Counting macros is better than counting calories.
There, I said it.
And I’m sure I’ll get lots of hate from the salad-crunching, stick-thin “health experts” who want you to obsess over every little thing you eat.
They’ll look down on you as they post internet meme’s about how eating a Mars bar contains 260 calories, and you’ll have to run on a treadmill for 20 minutes to stop it going straight to your thighs.
I encourage all of my clients to get away from this “calories are bad and will make you fat” mindset by focusing on macronutrients instead.
And believe me, once you have started tracking your macros, you will never want to go back.
As you get fit, this will allow you much more freedom in your diet, and more choice with the foods you eat.
I touched upon this topic in the latest edition of Women’s Health magazine and it resulted in me receiving a lot of questions from men and women looking to get started with macro-tracking.
So, today I am going to explain why most of my clients choose this approach over the old fashioned method of counting calories.
How To Start Counting Macros – Set A Base Point
Before you really begin, I recommend tracking what you’re eating right now on an average day.
Be brutally honest with your report, too.
It’s well documented that counting macros automatically makes us eat healthier.
Perhaps this is because we are suddenly accountable for our actions, or perhaps it simply makes us more aware of what we are eating.
But it’s worth doing this before you begin to get a true picture of where you are right now.
It’s important to do this because I remember when I was starting out in the gym, and I swore I was eating around 4500 calories per day in my quest to pack on size.
When I actually tracked my food, however, I noticed I was eating around 2300!
When you go in blind and just hope for the best, it’s easy to wrongly categorize yourself as a “hard gainer” when in truth you’re just not eating enough to put size on.
Likewise, if your goal is to lose weight this will give you a precise number of calories you currently consume per day.
Suddenly you have somewhere to work from.
You know you simply need to come in under this mark and you’ll kick-start weight loss results.
How To Start Counting Macros
I recommend using a free app like MyFitnessPal.
Job done. Bosh.
Why Start Counting Macros?
All calories are not created equal.
A person eating 1500 calories per day consisting mainly of junk food will not look as good as a person eating 1500 calories per day consisting of mainly healthy, nutritious food – despite the fact they are both eating 1500 calories per day.
Is it because junk food is terrible for you and you should cut it out of your diet completely?
All of my clients still eat their favourite treat foods.
The real reason one group would achieve superior results to the other is because they are obtaining their calories with a much better split of macronutrients – protein, fat and carbohydrates.
For instance, I could obtain 3000 calories by eating 40g protein, 100g fat and 485g carbs.
Or I could obtain the same number of calories by eating 200g protein, 90g fat and 347g carbs.
In the first example, I wouldn’t be eating enough protein to support muscle growth and I’d find it hard to keep the body fat off with almost 500 grams of carbohydrates per day, even if I was working hard in the gym.
In the second example, I’d see better results.
By optimizing the split of my macronutrients, I’d get the most out of the total number of calories I am consuming each day.
A side benefit of counting macros is that your food choices become much better, because you are focusing on trying to get enough of each macronutrient to build muscle and support your training.
And by focusing on hitting your macro targets, you’ll notice that your total calories fall into line anyway.
This is the primary reason why I use this protocol.
Become A Label Reader
The world is filled with people who are obsessed with trying to lose weight yet who have no idea about nutrition.
They jump from one diet to the next in the hope of finding “the magic bullet” and they often end up falling victim to expensive quick fix schemes, detox cleanses and juicing scams.
We all know someone who has tried a strict diet of chicken and rice, or carrot sticks and salad, and found themselves back at square one three weeks later, with a new diet and a new “superfood” to focus on.
It’s not their fault.
This is what I call diet culture.
Diet culture tells us we need to punish ourselves for being a little overweight.
We’re not allowed to eat anything we like, or enjoy ourselves.
Instead, we must sit in a dark room surrounded by photoshopped pictures of ridiculously filtered Instagram images – all of which are fake as fuck and posed, by the way – as we tuck into another flavourless bowl of rabbit food.
I encourage you not to fall victim to this style of “living”.
Because after training thousands of men and women over the years, I say with confidence that the best diet is the one you can stick to.
So it’s worth mentioning that another huge benefit to this approach is the fact that you will greatly increase your knowledge of food, which will in turn boost the variety in your diet and make it easier to stick to.
Applying This Knowledge
That’s not to say rigid clean eating is “wrong”, of course.
If you enjoy it and it works for you, then go do it.
It’s just not the only way.
Quite frankly, so long as you are achieving your daily targets of protein, carbohydrates and fat you will see good results when it comes to fat loss.
One thing I’d highly recommend you start doing, though, is start using a multivitamin.
Because one of the pitfalls of following either a strict diet where you eat almost the same things every day, or a diet where you are striving for constant variety, is that we often miss out on several vitamins and minerals – aka micronutrients.
These little bad-boys have a wealth of benefits covering everything from your immune system, to muscle growth, to the health of your hair, so we want to stay on top of them.
And even with the most varied diet, it’s damn hard to achieve the full spectrum of benefits.
For instance, when was the last time you ate parsnip?
But the main benefit of a macro diet is the freedom it allows.
When your knowledge of food grows over time, you’ll notice how easy it is to slip a treat food into your day without considering it a “cheat meal”.
This beats the stress of trying to avoid temptation all week long and driving yourself insane before inevitably binge eating the entire fridge.
In fact, studies show that having a more flexible approach to dieting yields superior results when it comes to reducing urges and mood swings. (1, 2)
So take full advantage of your new-found power.
Heck, if I want pizza I’ll have pizza, and if I want a chocolate bar I’ll have a chocolate bar.
I couldn’t give a fuck how many minutes on a treadmill it’d take for me to run it off.
Counting macros allows you to take care of your total calorie intake and really eat to support your training goals, ensuring you are always on top of your protein, fat and carbohydrate intake.
If you enjoyed this article on why counting macros is better than counting calories, share with others.
1. Smith, C. F., et al. “Flexible vs. Rigid dieting strategies: relationship with adverse behavioral outcomes.” Appetite. 1999 Jun;32(3):295-305.
2. Stewart, T. M., et al. “Rigid vs. flexible dieting: association with eating disorder symptoms in nonobese women.” Appetite. 2002 Feb;38(1):39-44.