How to simplify macro counting for your diet

Andy MorganDiet & Nutrition, Diet Fundamentals408 Comments

Think you need to count calories or macros meticulously?

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Purposefully Simplified Macro-Counting Rules for Long-Term Success

The reason that this diet system is so effective for fat loss & muscle growth is because we count macronutrients (macros): Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat.  We’re not doing a simple calorie restriction diet where you can eat anything as long as you eat less calories than you burn. This can be a fast way to lose muscle also.

Yes, you could call this a more detailed way of counting calories, which you would think makes it more complicated, right? Well, not exactly. We can vastly simplify the counting of the macros using a few simple rules.

You have a couple of options for hitting your macros in this diet,

  1. Hit your macronutrient targets exactly and calculate everything. (Not recommended.)
  2. Hit your macronutrient targets roughly using some simplified rules. (Good idea.)

The former will be very difficult to sustain in the long-term. You will perhaps achieve the body you want temporarily, some day, you may crack and it’ll all fall apart. I know there are many of you out there that have OCD and will try this anyway. But I just want to let you know that you don’t have to.

The latter will give you stress-free success in the short-term and enable you to keep your physique in the long-term.

If you can make it simple and have success on the simplified system you can continue it in the long term. If you start counting the calories and get anal then you will lose in the long term and it is all pointless.

Simplified Rules

What follows is a small part of the “macros and simplified rules” mail that I create for all clients. While the full article is for clients is around 3000 words I think looking at the ideas presented here you should be able to get a good idea for yourself to help you create your own.

Do not be fooled by these simplified rules. Excluding athletes, and in-season bodybuilder clients whom require a great deal more attention when shredding the last 2%, these rules have given the majority of clients the success they were looking for, yet with a much more relaxed approach in the kitchen. I recommend you make your life easy and follow some kind of simplified rules, even if they are not my own.

  • 100g of Raw Meat/Fish is 20g of protein. (A conservative number.)
  • Green vegetables don’t have any carbs. – Eat plenty to slow digestion.
  • 140g of un-cooked Rice/Pasta is 100g of carbs.
  • Sauces do have carbs/fat but aren’t generally worth counting. Count the number of spoons of sauce you use (don’t go mayo crazy here) and keep it consistent.
  • Cook your food for the fastest results.
  • Use a small electronic kitchen scale to weigh the meat/fish/pasta/rice. It takes seconds and you will become very good at guessing weights within 2 months. This is a skill that will help you for the rest of your life, especially in restaurant eating*. (*More tips on this later.)

So using these rules, if you had to eat 50% of your daily macros after a workout, and they were 100g of protein, 200g of carbs, & keep it ‘low’ fat. That could be as simple as eating 500g of chicken on 280g of rice, with green veggies and a couple of spoons of BBQ sauce. -That’s just a simple example from a lazy cook, the variety is as wide as your imagination though really.

Rules for Eating Out or One-Off Meals

When you stray from the simple meat/fish & rice/pasta & green veg. meal combinations, don’t stress, just try these rules.

  • When eating out in restaurants keep it simple
    • If it’s a Training-Day then eat lots of carbs with lean meat and vegetables and try to keep it low fat.
    • If it’s a Rest-Day then eat lots of vegetables, skip the carbs and go with fattier cuts of meat.
  • Anything you eat regularly, even fruit, is worth counting. You only have to do it once. Write down the macros and put them up in your kitchen. Here’s a good nutritional calculator.
  • Similarly, eat the same meals often. This way you only have to calculate the macros once.
  • When you eat something that’s not on your regular* meal plans (*meaning a meal you’ve already calculated the macros for) and will not be eaten regularly, it’s ok to guess the macros. In time you will get pretty good at this.
  • Unless you eat a lot of fruit, don’t bother to count it against your carb number.

Last point

I made these ‘rules’ to simplify things, however there is no escaping the science. I know there are people that will look at rules and abuse them in whatever way they can Remember you’re only screwing yourself by doing this. 

  • Don’t be the client that ate ‘unlimited salad because it has no carbs’ yet smothered it in mayonnaise for two months and blame me for no progress. (A true and frustrating story).
  • Don’t be the man that abused the alcohol guide to justify drinking everyday and then wonder why things are moving so slowly.

I am not knocking calculating & weighing all food exactly (or trying to). However these rules may be just the thing you need to simplify your diet plan. If it works, it works! End of story.

Thanks for reading and Good luck!

