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Macro dieting is a weight loss strategy delivering results that last. It’s gaining popularity, but a lot of people are still confused about exactly what it is.

Before you jump in counting macros, there are a few things you need to know.

We break down macro dieting into three simple things you’ll need to learn to start your macro dieting journey.

Looking for a comprehensive guide to macro dieting? Check out the Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to the Macro Diet instead. Plus, check out these 6 macrobiotic diet myths explained, so you know EXACTLY what you’re getting into.

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1.  Macro Dieting Requires Learning

Unless you’re someone who already works in a relevant part of the healthcare field, you’ll probably need to do a little brushing up before starting the macro diet.

Why? Because you need to understand your macros before you can count them.


Macro dieting is based on macronutrients. Macronutrients are the three largest types of nutrients that your body needs and consumes. They are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Just an FYI, your body also consumes things called micronutrients. Micronutrients, as you can probably guess, are nutrients that your body consumes in smaller amounts.

The foods you eat are typically made of 2-3 macronutrients, with one macronutrient usually being the dominant ingredient. Think about chicken as an example. Chicken is clearly something we consider a protein, but did you also know it has a considerable amount of fat?

Each macronutrient provides an important function for the body, and for macro dieting.


macronutrient carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a major source of energy for our body. When we eat carbs they are either used immediately for energy, or they are altered and stored at glycogen in our liver or muscles for later.

You’ll be eating a significant percentage of carbs while macro dieting, so it’s important to get educated on healthy options. The macro diet is pretty awesome, but not magical enough to help you lose weight while shoving your face with donuts.

The good thing is, there are a lot of delicious carbs that are actually healthy.

Healthy Examples of Carbohydrates

Leafy greens, veggies (broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, squash, green beans, cucumbers, peas), whole grains (oats, brown rice, quinoa), fruits (berries, bananas, pineapple, apples), oatmeals, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and some dairy products.


macronutrients protein

Proteins are critical for a lot of major functions in our body. They help processes like building tissues, immune functioning, hormones, enzymes, and cell signaling.

When we think of protein we typically jump to meats. Meats do have a lot of protein, but there are other options too. You can be a total vegetarian or vegan and still participate in macro dieting.

Healthy Examples of Proteins

Eggs, chicken, turkey, lean red meat, tofu, nuts, lentils, salmon, mackerel, herring, cod, shellfish, and protein supplements.


macronutrient fats

It’s long been confused that fats are the thing that make you fat. This is actually totally untrue. There a ton of healthy fat options that are required to help your body run efficiently.

Fats are used for energy, body temperature maintenance, hormone production and nutrient absorption. They’re also super important for brain development, and about a million other things. Fats don’t make you fat, you just need to eat them in the right way.

Healthy Examples of Fats

Avocado, eggs, full-fat dairy options (yogurts, cheeses, milks), oils (coconut, olive), nuts (almonds, brazil, macadamia), butter, seeds (flax, chia), fatty fishes (salmon, sardines), and some meats.

Macro dieting ideal ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, to help your body run most efficiently.

Now that you understand a little more about macros, you can learn how to calculate your ratios.

2.  Macro Dieting Requires Calculations

Macro dieting is a little different than other diets in the sense that it requires a little bit more work up front. Instead of just eliminating a whole food group, you’re eating based off strict percentages.

The biggest foundation for your entire macro dieting experience is your macro ratio.

Your macro ratio is the basis for everything you will eat while you’re counting macros, and it’s important to get it right. In addition to that, you need to know how much to eat. You could have the right ratio, but be eating way too many calories.

See where all the math is coming in here? Luckily there are some cool tools that make the process pretty simple.

Your Macro Dieting Calorie Count

free calorie calculator

The first macro dieting calculation you’ll need to do is figure out how many calories you should be eating every day.

Calorie intake needs vary based on sex. Men tend to need to consume more calories than women.

Your calorie count will also vary based on your goals. For example, if you want to maintain your current weight you will eat more calories than if you were trying to lose weight.

To calculate your calorie count we suggest using a free calorie calculator like this one from Using an automatic calculator will save your serious stress and time, unless you’re dreaming of returning back to your high school math days.

You’ll need to enter your size, activity level, age, and your weight loss goals. You’ll choose from maintenance (keeping the same weight), fat loss, or extreme fat loss.

Once you enter everything you’ll get a daily calorie intake count and you can move on to calculating your ration.

free calorie calculator sample results

Your Macro Dieting Ratio

Like we’ve mentioned, macro dieting is all about the ratio. Having the right ratio is like having the right foundation to build a house that will last.

Your macro dieting ratio is highly individualized. Each person has a different macronutrient breakdown based on their existing health, and their goals.

A couple of the most common macro diet ratios are based on general exercise levels:

  • Exercise = 1 hour or less daily: 30% protein, 30% fat, 40% carbs
  • Exercise = 1-2 hours daily: 30% protein, 25% fat, 45% carbs

But you should really calculate your ratio based on your exact information, and goals.

free macro calculator

Luckily, also has a free and simple macro ratio calculator.

You’ll be asked to input the daily calorie count you already calculated, and the number of meals per day that you eat. You can also choose from several pre-existing options to find a plan that fits your goals.

Once you plug everything in simply click calculate and you will have your macro dieting ratio ready to go.

free macro calculator sample results

As you can see there is quite a bit of math that goes into macro dieting, but with technology it doesn’t have to be impossible.

We’ve put together a list of 10 macrobiotic diet apps that can help. Or if you’re on a budget, check out these 5 free macrobiotic diet apps instead.

3.  Macro Dieting is Super Flexible

One of the things people love most about macro dieting is that it’s crazy flexible.

A lot of diets require complete elimination or restraint from foods. That can be really tough to keep up with. In fact, a lot of people have the reverse reaction to rebel and binge on a food they aren’t supposed to be eating. As you can imagine, that diet would be quite counterintuitive.

Macro dieting allows you to pretty much each whatever you want, as long as it fits your macros. You may have seen the now popular acronym and hashtag, IIFYM, meaning “If It Fits Your Macros.”

Obviously if you are using macro dieting for specific results like weight loss, or sports training, you’ll still need to make good choices. But the truth is, you can be pretty flexible in what you eat.

You can say goodbye to complicated recipes, plans, and off-limit lists if you can just say yes to your macro ratio.

In fact, a lot of die-hard macro counters claim macro dieting is the only diet they’ve ever been able to stick to.

Because the diet is individualized, and flexible, it’s an easier option to adopt long term.

For example, if you have some serious weight loss goals in the beginning, your calorie count and macro ratio may look a certain way. Once you reach those weight loss goals, you could choose to re-calculate and adjust what you are eating to move into maintenance mode.

P.S. A weight loss app can help you track all of our macro dieting food intake and progress.

Macro dieting truly is a flexible dieting option that lets you eat what you want, lose the weight, and keep it off. But there are a few things you’ll need. We put together a complete list just for you.

If you’re interested in learning more about macro dieting, check out this Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to the Macro Diet.

macro dieting 5 things to know