How to Track Macros for Weight Loss
If you learn better via audio/video, I have a YouTube video on How to Track Macros for Weight Loss here. This article will cover most of the same information, but the video specifically focuses on a Low Carb or Keto approach.
First of all, let me clarify that I will cover counting macros for weight loss. There are obviously other reasons for tracking your macros (dietary restrictions, weight gain, competition prep, etc.), but I want to specifically focus on how counting macros can be beneficial to weight loss.
Many of you have probably heard of various food diary apps that allow you to search up what you are eating, add it to your diary, and it will add up all of the Calories and other essential nutrients for you. These apps will be the most accurate source of nutrition information next to what is provided on a nutrition label or list on product websites. Keep in mind, though, that these apps are not perfect, and often times Calorie or macro counts are estimates for the serving that you have selected. These apps track everything from your primary macronutrients (Carbs, Fats, and Protein) to your vitamins and minerals. In order to track your macros, you will first need to set an intake goal for how much of each macronutrient you would like to consume per day.
In order to determine proper macro goals, you will first need to know how many Calories you would like to consume per day. I suggest you search for a BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) Calculator as well as a TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) Calculator online to find a general range of Calories that you should be consuming per day. Your BMR is the number of Calories you burn in a day if you were in a vegetative state, just existing (aka if you lay in bed all day), which means you should be consuming AT LEAST this many Calories in order for your body to function properly. Your TDEE takes into account your activity level, and gives you the number of Calories that you burn in a day including physical activity from work or exercise. Consuming the same number of Calories as your TDEE suggests would help you maintain your current weight. You want to choose a number that falls below your TDEE but above your BMR if your goal is to lose weight.
For this post I will use 1,500 Calories as my sample BMR, and 1,900 as my TDEE. If my goal is to lose weight, I want to set my daily Caloric intake to a number that falls between the two, and probably closer to the lower range if I want to see results a little faster. If you perform moderate amounts of exercise each week, I suggest you don’t drop below half of the difference. I exercise at a moderate intensity 4-5 days per week, so I will start with a daily Caloric intake goal of 1,750 Calories per day.
Next, you will need to determine how many grams/Calories of each macronutrient you will want to consume per day. There are 4 Calories for every gram of Protein and for every gram of Carbohydrates, and there are 9 Calories for every gram of Fat. I want to make sure that the combination of these macros help me reach my nutrition goals without going over my Calorie goals.
This is where everyone’s goals can vary in so many different ways. People who are trying to eat Low Carb or reach Ketosis will have a much lower Carb count than those who are looking to gain lean muscle mass. Your body type plays into this as well. A general rule of thumb is to break down your macros into a range of 25-55% Carbohydrates, 20-40% Fat, and 25-35% Protein, making sure the sum of your percentages is equal to 100%.
I found that a moderate level of all macronutrients is a good starting point for those who are just starting out with food tracking. I suggest you start with trying to aim for 35% Carbohydrates, 30% Fat, and 35% Protein.
With that being our goal, this is where the math comes in.
My daily Caloric goal is 1,750, and 35% of those I want to come from Carbohydrates. If your calculator does not offer you a percent button, all you need to do is multiply 1,750 X 0.35 and you should get 612.5 Calories. This means you want to be consuming 612.5 Calories in purely Carbohydrates. Remember how many Calories are in a gram of Carbs? There are 4 Calories per gram, so if you divide 612.5 by 4, you will get the total gram-age of Carbs you want to be eating, which is 153g (I rounded down).
You will follow the same process for Protein. 1,750 X 0.35 (because we want 35% Protein) = 612.5 Calories. 612.5 divided by 4 = 153g Protein per day.
1,750 x 0.30 = 525 Calories. 525 divided by 9 (remember there are 9 Calories per gram of Fat) = 58g
So 1,750 Calories per day can be divided into 35% C, 30%F, and 35%P (or 153g C, 58g F, and 153g P)
Let me do another example for you with the same Calorie goal but different macro percentage. When I was experimenting with Keto, I found that my macros would typically hit 15% Carbs, 55% Fat, and 30% Protein. I also consumed a little over 2,000 Calories per day (and still lost weight), but for consistency I will use the Calorie count we came up with earlier: 1,750.
1,750 X 0.15 = 262.5 Calories divided by 4 = 66g Carbohydrates
1,750 X 0.30 = 525 Calories divided by 4 = 131g Protein
1,750 X 0.55 = 963 Calories divided by 9 = 107g Fat
So 1,750 Calories split into 15%C, 55%F, and 30%P would be 55g C, 107g F, and 131g P
Keep in mind that tracking your macros can get very time consuming, not to mention lead to an obsession with numbers. I want you to use this information as guidelines, but not the sole indicator of a successful diet. I was able to lose 50 pounds without tracking any Calories or Macros, which you can read about here. But I will say that practicing food tracking definitely taught me how to understand what I was eating and how it affected my body.
I hope this post helped you. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions regarding Macro goals. I can also save you the work and come up with some Calorie and Macro goals customized just for you and your goals! Check it out on my Products page.