**This is Part 1 of a 3-part series on counting macros to look good naked and break PRs in the gym:
• Part 1 – YOU ARE HERE – Counting Macros & Flexible Dieting 101
• Part 2 – How to Count Macros The Right Way AND How to Royally Screw it Up (like I did)…
• Part 3 – Pros and Cons of Counting Macros (PLUS: FAQs)
Have you heard of “flexible dieting”, or maybe you have heard someone say “that does/doesn’t fit my macros?”
It’s simply tracking and counting macronutrients, and this “dieting” strategy is gaining a phenomenal amount of popularity.
I can assure you this is not a fad, or something new. My first bout with tracking macros goes back to around 2003-2004.
It has a lot of appeal because you can really shape your body composition while having a ton of independence and flexibility. And, if you have a good macro plan, you can still meet your performance goals in the process.
Sounds like a winner, right?
The best part is the customization to the individual, so there is no hype, gimmicks or marketing that makes this THE DIET. It’s your plan, your macros and your goals.
It’s a great technique.
I may nerd out a little bit here because a little-known fact about my background is that my first two years of college were spent as a Food and Nutrition Science major, so I love getting into the numbers 🙂
Let’s so do this!
What are Macros?
We have to start at the most basic level.
What are macronutrients?
- Defined: a type of food (e.g., fat, protein, carbohydrate) required in large amounts in the human diet.
Macronutrients are the basic building blocks for energy, and we will refer to them as Macros.
You may be asking, since there are macronutrients, are there micronutrients?
Yes. Micronutrients are vitally important in your diet; things like vitamins and minerals, but they aid in health and are co-factors to us using macronutrients. However, they do not contain calories and are rarely tracked (even though they should be).
Back to macros. What are they?
You’ve likely heard of all these macros. Here is what you need to know, numbers-wise:
- 1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
- 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
- 1 gram of alcohol = 7 calories
I won’t cover alcohol much further because I really don’t feel it should be a part of your macro strategy to aid in performance and body composition :), but to each their own.
So that is macros 101. Macros provide us with energy, they are in the food we eat and they all contain a certain amount of calories per gram consumed.
You now have the foundational knowledge to get started.
How to get started with counting Macros?
There are three main things you will need to get started with counting macros.
- A macro-breakdown, or macro plan, customized for you and your goals (provided in this article).
- Food Scale
- Something to Track your macros
Let’s talk about each of these a little bit more.
1.) A Macro Plan.
I have created two calculators, one for low carb and one which follows a Zone diet breakdown (percentages) you can use as a starting point to having a macro plan, use the button below:
**Right out of the gate, I will say if leaning, cutting or losing weight is your goal – go low carb. I will say the low carb calculator I created is something I have used…not based off of some formula I was given or googled. It is low carb, moderate protein and high fat. Having said that, your diet must be healthy and the fats you consumes MUST be healthy. If not, don’t use my calculators.
If you are more performance driven, use the zone breakdown.
Both strategies will help you meet your goals. Period. However, the Zone breakdown will have higher carbohydrates for those who move a barbell around regularly.
If you don’t have a macro plan, everything else is useless. You don’t have to use mine, but you have to have one.
If you don’t there is no macro-goal each day, and really nothing for you to follow. You’d just be tracking macros for the hell of it.
Have a plan!
2.) A Food Scale.
This is pretty simple and where a lot of people get intimidated.
What!? I have to weigh and measure food!?
Yes. Yes, you do.
But it is easy. You can grab an accurate digital scale on Amazon for cheap — This is the one I use.
I’ll break this down in EPIC detail later in this series, but just know you need one, it’s very easy to use and you can do it!
3.) Tracking food.
You can use a notebook, excel spreadsheet, or smartphone app.
Really, do whatever works best for you.
With all the apps out there these days, with extensive food databases and daily tracking functionality, it’s pretty easy to track your macros.
Here are two apps I have used:
The BIG idea
Now, you know what macros are, and how to track them, so why does this work?
Counting calories is rather arbitrary. Wouldn’t you agree?
A 2,000 calorie diet could literally be made up of soda, white bread and pop tarts…
Calories are calories.
However, if you are following a macro-based plan, EVEN if you wanted to have your pop tarts it would count against your allowed allotment of carbohydrate grams for the day. So if you “run out of carbs” you now have to figure out how to get the right amount of protein and fat before the day is over (things we cover later in this series).
This is where the flexibility and independence come in 🙂
Counting macros essentially forces you to make better decisions based off of a plan which was designed for you. If you need to limit carbs, it will make sure you do that. If you need more protein it will make sure you do that. If you need more healthy fats, it will make sure you do that.
As opposed to…go eat 1,500 calories to lose weight.
All calories are not created equal and quality does matter.
Now, counting macros is not magical, nor easy.
It takes work, and can be screwed up pretty badly. And that is what I am going to cover in Part Two of this series.
So in my next article we will dive deep in “How to Count Macros The Right Way AND How to Royally Screw it Up (like I did)…”, where you know exactly how to accomplish your goals while following a macro plan.
You action steps for today:
- Get a Macro Plan (click here to use mine)
- Buy a Food Scale (if you don’t have one already)
- Download an app or get a new notebook
- Let me know what questions you have!! In part-3 of this series I will cover any and every question I get about counting macros and flexible dieting.
To becoming better!