Should You Count Macros to Reach Your Fitness Goals?

By Danielle Gordon

“We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong.

The amount of work is the same.” 
― Carlos Castaneda

I wanted to address a question that has come up several times with my 90-Day Fueling Program.

“I noticed that there are the recipes and the meal plan but I don’t know how much of everything I should eat. I know that it says to adjust to your goals, does that mean I should incorporate macro nutrition according to my goal?”

This is a really good question as there are so many different types of eating plans out there these days.

Our bodies need the three key food groups: Fat, protein and carbohydrates. These are known as our macronutrients. Meaning—they are the most important aspects of nutrition (outside of hydration) we should focus on for fueling our bodies.

The right ratio of your macros will burn fat and build lean muscle.

Not all calories are created equal and it takes the right balance to reach your goals. That means it comes down to what your goals are.

A focus on fat loss would mean a higher ratio of fat and protein intake and a lower level of carbohydrates. Someone wanting to put on lean mass might lower their carb intake even further and make protein their main focus. An athlete training for a bike race or a marathon, however, might find they need to put a higher focus on carbohydrates, which are the main source for energy, rather than fat and protein.

And, then there’s timing. A more advanced step is timing your macros around your workouts for peak performance and recovery. Planning your meals and your pre/post workout snacks. For this aspect of nutrition, there’s no one size fits all answer as everyone is different. It will take trial and error to find your ideal ratio and timing.

What I can do is give you some tips to make that process easier.

Most athletes that start to count macros are looking to change their body composition. Are you trying to lose weight/fat, maintain or gain muscle? This will affect the ratio of your macros and the timing of your meals. Many athletes find that fueling with a macro specific to their goals directly before or after a workout creates the best result. Others find that working out in a fasted state and fueling later works better.

“So now I’m even more confused. How can I figure out what’s best for me?”

In order to put the puzzle together you will need the right tools. Tools include tracking your food on an app such as My Daily Plate or MyFitnessPal, a food calculator to sort out what amount of each macro you need for your specific goals (as in gram weight), keeping a hand-written food and exercise journal—or a combination of all three. Whatever method works best for you. (You might even consider hiring a nutritionist to help you sort out your goals and macro proportions.)

It sounds more complicated, but if you use tools like those I mention above, it makes the process easier as you’re taking the guesswork out of the process. There are a lot of great apps you can download for your phone

You will need to know your portion sizes in order to track in addition to your goals. Probably one of the best tools to have in your kitchen (in addition to some kind of tracking app) is buying a good food scale which helps you to create the right portion sizes and macro proportions.

Additionally, you will still need to also focus on calories—fewer for fat/weight loss (sometimes referred to as “shredding”), greater for gain (also called “bulking”). If you’re maintaining, calories are still important to count.

Counting, measuring and tracking does take a certain amount of mental bandwidth.

For some, this can be tedious and overwhelming. But it’s worth it. For those of you who already eat a healthy daily diet and want to take it to the next level this process may come with ease. It may just be the ticket to transforming your performance.

As I mention above, there is not one general macronutrient count that is good for everyone. Even if you’re working with a nutritionist, it will take some (or even a lot of) trial and error. It’s just not that easy.

However, there is a general starting point that may work for most people. Start by eating 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. That means if you weigh 135 pounds, you’d want a daily consumption of 135 grams of protein.

From there, you will find a starting ratio of fats and carbohydrates that fit your specific goals. You can use any of the available macro counting guides available online. Again—this will still take some trial and error. Don’t get frustrated. Keep at it, and you’ll find the right ratio that gives you a good amount of energy as well as gets you to your goals.

Whatever method you choose you must be consistent and most of all patient. Going back and forth on any program will not yield your desired results.

You need consistency. At first, the consistency will be in the trial and error. Then it will be sticking to the right proportions of macros that work best for you.

“So who is this good for? Can’t I just eat whatever I want—that’s healthy, I mean—and just focus on calories?”

You can, but my personal experience and what I’ve seen with clients is that by focusing more on macros and less on calories (but they are still important) faster results are created. So this is a good nutrition process to follow if:

  • If you are lean and would like to be leaner
  • You have no idea what the right amount of food looks like
  • Your cravings are all out of whack
  • You have a very specific goal coming up fast

“Okay. That makes sense. So who is this NOT good for?”

  • You already have a poor relationship with food or any disordered eating habits (meaning anorexia or bullemia—or an overly hyper-vigilant focus on eating “clean” foods)
  • You’re just getting off the couch. Do not go from 0-100. Start with some other easy basics like clearing unhealthy foods out of your pantry and refrigerator—start with focusing on eating better.
  • You just want to be healthy and not concerned with getting “ripped” or losing fat.

“But can’t you just tell me where to start? Like specific ratios for meals and snacks?”

Without knowing specifics about your personal goal and current state of health this I can not give you a black and white answer. Follow the tips I give above.

What is also important is going by how you feel. Depending on training that day/week/month, stressors in your life, how much sleep you’ve had, travel, etc…. food may metabolize differently. Even during different seasons. (Such as weather and seasons in our life). You may find you need to eat more (a higher level of macros and calories) on one day, then less on another.

This is where we begin to build awareness within ourselves to adjust what is right for us today.

Being healthy is more than just counting the macros in our food or measuring our portions.

Don’t get obsessed (this is a form of disordered eating). Make sure you always have your “why” for your goal—and that it’s one that truly supports good health. Any good, solid nutrition program can get distorted if your “why” isn’t in alignment with truly good health.

Stay driven towards your goal. Visualize it and always be in massive action!

Keep your questions coming!

If you’d like to dial it in further or more specifically, I do work one-on-one with clients on their nutrition. You can find out more information on my website, Danielle Faith Gordon.

Be sure to post how you incorporate this into your daily life.


Danielle Faith Gordon is an online health and nutrition coach, and has worked with athletes from all backgrounds and skill levels.

She has a fitness and life coaching business, Danielle Faith: Mind/Body Mentor, and is also a coach for SEALgrinderPT.

Intermittent Fasting: Is it Right for You?

5 Tips Your Gut May Be Telling You

Navy SEAL Nutrition Tips

Nutrition for Hard Workouts

Seal Fit Stack

SGPT Upcoming Events

Personal Online Coaching

Work 1-on-1
with SEAL Grinder's Brad McLeod
To Achieve Your Goals

pic of brad

Personal fitness training from Brad McLeod, Navy Seal and CrossFit Level 1 instructor. Delivered online, directly to you.

"I recommend Brad to anyone that seriously wants to go to BUDs or anything else in life... try these workouts. Hooyah!" - Chris H.

learn more button