Macro Counting – A Troubleshooting Guide

A few weeks ago I did a video with a few of my clients where we discussed a few of my favourite methods for increasing their macro counting adherence and accuracy.  The video is pretty long (around 47 mins) but I wanted to go into detail on a few of my points and let my mind go where it needs to go when I help my clients.  Don’t worry I’ll keep it out of the gutter where it usually is 😉

For you visually focused learners:   I came up with 7 hacks (just kidding, I fucking despise the way that word is now used) tips for helping my clients improve their adherence and accuracy with counting their macros.

From the information I’ve gathered since working with many clients there are a few major problems when it comes to accounting macros.

  1. They don’t know what to eat to fill up their macros.  There is usually a large void in the protein department.  No one has problems getting carbs, fats usually aren’t much of a problem either.
  2. They don’t have a large enough bank of “uni-macro” foods.  Or foods, which contain mainly one macronutrient with trace, negligible, or non-existent amounts of the other two macros.
  3. They aren’t tracking.  I know, ludicrous.

This article will cover how to improve all these things and some.

Track Your Macros

If you are currently tracking macros then it goes without saying that you should be tracking.  If you are trying to hit macros and are not tracking them you should probably go play in traffic and end your pointless pursuit of attaining a goal.  JK!

For real though.  If you have macros given to you, or have paid for them, track for fucks sake.  Unless you get to “Macro Counting Boss Status”, you probably have no idea what your macros look like on a daily basis.  I would guess you are a few hundred calories over where you need to be, have 25-50% less protein than you should be getting and have a crap load of foods that aren’t helping you reach your goals.

What do I suggest clients use for macro counting?  MyFitnessPal is the best I’ve seen so far.  It has a huge database of foods, and allows for all sorts of customization.  The Fitocracy Macro counting tool is also very nice as it allow for off-day and training-day macros.  However the lack of a food database makes it’s utility very limited imo, but you could use both.

A few of my favourite things about MFP that make counting easier:

  1. Saved Meals – you can save meals you eat regularly, which makes counting macros that much easier.
  2. Saved recently eaten foods – shows foods you eat frequently so it’s easy to find foods that you… Well eat frequently.
  3. Friends – keeps you accountable to friends or…. Your coach 😉
  4. Reports – shows a weekly total in one little document.

There are more, but those are the best that I can think of right now. The point I’m trying to make is track your macros.  If you have another app like FitDay or LiveStrong, cool.  Just find something that you can use on a regular basis. Don’t just track on weekdays either.  Most people fall off the wagon on the weekend.  Don’t try and fool yourself into believing that you can take the weekends off and still reach your goal fast.  Do you even logic?

 Research Macros Of What You Eat and Make Alterations

This works well for people who begin tracking without necessarily having a macro goal to attain.  Tracking your regular intake for 3-5 days gives you a pretty big insight into what you eat on a regular basis and what changes may need to be made to meet the macros that you get created/ create for yourself. Once you have a general idea of the foods you like to eat regularly, and you get your new macro goals, you need to get to work.

  1. Find out what macros you are eating excessively.  If you see you should be getting 200grams of carbs and you’re getting 400, you know you will need to decrease carbs somewhere.
  2. Find out what macros you are eating too little of.  Pretty much the same as point 1, but I can pretty much guarantee you, your protein intake is too low.  Sorry for you lots brah.






3. Begin making adjustments by increasing/decreasing foods which you need in order to help you get towards your macro goal.

Let’s do a quick example. Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 7.48.34 PM         Here is a meal I really like, it’s actually two meals.  So actual macros are: Calories: 890, carbs are 86, fat is 27, and protein is 70.  Let’s say I know how many macros I usually have left over during dinner and that the carbs are too low, protein and fat are pretty much right where I need to be.

Now is the fun part: adding food.  With my chili I like eating it with rice or bread. So say I need an additional 50 grams of carbs, I look up basmati rice (my personal preference).  175 grams of cooked basmati rice gives me around 50 grams of carbs with trace amounts of fat and protein.


I’m set.

So you can see that it does take a little bit of thinking and “creativity” to make simple alterations to the meals you’re already eating in order to hit your macro goals.  Other additions many people probably need to make is to increase vegetable consumption.  This isn’t coming from left field, most people need more veggies.  They are especially good for fat loss as they are nutrient dense and calorie sparse (in terms of volume) and can easily be added to pretty much any meal.

Research What Foods You Consume That Are Uni-Macro, Then Add More

This next one also requires some research and insight into what foods you like to eat on the regular.  Using the same method as we just talking about (track food that you’d usually consume for 3-5 days) you are now going to highlight foods which contain preferably 100% of one macro and 0% of others.  I realize this is almost impossible, so let’s put that number down to 90% +.

I’m not telling you to go through all your foods with a god damn calculator and find out which foods meet the 90% + threshold.  Just use some common sense and figure out which foods you consume that contain an abundance of one macro with lowish amounts of others.

Why are uni-macros important you ask?

