The Macro Diet: A Beginner's Guide to Macro Counting for Weight Loss
You might have heard a lot of talk about macro counting, tracking macros, or flexible dieting as a tool to lose weight. There are a lot of people out there using this technique to help them reach their health goals. I’m definitely a supporter of tracking macros — it was a tool that helped me lose 15 pounds and keep it off for over a year. Here’s the low down on what this macro thing is all about…..
What is Macro Counting for Weight Loss?
It’s true that if you eat fewer calories than you burn in a day, you will probably lose weight in the short term. However, neglecting to fuel your body with the right kinds of foods will not only hinder your ability to maintain important muscle mass, but will negatively affect your overall health. For example, 200 calories from a nutritious salad is better than 200 calories from cotton candy. This is where’s macronutrients, or “macros” come into play. Macros are the protein, carbohydrates, and fats that make up everything we eat and drink. Essentially, they are what we use for energy. Our bodies convert each gram we eat into fuel. Carbs and proteins give your body 4 calories per gram, while fat provides 9 calories per gram.
When you count macros instead of calories, you are counting the grams from each macro in the food you eat. If you hit your target grams for the day, you will inevitably hit your caloric intake for the day as well, since these grams translate to calories. While there are various schools of thought on what macro percentages breakdown will help you lose weight and build muscle, the practice behind counting macros is the same. MyFitnessPal (an app that helps you track macros) recommends starting at eating 50% carbs, 20% protein and 30% fat, which is a great place to start.
Getting Started Macro Counting
Everyone’s macro breakdown is different and is calculated using factors like body mass index, height, weight, and age, as well as your overall goals (losing fat, maintaining, weight, or bulking). I recommend using MyFitnessPal or a similar app to help you identify your specific macros goals and track your macros daily. While tracking might initially seem a little tedious, it gets easier over time. You will soon establish a routine and appreciate which foods have health carbs, proteins and fats and use that appreciation at home and when eating out at restaurants.
It takes time to get used to macro counting and tracking your daily meals. Have patience and learn which foods work best for your body. It’s all about fueling your body with nutritious meals that include a healthy ratio of carbs, proteins, and fats. Avoid processed foods as much as possible and cook more of your meals at home
Why Macro Counting Works
One of the reasons I love macro counting so much as a tool for weight loss is that there are no restricted foods. Maybe you’ve heard about flexible dieting with respect to macros before or seen the acronym, “IIFYM,” which stands for If It Fits Your Macros. This concept means that there are no “forbidden” foods when counting macros. You obviously want to make as healthy choices as possible but this way of living is truly sustainable because you’re able to factor in real life. If you know you’re going out with friends in the evening, log a glass or two of wine and shift your meals accordingly earlier in the day to account for the added carbs you’ll be having later. While I’m not suggesting you should be drinking every evening, this philosophy lets you live your life with balance.
If you haven’t tried macro counting to help you lose fat and get leaner, I recommend trying it out and seeing if it works for you!
Ashley Lillis is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach dedicated to helping women find their own version of healthy through sustainable lifestyle changes.