Think of one or two people who have the body that you WISH you could have. Are they lean with nice muscle definition and low body fat? Are they curvy with nice, defined legs, arms, and midsection? Do they fill out a nice pair of jeans with no belly overlap? I can tell you right now, they’re doing something right… CONSISTENT EATING HABITS.

The people you want to look like are educated in nutrition. They know exactly what goes into their bodies, how much and how often. I’m here to tell you that nutrition is not hard or confusing! The media is. The fad diets are. The “easy meal plans” are. The quick fixes are. We’ve all wanted to believe that if we just find the next right thing, that’ll do the trick. Trust me! I’ve been there too! Literally everyone starts out with no nutritional education. So where do we go? Google is a pretty good place to start. Youtube. Instagram. What does -Insert Fitness Model/Social Media Influencer Here- eat? Do they have a free meal plan for me to follow? If I eat what they eat, I’m sure to look like them! …I love and care for you, but no. It doesn’t work that way. Thank goodness I’m about to tell you the truth. But first, you have to understand what macros are (PROTEIN, FAT, & CARBS), then you need to understand the MATH behind them. Coming from someone who royally sucks at math, this is actually easy and makes total sense. 

Before I begin, I want to preface this with the fact that I never start my nutrition clients out with macro counting. NEVER. EVER. You have to master the basics before getting into the details. (Eat more fruits and veggies, cut down alcohol consumption, cut out/down sugar, exercise more, get more sleep)

When it’s finally time to start counting macros, most people don’t think about reading food labels until they finally go to the store and spend two hours trying to understand the gibberish. Have you read the ingredients list?! It’s overwhelming! 

Let’s consider Katie. Katie has shown that she has mastered the basics mentioned above and has lost 30lbs in 6 months. She has another 30 to go and things aren’t moving. She’s ready to move on to macro counting. She’s received macros from her coach and she needs to consume 1,650 calories made up of 130g of Protein, 75g of Fat, and 114g of Carbs. How the heck is she supposed to turn that into meals?

Katie would likely go into the grocery store and start grabbing food items to read what calories and macros are in them. What she’ll notice is that the majority of foods she has been eating (lean meats, fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains) don’t have nutrition labels on them. The colorful boxes in the middle isles, that she’s been told to stay away from, do. *Face palm* 

“Can’t you just give me a meal plan?” Katie asks her coach.

To which I would respond with a kind, “No.” Giving her a meal plan would be a massive disservice. I understand that people may be very busy or have an entire family to worry about, but you need to understand this stuff. You’re an adult who makes decisions every day. Nutrition should be one of your top priority decisions because you literally cannot and will not live without it. Plus meal plans get boring and you’ll end up quitting the plan after a few days or weeks anyway. It’s pointless. 

So, Katie starts logging her food consistently in MyFitnessPal for two weeks. “I don’t understand, I’ve been hitting my macros every day for two weeks! Why has the scale not moved?” What Katie didn’t realize was that she had been under-reporting her macros. Happens all the time. 

Here are some things people usually forget to count:

So really, you’re 800-1,500 over your calorie goal every day. Let’s go with the low number (800). Multiply that times 7 days and you’re looking at an additional 5,600 calories a week. 

Let’s do some math. 

Katie’s daily calorie goal: 1,650 cals

Week Goal: 1,650 x 7= 11,550 cals

*1 pound of fat = 3,500 cals (Take this number with a grain of salt. This is a general number that does not take into account Resting Metabolic Rate or Activity Level.)

Week actual total with 800cals over each day: 17,150

5,600 cals OVER divided by 3,500 cals (additional pound of fat) = 1.6lbs of fat per week
(That’s 6.4lbs of fat per month…you see how this goes after 1 year?)

Now, these numbers are not realistic. Your calorie intake will change daily. Sometimes you’re UNDER, sometimes you’re OVER. But, you get the gist. Don’t worry, we ALL make this mistake in the beginning. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re learning. You won’t die tomorrow just because you’re over on calories this week. Give yourself a break. You’re hard enough on yourself as it is. 

All right, let’s get to the good stuff! If you’ve stuck it out this far, you’re in for a treat. 

Use this handy tool for all your macro counting needs:

1g of Protein = 4 calories

1g of Carbohydrates = 4 calories

1g of Fat = 9 calories

Counting Protein

1g = 4 calories

I usually recommend most people get LEAN meats: roughly 90/10, meaning 90% lean, 10% fat. If you notice above, 1g of fat = 9 calories. If there’s fat in your protein sources, those calories will add up fast. 