Simple.  There are times when you look at how much macros you have left in the day and you don’t want to become overcome with anxiety because you have to overly think about hitting your macros.  Say your carb intake is all accounted for and you need a quick dose of protein and fat.  You look at (or take a mental inventory) of you uni-macros and then pick a protein and fat, and go to town.

Easy right?

Even when you aren’t in a bind to hit your macros at the end of the day, knowing what uni-macro foods you have at your disposal is important.  Say you’re going to be away from getting food for a while (crazy proposition, but bear with me) and you know this in advance.  You don’t have a lot of time to prepare a tasty-ass meal and are currently out of leftovers.  You put some protein in a shaker cup, crab a few pieces of fruit and you’re on your way with minimal thinking required. Here are some uni-macros off the top of my head and some that a few of my clients like:

  • Protein: whey, casein, chicken, extra lean ground beef, bison, egg whites
  • Carbohydrates: fruit, fruit juice, applesauce, white rice, cinnamon buns
  • Fats: olive oil, grapeseed oil, fish oil, MCT oil (you can only use this if you do crossfit tho, and it’s mixed with butter and coffee), avocadoes, coconut oil
Mirin and Drooling
Mirin and Drooling

The Macro Macro Method

This is a method that I haven’t used too much with clients but would work really well for someone who is very disciplined when it comes to macros, and doesn’t mind maybe eating the same meal multiple times in a day.

The method consists of finding a bunch of different foods that meet your macros and then making sure you consume all of it during one day. The beauty of this method is that portion sizes and feeding frequency take care of themselves.

Say you have some meat you need to eat (200 grams of protein worth), some pasta, tomato sauce, and a few other nuts and bolts.  You calculate the total amount of macros that your “recipe” would take and then eat the entire recipe over a day.  Add any uni-macro foods you need to top up anything macro you’re deficient on.

Yea this is pretty boring, but if you are low on food, or need to get rid of food if it’s about to go bad, you can’t go wrong with this method. As a bonus you get to cook once and you’re done for the day.  Pretty convenient imo.  I’m lazy as hell so this works for me every once in a while.

Customized Menu Creation

There are coaches you can hire, that’ll create these specially for you.  I have made these for a few clients in the past, but they take a lot of time and cost a lot of money.  So making your own is always a good way to go about it.

If you customize something for yourself, you will probably have a higher level of adherence than if someone else creates it for you. You know what you like better than anyone else, and your menu will reflect that.

The one thing about creating menus is that it can get boring.  For those of you who need a lot of variety in their cuisine, this might not be the best method for you.  However for fat loss clients, this is method works like a charm.  It requires a lot of work up front and them some maintenance depending on how much weight you need to lose. Here is how I like to set this up:

  1. Figure out your preferred meal frequency.  Alternatively you can customize just a few meals per day to allow some leg room for a variety of other foods that you plug in.
  2. Look at the meals you are currently eating, find meals that you want to eat, and begin to construct them to meet your macro needs.  I like to construct 3 meals per eating opportunity.  I usually only have 2-3 so my job is much easier.
  3. Organize your meals so that they meet your daily macro requirement.
  4. Make separate menus for different days.

Let’s say you make 3 meals for your first meal of the day.  You may find that you have drastically different macro/calorie combinations for each meal.  This is why it’s important to match meals from different feeding times during the day.  Say for instance you eat 2x/day.  On day one you have a massive meal one.  You look at your options for meal two and see that you have one option that is a little bit lower in calories.  The synthesis of these two meals bring you super close to your daily macros (after a little more tinkering).

For day two, you can use some of your lower calorie meals for meal one and larger calorie meals for meal two.  Then create a third day as well.

If you like more variety than feel free to create as many days as you want. Yea, this method does require a lot of work up front.  But once you finish it really takes a lot of guess work out of the equation.  You just follow your meal plan that’s full of foods that you enjoy.

To freshen things up, you can begin creating other meals that can be subbed for other meals.  This gives you some options and takes the monotony of eating the same meals together out of the equation.

Examine Food Choices

If you follow me on social media, you know I like my cheat meals.  This is the day I usually consume processed foods.  On other days, I usually end up eating little to no processed foods.

This isn’t done on purpose.

My consumption of processed foods is minimized because these foods don’t allow any customization.  Sure you can alter your portion sizes which would increase/decrease the macros proportionately, but that’s something I just don’t really like doing.  It takes more work. Being able to add/remove a specific macro is impossible with processed foods.  This is why I tend to minimize them on my non-cheat days.

Now I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t be consuming processed foods.  If you have something you like and you can make it fit your macros, than good on you. Just know that if you are having issues with accurately hitting your macros, removing process foods for whole foods, which are more “editable” in terms of volume of a macro you may or may not need, may go a long way into helping you hit your macro goals.

For people who are more advanced in terms of macro counting, adding processed foods will be a lot easier.  For complete noobs, it may cause some problems.  It really depends on the person and how anal you are about hitting your macros.

There You Go

So there you have it.  6 different methods that you can add to your repertoire to help you become a better macro accountant.  You may already be doing some of these, and you may only take information from one or two points, but I hope the point that is made to you helps you reach dem goals and all that fuzzy shit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *