How to Start Counting Macros for Beginners
When it comes to achieving a goal to lose weight or build muscle, the first thing most people do is go into a calorie deficit or surplus and start counting calories. Adjusting daily calorie intake to achieve a fitness goal is the right step to take, and counting calories is effective, but it shouldn't be the main focus. To achieve better results and ensure you're nourishing your body with essential nutrients, count macros instead of only calories.
Macros are short for macronutrients, they are the essential nutrients that provide energy, enhance muscle recovery, and improve overall health. The three macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Tracking these three macros will be a game-changer in your fitness journey! You'll be more energized, feel satisfied, enhance your recovery, and most importantly, it'll maximize your hard work at the gym so that you can achieve your goals.
Counting and tracking macros isn't as complicated as it may seem. Understanding the basics will make your macro counting journey an easy and stress-free one! To help, we've put together all the information on how to calculate your macros using a macro calculator and how to start counting macros so you can create a flexible dieting plan that is enjoyable and effective!
Why should you count your macros?
Unlike most diet plans that take the approach of only focusing on calorie intake, counting macros places a greater focus on what you're eating, not only how much. Calorie-focused diets tend to be less nutrient-dense because you can fill up on solely junk food, as long as you don't go over your daily calorie intake. This means you're most likely not hitting your protein intake, and possibly going overboard on carbs and fats.
On the other hand, a macro diet forces you to ensure you're getting enough calories from protein, carbs, and fats so you can hit your muscle-building or fat loss goals. It's a more nutrient-dense approach that makes sure you're feeding your body what it needs for energy, recovery, immune support, and so much more!
Another reason macro counting is beneficial is that it allows you to dial in your diet to your fitness needs. For example, with calorie counting, you're either put in a deficit for fat loss or in a surplus to build muscle. With a macro diet, a macro calculator will calculate the percentage of grams of protein, carbs, and fats you need based on your goals. For example, if building muscle is your goal your protein and carbs are going to be relatively higher than someone who's trying to achieve weight loss. Not only that, but macro calculators take into account your activity levels and other important information that will ensure you get the most accurate macros for you!
However, don't mistake a macro diet to be restrictive! In fact, there aren't any foods off-limits. Counting macros is a form of flexible dieting, it allows you to fit in some of your favorite foods that might not be so healthy. As you start tracking macros, you'll naturally prioritize whole foods as a way to make sure you hit your macronutrient goals, then whatever's left for your daily macros can be met with anything you'd like. You can also make adjustments for social events like birthdays, dinner and brunch dates, etc. So, you don't have to say no to a dinner party just because you're "dieting", instead you make it fit your macros!
Essentially, counting macros is a healthier approach to dieting that doesn't leave you feeling deprived or make social situations difficult. You're able to adjust and eat plenty of delicious foods that fit your macros!
How to count macros effectively
Although you can do the math and calculate your own macros, there are other methods that make counting macros less complicated and stressful. So, instead of giving you the breakdown on how to calculate your own macros, we're going to give you tips on how to calculate your macros using a macro calculator, plus tips on how to accurately track them!
Calculate your macros using a macro calculator
A macro calculator makes it easy for you to work out how many macronutrients and calories you need each day based on a number of factors, including but not limited to, body weight, height, body fat, and activity level. Technically you can do the math yourself by figuring out your basal metabolic rate, taking into account your activity level, choosing a macro split, and then working out how many grams of each macro you need – but let's be real, that's a lot of math you don't want to do.
Use an online macro calculator to do the math for you so you can get more accurate target macros! We suggest using the Fit With Iulia Macro Calculator. What sets this macro calculator apart from others is that it takes into account body type which is important to get a better macro estimate. Your body type can influence whether you'll need more of a certain macronutrient, like carbs, or not. Certain body types have faster metabolisms, therefore they may need a higher carb intake. Opposed to other body types who may benefit from lower carbs and higher protein. Besides that, it takes into account your age, gender, height, body weight, body fat, activity level, and fitness goals.
So the first step to effective counting macros is actually calculating how many grams of carbs, fats, and proteins you need to eat for your goals. Once that's done you can follow the steps below!
Download an app to track your macros
You can't effectively count your macros without tracking them! Tracking macros helps you stay accountable with yourself. It allows you to see how much you're eating on a daily basis so you can adjust your diet if needed. So, after calculating your macros find a macro tracking app to start tracking them!
Fortunately, there are various macro tracking apps to choose from that have an expansive database of food readily available for you. If you need help finding one that can help you accurately track your macros, one of the most popular is MyFitnessPal. MyFitnessPal has a huge library of food, including from restaurants so you can track any outings you have instead of having to guesstimate. They also feature a barcode scanner which makes it easier for you to pull up the macros of the foods you plan on eating.
