How To Count Your Macros - Easy IIFYM Guide For Beginners

This post is meant to be a shorter yet effective guide to show you how to count your macros.

For a more comprehensive look at what a macro diet is, click here.

Macro dieting or If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) as it’s often referred to is not a new concept and while it does sound like an exciting idea it also begs the questions “What does it take and How exactly do you begin counting macros?

In order to properly understand how to count your macros, I think it is worth going back to the basics.

What Is A Macro Diet?

how to count your macros

Macro is short for macronutrients.

As the name suggests, a macro diet is one that takes into account the amount of macronutrients you consume daily.

There are 3 types of macros:

  • Carbs
  • Fats
  • Protein

Your body requires a certain amount of each macro in order to function properly.

The whole idea behind this diet is to help you make healthier food choices to meet your appropriate nutritional requirements without necessarily starving yourself or worrying too much about how much you eat.

Compared to other dieting options out there, you get some more leniency with a macro diet which makes it a good starting option to reach different health goals.

Counting Calories or Counting Macros

Both terms can get quite confusing it is important to understand the difference before you get started.

Counting calories tends to be restrictive because people focus more on the numbers instead of the quality and type of food they’re eating.

Counting macros on the other hand focuses instead on the ratios of (healthy) carbs, fats and protein you should be eating daily.

Let’s take a look at an example:

1 slice of the oreo dream extreme cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory contains about 1620 calories.

Compare that to this Lemon Sopressata Chicken recipe that contains only 242 calories per serving (13g Fat, 5g Carbs, 25g Protein).

Do you see the difference?

Calories don’t tell the whole story.

If we assume you had a daily target of about 2000 calories, you could have 2 servings of the lemon chicken recipe and still have plenty of room for a healthy snack or 2.

Conversely 1 slice of the cheesecake alone will force you back to the gym immediately.

That’s a stark reminder that not all calories are the same and as you’ll soon see if you focus on hitting your macro count you’ll also be able to meet your daily calorie target.

How To Count Your Macros

Prephase

Before you begin any macro diet you need to understand exactly why you chose to do so.

If you don’t, you’ll be doing it blindly and may not even get the results you’re looking for.

There are typically 4 main reasons why you’d be interested in how to count your macros.

  1. Build muscle
  2. Lose Weight
  3. Maintenance
  4. Ketosis

You need to have an idea of one which one of those four you’re trying to accomplish because the macro ratios for each one varies.

It makes sense that the diet for someone trying to gain weight (muscle) will differ from that of someone trying to lose weight and vice versa.

In fact here are the recommended ratios for each one:

Macro ratios for Muscle Building: 40-60% Carb, 25-35% Protein, 15-25% Fat

Macro ratios for Weight Loss: 30-50% Carb, 25-35% Protein, 25-30% Fat

Macro ratios for Maintenance: 10-30% Carb, 40-60% Protein, 30-40% Fat

Macro ratios for Keto: 5% Carb, 25% Protein, 70% Fat

(See: 3 Keys to Dialing in Your Macronutrient Ratios)

Please keep in mind that these are just recommendations.

If possible you should always consider consulting with a dietitian or trainer to determine one that works for you.

Understanding Your Current Situation

I have to reiterate the fact that the above numbers are just recommendations.

They are meant to be more of a guide and are by no means set in stone.

A very important step you need to consider is that you should take into account your own situation.

An effective macro diet will depend on a few key factors:

  • Your age
  • Level of Activity
  • Your Sex (Male/Female)
  • Food tolerance
  • and of course Your Goals (outcomes)

Since everyone’s situation is different and the diet allows for some flexibility, those are all things you should keep in mind when counting your macros.

What works for person may not necessarily work for you.

The best macro diet/ratio is the one you can actually stick to.

Counting Macros

The actual counting process itself can be broken down into 3 steps.

  1. First yo need to determine your target caloric intake i.e. Your daily calorie goal.
  2. Next you’ll need to figure out how you’ll break down that target among the 3 macros (use one of the ratios mentioned above).
  3. Finally you’ll need to keep track of everything you eat.

The final step is the toughest one.

You need to keep track of everything you eat. Yes, EVERYTHING!

It’s very easy to tell yourself that those tiny snacks don’t matter but over time they all add up and throw everything off balance.

A good habit you may want to consider is planning your meals ahead of time.

Remember how I mentioned that meeting your macros will meet your calorie intake?

Here’s the simple math that explains why:

 – 1 gram of Carbs = 4 calories

– 1 gram of Protein = 4 calories

– 1 gram of Fat = 9 calories

When you count macros, your goal is to determine the total number of grams you need per macro.

By doing that you in essence also meet your total calorie goals.

This will all make sense below.

Let’s take a look at what the entire process for counting your macros looks like.

We’ll use Raymond in our example.

Raymond is a 33 y.o. male, moderately active, weighs 200lbs and is 6ft tall.

He wants to lose some weight and based on his calculations he’s determined he should be eating about 2300 calories per day to meet his goal.

He’s also chosen a macro ratio of 50% Protein, 25% Carbs, and 25% Fats.

With all the pre reqs in place, here’s how he’ll do the math:

Protein

– 50% x 2300 calories = 1150 calories

– 1150 ÷ 4 = 287.5 grams

Carbs

– 25% x 2300 calories = 575 calories

– 575 ÷ 4 = 143.75 grams

Fats

– 25% x 2300 calories = 575 calories

– 575 ÷ 9 = 63.9 grams (approx.)

So Raymond knows he’ll need about 287.5g of Protein, 143.75g of Carbs, and 63.9g of Fats in order to lose some weight.

Makes it easier for him to plan his meals now and a world of difference compared to looking at calories alone.

Keeping Track

Since you’ll be doing a lot of recording you need something handy so you don’t forget to log everything you eat.

There are plenty of apps out there to help you with that.

Here are a few recommendations:

  1. MyFitnessPal
  2. MyMacros+
  3. Lose It!
  4. MyPlate
  5. LifeSum

Summary

A macro diet is an ideal way for you to eat healthy and give your body the essential nutrients it needs.

When you focus on macros instead of calories alone it prevents you from having a deprived or restrictive diet.

Here are the important steps you need to keep in mind:

  • Understand exactly why you chose to count your macros (Your goals/outcomes).
  • Keep your current situation in mind (Age, sex, exercise, time, budget, etc).
  • Determine your appropriate macro ratio and daily calorie requirements.
  • Record and keep track of everything
  • Make adjustments when necessary.

The fifth point is just a reminder that a macro diet allows for some flexibility.

If you notice you’re not getting the results you set out to accomplish then you need to make the necessary adjustments.

Remember counting macros is meant to be a fun and enjoyable process. Tweak as you see fit but be sure to keep track of everything. 

Eat healthy, exercise regularly and reach your goals!

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