Macro counting can be cumbersome.
Annoying. Time consuming. Confusing. Obnoxious. Obsessive. Anxiety inducing.
In fact, for a noob, it can be the biggest hurdle between spinning the wheels and making eye-popping progress.
So, can you beat your hunger and win the battle of the bulge without counting anything? Probably. But it’s a bit like trying to hit a moving target.
Your overall calories are going to be the main driver of fat loss. If you can maintain a caloric deficit for a decent amount of time – consistently – you will lose fat. And the most obvious way to ensure you’re eating under maintenance is to count your calories and your macros.
It can also be argued that counting macros is an important skill for long-term health wellness. Once you master the art of proper macro counting and dieting, it will make the life of “future you” much, much easier.
It’s a cliche, but macro counting is a lot like riding a bike. It gets easier over time and you never forget what you have learned. If you begin feeling a bit too “fluffy”, all it takes is 10 minutes, a Post-It note, and a grocery list. And BOOM – you’re losing fat.
But it’s possible to lose fat without the chore of macro counting. It will take a good amount of mindfulness – and some trust/faith in what you’re doing. And an understanding that progress isn’t linear – and you’ll need to have confidence in your non-counting fat loss abilities.
But it can be done.
If you are interested in shedding fat – and maintaining a healthy body weight – without macro counting, there are a number of strategies which you will likely find useful. These strategies have been recommended to us from some of the best fitness professionals, powerlifters, physicians, and fat-loss specialists in the business today. Some have used them personally, and others have been prescribed to their clients and patients. If applied intelligently, they can all have a profound effect on your waistline.
But these strategies come with one very large asterisk:
***Exactly ZERO of these items actually CAUSE fat loss. Only a present caloric deficit over time will actually CAUSE fat loss. But these items CAN indirectly cause this fat loss by creating the deficit. But obviously, even if they are ALL implemented simultaneously – you can still out-eat your maintenance rather easily.***
One last time, the only way to ENSURE fat loss is to count macros/calories and adjust accordingly.
10 Non-Counting Dieting Strategies For Fat Loss:
1. Lowering your meal frequency –
Call it what you wish – fasting, IF, Warrior Dieting, etc. – lowering your meal frequency and eating less times over the course of a day (or a week) can be an extremely effective tool for fat loss.
It’s important to note that the act of fasting in and of itself doesn’t cause fat loss. Human beings are very capable of putting away calories at impressive rates when faced with calorically dense and processed foods.
But if used intelligently and coupled with a good percentage of nutritious whole foods, lowering your meal frequency can have an extremely profound effect on your weight loss efforts. The fasting can have a blunting effect on the inevitable hunger which accompanies dieting, and eating less times per day enables you to eat large, satisfying meals – even while losing fat.
Although there may be mild nutrient partitioning and blood lipid advantages to fasting, the true beauty of fasting is the caloric buffer which is created during the fasting periods. When utilized correctly – as a dieting tool – intermittent fasting has been brutally effective at maintaining impressive physiques for many recreational trainees the world over.
2. Have a consistent meal frequency –
Although you might find it obsessive and difficult to actually track the specific macronutrient composition of each meal you eat, maintaining a consistent, daily meal frequency is an extremely effective tool in proper fat loss protocols.
Our bodies get used to eating certain quantities at certain times, which will make overall dietary compliance simpler and less aggravating.
Plus, with a consistent schedule and meal parameters, it makes adjustments effortless.
Jordan Syatt, online coach, powerlifter, and owner of Syatt Fitness, expands on this idea:
You can use all the “strategies” you want, but if you don’t have a clear cut way of moderating how much you’re eating on a daily basis, you’re just using a guessing game. You’ll never know what’s working or why.
So, how do you successfully moderate your intake without counting macros and/or calories?
Establish a pre-determined number of meals and snacks per day.
For example, I eat 3 meals and 2 snacks on a daily basis.
No more, no less.
Each meal fits on one plate and is 40-50% veggies, 25-40% protein, and the remainder is fat and carbs.
Each snack fits in my palm and is either a fruit or a protein.
That’s it. No counting and no tracking.
But I am moderating how much I’m eating by limiting myself to a set number of meals per day with certain guidelines at every meal.
From there, track your weight, measurements, and progress pictures. If you’re not seeing the changes you want, adjust either the number or the size of your meals accordingly.”
