I’ve come to be known by many for being a health nut – in recent years I’ve tried everything from being vegan to gluten-free and lactose-free (sorry cheese!). I quickly learned that there was no diet out there that didn’t lead me to temptation, bad results and ultimate failure. I quickly learned that I was absolutely terrible at dieting and just kind of gave up, making the whole self-esteem and process worse.
So for someone who sucks at dieting, it really took a while for me to evolve my mentality on how to approach health. I heard all the talk from weight lifters and gym rats about macro counting, but as someone who just really likes yoga and the elliptical in the gym, I didn’t ever think it was a technique I could keep up with. Eventually, through a lot of insightful research and conversations with specialists, I realized that the problem was that no one should ever diet, but you rather should eat for healthiness, which is exactly what macro counting does.
WHAT IS MACRO COUNTING?
Macro counting is a method of eating to fulfill certain gram goals for calories, fat, carbs and protein. These are the only areas of the nutrients label that you pay attention to during the process.
This process can be time consuming, but it teaches you discipline and accountability. The process requires you to track EVERY SINGLE THING you put in your body through those four nutrition label areas. You calculate your goal for each category through easy math equations (see below). Many choose to do this on apps like MyFitnessPal, or you can manually track them like I do using a spreadsheet – it helps me be more accountable.
HOW DO YOU COUNT MACROS?
As mentioned, you calculate your goals through simple math. Start by weighing yourself on an accurate scale. Knowing where you start is important, and being honest with yourself on your weight is even more important.
Once you know your body weight, you want to calculate how many calories you should take in to maintain your weight. Multiple your body weight by 14 to know your daily calorie intake. If you’re aiming to lose weight, subtract 500 calories from that number, or add 350 calories if you’re looking to gain muscle. This is your final calorie goal.
Now it’s time to calculate your three nutrient categories: protein, fat and carbs. Your daily protein intake in grams is equal to your body weight in pounds. If you weigh 165 pounds, you are expected to take in about 165 grams of protein daily. For fat, you will multiply your body weight by .3 to determine daily intake in grams.
Protein = body weight in grams
Fat = body weight x .3 in grams
Carbohydrates are a bit more complicated math. First, you must convert your fats and proteins to calories. There are approximately 4 calories per gram of protein and 9 calories per gram of fat. Multiple these numbers from your goals calculated before and add the totals together. Once complete, subtract this number from your daily calorie goal and divide by 4 (there are 4 calories per carbohydrate, so dividing it by 4 gives you grams). The total equation looks like this:
Carbohydrates = (Daily Calorie Goal – ((Daily Protein Goal x 4) + (Daily Fat Goal x 9))) / 4
OR FOLLOW THESE STEPS
Daily Protein Goal x 4 = Protein in calories
Daily Fat Goal x 9 = Fat in calories
Protein in calories + Fat in calories = Already used calories
Daily calorie goal – Already used calories = Remaining Calories for Carbs
Remaining calories for carbs / 4 = Carbs in grams
In order to keep progressing and to prevent plateaus, adjust your macros once a week after weighing in – if you’re losing or gaining weight, your macros should also change based on your new weight.
Weight = 160 pounds
Calories = 160 x 14 = 2,240
For Weight loss = 2,240 – 500 = 1,740 calories per day
Protein = body weight = 160 grams daily
Fat = 160 pounds x .3 = 48 grams daily
Carbohydrates = (1740 – ((160 x 4) + (48 x 9))) / 4 = 167 grams daily
My daily macro goals would be:
WHAT’S SO HARD ABOUT THIS?
Besides the math, this lifestyle choice can be really difficult if you’re not conscious of what you eat. We forget that even the healthy foods can add up quickly – a large apple can have 25 grams of carbs! This method really teaches you to stop and think before you shove bad food into your mouth and make healthier lifestyle choices instead. It takes a lot of long-term effort and desire to want results in order to make this lifestyle method work for you instead of various fad diets that ultimately result in failure.
