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The Beginner’s Guide to Determining and Tracking Macros & Calories

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Figuring out and tracking macros is extremely important for your physique and fat loss goals.

While it may sound hard, determining your caloric and macros needs is actually quite simple when you follow the key points discussed today.

In this article I’ll provide some key information to ensure that you can properly determine and track your calories and macros to reach the body composition of your dreams!

Energy Balance or Calorie Intake Is Key

Prior to choosing the amount of calories and macros you need, you first need to understand the concept of energy balance or calorie intake.

Energy balance is the notion that in order to lose weight, you’ll need to expend more calories than you consume. Alternatively, to gain weight, you’ll need to consume more calories than you expend. It sounds simple and it really is, but most people now obsess over the minors and actually ignore this biggest factor impacting their fat loss efforts! (1).

If you get this first part wrong, the rest of the plan will be set up to fail. For example, if you are trying to lose fat and have the calories too high, then, you simply won’t lose weight even if your macros are perfect.

(Related: If you want to see the exact calories and macro split for rapid fat loss and toning up based on your own metabolism, you can get that as part of the 90 Day Bikini plan here).

Finding Your Maintenance Intake

As mentioned before, your maintenance calorie intake is the amount of calories that you can consume without gaining or losing weight.

Maintenance is having an equal energy balance; from here, you can then drop calories down for fat loss or increase it for muscle growth/weight gain. Finding this amount of calories is essential since, without it, you won’t know if you are consuming less or more than you typically do.

In order to find your maintenance intake, I suggest the following method:

  1. 1. Weigh yourself in the morning fasted
  2. 2. Track your calorie intake for at least 5 days
  3. 3. After 5 days, weigh yourself in the morning, fasted.

Once you’ve weighed yourself after day 5, if your weight has remained the same, take an average of the total calories consumed over the five days. This average can be considered your maintenance intake.

Another simple method I give people is this formula. For example, to lose fat I recommend taking your bodyweight in LBs then multiply by 11 calories. For example, 150LB x 11 calories = 1650 calories per day. For gaining mass, use this same formula and multiply by 18. For example, 150LB x 18 calories = 2700 calories per day.

Macros Make Up Your Calories

Once you find your maintenance calorie intake, you can begin to choose the appropriate ratio of macros for your goal.

If you didn’t know, macros such as protein, carbohydrate and fat all have a caloric content, which make up your total calories.

For example, 1 gram of protein and carbohydrate are worth 4 calories each while 1 gram of fat is worth 9.

Once your energy balance is in check, you can begin adjusting the ratios of these 3 macros, while maintaining your energy balance.

Determining Macros Ratios

Determining the amount of each macronutrient you need is actually fairly simple if you consider them in percentages of your total calorie intake.

Just for convenience sake, let’s assume that your protein, carbohydrate and fat percentages for a 2000-calorie diet will be around 35%, 40% and 25%, respectively.

To find your protein macros, simply multiply 2000 calories by .35 (35%) to find the amount of calories you’ll consume from protein.

This equates to 700 calories from protein.

At this point, simply divide 700 by 4 (1 gram of protein = 4 calories) to reveal 175 grams of protein required per day.

Once you determine protein, simply repeat the process with the percentage of carbohydrates as they are both worth 4 calories per gram.

To find the macros for fat, you’ll repeat the above process, but replace 4 with 9, since 1 gram of fat accounts for 9 calories.

With this example above (which is a good place to start if you have no idea), then you would consume a 2000 calorie diet made up of:

  • Protein at 35% = 175g per day
  • Carbs at 40% = 200g per day
  • Fat at 25% = 55g per day

There is no “best” macro split, as it’s very dependent on your goals. With that being said, there are certainly some great macro splits and some very bad ones. As a rule of thumb, I always recommend you set protein at 30-40% of your total daily intake. From there, you can get creative and play around with the carb and fat ratios to see what fits you best!

