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A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Count Macros

[author]Reniel A.[/author] [author_img][/author_img] [author_info]Content Writer[/author_info]


"Counting macros." Ever heard about them?

If you are into fitness and health, there's a great chance that you’ve already come across this term. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you understand macros and how to count them.  

But first, what are macros?

Counting macros are popular among people who are looking to lose weight or build muscle mass.

Macros are basically defined as type of food required in certain amounts in a diet, and explained by Carrie McMahon, the author of “Why Should Count Macronutrients, Not Calories, macros make up the caloric content of food.

table 1

There are three categories of macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. To be able to count macronutrients successfully, you have to be familiar with these three:

table 2

Carbs (4 calories per gram)

Carbohydrates make up the largest portion of people's calorie intake and should take at least take 45-65%. It’s usually found in corn, oats, rice, bread and potatoes. 

Fats (9 calories per gram)

Our body needs fat for a number of reasons including body temperature maintenance, hormone production and nutrient absorption. You can get your fat needs by eating different nuts, fatty fish, olives, guacamole, egg yolks and using coconut oil on your food among others.

And while a typical macronutrient recommendation for fats ranges from 20-35% of your total daily calorie intake, there are quite a number of people who find it successful when they followed a diet with a higher fat intake than the usual recommendation.

Proteins (4 calories per gram)

Protein is important since it helps build enzymes, hormones and tissues.

As per recommendation, protein should be at least 10 to 35% of your total calorie intake. You can get your protein from eating quinoa, tofu, spirulina, chia seeds, chickpeas, pork, poultry, beef, etc.

But, just so you know, protein recommendations actually differ from one person to another depending on age, body composition, and health.

Is too much protein bad though?  Find out here

Counting Macros 101    


table 3


And now, let’s go to the most important part of this article. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to count macros!

1. Find out and assess your calorie needs

We all have different body types so the calorie needs of others may be too much or too little for you. This is why it’s important for you to figure out how many calories your body needs.

To calculate your total calorie needs, figure out your REE (resting energy expenditure) and NREE (non-resting energy expenditure). Adding your REE and NREE will result to your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) or the total number of calories burned in a day.

To determine and compute yours, follow the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation:

Men: calories/day = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5

Women: calories/day = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161

table 4

Then, multiply your result by an activity factor — a number that represents different levels of activity:

Sedentary: x 1.2 (limited exercise)

Lightly active: x 1.375 (light exercise less than three days per week)

Moderately active: x 1.55 (moderate exercise most days of the week)

Very active: x 1.725 (hard exercise every day)

Extra active: x 1.9 (strenuous exercise two or more times per day)


The end result gives you your TDEE.


Keep in mind that you can adjust your TDEE depending on your goals. 


2. Decide Your Macronutrient Breakdown

table 5

Here’s the typical macronutrient recommendation:

Carbs: 45–65% of total calories

Fats: 20–35% of total calories

Proteins: 10–35% of total calories

While this is the general recommendation, there may be instances that a certain macronutrient may be increased or decreased. It’s always best to ask for expert opinion about this matter when in doubt.

 3. Track Your Macros and Calorie Intakes

table 6

Now that you’ve assessed your TDEE and decided your macronutrient breakdown, it’s time to track your macros and calorie intakes.

There are plenty of apps and websites that record the food you eat in a day and help track the macros. Among the most popular apps that act as a food journal are Lose It!, MyFitnessPal, and My Macros +.

Need more advice? Check this out: Weightlifting Diet Tips & Advice

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