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Why Counting Macros Is The Quickest Way To Lose Fat + How To Set Appropriate Macros For You

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

If you're on a fat loss journey, you probably have heard about tracking macros or maybe have even tracked before yourself. Well, there is a reason why people track macros and see results.. it works.

Now, I don't just jump to tracking macros with any of my clients. Even if they claim they have been "dieting their whole life" , many times we can see results by simple behavior change and lifestyle modifications.

But that takes time.

What if you want to see results in 6 weeks? In a month? Going to bed earlier and hydrating more often might not move the needle as quickly as you'd like. Well, there are answers to your problem but it requires consistency, precision, and a plan.

The only way to lose weight is through a calorie deficit. This means, you must consume less calories than what your body needs to maintain its' current weight.

For example, if you consume roughly 2,000 calories a day, work out five days a week for 60 minutes, and have weighed 150lbs doing this same routine for years, then you know what your maintenance calorie intake is. To lose weight, you'd need to consume less than 2,000 calories, consistently, keeping the same workout routine as well as all other variables. This person would see success consuming 1,800 calories to achieve weight loss.

Notice I said "weight loss" and not "fat loss". That is where macro counting is different than just counting calories.

Muscle is "expensive" tissue. It's expensive for the body to hold on to; it requires adequate protein intake, a strength training routine, and a balanced progressive overload to recovery ratio. So while cutting calories to lose weight, how will you ensure the weight being lost isn't this expensive tissue, muscle?

That's where macros come in handy. By ensuring you're eating a high protein diet, you'll preserve muscle while eating in a calorie deficit.

Macro counting is a more diligent form of calorie counting. Every gram of protein is 4 calories, every gram of carbohydrate is 4 calories, and every gram of fat is 9 calories. So, by counting the grams of protein, fat, and carbs, you're also counting your calories. This is just a more detailed way to ensure you're preserving muscle and losing fat.

What should my macros be to lose fat?

Before diving in to how to set your macros, you must first see how many calories you're currently eating. This matters because we cannot set a target unless we know what calorie intake is maintaining your current weight.

Step 1: track your calories for 7-14 days before making any changes.

Seven days is the minimum amount of time you should track before deciding on what your cut intake will look like. I say this because typically, I see people who are "good" the first few days of the week and decide to track those days only. They don't account for the drinks after work Friday, the football pizza Saturdays or the hungover brunch on Sunday. Those calories could be as much as thousands more than what you consume during your work week. The more data you can collect about yourself allows for more diligent, precise macro setting.

Not only will we find your current calorie intake, but we'll also see descrpencies between macros. This is normally enough for my clients to use for information on where to go without tracking. For example, let's say my client Sally tracks her calories for two weeks, and majority of her week looks like this:


oatmeal, berries, a drizzle of honey (400 calories)


1/2 a Jimmy Johns sub + apple (500 calories)


yogurt, more berries (200 calories)


2 chicken enchiladas with cheese and sauce, beans, side of rice, glass of wine (1,100 calories)


dark chocolate (80 calories)

Total: 2,280 calories

What I have done here is highlighted the different macros in her food log. Carbs are red, protein is green, fat is yellow. There's probably a dusting of more within every meal, but the predominant macros are reflected.

This is showing Sally, that she eats 80% carbs, 10% protein, 10% fat. Now, have you ever heard anyone say they lost a ton of weight eating mostly carbs?

Remember, you actually can lose weight eating whatever the hell you want, as long as you're in a calorie deficit. But what about human behavior?

This is where I work with clients who do not want to track calories. It is much easier to lose weight on a high protein, low processed foods diet. This would mean fiber rich sources of carbohydrates and less sugar and grain focused carbs. What does this have anything to do with human behavior?

Processed carbs are much easier to over-consume compared to protein. Carbs are even easier to over consume than fats are.

Let's compare three macros in terms of food: chicken (protein), ice cream (carbs) and peanut butter (fat). Now, Sally isn't tracking her calories but she is working on eating a calorie deficit. She has 400 calories to consume whatever the hell she wanted. She could eaither have 2.5 chicken breasts, 10 ice cream spoonfulls, or 5 spoonfulls of peanut butter. If she chooses the chicken, she's probably going to stop eating after 1, maybe 1.5 chicken breasts from being too full. If she chooses ice cream, she's going to most likely eat the entire pint, not just 10 spoonfulls. If she chooses peanut butter, she might consume 6 max spoonfulls before she begins feeling sick of peanut butter.

As you can see, it's way easier to over consume processed carbs and sugar. America has made packaged food items "hyper-palatable"; added sugar, fats, and salt. These make us over eat and in turn, gain weight.

But if Sally were to have chosen the protein option, one ingredient, very yummy and satisfying, she actually would've saved calories and ate in a calorie deficit.

Now, let's take a look at her food log once more. Clearly, she needs to swap out some of her hyper-palatable processed carbs with better protein rich options. Here's what would happen:


protein shake made with frozen spinach, 1 tb almond butter, frozen blueberries + chia seeds (320 calories)


Tossed salad with salmon, tomato, cucumber, carrots and avocado. oil + vinegar on the side (400 calories)

**feels very full from the huge salad, but still snacks**

S: beef jerky stick (80 cal)

D: Grilled steak, broccolini, 3-4 baby potatoes (500 calories)

S: greek yogurt with cinnamon (80 cal)

Total: 1,380 calories

By simply swapping out the macro distribution to being 40% protein, 30% fat, 30% carbs, Sally also consumed almost 900 calories less than her food log. She also was eating more nutrient dense foods that helps curb her cravings and have a positive impact on her sleep. She also noticed a performance boost in the gym, feeling lighter and more energy during her workouts.

