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How long to see results from counting macros

How long to see results from counting macros featured image written by Noah RDN

You may have tried various diet plans in the past and be hesitant to count your macros, but rest assured that doing so is simple and effective. 

When determining the timeline for results, there are a few important aspects that should be taken into account.

It’s important to determine your calorie intake, your macro ratios (e.g. protein, fats, and carbohydrates), the quality of food you’re eating, the accuracy of tracking macros, and your activity level.

Additionally, dieting history, lifestyle, and any medical or physiological factors will all affect how quickly you’ll see results.

This article will address these factors to determine an estimated timeline for seeing results from counting macros.

While this article was written by Noah Quezada RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist, it is for information purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Before making any diet alterations, please consult an experienced healthcare provider about the best options!

Calories

First, your total calorie intake will have the most significant impact on how quickly you will see results. Whether you are trying to lose weight and body fat, your calorie intake will have the most direct effect on your progress.

Your calorie needs depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • Age – With age, it is common for you to need fewer calories
  • Gender – Men typically need more calories than women.
  • Weight – The more you weigh, the more you may need.
  • Height – The taller  you are, the more calories you may need
  • Activity Level – How active you are will influence your calorie needs

Remember that this is just an estimate, and you may need to adjust these numbers based on your own experience. (1)

To find your Total Daily Energy Intake (TDEE), you can use the online calorie calculator provided by the National Institute of Health – The Body Weight Planner.

You can also use a calorie tracking app to determine how many calories you need per day. My personal favorite is Cronometer. Not only will you get a comprehensive review of your calories, but you will also get a good idea of your macronutrient and micronutrient intake. Check out Cronometer today

Your Goal

The next factor to consider is your goal. How long it will take to see results from counting macros depends on what exactly you are trying to achieve.

If you’re looking to lose weight, a calorie deficit of 5-20% is ideal. This means that if your TDEE is 2000 calories, then a calorie deficit of 19001600 would render results. You can expect a weight loss of 1/2 – 2 lb per week. (2)

If you’re aiming for muscle gain, you will need a calorie surplus in addition to a high-protein diet along with a strength training regimen. The combination of these three should yield visible results. (3

Macro Ratios

Next, let’s discuss macro ratios. How much protein, fat, and carbs you should be eating depends on your goal.

For weight loss, a typical macro ratio is 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, and 30% fat. Now there are exceptions to this. However, this is a general starting point. (4)

For muscle gain, you may want to up the carbohydrate intake and reduce protein slightly. A typical macro ratio for muscle gain would be 50% carbohydrate, 25% protein, and 25% fat. (5)

Food Choices

The type of food choices you make can also significantly impact your progress. Highly processed foods are usually designed to trigger a pleasure response in the brain in addition to being lower in nutrient density and higher in calories. This trio is known for overconsumption and weight gain. (6)

Focus on whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These will provide more nutrients for fewer calories, allowing you to meet your goals with ease.

Accuracy of tracking

As a dietitian, I understand that there is an intricate harmony between the science and biochemistry of food consumption and our emotional perception regarding nourishment.

To achieve success with macro counting, it’s essential to be as accurate and precise as possible.

In terms of weight loss, we are working with a rather small margin (5-20%) calorie deficit.  Any inaccuracies in tracking can lead to an underestimation of the calorie deficit and, subsequently, a lack of results.

I like to suggest that the first few weeks to be an exercise in tracking accuracy. Weigh and measure all your foods, track everything you’re eating and make sure that you are hitting your macros.

Activity level

Your activity level can also impact how quickly you will see results from counting macros.

Because your TDEE is based on your self-reported activity level, if you start or stop an exercise regimen and increase or decrease your activity level, you will need to adjust your TDEE accordingly.

Therefore if you’re not getting the results you want, look at how active you’ve been and make any necessary adjustments.

Dieting history

Chronic dieting and yo-yo dieting can have a significant impact on the progress of your macro counting regimen.

If you have a history of chronic dieting, there is a higher probability that you are in a phase of metabolic adaptation.

When your body adjusts to a caloric deficit, it is called metabolic adaptation. As a result of this process, you will experience decreases in muscle mass, an imbalance in hunger hormones, and reduced physical activity. (7)

If you find yourself at a plateau, take some time off to restrict caloric intake and focus on strength training and eating enough food.

Lifestyle

Finally, your lifestyle, which includes your stress level, sleeping habits, and mental health, will impact your progress.

For instance, if you’re stressed out and not getting enough sleep, your judgment will be impacted, and you may not do the things that will move the needle forward. (8)

In addition, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or are in a negative headspace, it can be hard to stay consistent and motivated. In these situations, I recommend working with a mental health professional and/or coach to get the help you need.

Frequently asked questions:

Final thoughts

In conclusion, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to counting macros. How quickly you will see results depends on factors such as calorie intake, macro ratios, food choices, the accuracy of tracking macros, activity level, dieting history, and lifestyle.

Suppose you need additional help getting started or feel stuck in your progress. In that case, I highly recommend working with a registered dietitian who can review your current eating habits and recommend the necessary adjustments.

Schedule an appointment today.

Remember: this post is for informational purposes only and may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as medical advice. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis. Always check with your own physician or medical professional before trying or implementing any information read here.

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