3. Automate your fat loss –
One of the simplest ways to lose fat consistently is to eliminate the need to choose your foods. Create a specific, (mostly) whole foods menu and rotate it on a regular basis. Create a rotating weekly (or even bi-weekly) menu with specific food choices and amounts.
Be sure they are wise choices and the foods you love – so you won’t get tired of the food combinations. And then? When if you begin stalling on fat loss? You simply make an adjustment to the amount of foods on your list.
This is a favorite method of elite fitness coach Andy Morgan, who owns and operates Ripped Body. His thoughts:
It’s actually really easy and doable to get shredded without counting anything if you are prepared to eat the same meal combinations over and over again. I had two very successful cuts, before I knew what I was doing, using that method. Here’s how it’s done:
1. You’re going to need to cook most of your meals at home. Be sure you are consuming protein at each meal. Create a schedule based on your meal preference and stick to it.
2. Track your body measurements and ensure your data is moving downwards.
3. If you need to make a reduction, don’t bother counting it, just remove a fist-sized portion of carbohydrates from your food each day.
4. This should keep the scale moving in the right direction. Each time the fat loss stalls, remove another half-fist of carbohydrates from your meals. You should do this as few times as you can, though, so that you’re eating as much as possible while still losing fat.
Then, Bingo! You’re shredded.
Using this method, technically your fat intake will remain pretty much unchanged throughout your cut, which isn’t optimal – carbs are important to fuel your training and you don’t want to go too low on them – however, that’s a small trade off to make in order to utilize this very easy method.
It also helps to not have a girlfriend or be dating during this. For obvious reasons.”
3. Don’t be afraid to try something new –
With “eat less, move more” being considered sound dietary advice through nearly all mainstream channels, it’s become obvious that most of us need more than a vague plan to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Strength coach, record-holding powerlifter, and owner/operator of Strengtheory, Greg Nuckols did some research and devised a very different plan for fat loss. It’s a plan that he would be unlikely to recommend to others, but it has worked for him.
First off, I want to be very clear on something – this may not be a smart route to go down. Moreso for psychological reasons than physiological ones. This plan has potentially dangerous implications on being able to trigger eating disorders, if you are prone to them.
Basically, I do a PSMF (protein-sparing modified fast) until I hit a new two-pound low on the scale. At which point, I have a controlled refeed day. A “protein sparing modified fast” means I consume very little fat or carbohydrates, but I eat lots of lean protein and veggies.
It usually takes around 3-5 days to hit my new low, and then I refeed. I don’t count calories, but the refeed isn’t a binge, which is why I call it “controlled”. I simply take a day and am sure I eat a good amount of fat and carbs along with my protein.
It’s extremely motivating to see the number on the scale decrease on a regular basis, which helps me stay on track.
This method works for me, but as I previously stated, if you have anorexic or binging tendencies, this sort of an eating pattern could set off those behaviors.”
4. DON’T look at the big picture –
Everyone wants to see the future. You want to see what’s possible. You want to know how far you can take it, how much progress you can make, how awesome you will look and feel at the END of your journey.
But starting with the end in mind isn’t the proper mindset. You need to be interested and invested in the process and the inputs – not the outputs. Make one, healthy change at a time – and make those changes permanent.
Personal trainer and life hacker Slyvon Blanco, owner of Von Blanco Fitness, uses this approach often with his online clients. His thoughts:
When making a change in your eating habits, focus on one meal at a time. The all-or-nothing approach can be problematic.
Don’t try to change the way you eat all at once. For instance, if you want to develop the habit of eating more protein-dense foods, try it with one meal first – let’s say lunch. Eat more protein at lunch every day for a week straight, maybe two weeks. Once you make that a habit, move on to dinner and do the same.
Your overall goal is to build long-term habits, and habits take time and consistency.”
5. Make dinner the largest meal of the day –
For most who work a normal, 9-5 schedule, your daytime hours are spent hard at work. From the time you wake up, until the time you arrive back at your home, you’re busier, relatively speaking, than you are after you get home and your work is finished.
If you’ve already used up a good amount of your intake between breakfast, lunch, and numerous snacks, from a sheer numbers perspective, you won’t have much “left” to eat for your dinner. Also, for most, the time which snacking is most prevalent is the time after dinner and before turning in for the evening. You’re relaxed, you’re finished with dinner, and Netflix is calling your name.
Saving as many calories as possible in order to eat a satisfying dinner can help you preserve your willpower – and reduce your post-dinner snacking.
