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Why Count Macros Instead of Calories?

meal with beans, guacamole, grilled chicken, avocado, and pico de gallo
Photo: Unsplash by Md Jibon Talukder

First, what are "macros"?

“Macros” is short for macronutrients and refers to the carbohydrates, fats, and protein that make up our food. If you’re tracking calories, you’re already tracking macros whether you know it or not!

Total Calories = Carbs + Fats + Protein

The basic macro math will become automatic as you get used to using these numbers, but you may want to screenshot this cheat sheet to use while you’re learning:

Macro cheat sheet showing calories for carbs, fats, & protein
A macro cheat sheet to screenshot

What is the difference between tracking calories and tracking macros?

Your calorie intake and activity level determine whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight. Your macro distribution determines how you feel, perform, and recover.


The number of calories you eat in relation to your energy needs will determine whether you lose, gain, or maintain your weight. Eating:

  • More than you burn = Calorie surplus

  • The same amount you burn = Maintenance calories

  • Less than you burn = Calorie deficit

It is likely your goal will change over time and healthiest to spend most of your time at maintenance calories. If you wish to gain weight (muscle), a calorie surplus can be helpful. On the other hand, weight loss will only occur in a calorie deficit.


Distributing your calories in the right balance of macros will help you maximize your results no matter what your goal. The right balance of macros can:

  • Build or maintain muscle (HINT: this is your goal if you want to look “toned”)

  • Help you feel full and dramatically reduce cravings

  • Aid in restful sleep and exercise recovery

  • Support healthy hormones

Each macronutrient has many functions, including:

  • Carbohydrates: Provide energy for the brain and body and help with recovery, mood, sleep, muscle growth, and digestion

  • Fats: Support healthy hormone production and absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K and help you feel fuller longer

  • Protein: Helps build and maintain muscle tissue and preserve bone density. It is the macro least likely to be stored as fat and has the highest “thermic effect of food”, meaning it takes the most energy to break down. It also helps us feel full, reduces cravings, and helps hormone and neurotransmitter production

When is it helpful to track macros?

It can be very helpful to track during a “bulk/gain” (surplus) or “cut” (deficit) period to ensure you are in alignment with your goal. Once you reach a goal weight after a period of deficit, continuing to track as you reverse diet to maintenance will help you maintain your weight loss.

Even if you plan to stay at maintenance, counting macros for a period of time is a great tool to learn about portion sizes and how to properly build your plate to meet your energy needs.

How do you know what your macros should be?

There are many different calculators online that will give you varying targets based on your body size, activity level, and goals. If you need help figuring this out, send me a message! 😉



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