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The Difference Between Calorie Counting and Macro Counting

When you are new to measuring your food and watching portion sizes, counting calories and counting macros can be confusing. Which is more accurate? Which is better to track? Does it really matter which one I track? The quick answer is "yes"... it does matter. Here is why...


A calorie is a measurement of energy. Calories in regards to food is the amount of energy that is yielded from that particular food. For example, a serving of almonds is about 160 calories. The serving of almonds yields 160 units of energy to be used by the body. When dieting, the main goal is to achieve caloric restriction. This means you would eat less calories than your body is using. The net difference between the two results in weight loss.


Macronutrients are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Every piece of food has a unique combination of these three macros. Let's take the serving of almonds mentioned previously. A serving of almonds has 14g of fat, 6g of carbs, and 6g of protein. Each macronutrient can be further broken down into calories. Every gram of carbohydrates yields 4 calories. Every gram of protein yields 4 calories. Every gram of fat yields 9 calories. Therefore, calories and macros have a unique relationship to one another. Some people that diet, choose to count macros. Eating less macros than what is used by the body results in weight loss.

So, Calories or Macros??

So the question still remains... should you count macros or calories?? It is best to count macros because when counting calories you can easily overeat your macros. Here is an example...

This Strawberry Chicken Salad recipe is 399 calories per serving and this Creamy Asparagus, Herb, and Pea Pasta recipe is 388 calories per serving. As you can see, calorie-wise these two meals are just about the same. However, when looking closer at the macro make-up, the salad recipe has significantly less carbs (22g per serving) when compared to the pasta recipe (53g per serving). Therefore, if counting calories, these two meals would appear to be about the same, but when counting macros the pasta offers a little over double the amount of carbs and half less protein than the salad. While eating less calories will result in weight loss, when wanting to change body composition, counting macros is best. Long story short, count your macros, not your calories.

Do you have experience with counting calories or macros? If you count calories, do you like this method of tracking?

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