I learned that counting macros also allows for flexible dieting, meaning that you should never restrict yourself, as long as it fits in your macros. Do you want that cookie? Eat the cookie! Just make sure you log it into your macros and compensate your eating for it. Don’t sacrifice going over your goals if you can, but failure is inevitable if you restrict yourself to healthy foods only. Feel free to spoil yourself, but set limits so you don’t go overboard. I love to give myself one cheat, guilt-free meal a week. This doesn’t mean that I’m eating a lot of fried or fast food and sugar, but rather going out and making smarter eating decisions, like a grilled chicken sandwich instead of fried, etc.
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
The best way to get started is to calculate your macros using the method above, and simply track everything you’re eating. Once you see the numbers going into your body, begin to understand what foods are high in in certain nutrients, and what alternative choices you can make instead. One thing for me to break was carbs – I love bread, but sandwiches and chips were the biggest buster of my macros. I had to learn to find alternatives, like lettuce wraps and eating plain cold cuts instead of packing everything on a sandwich.
Below is my favorite way to track my macros. I developed this spreadsheet when I found that I really didn’t like the MyFitnessPal app and there wasn’t a viable replacement that I liked on the market. The app is very convenient when out and about or for not having a food label on you, but that is strictly all I use it for. When I used the app, I found that I was under reporting my food because they make it easy to simply change the quantity or not understand what all was in the food I was eating. Looking at the label and writing it down in pen made me committed to it – if I said 20 crackers, then I am only going to eat 20 crackers versus putting 20 in an app and eating more without updating it.
WHAT ARE THE RESULTS?
I think the best result I found from this process has been my increased energy without a reliance on any sort of food or drink. I no longer need my ultra-sugary Starbucks lattes in the morning and crave savory, protein rich foods instead like eggs. The aches and pains of my digestive track and torso are gone and I feel nearly no issues with certain foods affecting me. I also feel like I haven’t given up anything – I am a HUGE dessert person but when I look at sweets like cake now, I think about how sweet it is. Even though I crave those items, I can’t help but to think “I’ve had that before, it’s good, but I know exactly what it tastes like” – the taste of fitness success will stay with you much longer than that cake will!
Because this diet is so flexible and you set your own goals, you can gain, lose or maintain using this method and be as healthy as possible! There is no failure if you have your own accountability – if you lie to yourself, then you’re just plain screwing yourself out of achieving your own goals. No one else can do this for you but yourself.
BEST TIPS AND PRACTICES
- Don’t harp on yourself too hard – if you cheat, just get right back on the bandwagon. One mistake doesn’t have to ruin your whole day or week.
- Make sure to think of this as a lifestyle not a diet – this is a way of living and isn’t something you should give up after a few months once you lose some weight.
- Don’t make yourself feel forced doing this. People who diet often fail because they’re can’t stand eating fruits and vegetables all day, but make sure you fit foods into your macros that make you happy and fulfill that need.
- Don’t just monitor how you look, but write down how you feel daily. Do you feel bloated today? What did you eat that made you feel this way? Do you feel energetic – how can you replicate this feeling every day? These types of questions help you find foods that fuel your body instead of dragging you down.
- Don’t stress yourself about going to the gym, not everyone is made for it. Try getting some sort of physical activity in daily, whether it be walking around your work twice a day for 15 minutes each or going to a class you want to try. 70% of your success in being healthy is about food, and fitness should only compliment that.
- Try eliminating sodas and anything that isn’t natural. You’ll find a huge change in your whole digestive system and stamina!
- Protein is the hardest macro to achieve, so here are my favorite high protein snacks and meals: a morning protein shake with coffee and chocolate protein powder (tastes just like a mocha with half the bad calories!), deli turkey with a hard-boiled egg and strawberries, celery and almond or peanut butter, chicken with vegetables, shrimp with brown rice, and turkey meatballs with zucchini noodles.
- Drink at least 50-75% of your body weight in ounces of water per day – it will change your skin and body for the better! I purchased two 33 oz. reusable water bottles (one for home and one for work), and constantly am drinking out of them.