408 Comments on “How to simplify macro counting for your diet”

  1. Jason

    Awesome information mate. Was wandering when cooking in bulk it seems much easier to weigh the food cooked in particularly carbs. I’ve read where in order to get 200g of carbs from white rice I’d have to eat 850 grams of cooked rice. Does that sound right?
    Cheers

    1. Andy Morgan

      Yes, sounds right. That’s because water content is so high. Which is also the problem with counting after cooking – if you over or undercook it the water content changes. So you’re better to weigh before cooking then just divide your portions up after.

  2. Joe

    Any way to reasonably tell how much fat is lost from grilling ground beef? I have 90% lean ground beef (labels say 11gm fat per 4 oz – which I assume is the in the raw state) and have been counting the macros upon the raw weight. The meat clearly loses water volume after grilling as well as some fat, but I just assume to count it rather than not. Any suggestions on this or is asking this question over complicating things?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Joe. Just make your best guess based on what you find in those nutritional calculators say for that cut of beef when grilled and stick with that.

  3. J Soto

    Great info!!! I just started with the 16/8 IF the only question I have is on the time I can do it which is eating from 8am to 4 pm then fasting after that. Is this ok? My work schedule is 9-7 and I workout at 6:15 am till around 7:30 then I breakfast at 8am. Thank you in advance!!!

    1. Andy Morgan

      Summary of the evidence is that there is no need to worry, unless you’re eating a lot of processed shit like MacDonalds as the bulk of your meat intake.

  4. Kierran Clarke

    HI Andy,

    I have rested over the weekend, and due to go back to the gym today but not going to be able too, and may not be able to tomorrow either so it could be i will have 4 rest days in a row….

    Shall i just stick to my rest day macros?

  5. Ryan

    Everyone seems to be on the IIFYM campaign but we can’t follow it blindly. I’m pretty sure I could eat chocolate bars and whey protein shakes and make it fit my macros but thats unhealthy and even if i hit my protein target i really doubt I’m going to build muscle (pretty neat to see someone try) Anyway my daily calc. for my lean bulk is 3010 calories and I try to go with 40/40/20. For the past week I’ve been doing to the 3 day split with RPT. Awesome articles and I’m already seeing results and I was one of those ‘advanced’ lifters that had plateaued and spent the last 6 months ‘exercising’ and not training.. and more likely over training doing 4-5 day splits. So big thanks to you Andy for the amazing articles that have brought the focus back to my training. I do have a diet question however. I am lean bulking right now and I have been pretty bang on for the last week with getting 3010 calories and all from lean meats, veggies and good carbs. My problem is my Tennis days. Tennis burns a crazy amount of calories. I track everything in my myfitnesspal app and it tells me that 90 minutes of tennis is 968 calories burned. i play twice a week 90-120 minutes. There is almost no way I can honestly make up that calorie deficit on ‘good food’. I would have to eat ~4300 calories…. I’ve finally made it to my question: What do you think of on tennis days so I can hit my macros the impact of stopping at burger king etc. right after tennis to have a burger/fry combo of 1000 calories to offset what i’ve just burnt so I can continue with my reg. diet and hit my 3010 cal. target? I’m bulking and shooting for 1/2 – 1lb a week and in the gym M/W/F doing RPT training guide.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Ryan.
      Not eating to your energy requirements is more unhealthy than making up a portion of your diet from foods that you perceive to be ‘unclean’ in order to help you reach those requirements.
      Good guest article for you would be, here.
      I think your app there has vastly overestimated the amount of extra calories you’re burning from the tennis by the way. Track your weight consistently over a few weeks and you’ll see.

      1. Ryan

        Another fantastic article man. I thought I knew quite a bit and then I come here and its full of great fresh perspective. I agree with what JC had to say for the most part. I personally would not blindly go all in with the example that he used of the ice cream, brownies, bbq pork and white bread IIFYM. I would love to see the study of a side by side with that diet hitting all macros on one lean/fit guy and then another that hit all macro targets on whole foods, veggies, lean meats, quinoa, brown rice etc. There is just no way in my opinion… can’t get my head around that. Anyway quick question if you don’t mind. I structure my bulk as 40(P)/40(C)/20(F) on training days. In all the articles I’m reading on diet you say protein requirement is 1 g per lb of body mass or slightly more – so I have to eat 180 grams a day(aprox). With 40% of 3010 calories I’ve been eating over 200 grams of protein a day just to try and hit my target which 40% is very difficult as i’m usually around 33-35% on my pie chart in the app. The same would apply to your sample cut diet… so when would you ever have to worry about your protein and making sure you get 1g per pound? because if you didn’t you would never be close to meeting your macros regardless. I don’t get it, technically I should be hitting 301 grams of protein a day… Also what does your fee structure look like in terms of the online training you offer? If you could email that me I would be interested. Thanks.