Some simple advice: Skip breakfast and make lunch “just enough” to get through. Make dinner a satisfying mixed meal composed of protein, carbohydrates, and fats – full of whole foods you enjoy. Your hunger and hopefully your late-night snacking will be next to nil if your hunger is next to nil as well.
6. Always meal prep –
It’s been said that there is a common denominator for all diets that cause fat loss. We can argue until we are blue in the face about the effectiveness of high carb, low carb, Paleo, Atkins, or any other diet.
They do all have one thing in common, though:
They all require the dieter to make their own meals – and eat most of their calories from whole food sources.
This suggestion doesn’t mean you must meal prep like a bodybuilder – and load your fridge from top to bottom with Tupperware. But when dieting, you should know what you will be eating for each meal ahead of time – more often than not.
The true power of meal planning isn’t in the fact that you can hit your macros easier. The true power in meal planning is the emphasis it takes OFF of food. If your food is already selected, you won’t be tempted to hit up McDonald’s, Subway, or Kentucky Fried Chicken for lunch.
The number one characteristic of unsuccessful dieters is that they dine out too often. Don’t become a victim of the “Value Menu”.
7. Eat uniformly –
Most dieters know and understand they need to consume less calories than they expand if they wish to lose fat. Then what keeps us all from being wildly successful whenever the generic advice of “eat less, move more” is given?
Human beings are terrible judges of calories. Not only do we consume significantly more calories than we think, we also burn significantly LESS calories than we think as well. Combine those two issues, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
So, what’s the solution? To try to have no “calorie surprises”. Eat a balanced, varied diet, but try not to mix in items that you are unaware of the caloric content. Those food choices tend to be calorie-laden, anyways.
In order to lose fat without explicitly counting macros, make all of your meals very similar.
Vary your food choices strategically for nutrient insurance – you want to be positive you’re getting adequate micronutrients as well as macronutrients.
It’s much easier to stay under your kcals on a daily basis when you don’t have to think about how you can fit in a new recipe or a side of something you rarely eat – and don’t know how many calories it has.
The less you think about food, the better, for most people.”
8. Eat a balanced diet –
In our world of extremes, it’s so easy to become blinded by the “health halo”. We deem particular macronutrients as healthy or unhealthy based on the extremists we see touting their methods (and products) to the mainstream.
Being sure to take the road less traveled – the one firmly in the middle – is crucial to long-term health and wellness.
I pretty much eat 4 meals daily, with an extra snack if my training session was especially difficult.
Each meal is 35-50% protein.
Each meal has 15-30 grams of fat in it from nuts, peanuts, butters, meat, eggs, etc.
The carbohydrate amount varies a bit based on that day’s training. Whole grains, potatoes, legumes, and fruit make up the most of this.
With this easy template, you don’t need to obsess about exact measures.
It’s simple and straightforward – and I would recommend it to anyone.”
9. Drink lots of water –
Perhaps the simplest item on this list – remaining properly hydrated while dieting makes all other aspects of your fat-shedding stage more tolerable. You’ll have more energy, you’ll have better training sessions, you’ll have less hunger, and you’ll retain less water.
When a hunger pang hits, one of the easiest strategies out there is to drink a liter of water. Might seem crude, but it easily stops hunger pangs dead in their tracks.
Load the water up with ice for a mild “extra burn” of calories (as your body burns a few calories when it heats the water up to body temperature) or perhaps a lemon slice for a touch of taste. But staying hydrated could mean the difference between a rumbling stomach and a satisfied dieter.
10. When you find yourself feeling anxious, escape your environment –
The lure of the pantry can be strong. When you get that anxious, stressful, racing feeling that often is a pre-cursor to a binge, take a big step back and close the pantry.
Play the “10-Minute Rule”. Set the alarm on your smartphone for 10 minutes. Leave that room – and get BUSY. Go for a walk. Get in the car and drive to Target. Switch rooms. Find an activity. Whatever you do, stop focusing your attention on food and focus your attention on anything else.
You need to occupy your mind with something other than your hunger. This is much easier said than done – trying to not think about something can be a mental challenge. But if practiced, you can become better at “losing yourself” in your mind – and your waistline will reward you for conquering your own psychology.
Even though calories are the name of the game, not all of our lives fit so nicely and neatly into cookie-cutter little packages. Our schedules vary – and to some, macro counting might not be feasible. But that doesn’t mean you can’t improve yourself.
With a bit of mindfulness, and some strategic planning and thinking, even the most non-macro-oriented dieter out there can likely make it work.
Yours in true health,