Another great app that features macro tracking is the Fit With Iulia app. Fit With Iulia is primarily a fitness app that features effective goal-focused workout plans planned by Iulia herself every week. But the latest update includes Kitchen, the macro tracking tool that is designed to help make tracking your macros easier and hassle-free. Kitchen has an expansive food library so you can plan your meals ahead of time or on-the-go.
We've mentioned the Fit With Iulia Macro Calculator, which you can use to calculate your macros on the website for free, or you can download the app and calculate your macros in a different way, a more personalized approach to how you already eat...
Through the app, you can complete a 5-day assessment instead of simply calculating your macros. This method involves a five-day period in which you track everything you eat, and we mean everything! After the five days, the app will calculate the total calories and macros consumed and present you with an assessment summary about your actual macro results vs your calculated macros.
Both provide you as accurate as possible target macros, but if you want to make sure that your macro results fit your current lifestyle and goals, then try the 5-day assessment! You can activate a 7-day free trial of the Fit With Iulia app, do the assessment, and get free home & gym workouts too – it's a fitness app after all!
Recalculate your macros every few weeks
Don't make the mistake of calculating your macros only once. As you make progress, your body is adapting to your new calorie and macronutrient intake, so eventually the current target macros you have need to be updated to fit your progress.
How often should you recalculate your macros?
It depends on your goals, but generally, you should recalculate them every 3-5 weeks. Or for those trying to achieve weight loss, recalculate them after losing 5-10 pounds. For those trying to build muscle, recalculate them after gaining 5 pounds.
Doing this will prevent you from hitting a plateau on your fitness journey and help you continue making progress!
Invest in a food scale
When you're counting macros, you want to be as accurate as possible. Besides tracking everything you eat, you want to measure your food as accurately as possible. Measuring cups and spoons are helpful, but the numbers can be off and you can be adding a few extra grams of fats or carbs that can really add up at the end of the day! It is totally okay to go a little over your macros, but consistently going over can make your progress come a little slower.
To be as accurate as possible, weigh your food using a food scale! Weigh everything from the oils in your cooking to your veggies so you can input a more accurate macro ratio. Luckily, food scales are inexpensive. You don't need a huge fancy food scale. A simple one with a tare/zero button is best because it will allow you to subtract the weight of the bowl, plate, or cup holding the actual food.
Prepare your kitchen
To make your macro tracking experience an easier, consistent one - prep your kitchen! You don't need to throw away the food that is already in your kitchen, instead, stock up on all the foods you'll be eating and make sure those foods are in the forefront and ready to grab. If you can, keep any tempting foods out of the house, but if not, keep them somewhere they're hard to see. For example, in your pantry place the healthier foods that are high in macronutrients in the front and in visible shelves, while keeping the unhealthier stuff in the back or on the top shelf.
To prep your kitchen, make a list of foods that are high in the macronutrients you need the most. Have plenty of protein, carbs, and fats so they're readily available to you when you're lacking one of them. For example, having a whey protein powder, greek yogurt, or jerky in case you need to boost your protein intake at the end of the day. But don't only stock up on protein, stock up on healthy fats like nuts, nut butter, and cheese, and healthy carbs like sweet potatoes, rice crackers, etc.
Don't be obsessive
Counting macros helps keep you accountable with yourself, but avoid getting obsessive about hitting your macros every single day. You want to be accurate, but tracking every little bite and constantly obsessing about hitting your macros can affect you negatively. Macro tracking is not supposed to be stressful, it's supposed to be a helpful way to ensure you're eating enough good nutrient-rich foods.
There are days when you'll go over, or not meet your macros and that's okay. This isn't going to cause your progress to halt. You'll be fine as long as you're making an effort to eat healthy 80-90% of the time and working out consistently. Also, don't be afraid to give yourself a break! If tracking macros seems like it's too much for you, then aim to only track them during the week and take a break on the weekends. This doesn't mean you can eat whatever you want on those days, continue eating as you normally would, but take a break from tracking so you don't get burnt out!
In summary, counting macros is a non-restrictive flexible form of dieting that is enjoyable, sustainable, and helps you achieve effective results. Being prepared and taking the steps above will make counting macros easier and help build better eating habits that stick with you for life!
Who are we?
We're 373 Lab Supplements – nice to meet you! Founded by Iulia Danilova (Fit With Iulia), and with a team filled with fitness enthusiasts, we've worked hard to bring a trustworthy supplement to the market! Supplements that are designed to help you achieve your fitness goals by giving you only the nutrients you need – no unnecessary fillers or additives!
Find what your pantry is missing at 373 Lab Supplements.