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How to Count Macros

Counting Macros Can Be Intimidating: Use These Tips to Make it Easy

So you're done with calorie counting and ready for a more liberating, empowering healthy eating plan. Now what?

Maybe you've heard of counting macros: the concept of balancing out your intake of macro nutrients — proteins, fats, and carbohydrates — to optimize your diet for either weight loss, muscle gain, metabolism boosting, or weight maintenance. It essentially lets you eat whatever you want, but only "if it fits your macros."

It sounds simple at first, until you realize you have to do a whole lot of counting. How do you know what the right numbers are and if you're hitting your mark? How do you stay on track? How much is too much? Before you get overwhelmed, know that there are resources, tips, and tricks to keep you on track, full, and happy without missing any of your favorite foods.

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  1. Get an app. This is absolutely essential to your success. Macro coach Carrie McMahon suggests My Macros+; and many macro counters also use apps like MyFitnessPal and Simple Macro. These apps will do the leg work for you, which is crucial to keep on track until you get a feel for exactly what does and doesn't fit into your day-to-day diet. Apps will help account for curve balls and foods you don't know how to track, while giving you data you can easily read and learn from.
  2. Educate yourself. This is twofold. One, you want to truly understand the basis of what macros are and how to count them on your own without the app (trust us, it'll make everything easier the more you learn). Second, learn about your food. Which carbs are the carbs you want in your diet? Which fats are the healthiest fats? Familiarize yourself with what foods you love that work best for your diet. The more you know, the more second-nature it will feel, and the easier this will become. Carrie showed us that when we're piecing a meal together, to focus on whole grains, fibrous veggies, lean proteins, and fats from nuts, avocado, and even dark chocolate.
  3. Start with recipe ideas. One of the best ways to get started? Don't think; just go for recipes that have been macro balanced. To get started, try these macro breakfasts, macro lunches, and macro dinners for weight loss. You can make a meal without any guess work, and know that your food has been perfectly proportioned for your macro goals. Once you find recipes that you love, you can refer back to them again and again and again.
  4. Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan. "I can't emphasize this enough," said Carrie. And this doesn't mean you have to make all your meals in advance — meal planning is just being a bit more strategic and knowing what you're going to eat the next day. "Sometimes people will eat breakfast, then put it into their macro tracker; then eat lunch [without planning] and put it into the tracker, and they don't plan for the rest of the day," she said. "Then they realize, 'Oh crap, I only have 1 gram of carbs left for dinner!'" Don't set yourself up for failure; strategize and use your app to figure out what a day of meals looks like.
  5. Meal prep. In line with your planning, meal prep can be a key to your macro success. Having meals and food set aside that you've already counted takes the guesswork out of your busy day, and you're not left high and dry with minimal options if you're on the go.
  6. Don't be too hard on yourself. Remember, this is all a process, and you're not going to have it 100-percent dialed at first! This diet is about finding what's right for you and your body, no one else's . . . and it's about "fun foods" as trainer Brittany Dawn would call it, like Oreos and Halo Top ice cream. Stay positive, keep at it, and the rest will fall into place.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Sheila Gim
Product Credit: On him: Citizens of Humanity blue pants, Vince black t-shirt / On her: Tory Burch top, Levi’s jeans
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