Nutrition Tip: Should You Count Macros?

Macro Counting Is The New Nutrition Trend

Everyone is talking about counting “macros” these days. I feel like every time I pull up Facebook or Instagram, there’s a post either detailing how to count macros or someone is posting a pic of their perfectly portioned macro counted meal. I also see posts where people are questioning if they should count macros and if so, can they get some tips from their social media friends. Many of our fitness retreat guests also wonder wether macro counting is important for them and their goals. It’s something that has come into the forefront of nutrition so I felt like it was important to address the topic. This post isn’t about how to count macros (although I do give you a a basic way at the end of the page). It’s really about whether or not it’s actually important for you to do so — because to be honest, counting macros isn’t appropriate for everyone.

Picture of macronutrients like whole fresh fruit, vegetables and fats.

What’s The Deal With Macros?

Before we get to the meat of this post, let’s define what macros actually are. Macros is a shortened term for macronutrients. Macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates and fat. They are the three major food categories of which we eat from and make our meals out of. If you didn’t know that fact, you don’t need to be counting macros (see below).

People are counting macros because counting calories isn’t accurate or important for a number of reasons. Macros suggest that you’ll be eating a more well balanced diet because you’re pulling food from all three categories — protein, carbohydrates and fat. Macronutrient counting means you’ll be counting the number of grams per each macronutrient you need daily (i.e. 60g protein, 120g carbs, 20g fat) rather than counting the total number of calories. Calorie counting can come from any source — meaning you could meet your daily calorie requirement from 100% cookies. As you can see with that example, counting calories doesn’t mean you’ll be eating a balanced diet.

How Do You Know If You Should Count Macros Or Not?

There are some very simple ways to know whether or not you should count macros. It comes down to a few things including nutrition skill level, goals and your preferences/likes.

Do you know what macros or macronutrients are?
At the retreat, we talk a lot about honoring where you’re at and doing what’s right for you. This translates into nutrition as well and refers to your nutritional skill level. It’s neither good nor bad. It just means you’ve got to identify where you’re at and be realistic about your skills and what you can do right now.

Yes - If the answer is yes, then you might be someone who could count macros. Continue to question number 2.

No - If the answer is no, then your nutritional skill level indicates that you should probably stick with the basics of portion control first rather than detailed macro counting. Let’s say though that you really want to count macros or you’re super interested in it. Continue to the next question.

What are your goals and are they basic or advanced?
The second thing to consider is whether or not your goals are basic or specific. This would determine how specific and trackable your intake needs to be.

Basic Goals - If your goals are fairly basic, then macro counting might not be the right option for you. For example, if you’re just trying to lose a few pounds and you don’t have a specific time frame and don’t care to, then a more general approach might be better. That being said, it if you’re the type of person who really likes to track things then you may want to see #3 below.

Specific Goals - If you have specific goals like a sport specific goal or a strength gain goal or you’re cutting weight for a competition then macro counting is for you. You need to be pretty detailed for performance reasons. Macro counting and journaling your intake would be a great idea so you can measure and track your success.

Are you detail oriented?
One of the biggest questions is whether or not you’re detail oriented. Do you like tracking information in general? Does tracking what you eat motivate or discourage you? Do you actually like tracking information like how many calories you’re taking in or how many grams of protein you are eating at each meal? And the most important questions of all…will you actually do it or do you have the time to do it?

Yes - If the answer is yes, then counting macros is definitely for you.

No - If the answer is no, then you should choose a more general approach to balanced eating.

Macro counting is truly an individual thing. It matters not only what your goal is, what your skill level is but also whether it’s truly something you think you can do and manage - and benefit from. It might be that you truly want to count macros - go for it!

How To Count Macros

The next thing you’re probably wondering is how exactly should you go about counting macros. Honestly, I can give you a general formula but truly I think it’s pretty important to make sure the ratio is right for you. You have to take into consideration your body, your activity level and your goals so I’m giving you a general formula below but it would most likely need to be tweaked. If you’re interested in a personalized plan, check out our Nutrition Coaching for specific guidance.

If you’re going to choose a more general way to eat a balanced diet, the eyeball method is your friend. You literally eyeball how much protein, carbohydrates and fat you need by measuring with your hand. This way you can eat in portion anywhere you are — at home, at a restaurant or at a party.

Here’s how you can do either macro counting or eyeball method:

COUNTING MACROS

With macros, you’ll first need to establish how many calories you need to take in per day. So for the purpose of this example, we’ll use a 1500 calorie per day diet. Next, you’ll need to decide the percentages that fit you and your goal. Again, because this is an example, I’ll use a 40/30/30 ratio (40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat). Next you’ll need to do the math. I’ve detailed it below.

Protein = 4 cal per gram. Carbohydrates = 4 cal per gram. Fat = 9 calories per gram.

  1. Determine Total Calories Per Day = 1500

  2. Determine Ratios of Macronutrients For You = 40% C, 30% P, 30% F

  3. Divide Out The Ratios

  4. Carbohydrates: 40% of 1500 calories = 600 calories, 600 calories divided by 4 calories per gram = 150g (this is your allotment in grams for carbohydrates per day - not meal)

  5. Protein: 30% of 1500 calories = 450 calories, 450 calories divided by 4 calories per gram = 112.50g (this is your allotment in grams for protein per day - not meal)

  6. Fat: 30% of 1500 calories = 450 calories, 450 calories divided by 9 calories per gram = 50g (this is your allotment in grams for fat per day - not meal)

Now we’ve determined in this example the grams per day for each macronutrient (150g Carbs, 112.5g Protein, 50g Fat). At this point, you would need to figure out how you’re going to spread those out for each meal and/or snack throughout the day. Not too crazy hard, right?

EYEBALL METHOD

*No calorie counting needed. You’ll simply judge how much you eat at each meal by hand portions.

Eyeball Method for Women:
Protein = Size and thickness of the palm of your hand.
Carbohydrates = 1 cupped hand.
Vegetables = 1 Fistful.
Fat = 1 Thumb.

Eyeball Method for Men:
Protein = Size and thickness of the 2 palms of your hand.
Carbohydrates = 2 cupped hands.
Vegetables = 2 Fistfuls.
Fat = 2 Thumbs.

If you’re unsure of how to eat, what to eat or need motivation, join us for a fitness retreat to jumpstart your healthy habits!

HEALTH, FITNESS + NUTRITION

If you’re stuck and don’t know how to continue to get results, check out our Bust My Rut session or Nutrition Coaching to propel you to results. In addition, we offer personal training and movement sessions for your fitness needs.

If you have any questions about this blog post, please leave them in the comments below.

Healthy Wishes,

Margot and The Vita Vie Retreat Team