Your First Steps into Macro Counting

May 17, 2022
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What is macro counting?

 

In simple terms, macronutrients (or MACROS) are nutrients your body needs in large amounts every day. (Macro=Large) (Micro=Small). The three MACROnutrients are Carbohydrates, Fats, and Proteins. Each of these combined make up the total calories that we eat each day.  Carbs account for 4 calories per gram, Fats account for 9 calories per gram and Protein for 4. Each food label gives you a breakdown of the macronutrients it contains.

{Note: The FDA allows food companies to round their total calories to the nearest whole number.)

 

 Counting your macros just means you are keeping track each day of how much of each nutrient you are eating. Kind of like money in your bank account. You have a daily budget and you don’t want to go over it. But with macro counting you don't want to be too far under either. Some people mistakingly believe that less is better. I am a coach that believes you should eat as MUCH as possible within your macro budget. A good goal to shoot for is within 5 grams of each. You want to get as close as possible to your allotted numbers each day. The cool thing is, with experience, you can manipulate these 3 numbers to reach your health goals.

So hold up a sec! What is the difference between counting calories and counting macros?

To lose weight you MUST be in a caloric deficit. This means you are eating LESS calories than you are burning each day. This doesn’t have to be a HUGE deficit either, 250-500 calories less per day can add up significantly over time and produce amazing results. But losing weight and losing fat are two different things.

Counting calories can help you lose weight but counting macros will help maximize losing fat. And truthfully, that is what most people want. I have never had a client come to me asking for help to lose muscle, or water, or….tendons! You get it.

The number we read on the scale is a reflection of ALL of our body weight. This includes muscles, ligaments, water, our brain, etc. If the scale goes down we might be losing water or muscle or fat. If it goes up we could be gaining either of those things too! So eating adequate amounts of macros (specifically protein) can help our body hold onto our hard earned muscle while shedding off unwanted fat.  

So if the scale measures weight, how do I know if I’m losing fat or not?

Here are a few different data points to check regularly.

1.    Progress pictures.

2.    Body measurements.

3.    Performance in the gym (are you able to lift more weight, move quicker, or work longer?).

4.    How your clothes fit.

These are just a few of the non-scale progress markers that can indicate if you are losing fat or gaining muscle.

So how do I start?

Great question! I am going to recommend doing 5 things BEFORE you set your macro numbers (remember: carbs, fats, and proteins=macros):

 

1.    The first thing you need to do is to start gathering data. Having a starting point is how you will measure progress. Think of it as your “You are HERE” marker on a map. If you know where you are, you can create a much more effective plan moving towards your destination. Knowing how much you weigh and how much body fat you have is a great place to start. I recommend using a scale like this one to find out those numbers (weight and fat%). It has an accompanying app that you can download to keep track of your data.

2.    After you have your weight and fat% I recommend taking your body measurements. Again, within that scale app there is an area where you can type in your body measurements. Remember, body measurements are a fantastic data point to check regularly. If your measurements are going down, it is a great indicator that you are losing fat. (If you prefer a paper print out measurement guide, join our mailing list and we’ll send ours right to you with a short video on why taking measurements is so important.)

3.    Then, I would recommend downloading a food tracking app. I personally use MyFitnessPal and have for years. It has an extensive data base and allows you to create and save your own recipes right within the app.

4.    After you have downloaded your tracking app, start tracking your daily intake of food for one week. This will give you your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). We are trying to determine your average weekly intake of food. Knowing this number is important because if we just plug your weight and fat% numbers into a random online macro calculator, that calculator is not taking into consideration your specific eating habits, lifestyle and goals. If we know your TDEE and your goal is to lose fat, we can put you in a sustainable “cut” according to your current TDEE. If you don’t take the time to find out your current TDEE and just rely on a calculator, there is a good chance the macro numbers you get won’t be sustainable for you. (I have seen this happen numerous times!) I would much rather get you to the starting line of your race rather than having your start in the next town over! Knowing your TDEE can get you where you need to be to start! This first exercise of tracking for one week can set you up for greater success. Please don’t skip it.

5.    The last thing is a reminder to be patient as you learn how to track your food. If tracking a whole week’s worth of food makes your head spin, start by just tracking your breakfast for one week. Then when that becomes familiar, add in tracking your snacks for the day too. When that becomes familiar, add in your dinner, etc. Even if it takes you a good solid month to get use to tracking, it will be well worth it in the long run. I have seen so many people try to “do it all” right out of the gate and 6 months later they are still struggling trying to figure out what “numbers” work for them because they didn’t take the time to figure out where they were to begin with. Remember, before we set your macros, the “YOU ARE HERE” is what we’re trying to pinpoint as accurately as possible.

You can do it my friend! Start with these 5 steps and continue to follow along for more coaching tips.

I believe in you.

OXO Good Grips 11-Pound Stainless Steel Food Scale
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