        1. Andy Morgan

          Hi Ryan, thanks for the question.
          “I don’t get it, technically I should be hitting 301 grams of protein a day… “
          ‘Technically’ meaning by some rule you have read elsewhere.

          The problem you have is that you’re trying to combine and apply multiple sets of guidelines that conflict with one another. – You can’t combine a rule like ‘set protein at 1g per per pound of body mass’ with another rule like ‘set protein at 40% of calories, carbs at 40% of calories, and fats at 20% of calories’ because the maths won’t work. (Neither of which are my rules/suggestions by the way.)

          For a framework that I’d advise you use to set up your nutrition see the series, The Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance (for Fat Loss & Muscle Growth) – Overview. It’s long, so be prepared to read.
          Information on the online coaching I offer can be found here.

          1. Ryan

            Sorry Andy, I wasn’t being clear. By technically I meant if I follow the 40/40/20 split 40% of my target energy of 3010 calories per day it equates to ~300 grams of protein which as in the article you recommended is over and above what the body can use and not what I think is necessary at all – I was just scrunching up my face trying to figure out why another article or suggestion would be 40% from protein if its such a high and unusable amount. For easy math sake (and i’ll quote you correctly this time) in your article for a bulk it states 1g per lb. For fat it states 20-30% of my daily target. That leaves an absolute ton of carbs to fill in the remaining amount. So to be clear your reccomendation along with martins etc. is (I will use myself as the example) 180g of protein per day. 20-30% of fat and carbs equaling the rest. That is a recipe for a lean bulk with caveat being I calculated my macro requirement correctly..?
            Lets use yesterdays numbers as an example. I ate 227 Grams of protein. 69 grams of fat and 356 grams of carbs. It was a training day (deadlifts, weighted chins). Those macros totaled 2,923 calories. My percentage split ended up being 31% from protein. 21% from fat. 48% from carbs. Am I on the right track?? All the above is from whole and “clean” foods (heavy quotes on clean as per your article).. the only supplement being vegessential all in one and harmonized whey.

            1. Andy Morgan

              “I was just scrunching up my face trying to figure out why another article or suggestion would be 40% from protein if its such a high and unusable amount.”
              Likely because they have used a lower calorie intake as an assumption initially. And I would bet that the ratio was reverse engineered after the macro intakes had been set by more concrete recommendations based on weight (or better, lean body mass).

              I am not a fan of the ratio method, it simply isn’t very logical.

              Metabolism is adaptive. Calorie needs increase over time when bulking and decrease over time when cutting. Protein needs to be set (largely) according to lean body mass, and fat (to an extent) too. Ratios are therefore a function of the stage of dieting, not something to target.

              You can’t look at someone’s calorie intake, their physique, conclude that it worked well for them thus that is golden ratio. But this is something I see done online and discussed often.

  6. Kierran Clarke

    Hi Andy,

    I am looking at buying some protein powder to make macro friendly pancakes etc… Do you recommend using Casein or Whey, or is this something you are unfamiliar with?

      1. Kierran Clarke

        Thanks Andy, not heard of that rule before. Easy to remember though. Got any recommendations or links for protein cake recipes etc…?

          1. Kierran Clarke

            I do, haven’t even touched a protein shake as yet. Just curious and would like to make one as a macro friendly treat at some point.

  7. Julie

    HI! Great info! Just wondering though, how come it is stated that greens don’t have carbs? Shouldn’t green veggies like spinach and kale be counted toward your daily carbs?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Julie. Some food that are green have such little energy bioavailability that is makes them not worth counting. See the section in the FAQ on fibre, and then check out the link to Lyle McDonald’s article there.

  8. D smith

    Hello!
    I’m looking to get toned. My workout regimen is really good. On Sun and Thurs I work on my lower body. Monday and Friday I workout my upper body. Rest in Wednesday and I perform HIIT on Tuesday and LISS on Sat. I think my issue is diet. I don’t think I’m eating enough or very little of the right portions on my macros. Does this work for women? And to break it down even further should I just eat more protein and alternate my carbs and fat on the days I’m doing lite and heavy workouts?
    Thank you

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