simple Steps
Counting macros for fat loss and muscle gain. Plus get your own personal macro targets.
If you’re reading this then you know macros are an important part of a healthy diet. But you need a little help understanding how to count macros to reach your fitness goals.
Unfortunately, nutrition gets complicated when you start reading things online. That’s why I’m going to keep it simple and teach you how to count macros in 3 steps. As well as help you find your personal macro targets.
What is Counting Macros?
In case you’re new to macronutrients, let me explain what counting macros means. Macro counting is when you track your intake of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Usually, what your actually counting is grams.
Carbs, fat, and protein have a constant number of calories per gram. So by tracking macros, you also control your calorie intake.
However, not all calories are created equal. For example, 25 grams of high glycemic carbs have a much different effect on insulin than 25 grams of fat or protein.
Therefore, by targeting macros you also manage the effect food has on your body. In that way, you make it easier to burn fat and build muscle.
How Do You Count Macros?
Counting macros can be broken down into the following 3 steps:
How to Count Macros
1. Find your carb, fat, and protein targets
2. Track the food you eat
3. Match your intake to your targets
1. Find Your Macro Targets
Figuring out your macro targets is the hardest part about counting macros. Because your personal targets depend on many factors including your body type, activity level, and goal.
Fortunately, I have free tools to help you find your daily carb, fat, and protein targets.
Once you get your macro targets, the rest of the process is easy.
2. Track Your Foods
One way to track your foods is to check the nutriton labels. For each meal, write down the carbs, fat, and protein in the foods. Then tally the macros at the end of the day to get your total.
How to count macros the old fashioned way
Luckily, technology makes tracking macros much easier. You can use your computer or smartphone to count macros in a fraction of the time. And you don’t have to do any math!
How to Count Macros – Apps
Thanks to apps like MyFitnessPal, you can log foods in seconds. All you need to do is add a food using the search bar. Or you can scan a barcode using your phone’s camera.
Search or scan to add a food
Once you select a food you can see the macros and nutrition information. From here, you select the serving size and number of servings.
Choose your serving size
Repeat this step for each food you eat throughout the day.
Tip: Enter foods in the morning or the previous night so you know what to eat all day.
3. Hit Your Macro Targets
As you log your foods, keep an eye on your total macros. At the end of the day, your actual macros (total) should closely match your target macros (goal).
Match your daily total to your goal
In this case, you can see other useful information like grams of fiber and sugar. And many apps show you a breakdown of your macros by percentage of total calories.
See your macronutrient ratio
Now that you know how to count macros it’s time to apply this to your fitness goal. In other words, how do you count macros for fat loss and muscle gain?
How to Count Macros for Fat Loss
When counting macros for weight loss most people think of very low carb diets like keto. However, multiple studies conclude that low carb diets result in comparable weight loss to higher carb diets when calories are equal1,2,3.
So when counting macros for fat loss, it’s important to find the correct calorie target. The key is to burn more calories than you eat without cutting calories so much that your metabolism slows down.
Of course, lowering carbs does help achieve this calorie deficit. But there are times when carbs are beneficial.
Therefore, I recommend targeting low carbs during the part of the day you’re not working out. Then increasing carbs around your workout. And vice versa with fat intake.
Also, protein intake will be relatively high throughout the day as part of a resistance training plan. This ensures you don’t lose lean muscle and you maintain your metabolism.
Example macronutrient ratio on a fat loss workout day
How to Count Macros for Muscle Gain
When counting macros for muscle gain, it’s important to get enough calories to support training. For that reason, carbs are generally higher on a muscle building program.
With that said, I recommend that you get most of your carbs around your workout. This provides energy for your workout and promotes lean mass gain.
In addition, your fat intake should be moderate and protein intake high. This ensures you have enough amino acids for building muscle without gaining excess fat.
Example macronutrient ratio on a muscle gain workout day
How I Know Counting Macros Works
In 2014 I was considered clinically obese. Even though I worked out and watched what I ate, I didn’t look or feel healthy.
At my heaviest (and unhealthiest) I weighed 210 lbs.
Later that year I turned things around. In just 14 months I lost almost 50 lbs and stepped on stage for my first bodybuilding contest.
Competing in a physique contest weighing 163 lbs
In order to get these results, I reduced calories and made better food choices. I also changed my exercise program to burn the excess fat.
In addition, I created strategic macro targets for every meal. This meal timing is the core of my new custom meal plan system.
Now you can use this system to lose fat and gain muscle, too. Of course, your results may vary depending on your starting point.
Get Your Macros for Every Meal
Take the guess work out of meal planning and get your personal macro targets for every meal.
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Personal carb, fat, and protein targets for every meal
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1) Tay, Jeannie, et al. “Metabolic effects of weight loss on a very-low-carbohydrate diet compared with an isocaloric high-carbohydrate diet in abdominally obese subjects.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology 51.1 (2008): 59-67.
2) Brinkworth, Grant D., et al. “Long-term effects of a very-low-carbohydrate weight loss diet compared with an isocaloric low-fat diet after 12 mo.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 90.1 (2009): 23-32.
3) Noakes, Manny, et al. “Comparison of isocaloric very low carbohydrate/high saturated fat and high carbohydrate/low saturated fat diets on body composition and cardiovascular risk.” Nutrition & metabolism 3.1 (2006): 7.