How Macro Counting Works

I talked about IIFYM in my last post and here are the details. I’ll try to explain it as simply as I can.

    1. Calories are the only thing that really matters in any diet. Any diet that says you don’t need to worry about calories is lying. Sorry, but these are the laws of physics we’re fighting here. If you start consuming too many calories, your body will start to store them as fat. If you consume too few calories, you will force your body to get energy from fat reserves. Nothing you, I, any doctor, or pill can do will ever change that formula. Period.
    2. There are ways to make the whole calorie thing MORE efficient or LESS efficient. For example, if you eat foods that are high in simple carbs (sugar, fruit, white bread, etc.) your blood sugar will spike, and those calories will get stored as fat. In other words, eating the wrong kinds of foods can make the whole “calories in, calories out” problem even worse, and give you more obstacles to overcome. This is why people who only count calories generally fail.
    3. Likewise, if there are things we eat that make calorie burn less efficient, then there must be things we can do to make calorie burn more efficient. This is the nature of IIFYM. You are going to do two very specific things each day 1) Eat at or below a specific number of calories each day and 2) make sure you are eating the correct amount of fat, protein, and carbs each day.
    4. Those ratios matter big time. They ensure your body has the right nutrients it needs to burn fat, build muscle, provide you with energy, and keep you healthy all at the same time. By the way, even the guy who did the so-called “junk food diet” used this formula… he still ate the correct ratios of protein and fat, but his carbs (what he was allowed, based on the formula, came from junk-food)… he lost weight.
    5. Everything you put in your mouth needs to be tracked. Everything. (Except water).

Your daily calorie number can be calculated by you and the ratios that you use (i.e. how many of your calories come from fat vs. carbs vs. protein) is dependent on your goals. A bodybuilder would use one set of ratios, an athlete would use a different set of ratios, even a low-carb/high-fat approach to a diet versus a more moderate approach would use different ratios. In other words, if someone says “I’m doing IIFYM”, it means only one thing… they track their calories, they track their fat consumption, they track their protein consumption, they track their carb consumption, and they limit themselves to specific numbers of each macro-nutrient each day. That’s all it means.  It’s “counting calories” but we’re taking it to the next level.

Ready to get started?  Here’s what you do:

Step 1

Go to This is my project where my staff of virtual coaches will build this plan specifically for youcheck it out!

Step 2

Download the MyFitnessPal app for your smartphone. Select “More”, “Goals”, and “Calorie & Macronutrient Goals”. In the first box, you’re going to enter your daily calorie target, and then you’re going to enter each of your ratios: 40 percent protein, 40 percent carbs, and 20 percent fat.  It will figure out what that translates to in terms of how much of each one you can eat each day.   Now go back to the “Goals” screen we were just on, and find “Exercise Calories”. Turn this off! You don’t get to add/subtract calories based on the exercise you do. (Because you already calculated exercise into your TDEE).

Step 3

Start tracking everything you eat. If it goes in your mouth, you log it.  It seems like a pain at first, but it’s really not that bad because the app makes it so simple. First, you can scan anything with a barcode and it’ll instantly import all the nutrients. Second, it’s got a MASSIVE database of every food that ever lived. Third, it’s really pretty slick. You can also save things you eat regularly as a “meal”, create your own recipes, etc.

Step 4

This is where the diet comes into play. As you log things, you will see how many of each nutrient you consume each day. The app will tell you how many calories you have left, how much fat you have left, how much protein you have left, and how many carbs you have left, and it’s your job to find foods that fit these ratios.  Don’t go over or under any particular number by more than 5 grams. (Yes, going under a macro is almost as bad as going over, because it throws off your ratio).


That’s it… You’ll find that it’s easier to plan your day’s meals in advance because you can add/subtract foods and see what fits and what doesn’t. You will also find that meal planning feels a little like legos. You’ve got to find the right food to fit into a particular slot.

One more thing… you’re going to find that “normal” food doesn’t fit these ratios very well (loaded with carbs… loaded with sugar… loaded with fat…) so you’re going to have to eat very healthy or you’re going to be very, very hungry.


More on what foods to eat in my next post. Quest protein shakes are great, so are Quest protein bars (you can get them at GNC). Any carbs you eat should come from clean carbs like whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, etc.

Add me as a friend on MyFitnessPal (my username is brianshell)and you can actually see everything I eat to get some idea for what this is like.

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