How to count macronutrients for weight loss

March 04, 2021

How to count macronutrients for weight loss

In this article:

  • How does the macro diet work?
  • Benefits of tracking macros
  • How to count macros

The Macro Diet basics

Have you seen the tag #IIFYM popping up alongside #GymLife #DailyGrind and #Fitness in your friends' progress pictures? Well now you can get in on it too - #IIFYM stands for "If It Fits Your Macros". This diet plan is common among athletes and bodybuilders who want to build muscle and set new PRs, but it's becoming more and more popular as a form of flexible dieting for weight loss too.

Micronutrients are vital for our long term, health goals and well-being. These are your vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. On the other hand, macronutrients encompass the most important parts of our diet that the body needs for energy: namely protein, carbs, and fat.

  • Fats: Fats provide about 9 calories per gram. Healthy fats are important for regulating your hormone levels, metabolism, and vitamin absorption. Olive oil, avocados, nuts, meats, and fatty fish are healthy fats with plenty of essential fatty acids.
  • Carbohydrates: Carbs have fewer calories per gram than fats, at about 4 calories per gram. Carbs get broken down into glucose (blood sugar), which can be used for energy immediately or stored for later. Carbs are easier to come by in Western diets. They can be found in whole grains and quinoa, fruits, certain veggies like sweet potatoes and beets, and dairy products.
  • Proteins: Proteins also provide about 4 calories per gram. Protein is important for your immune function and the building of tissues (including muscle mass) and hormones. High-protein foods include eggs, meats, poultry, beans, and fish.

Benefits of Tracking Macros

Calories aren't always the best measure for how healthy a food is. Far from it! For instance, let's say I'm on a calorie-counting kick and am starting to get hangry, but I want to keep my snack to 200 calories. Sure, I could have some baby carrots and hummus. Or, I could devour half a bag of sourdough pretzels. I don't know about you, but I know which one I'd pick. On the macro diet, not every ingredient is "graded" based on the same measurement. Each ingredient counts towards your goal of eating X grams of carbs, proteins, and fats per day to meet specific health goals.

The macro diet is a healthy eating habit more than it is a restrictive diet. Even if you’re not trying to lose weight, it can be a beneficial part of your nutrition for energy and lean muscle building. Instead of worrying about staying under a certain number of calories each day, you're encouraged to meet certain macronutrient and calorie goals based on your current weight, activity level, and weight loss goal.

When it comes to weight loss, tracking macros is especially beneficial. People following the macro diet tend to have a higher daily protein intake than calorie-counters, which means you'll feel fuller longer and have even more energy. When this energy is leveraged at the gym, it can help you to gain muscle while shedding body fat without feeling as depleted.

Last but definitely not least, the macro diet gives you lots of flexibility with your food choices! So many different, fulfilling, nutrient-dense, and healthy foods can be eaten while following the macro diet, that might break the calorie bank on the traditional diet. Don't worry, we'll talk more about how you can keep track of your macros below.

How to count your macros

While calories are not the primary measure of the macro diet, they are a part of the equation. Grab your calculator app,, it's about to get mathy!

  1. Determine how many calories you need each day: An individual's calorie intake is a measure of their sex, age, body weight, and height. If you want to do it long-hand, just plug in some numbers below. If you want a shortcut, you can follow this link to an online calculator.
    1. Adult Male: 66 + (6.3 x body weight in lbs.) + (12.9 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years) = BMR (basal metabolic rate)
    2. Adult Female: 655 + (4.3 x weight in lbs.) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years) = BMR BMR (basal metabolic rate)
  2. Find your macro ratio: Macro ratios determine what percentage of each macronutrient you should get through your diet. In general, most macro ratios follow the percentages below, but they can be fine-tuned with the help of a registered dietitian to determine your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and specific fat loss goals.
    1. Carbs: 45–65% of total calories
    2. Fats: 20–35% of total calories
    3. Proteins: 10–35% of total calories
  3. Get a Tracking App, and Get Going: At this point, you have all the information you need to get tracking, but you don't have to keep track manually using mental math! There are plenty of macro calculator apps that can easily track the macros in each of your meals, while providing specific, meal plan recommendations. Some popular apps are:
    1. MyFitnessPal
    2. My Macros+
    3. Carb Manager

So, say for instance you calculated that you should be eating 1600 calories per day. Using the above macro ratios, this means you should eat 180 grams of carbs ([1600 * .45]/4 calories per gram of carbs), 26 grams of fat, and 40 grams of protein each day.

While it might require a little bit of effort upfront, many people find that following the macro diet is much easier and more freeing than counting calories. If you already have an active lifestyle, focusing more on your lean energy sources such as protein, means you're able to exercise longer and see better results than you might have seen before. This also goes a long way when it comes to weight loss. In addition, it helps you to make more mindful decisions about the content of your foods, as you seek out whole foods rich in all your macros and micros. No more skimming nutrition labels for the lowest calorie count - fuel your body with what it really craves and worry about the calories later.

Summary Points

  • Macronutrients encompass the most important parts of our diet that the body needs for energy: namely protein, carbs, and fat
  • Each ingredient counts towards your goal of eating X grams of carbs, proteins, and fats per day to meet specific health goals
  • Instead of worrying about staying under a certain number of calories each day, you're encouraged to meet certain macronutrient and calorie goals based on your current weight, activity level, and weight loss goal
  • People following the macro diet tend to have a higher daily protein intake than calorie-counters, which means you'll feel fuller longer and have even more energy
  • If you already have an active lifestyle, focusing more on your lean energy sources such as protein, means you're able to exercise longer and see better results than you might have seen before




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