How to Count Macros

how to track macros one fit motherBy now you’ve heard the term “macro” when it comes to food and nutrition. Maybe you’re ready to take your diet to the next level but you just aren’t sure what a macro is let alone how to count them or where to start. Have no fear. This is your quick and easy guide on how to count macros.


To start let’s talk briefly about calories since that’s what counts. (See what I did there?) Calories are simply a way to measure energy. Think of calories in food as fuel — they’re what keep your body going . Getting specific with caloric intake means breaking down your diet into macronutrients (macros). Then by manipulating the numbers and intake of the big three – protein, fat and carbs you can achieve specific body goals.   First an overview….


Protein is key. It makes you feel full. It helps build muscle and that muscle replaces fat. In turn, that muscle burns more calories when you are just sitting around watching guilty pleasure shows on your DVR. It also builds up, keeps up, and replaces tissues in your body. Think of it as your body’s maintenance guy.  Most people should have somewhere between .5-1g of protein per pound of body weight. Best bets for protein – lean meats like chicken, turkey and fish. Lamb, pork, bison and red meat are great sparingly. Dairy, eggs, and beans are also good sources.


The right kind of fat is so important in your diet. Fats aid in hormonal balance, distribution of vitamins and are imperative for brain health. They also make you feel satisfied like protein. You want to eat “good” fats – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated to fuel your body. Think olive oil, coconut oil, organic unsalted butter, nuts, avocado, and fish.


Carbohydrates are one of the body’s main sources for instant energy. It also helps your body to use protein to build muscle instead of using it for energy. But when it comes to fat loss, simple carbs like sugars, processed foods, baked goods, pasta, bread, cake and cookies are not your friend. Complex carbs like oatmeal, quinoa, and sweet potatoes are nutrient dense and have a place in your diet especially before and after workouts. The rest of the day try replacing grains with greens especially ones with high amounts of fiber. This is your one true friend in the carb world.   Fiber rich greens fill you up, helps you eliminate unused protein, gets you a flat stomach and prevents colon cancer.


The proper balance of protein, fat and carbs in your diet determines whether you are building or losing muscle and if you are gaining or losing fat. For example, when your diet is too low in protein you could end up losing muscle instead of fat, which can result in a slower metabolism. If you’re not eating enough or the right kind of carbs you might feel low in energy and if you are too low in fats you risk hormonal imbalances. If carbs or fat intake is too high you may not see the fat loss results you want.


Here’s your gram/calorie ratio for the big three:

PROTEIN: 1 gram of protein = 4 calories

FAT: 1 gram of fat = 9 calories

CARBS: 1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories

The easiest way to track macros is with a fantastic app called MyFitnessPal. I’m sure there are other macro/calorie trackers, but this is what I use. You can adjust your calories and macros by going to the ‘Goals’ tab and choosing percentage ratios. You can also track weight, measurements, progress photos and water intake. You can also track your workouts however a word of caution: If you enter your fitness activity for the day in My Fitness Pal it will subtract it from your nutrition and make you believe you should eat more. Consume the same macros everyday.

How to count macros. A simple and easy guide for fat loss and building muscle. What is a macro, why should I care and how do I track them.

Things to remember

Plan and Prep. I find it nearly impossible to hit my daily macro goals if I just wing it. Take some time each week to plan out what you’re going to have, when you’re going to have a cheat meal and do some meal prep.

Honesty equals impact. It is so simple but can be so challenging. Now is the time to get real with yourself and achieve the goals that your want. Your body will keep an accurate journal regardless of what you record.

 Be Active. We want to fire up your metabolism so the more you engage in active rest the better. Active rest: walking to the store, walking your kids around the block or playing at the park, parking your car a little further away from the entrance, taking the steps instead of the elevator. It all adds up. It really does.

 Food is Fuel. It is not a reward, something to do when you are bored, or your emotional crutch. It fuels your body. It takes some hard work (I still struggle) to have this mind shift.

As you prepare for the haul remember that our bodies are so adaptable to change! All it takes is the pursuit along with time and patience. I promise you the pay offs are incredible and they belong to you.   So repeat after me: I am forever a work in progress. I love myself today more than ever before and when I know better I do better.

For help on dialing in your macros I offer Online Coaching with a specific Macronutrient Prescription to help you dial in your macros based on current caloric intake, goals, training schedule, emotional relationship with food along with stage of life for maximum results.

About Heather Valentine

Heather Valentine is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist who believes in building your best body from the inside out.

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