What about protein powder? Glad you asked! Coach Doug recently posted a blog about the benefits of protein powder. Yes, it is very helpful and you should be picky about which brands you buy from, but it should never replace real food. Liquid diets, though easy, are less satisfying, quickly digested leaving you hungrier faster, and lack the necessary fiber to decrease inflammation in your gut. If your goal is to bulk or if you are struggling to hit your calorie goals each day, liquid food like protein shakes are a great option to help you get those macros/calories in. Not sure about whey vs casein vs vegan? Please reach out to someone on our team for more info. 

*I promise all these numbers will come into play soon. 

Counting Carbs

1g = 4 calories

I could spend days talking about carbs! For one, I LOVE them. And you absolutely do need them in your diet. I’ll discuss the glycemic index and insulin in another post. But for now, let’s look at some carbs. 

Again, you may be wondering about smoothies and fruit juices (juicing). They all have sugar, but none of the fiber. Could you, in one sitting, honestly say you could eat a few cups of fruit and veggies whole? No, because there’s too much fiber. You’d be full in an instant. 

Careful! Carbs (high glycemic, sugary carbs) are like Gluten, they’re hidden in most packaged foods. It’s best to get your carb sources from whole, REAL food. 

Also, COOKED vs. RAW Food. There IS a difference. Water fluctuates in food during the cooking process. If you cook a steak for too long, it will lose water. The weight will change, but the protein and fat content do not. Therefore, weigh your food raw prior to cooking. If it is something packaged (rice/oatmeal/bacon/sausage), you can usually scan the barcode into MyFitnessPal and it will give you the option of inputting as cooked or raw. 

Counting Fat

1g = 9 calories

Since fat is the most calorie dense macronutrient, I recommend counting the fat in everything (meats, salad dressings, sauces, etc). The cool thing about using MyFitnessPal or Cronometer is that they have a food label scanner. If you buy bacon and have 2 slices, scan the label and then choose 2 for the quantity. The app will show you the macronutrient break down. 

Now, how do I take all these numbers and make meals that taste good and doesn’t feel like eating cardboard?
Pro Tip: Make friends with the seasoning isle at your local grocery store. Spices are life. Also, buy an air fryer–it’s a game changer.

Let’s take Katie’s macros and build a plan.

Daily Calorie Goal: 1,650 cals

P: 130g, C: 114g, F: 75g

If Katie only eats 3 meals a day: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, we need to figure out her calorie goal for each meal. Then, leave some room for snacks throughout the day. 

Meal 1: 49g P, 51g C, 24g F–> 616 total calories

(49×4= 196cals; 51×4=204cals, 24×9=216 cals)

2 Eggs (16g Protein, 10g Fat) 

2 slices of regular bacon (10g Protein, 14g Fat)

1 Thomas Blueberry English Muffin (5g Protein, 31g Carbs) 

1 serving of Greek Plain Nonfat Yogurt (18g Protein, 6g Carbs)

100g Blueberries (14g Carbs) 

1 cup of Spinach

Meal 2: 40g P, 38g C, 16g F–> 456 total calories

(40×4= 160cals; 38×4=152cals, 16×9=144 cals)

4.5oz Grilled Chicken Breast (38g Protein, 6g Fat) 

100g Cooked Red Potatoes (2g Protein, 20g Carbs) 

1.5 Tbsp Ketchup (6g Carbs) 

50g Avocado (10g Fat, 6g Carbs) 

200g Grilled Zucchini (6g Carbs)

Macros left: Protein-41g, Carbs-25g, Fat-35g

Calories left: 578

Meal 3: 34g P, 24g C, 33g F–> 529 total calories

(34×4= 136cals; 24×4=96cals, 33×9=297 cals)

4oz Lean Ground Turkey (25g Protein, 7g Fat)

1oz Goat Cheese (4g Protein, 2g Carbs, 6g Fat)

150g Brussels Sprouts (5g Protein, 14g Carbs)

1 Tbsp of Olive Oil to Cook with (14g Fat)

After Dinner Treat

1 serving Dark Chocolate Chips (~16 pieces) (8g Carbs, 6g Fat)

Total Macros: Protein-123g, Carbs-113g, Fat-73g

Total Calories: 1,601 cals

Missing Calories: 50 (7g of Protein, 1g Carb, 2g Fat)–This can easily be hit by simply adding a little more turkey to meal 3. 

If you understand the MATH, you understand MACROS. 

*1g Protein= 4 cals | 1g Carbs= 4 cals | 1g Fat= 9 cals*

If you’re interested in learning more and not sure where you should start, click anywhere on our website to Book an Intro with a coach 😉 

In health, 

Noelle McConnell

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