This post is a bit of a piggyback off of another post that I wrote recently about the portion control diet. If you are someone who thinks that in order to lose weight you need to be meticulously counting all of the calories you are consuming, and all of the calories you are burning through physical activity, today is your day to rejoice!
While the math checks out in that creating a caloric deficit (consuming fewer calories than you are burning) will lead to weight loss, it ignores a big, glaring factor – the quality of the food that makes up your diet.
Think about it this way. What if you only eat 1,000 calories per day, and you exercise like a workout warrior and burn 1,500 calories through physical activity. You’ll lose weight, right? Well, yes, you’ll be at a caloric deficit. But what if all 1,000 of those calories you consumed came from ice cream? Or just drinking a few cans of soda? Or a bunch of chocolate bars?
While you’ll be at a deficit, is that really healthy?
Start Tracking Macronutrients
What this example illustrates is that you need to stop counting calories meticulously, and start keeping track of the macronutrient composition of the foods that you are eating. While you can still keep a rough idea of the number of calories you are eating, it doesn’t have to be so painstaking and exact.
Instead, you’ll want to eat more of a well-rounded diet, making sure that you are getting all of the nutrients that your body needs to thrive and maintain health. One study that was conducted in New Zealand in 2017 suggests that if you follow a diet containing whole foods such as vegetables and fruit, as well as legumes and whole grains, you can eat whatever amount you’d like and lose weight at a sustainable pace.
Of course, to maintain musculature, you’ll want to add some lean proteins to the mix. For stronger bones, add dairy (just go with a low-fat or no-fat variety) products like milk, yogurt (also a good probiotic), and cheese.
How Did Calorie Counting Start?
Around the 1970’s, dietitians began pushing everybody towards a low-fat diet. The formula for weight loss became skipping the fat in your diet, and beginning to count your calories so you make sure you are in a caloric deficit.
This created a trend of every food manufacturer pushing out “low-fat” versions of their foods, and Americans gobbled them up. However, while this sounds good in theory, it actually led to an outbreak in obesity across the U.S. The reason? All of those processed carbohydrates! Just because it is a “low-fat Twinkie”, you are still eating a Twinkie! While the fat content was lowered, the processed carbs didn’t do anybody any favors.
How to Count Macros
Rather than counting the calories that you are eating, a far healthier way of eating and losing weight is by keeping track of your macros. Macros are the different nutrients that make up our foods such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fat. What you need to do is determine the right ratio of macronutrients in your diet depending on your current body composition, your health objectives, and your level of physical activity.
This can be calculated in the following manner:
66 + (6.2 X your desired weight in pounds) + (12.7 X your height in inches) – (6.76 X your age in years).
That might sound a little bit confusing, but try to follow along here. It might be better if we use a real example.
Step 1: Find Your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate)
Let’s say, for instance, you are 35 years old, 6 feet 1 inch tall, and want to weight 180 pounds.
Say you’re 35 and 6’1″ (73″) and want to weigh 180 pounds. In this case, your BMR is 1,873.
Step 2: Multiply Your BMR By Your Activity Factor
In this part, you’ll have to be honest about your level of activity. The more accurate and honest you are, the better tuned the ratios will be for your current state and your health objectives.
The multipliers for activity factors are as follows:
Little to no activity: 1.2
Mildly active: 1.3
Moderately active: 1.4
Extremely active: 1.5
When multiplying the BMR by the activity factor, you reach the number of daily calories that should be consumed. In the example of a 35 year old who is relatively inactive, it would be 1,873 x 1.2 = 2,248 calories.
Step 3: Find Your Macro Ratios
Your calories should be split up between proteins, carbs, and fat.
Protein: Every individual should shoot for 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. In our 180 pound example, that equals 180 grams of protein. 1 gram of protein is 4 calories, so that is 720 calories per day consumed from proteins, or around 34% of the daily diet. We suggest these sources of lean protein.
Carbs: Aim for 34% here, too. 1 gram of carbs is equal to 4 calories, so just like with proteins, you should (in this hypothetical case) go for 720 calories per day from carbs.
Fat: In this example, the remaining portion of the diet is 32% that should come from fats. Keep in mind that 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories, so you’ll be eating relatively less to get the needed calories from this macronutrient.
Try It Yourself!
Now that you know the math on how to calculate the right portion of macronutrients for a healthy diet, plug in your age, height, goal weight, and level of activity to find the right mix of macros for your daily diet! It may take a little bit of getting used to, but the math behind it comes from sound science and has helped countless others reach their weight loss goals.
While it does take a bit of calculation, it takes less than counting every single calorie, and the results you quickly see will encourage you to stick with it. It is time to put away cheap calories and replace them with healthy food choices, in the right ratios, to reach your weight loss goals once and for all. Give it a try, and if you have some tips or would like to share some success stories, feel free to chime in below in the comments!