How to count macros & how many calories should you eat?

macro counting

A quick disclosure before we get into the nitty-gritty of macronutrients.  I’m a certified Personal Trainer working on advanced training in nutrition, but I am not a doctor, and I’m not a dietitian.  I think knowing the basics of nutrition (such as macronutrient balancing) is a key tool to fat loss and a healthy diet, but my advice is clearly no match for medical advice, especially if you have a health condition.  I know you know this, but just putting it out there to appease the powers that be 🙂

HOW TO (1)

Now onto the good stuff!

Macros (macronutrients) are fats, protein, and carbs. Most foods have a combination of all 3, but typically there’s one overriding macro (ie, bread is almost entirely carbs, but has some protein and a little fat). If you have no idea how many grams of protein are in a 5-ounce chicken breast or how many carbs are in a 1/2 cup of broccoli, not to worry. That’s also why you’re doing habit 5 – to learn this stuff. Once you know it, you can pretty much trust yourself to figure out your own diet for the rest of your life.

How many macros should you aim for? That’s again, up to you and only you can know best. General guidelines suggest that most people looking to lose weight should eat somewhere around 10 to 12 times their body weight in total calories and start fat calories at least 35% to 60% of your total diet, then splitting carbs and protein between the remaining 60%. Again, this isn’t a hard and fast rule, but a baseline to start from. You can tweak from there based on your energy and hunger levels.

So, as a 135lbs woman, my total calories might look like this:

135lbs x 12 = 1620 total calories per day:

  • 50% of that are fat calories, which is 810 calories
  • 25% of that are non-starchy carbs which is 405 calories
  • 25% of that can be protein calories which is 405 calories

A quick tip about calorie counting – a gram of carbohydrate is 4 calories and so is a gram of protein. A gram of fat is 9 calories and a gram of alcohol is 7. So based on the quick math I did above, 648 calories of fat divided by 9 calories per gram = 72 grams of fat per day and you would divide by 4 with protein and carbs.

PS – if all this feels like too much math, just track your food on myfitnesspal.com and it will do the math for you. Easy peasy.

Ultimately you should find a balance of macros that works for you, but the key thing is to choose non-starchy carbs, so say tootle-loo to grain-based bread-like things, avoid potatoes (for a while) and stick with green or brightly colored veggies instead.

Basically, if it is, or comes from something that can be white (like bread, pasta, rice, noodles) then avoid it. If it comes from a grain, look the other way. If it has added sugar – run, don’t walk in the opposite direction. If you want treats, look for high protein, low carb options with no added sugar. They are out there, I assure you.

Want to learn more? I think this article sums it up really well.

xo caren

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7 comments

    1. Hi Erika,

      Thanks for the comment. Raising healthy fats while lowering starchy carbs in the context of one’s overall diet is in line with more recent scientific data about weight gain and nutrition. If you’re interested, I’d recommend looking up the work of Dr. Peter Atea. He has a great website with lots of info. I also recommend reading the book Why Women Need Fat (although the author’s name escapes me right now). Good luck with your exploration!

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