Example Macro Splits

Here are a few example macro splits to get you started:

High Carb Low Fat

  • 40% Carbs
  • 40% Protein
  • 20% Fat

High Fat, Low Carb

  • 20% Carbs
  • 40% Protein
  • 40% Fat

Ketogenic (Super High Fat, Ultra Low Carb)

  • 5% Carbs
  • 25% Protein
  • 70% Fat

Mixed / Balanced

  • 33% Carbs
  • 33% Protein
  • 33% Fat

Tracking Macros and Calories

While energy balance is still the most important factor, tracking macronutrients is an optimal way to ensure that those calories are coming from the correct sources.

For example, if you choose to use a ketogenic diet, you’ll need to ensure that at least 65-70% of your calories are from fat. While calories are most important for losing or gaining weight, ensuring you are consuming more fat will determine if you’re actually using a ketogenic diet.

Another example is protein; if you track calories and do not get the protein intake right, then you may lose weight but a lot of it may also be muscle, not fat. Again, this shows that to optimize body composition BOTH calories and macros must be on point.

Once you determine your energy balance and macro ratios, I suggest using a food tracking application such as MyFitnessPal, especially when starting. Using this application will allow you to view exactly how many grams of each macro and thus total calories, you are consuming. It also educates you on what’s in what food; in the long term, this will empower you to make the right choices.

Just note that this is still a guide and can be inaccurate, throwing you off track if you get it wrong, especially if you do not measure the food as discussed below.

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Measuring Your Food 

Once you’ve figured out your total calories, macro ratios and your method of tracking intake, you’ll need to begin measuring and weighing your food.

At first this may seem like quite a burden but in doing so, you’ll be able to consume the types of foods you enjoy, while also ensuring that you are staying on track with calories and macronutrients. Plus, if you prepare in advance, it’ll just take you 5-10 minutes per day.

I suggest getting a fairly cheap digital food scale for say $10 and using it to measure the weight of the food you are eating. This is a much more accurate way of measuring the amount of food (and thus the calories you are consuming) than simply looking and guessing.

To use this method, simply weigh your food and enter that food and weight into your calorie-tracking application. Doing so will give you a fairly accurate representation of the calories and macronutrients you are consuming, ensuring that you are on track with your goals.

How to Determine and Track Your Macronutrients & Calories

Determining your caloric needs and macronutrients can be quite simple. Once you understand the concept of energy balance and that macronutrients actually make up that energy, you can begin to manipulate the amount to achieve your goals.

As a reminder, here are the key points mentioned for setting up your macronutrient ratios and how to effectively track them:

  1. Ensure appropriate energy intake for your goal. To lose weight you’ll need to consume fewer calories than you expend. To gain, you’ll need to consume more.
  2. Find your maintenance calorie intake. Track your calorie intake and weigh yourself. If your weight hasn’t changed, take an average of your total calories to get your maintenance intake. Based on your goal, increase or decrease that calorie amount moving forward.
  3. Once you determine your caloric needs, adjust your macronutrient ratios. Macros have a caloric content, which make up your total calories. Your goal and the type of diet will determine this ratio.
  4. Use a calorie tracking app. By using an application, you can quickly and easily find the food you’re consuming while accurately tracking your macronutrients and total calorie intake.
  5. Accurately weigh and measure your food. Failing to accurately track the amount and types of food you are eating can sabotage your attempts to change your body composition. I suggest using a cheap food scale to accurately measure and thus track the amount of food you are eating to ensure success.

Using these methods will ensure ease and efficiency during your body transformation while ensuring success. Remember, if you want all this done for you in a very simple and ready to follow plan from today, you can download the 90 Day Bikini plan on this page. This gives you full macro and calorie splits, with full 7 day meal plans to follow!

References

  1. 1. Spiegelman, B. M., & Flier, J. S. (2001). Obesity and the regulation of energy balance. Cell, 104(4), 531-543.

About the author

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Rudy Mawer, MSc, CISSN

Rudy has a 1st class BSc in Exercise, Nutrition & Health and a Masters in Exercise & Nutrition Science from the University of Tampa. Rudy currently works as a Human Performance Researcher, Sports Nutritionist and Physique Coach. Over 7 years he has helped over 500 people around the world achieve long last physique transformations.

He now works closely with a variety of professional athletes and teams, including the NBA, USA Athletics, World Triathlon Gold Medalists, Hollywood Celebrities and IFBB Pro Bodybuilders. If you would like to get in contact or work with Rudy please contact him on social media.

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