All of this was done by changing Sally's behavior. We didn't cut out any meals or foods; in fact, she consumed so low calorie that she had some wiggle room for fun on the weekends. She didn't go over-board because of her goals, but she never said goodbye to the wine or a slice of pizza. She just knew that majority of her diet should be protein based because it worked for her body and behaviors.

Step 2: decide if you are in a realistic place to cut calories or if you're currently eating too little

This is a tough pill to swallow for chronic dieters. I have seen many clients return their food logs to me with 1,400 calorie days currently maintianing their weight.

This my friends, is a sign that you are underfueling yourself and your metabolism has shifted to maintaining your weight at a very low calorie place.

Before we dive into cutting versus bulking... you must ask yourself; how accurate are these food recalls? Did you weigh your food? Are you measuring out your recipes? Did you include the oil you used to cook with? I want anything that was in your mouth to be on that paper and be as detailed as possible.

If you were truly as accurate as the data shows, and your calorie intake is low, then "housten, we have a problem".

We cannot pull calories from a diet that has no calories to pull from.

You will need to increase your calorie intake to a place where it is only slightly uncomfortable to pull from. Meaning, you need to work your way back into eating at least 2,000 calories (female) and 2,500 calories (male) to then go through a cut.

How do I do this without gaining even more weight?

You might gain weight. A few pounds is normal when increasing your calories by a few hundred. But what we want to shift our focus on is getting stronger in the gym and using those extra calories to build muscle, not necessarily fat. This is where lifting weights is yet again, another great tool for decreasing fat storage and building a muscular strong physique. You'll need to maintain this new calorie intake for awhile before looking to have a successful cut.

But I don't want to gain weight.

This is when you need to ask yourself, is what you're currently doing actually working? It's probably not if you're reading this. And again, if you're lifting weights, you're going to build muscle with a higher calorie intake.

Step 3: You're ready to cut, start with your daily caloric intake

Cutting between 200-300 calories from maintaince should show you results after remaining in the calorie deficit for a few weeks. Ideally, .5-1 lb per week is a great pace to lose weight at. This will fluctuate, not everything is linear. You may lose a few pounds the first few weeks then level out. Stay the course, and work to modify your calories in other ways outside of continuing to cut, cut, cut.

This is where working with a nutritionist or a trainer is very helpful to dial in your exact needs. If you're interested in learning more about my nutrition consultations, please email .

Step 4: Let's set some macros!

Remember, macros help us to gage your progress even more. For those who really want to dial in their muscle building, fat burning potential, you'll want to have macros set in stone.

Before giving you numbers, I feel it's my duty to give you a bit more detail about each macro and what they do in the body:

Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram | our bodies' preferred source of energy | made up of sugar | broken down by the hormone insulin which stores the glucose as fat or in our muscle | if carbs are not used as energy, they are stored as fat.

Protein: 4 calories per gram | builds muscle | made up of amino acids | rarely, almost never broken down for energy | repairs and rebuilds muscle tissue

Fat: 9 calories per gram | essential to live and helps our bodies' processes/hormone function | also a sustained form of energy | more "energy dense" so calories are higher for less volume | fat also increases satiety

Knowing these basic facts helps to understand that:

  • too many carbs can lead to increased insulin production

  • increased insulin production means increased fat storage

  • carbs give us easy and quick energy

  • protein is rarely used as energy or stored as fat

  • protein builds muscle

  • fat is high in calorie

  • fat is vital for our bodies to function and prosper optimally

Therefore, those who seek to lose body fat and build muscle should aim for 40-50% of their calories to come from protein, and allow the other 50-60% to work with your body in terms of fat and carbs.

If you currently over consume fat, then lowering your fat intake to 25% may be helpful to see reduced total daily calories.

If you currently over consume processed and packaged goods, reducing your carb intake to 25% may help you lose weight by reducing added calories from sugar and hyperpalatable foods.

If you are a runner or train for endurance based sports, consuming a higher carb diet would be in your interest for better performance.

There are many factors that come in to play with your percentages of carbs and fat; but understand that what you're currently doing is not working, so you must make a change. This might mean a reduced amount of a macro you have been over-consuming for years and not realizing its' caloric impact.

Most of my body re-composition clients follow the macro distribution of 40% protein, 30% carbs, 30% fat.

Step 6: calculate percentages, calories per macro, then grams, and set up into MyFitnessPal (or tracking app)

Now that you have your percentages, you need a way to measure them. We will take the above percentages as an example:

Protein: 40% of 1800 calories is 720 calories. Divide by 4 grams = 180. grams of protein. For protein, I always recommend 1 gram per ppound of ideal bodyweight. If you are trying to cut to get to 150, then 150-180 grams of protein is a great macro profile for protein.

Fat: 30% of 1800 calories is 540 calories. Divide by 9 grams = 60 grams of fat per day.

Carbohydrates: 30% of 1800 calories is 540 calories. Divide by 4 grams = 135 grams of carbs per day.

Now you have the amount of carbs, fats and proteins you should eat per day. You can measure your grams using a scale, measuring cups of nutrition facts label on most items in the grocery store.

The easiest way to log your macros is using an app such as myfitnesspal. You can edit the suggested macros to create your own personal macro profile and calorie goal.

Step 7: remain consistent, but not forever

You are not meant to be in a calorie deficit forever. However, you should remain consistent for at least four weeks all the way up to three months. By the end of your three month cut, re-evaluate your progress and goals. This cutting-bulking journey is ever-evolving and I challenge you to find new goals outside of constantly cutting calories. Your body will morphe to what your work towards, and it's a rewarding journey weather your bulking, cutting, building or leaning out.

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