Here's How To Count Your Macros The Right Way

Counting macros has been a standard style of keeping track of food intake for years. Like counting calories, you're tallying up what you eat. But with counting macros, you're not just paying attention to total calories consumed, but rather, you're also focused on eating a certain percentage of each different macronutrient: carbohydrate, fat, and protein.

To get started, you'll need to determine how many calories you need each day — your basal metabolic rate — and with that number in mind, determine how many calories of each macronutrient you'll need daily (via Healthline). Using a calculator from a site like If It Fits Your Macros is a good idea, since there are a number of factors, from sex to height to age to chronic disease, that can influence how much your body burns at rest on a daily basis.

After that, you'll need to decide the best macronutrient breakdown. Carbohydrates — found in grains, sugar, fruits, vegetables, and starches — are critical for providing energy to the body, while protein — found in meat, eggs, dairy, and poultry — helps maintain and build muscle, and fat — found in butter, oil, and fatty fish and meat — regulates hormone production and nutrient absorption.

How do you know what macro breakdown to use?

The recommendation for most people is to eat roughly 45 to 65 percent carbohydrate, 10 to 35 percent protein, and 20 to 35 percent fat (via PubMed). You'll have to decide what macronutrient profile works best for you, or consider working with a dietitian to decide what your best breakdown is. Women's Health UK recommends a split of 40 percent protein and 30 percent of both carbs and fats in order to build muscle while shedding fat, for instance.

Once you've decided on your caloric needs and macronutrient breakdown, you'll almost certainly want to figure out a tracking method — using an app like My Fitness Pal, which can track calories and show you a macronutrient breakdown, is a simple way to get started.

Remember though, while counting macros can help with weight loss and maintenance, it doesn't account for diet quality: You can nail your macro ratios without eating a single vegetable. "There is so much more to good nutrition than just macronutrients," dietitian Cole Adam explains to SCL Health. "This diet says nothing about vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and other nutrients that are often not on a food label, but play an essential role in good health."