Counting Macros to Meet Your Diet Goals - Muscle & Performance

Nutrition Made Simple

Building? Maintaining? Looking to lose some fat? What you eat is as important as how you work out. Here’s how to find what works for you.
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
31
Nutrition-Made-Simple-Muscle-and-Performance

If counting calories and restricting food groups doesn’t sound like your thing, but eating your faves while reaching your fitness goals does, then counting macros may be the right choice for you. Unlike the trendy diets creating buzz, counting macros allows for a great deal of flexibility and offers a lot of options. That’s because no matter whether the food is healthy or junky, it will fit into at least one of three categories — aka macronutrients — which you can then plug into your day as long as you stay within your macro allowance.

The Basics

Macronutrients are what make up the calories we consume. There are three macronutrients — protein, carbohydrates and fat — which contain a certain number of calories per gram. We’ll use these numbers to calculate our macros.

1 gram of protein = 4 calories

1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories

1 gram of fat = 9 calories

So instead of figuring out how many calories you need for the day, we’ll focus on how many grams of each macronutrient you need for the day — this is your daily macro allowance.

Following a macronutrient-based diet will give you insight into what you eat beyond what you see on the surface. Chicken and rice becomes a serving of protein and complex carbs. Want to have pizza tonight? Make room for a little bit of protein, mostly carbs and fat.

But don’t be mistaken — counting macros isn’t a green light to eat junk as long as “it fits your macros.” The key is to eat clean 80 to 90 percent of the time and allow for treats that fit within your macronutrient ratios where appropriate. No more missing out on Sunday Funday — plan the treats into your macros for the day and enjoy!

The ultimate bonus would be to fine-tune your nutrition and tailor it to your body, helping you understand what your body needs to reach various goals (weight gain, build muscle, fat loss, maintenance, etc.). With counting macros, you can do just that.

Nutrition-Made-Simple-Muscle-and-Performance-1

How to Calculate Your Macros

Start with baseline macronutrient ratios based on your goals. Eat according to your starter macros for roughly four to six weeks, enough time to assess progress (if any). If you’re not seeing the results you’re looking for, adjust your macros a bit (reduce carbs, increase protein, add fat, etc.). Follow these new ratios for a few weeks, assess your progress, and make adjustments again as needed until you find what works best for your body. Start with one of the two ratio options below based on your goals:

Boost Metabolism/Burn Fat: 35% protein, 25% carbs and 40% fat

Build Muscle/Gain Weight: 30% protein, 40% carbs and 30% fat

Start by figuring out how many calories you need for the day. You can use an online calorie calculator tool or multiply your bodyweight by 12.5 (for active individuals). Then plug in the ratios above.

Here’s how your macronutrient breakdown looks if you are eating according to an 1,800-calorie diet to boost metabolism and burn fat:

Protein = .35 x 1,800 = 630 calories/4 calories = 157.5 grams protein per day

Carbs = .25 x 1,800 = 450 calories/4 calories  = 112.5 grams carbohydrates per day

Fat = .40 x 1,800 = 720 calories/9 calories = 80 grams fat per day

Plan for Success

Instead of leaving it up to chance that you somehow eat according to your macronutrient breakdown, jot down a quick meal plan for yourself. Try breaking up the macronutrients into meals and snacks — maybe three meals and one snack or three meals and two snacks per day. Then allot each meal a portion of your protein allowance, carbs and fat. Finish it up by filling in the snacks. These are tentative numbers that will likely change as you develop your plan. Your day may look as such (for an 1,800-calorie fat-loss diet):

Breakfast: 40 grams protein + 40 grams carbs + 17 grams fat

Snack: 18 grams protein + 14 grams fat

Lunch: 40 grams protein + 36 grams carbs + 17 grams fat

Snack: 18 grams protein + 14 grams fat

Dinner: 40 grams protein + 36 grams carbs + 17 grams fat

Sample meal plan following the breakdown above:

Breakfast: 2 large eggs + 4 large egg whites (cooked to your liking) + 2 slices toasted sprouted-grain bread (like Ezekiel bread) + ¼ cup cubed avocado = protein 36 g, fat 16 g, carbs 35 g

Snack: 1 mozzarella string cheese stick + 1 oz almonds = protein 13 g, fat 20 g, carbs 7 g

Lunch: 5 oz grilled chicken breast + ¾ cup cooked quinoa + 1 cup steamed broccoli + 1 tbsp butter = protein 37 g, fat 18 g, carbs 34 g

Snack: 1 scoop whey protein powder (mixed in water) + 2 tbsp peanut butter = protein 31 g, fat 18 g, carbs 8 g

Dinner: 4 oz broiled or grilled salmon + 1 small baked
potato + 1 cup steamed mixed vegetables = protein 35 g, fat 9 g, carbs 41 g

Nutrition Facts: calories 1,843, protein 152 g, fat 81 g, carbs 125 g

Now, let’s say you wanted to make room for a bagel with cream cheese — nothing overly fattening but still something a bit out of the norm. Here is how your day will change:

Sample meal plan following the breakdown above:

Breakfast: 100% whole-wheat bagel + 4 tbsp cream cheese = protein 15 g, fat 19 g, carbs 51 g

Snack: 1 string cheese + 1 oz almonds + 1 scoop whey protein powder (mixed in water) = protein 36 g, fat 22 g, carbs 9 g

Lunch: 5 oz grilled chicken breast + ¾ cup cooked quinoa + 1 cup steamed broccoli + 1 tbsp butter = protein 37 g, fat 18 g, carbs 34 g

Snack: 1 scoop whey protein powder (mixed in water) + 2 tbsp peanut butter = protein 31 g, fat 18 g, carbs 8 g

Dinner: 4 oz broiled or grilled salmon + 2 cups steamed mixed vegetables = protein 33 g, fat 9 g, carbs 8 g

Nutrition Facts: calories 1,822, protein 152 g, fat 86 g, carbs 110 g

As you can see, you’re able to throw in a treat without throwing off your healthy day. The key is to stick with clean foods or semi-clean foods the majority of the time and not save macros for junk food like nachos and donuts.

How to Track Your Macros

Make your life easy and download a food-log app on your phone, tablet or computer. There are a number of free applications out there that do all the work for you. All you have to do is log your food throughout the day and it will calculate your macronutrient totals. You can follow along throughout the day to make sure you’re staying on track. And if you’re lacking in any one macro, you can adjust your next meals and snacks accordingly.

Don’t make yourself crazy trying to reach each macronutrient goal to the letter. If you’re off plus or minus 10 grams, you should still be within your ratio range. It’s not about stressing over diet — it’s about fueling your body with a balance of nutrients while still getting to enjoy some tasty treats without the guilt.