This Is Exactly How To Count Macros To Lose Weight, According To RDs

In the pursuit of weight loss, various diets and approaches are available, such as the keto diet, intermittent fasting, and the Mediterranean diet. Counting macros, a popular method, centers around monitoring macronutrients—protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Unlike some restrictive diets, counting macros does not impose limitations on specific foods, offering flexibility and encouraging individuals to track nutrients for informed food choices. While the process of counting macros involves more than simply recording food in a journal, it provides a more adaptable approach.

Jessica Crandall Snyder, RDN, highlights the flexibility of counting macros compared to restrictive diets like keto and intermittent fasting. She emphasizes that these diets are often unsustainable in the long term, lack the promotion of healthy eating patterns, and may pose risks of long-term nutritional deficiencies.

Jonathan Valdez, RDN, underscores the broader considerations involved in macro counting. Besides tracking macronutrients, factors such as the types of foods consumed, overall balance, stress management, sufficient sleep, proper hydration, genetics, exercise, age, medication conditions, and gender should also be taken into account. This comprehensive approach recognizes the multifaceted nature of effective weight management.

Despite its positive aspects, counting macros may not be suitable for everyone. Jonathan Valdez, RDN, highlights potential drawbacks, including the time-consuming nature of macro counting, the potential for increased stress, and the risk of developing disordered eating patterns. He emphasizes that such challenges can undermine the primary goal of adopting a healthier lifestyle. Individuals should carefully consider these factors and consult with healthcare professionals before embarking on a macro counting regimen.

Here’s everything you need to know about macros.

Macronutrients, or macros, are essential nutrients that your body requires for optimal function. These include carbohydrates, protein, and fat, each playing a distinct role and offering unique benefits for weight loss.

Jessica Crandall Snyder, RDN, suggests a personalized approach to tracking macronutrients based on individual goals for weight loss or performance. Rather than focusing solely on calorie counting, the emphasis is on monitoring the specific components—carbohydrates, fats, and proteins—that provide the necessary fuel for the body.

Now, let’s delve into the characteristics of each macronutrient.

Macro #1: Carbs

Let’s dispel the myth: Carbs are not the adversary, even in weight loss efforts. Mascha Davis, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, underscores that carbohydrates stand as the primary energy source for nearly all human cells.

Carbohydrates undergo rapid digestion, transforming into sugar, or blood glucose. This glucose is subsequently stored in your liver and muscles as glycogen. Both blood glucose and glycogen serve as crucial sources of energy for high-intensity exercises, essential for fat burning and the development of metabolism-boosting muscle.

Moreover, carbohydrates are linked to the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with positive mood regulation, suggesting that carbs may influence your emotional well-being.

Macro #2: Protein

Protein serves as the foundation for building and preserving lean muscle in your body, but its contributions extend far beyond that role. Mascha Davis, RDN, elaborates, stating that protein is essential for crafting the enzymes that fuel chemical reactions within the body. Additionally, it plays a pivotal role in the creation of hemoglobin, the carrier of oxygen throughout the body. Without adequate oxygen supply, sustaining energy levels for activities like climbing stairs or completing a lengthy run becomes challenging.

Moreover, protein plays a significant role in enhancing satiety levels, allowing you to feel satisfied with fewer calories. The ingestion of protein prompts the production of hormones in the gut that decelerate the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract, prolonging the sensation of fullness.

Notably, protein’s impact on digestion extends to regulating the release of glucose into the bloodstream. This modulation helps avert the spikes in blood sugar and insulin, which can contribute to health concerns, as clarified by Alexandra Sowa, MD, a New York City-based internal medicine physician and diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine.

Macro #3: Fat

The keto diet has underscored a crucial lesson: Consuming fat doesn’t inherently result in weight gain, even though fat packs more calories per ounce compared to other macronutrients.

Fat plays diverse roles, forming cell membranes, supporting nerve and brain health, and facilitating the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K—integral to healthy weight-loss endeavors. While fat doesn’t stimulate the same satiety-inducing hormones as protein, its slow digestion process contributes to stabilizing blood sugar levels and curbing cravings.

However, Jessica Crandall Snyder, RDN, emphasizes the importance of not embarking on the keto diet without proper guidance. She recommends working with a registered dietitian to receive sound nutrition advice, address nutrient gaps, and identify enjoyable foods aligned with the goal of appropriately fueling the body.

Counting macros comes with major health benefits.

