An Introduction to Counting Calories and Monitoring Macros
If you checked out my last blog post on the 5 hacks for a healthier (and happier) lifestyle, you’ll know that above all else, I believe in simple strategies that work, and ensure that you enjoy what you’re doing while getting great results.
Whatever happens, that should always be at the forefront of your mind.
That said, there are those among us who need to do a little more to get where we want to be. Cleaning up your diet is all well and good, but in order to really progress long-term, you do need to take other factors into account. Those factors are calories and macronutrients.
Why Calories Matter
Calories are your body’s primary source of energy – no calories equals no energy.
Weight loss and weight gain (or to be more precise – fat loss and muscle gain) all come down to calorie balance. To lose body fat, you have to be in a calorie deficit, where you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming, and to build lean muscle mass you need to be in a surplus, where you’re consuming more calories than you’re burning.
It doesn’t matter how healthy your diet is, what supplements you take, or what training program you follow, calorie balance HAS to be addressed for you to reach your goals.
How Many Calories Do I Need?
The easiest way to figure this out is to use a bodyweight multiplier.
Women should multiply their bodyweight in pounds by between 11 and 14, and men by between 13 and 16.
The more active you are and the more training you do, the higher your multiplier should be. So if you hit the gym 5 or 6 times per week, or have a highly active job, you should aim towards 13 or 14 for women, and 15 to 16 for men.
A little less active? Then 11 to 12, or 13 to 14 will do it.
This gives you roughly your maintenance intake, which is the number of calories you theoretically need to eat each day to maintain your current weight. I say “theoretically” as no calculation will ever be 100% accurate, as we’re all individuals, with different genetics, body types and metabolisms, but these factors give you a great starting point.
From here, to lose fat you need to subtract 15 to 25%.
So if your maintenance calories worked out at 2,000, you’d need to take away 300 to 500 calories to find your daily calorie intake for fat loss.
Once you’ve got your calorie intake set, it’s time to start looking at macronutrients.
Macronutrients (or “macros”) are proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Each of these has an important role within the body, and this is something I’ll talk about a lot more in forthcoming articles, but for now, just know that –
– Protein is vital for muscle repair and metabolism.
– Carbohydrates are your prime fuel source.
– Fats are vital for hormone production and general health.
Rather than get too concerned with monitoring every single macro right from the start, here’s my advice:
Aim for around 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight each day, and let carbs and fats fall where they may.
In theory, you can get by with a little less protein, but 1 gram per pound keeps the maths simple.
The Wrap Up
– Calculate your calories based on the appropriate activity multiplier.
– Aim to hit this within 10% either side.
– Shoot for 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
– Give it 2 weeks and if you’re not seeing progress, lower your calories by a further 2-5% while keeping protein intake the same.
Don’t Know Where To Start?
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