Engaging in macro counting offers several health benefits. Here’s what you can anticipate if you decide to give it a try:

  1. Weight Loss: By meticulously tracking your macros and adhering to a specified amount, you may eliminate excess calories from your diet, facilitating weight loss.
  2. Muscle Gain: Counting macros can make it easier for individuals to meet their protein requirements, crucial for building and repairing muscle mass post-exercise. This is especially beneficial for those engaged in strength training.
  3. Structured Nutrition: For many people, having a clear framework for their eating habits is essential. Counting macros provides this structure, guiding individuals in making informed choices about their food intake.
  4. Increased Awareness: Paying closer attention to what you eat can lead to better food choices and reduced calorie intake. This heightened awareness is especially helpful for individuals who struggle to recognize internal cues like feelings of fullness.
  5. Optimal Body Function: Achieving the right balance of carbs, protein, and fats through macro counting ensures that your body functions optimally. Carbs provide energy, proteins contribute to the immune system, muscle mass, and metabolism, while fats aid in the absorption of essential nutrients.

It’s important to note that these benefits can be experienced when macro counting is approached with a balanced and informed perspective.

This is exactly how to count your macros.

Initially, it’s crucial to understand the calorie content of each gram of the three main macronutrients, as you’ll use this information later:

  • Carbs: Four calories per gram
  • Fat: Nine calories per gram
  • Protein: Four calories per gram

While individual macro goals can vary, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggest that adults should derive 45 to 65 percent of their calories from carbs, 10 to 35 percent from protein, and 20 to 35 percent from fat.

Calculating your daily macronutrient intake involves a specific formula based on the percentage of calories you aim to get from each macronutrient, considering your total calorie intake. Using a 1,600-calorie diet as an example (which may vary for individuals), the formula is as follows:

  • Carbs: (1,600 calories per day) x (percentage of calories from carbs, e.g., 50%) / (Number of calories per gram in carbohydrates, i.e., 4) = 200 grams of carbs per day
  • Protein: (1,600 calories per day) x (percentage of calories from protein, e.g., 20%) / (Number of calories per gram in protein, i.e., 4) = 80 grams of protein per day
  • Fat: (1,600 calories per day) x (percentage of calories from fat, e.g., 30%) / (Number of calories per gram in fat, i.e., 9) = 53 grams of fat per day

Counting macros to lose weight comes with some downsides.

Counting macros requires planning and mathematical calculations, which can be cumbersome, especially if your meals vary. According to Angelone, the process becomes more manageable with consistency, but there’s a risk of monotony and potential nutritional inadequacy if you eat the same thing every day.

However, there are potential side effects to be mindful of, especially if you set macro goals without professional guidance. Setting goals too low may lead to issues like energy fatigue, brain fog, and nutrient deficiencies. Conversely, setting goals too high might not yield the desired health benefits, such as weight loss or improved performance.

When dealing with these numerical targets, some individuals may become overly fixated on their daily macro counts, potentially leading to disordered eating. It’s important to emphasize that while macro goals provide guidelines, there shouldn’t be an obligation to hit them every single day.

For those feeling overwhelmed by counting macros, Snyder suggests incorporating it in intervals. “Try and track for a week, and then you have a really good idea of the kind of foods you’re typically eating and where you need to adjust, and that may give you some really good insights,” Snyder advises. “I don’t encourage tracking forever, but I do think checking in with yourself every once in a while and seeing if you’re on track can be helpful for some clients.”

Interested? It’s super easy to get started.

Counting macros may seem daunting initially, but you can start with a simple approach. To ease into it, Angelone suggests beginning by maintaining a food diary to understand your regular eating patterns. Track and calculate your macros as instructed earlier, then analyze your food choices to identify necessary adjustments based on those numbers.

“Be sure to choose less processed foods, opt for whole grains and high-fiber foods, incorporate healthy fats, limit refined sugar, and stay hydrated,” Angelone advises. “And be sure to incorporate regular exercise and more activity into your day.” Following these steps should provide a good starting point.

If you’re considering a more prolonged period of official macro counting with specific weight loss or performance goals, Snyder recommends consulting a registered dietitian (RD) promptly to develop a personalized plan.

A calorie-tracking app might be helpful too.

Here are some apps that can help you track your macros:

  1. MyFitnessPal: Available in free and premium versions, this app allows you to track your daily protein, carb, and fat intake. The premium version lets you set specific macro targets. (Free for iOS and Android, and; or $79.99 for yearly premium.)
  2. Lose It!: Easily track your macros by logging your meals, and the app will calculate your consumed macros under its “nutrients tab.” (Free for iOS, at, or $39.99 per year for the premium version.)
  3. Eat This Much: This app not only tracks macros but also helps create meal plans aligned with your goals. The barcode scanner inputs food items directly into your account. (Free for iOS and Android, and; or premium $8.99 per month with an annual subscription.)
  4. My Plate: Track the macros of individual meals and get a breakdown of your daily carb, fat, and protein intake. (Free for iOS and Android, and; or $49.99 for an annual premium.)
  5. My Macros+: This app features a macros countdown, body-weight tracking options, and a database with over 1.5 million foods. (Starts at $1.99 for iOS,

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