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Getting to the Next Level of Shredded, Macros Counting Necessary?

At the moment I weigh 170, 6ft tall, 31.5 inch waist…49 years old.

I’ve been cutting since the end of March, after putting on a pound or two of muscle over the winter. I check my body fat using 7 point caliper formula (with an assist for the hard to reach areas) weekly and have been watching the percentage get lower on a very reliable and steady basis. I’m hovering at around 9% now, my arms and shoulder look like a roadmap, my abs are visible – but now I want to take it a bit lower, to get that sharp muscle separation, especially in the abdominal area.

I would say I’ve been “winging it” so far nutritionally up to this point with good progress. I haven’t lost any muscle size or a whole lot of strength. I have noticed my squats and bench press took a hit, but strangely I seem to be getting stronger on my deadlift, hitting 315 x 8 reps yesterday.

I’ll get to the question in a moment…

Diet-wise I eat clean, whole foods about 90% of the time. I count calories for everything that gets eaten, even the creamer in my coffee or a handful of nuts. Basically I make sure I hit 150-170 grams of protein with mostly cod, eggs and protein shakes. The rest of my calories are filled out with carbs and fats, not necessarily with any priority of one over the other, unless it’s a gym day in which case I go heavier on the carbs.

So my question is, as long as I prioritize my protein intake, does it matter that I don’t pay too much attention to the fats and carbs? I’m almost always on target with my calories, I have steady fat loss progress…but will getting extra obsessed about my macro intake be necessary to get that shrink-wrapped look I’m after?

this is the problem with calipers - a true 9% would actually be the look you’re after. But don’t give the actual percentage another thought! The numbers are meaningless; it’s all about the look.[quote=“adrencg, post:1, topic:217818”]
So my question is, as long as I prioritize my protein intake, does it matter that I don’t pay too much attention to the fats and carbs? I’m almost always on target with my calories, I have steady fat loss progress…but will getting extra obsessed about my macro intake be necessary to get that shrink-wrapped look I’m after?

unless you have tremendous genetics, then yes, you are going to have to pay attention to macros and calories to get that shrink-wrapped look. You can get lean and look great just eating clean and training hard, but to get to next-level leanness you need to step it up a gear.

It’s not as daunting as you might think. Buy cups for your carbs and measuring spoons for your fats and away you go! It becomes second nature very quickly.

Generally sounds like keep doing what you’re doing. Could try this for a couple weeks at a time…

Thanks Yogi, you’re most likely right about the calipers. My Skulpt says I’m 11%, but whatever I don’t care about the number. I know the caliper is more of a tool for measuring overall progress during a given time period. I can definitely quantify that.

So would you agree that I’m counting macros to some degree by ensuring a portion of my calories come from 170 grams of protein? You’re saying to get to the next level I should also have a set number for carbs and fats…

Well, what is that ratio? 50/30/20? 60/20/20? How does one determine this?

yeah you’ve got it right - just treat it as one more way of measuring progress.[quote=“adrencg, post:4, topic:217818”]
So would you agree that I’m counting macros to some degree by ensuring a portion of my calories come from 170 grams of protein? You’re saying to get to the next level I should also have a set number for carbs and fats…

yes, absolutely. Set your baseline protein amount first.[quote=“adrencg, post:4, topic:217818”]
Well, what is that ratio? 50/30/20? 60/20/20? How does one determine this?

that’s the $64,000 question! Sadly, there’s no right or wrong answer. You need to experiment a bit. It depends on how you handle carbs, how good your metabolism is, and how you like to eat. Naturally chubby folks tend to need lower carbs, whereas skinny, fidgety types tend to do better with carbs a little higher.

For cutting, I would err on the side of lower carbs.

The 2-3 times I have been incredibly lean I didnt count macros or calories per se … I did count “food” though. I had a diet plan that was producing results, I ate the same thing every day, and this allowed me to remove items and quantities, as opposed to specific macro numbers.

For example, I would remove an egg from my daily plan. I didnt consider it removing 70 calories, 7 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fat… It was just “an egg”

Or I would remove 1/2 an avocado. Or I would go from 1/3lb of beef to 1/4lb of beef. I wouldn’t necessarily care how many calories, grams of fat/protein/carbs I was removing. Just that I was eating less total food than the week before.

I understand that at the end of the day these things contain macros and calories, but its just another way of looking at it that worked well for me. Perhaps it will work well for you.


That’s actually something I’ve been thinking about and starting to look into recently. It’s basically the way things were done in bodybuilding from the very beginning up until the 1970s, maybe even into the '80s.

Even legit gurus like Vince Gironda didn’t talk about getting 1g per pound of bodyweight or limiting carbs to under 50g per day. It was “eat protein foods in each meal, and limit carb meals to once a week.” The focus was adjusting the overall quantity as needed, while still understanding the roles of protein, fat, and carbs.

For sure, lots of people get ripped while counting macros, but lots of great physiques were built without it. So bottom line, no, counting macros is not “necessary.”

I’ll just lay out what I do basically…

On most days I have a set diet program I follow. I cook one pound of cod + 1 cup of egg whites (sometimes with a whole egg thrown in). This equals roughly 500 calories and 100 grams of protein and zero carbs. I don’t eat it all in one sitting, BTW.

The rest of my calories are a mixture of whatever it takes to get another 70 grams of protein. The carbs and fats come with those “other” foods that makes up that 70 grams. Could be peanut butter, could be a baked sweet potato, bananas, walnuts, steel cut oats, etc). So my main focus is making sure I get that protein nailed, and let the carbs and fats fall where they may. Now, while I don’t focus too much on the carbs and fats numbers I know they’re at a smaller percentage of my total calories than the protein is.

So if my daily intake is 1800…I’m going to estimate that my calories from protein equals about 900 which makes that 50%.

As I said earlier, carbs and fat priority is flipped depending on whether or not it’s a weigh lifting day. For example on a lift day, my macros would be P50, C30, F20. So I am kind of doing it in a way…just not to the OCD level I see some people talking about it Youtube vids where they’re employing math formulas to figure out what they need to eat. It just seems like more trouble than it’s worth and what I’ve been doing has been working, I just thought it might not get me to the promised land.

So I’ll keep this up, and re-visit this thread if my fat loss stalls…and all I have left is that little bit around the midsection near the belly button and back love handles. Those areas are so stubborn.

see it’s the eating the same shit every day thing that would bother me. I’d rather do the macro thing, personally

So I decided to dial in the macros to a specific balance, all centered around my high protein staple of cod and eggs. I also do intermittent fasting, eating my first meal around 12 to 2pm generally.

Here’s the breakdown:
One pound of cod + one cup of egg whites + one whole egg (not eaten in one sitting)
28g of walnuts
one apple
one banana
one green shake with organic protein powder
one spoon peanut butter
half cup of yogurt

The cherry on top is a peanut and jelly sandwich on Arnold’s double protein bread (yes, it fits into the macros).

maybe a little dark chocolate if I feel I need an extra reward.

This comes out to roughly 1800 calories with 170g protein, 150g carbs and 55g fat.

I’m going to eat this daily until I can’t stand it anymore, or determine that it’s not working.

Starting pic…I’ll post another at the end of June to see if the targeted macros are working for me.
This morning my body fat reading was 9.5% with a 7 point caliper test, but my Skulpt device says 11.3%. I’m more inclined to believe the Skulpt because my abs look a little too blurry to be under 10% – but I know everyone is different.

you look good, mate. Good luck with it all

Getting the hang of this now. I’ve made two separate daily meal plans with roughly the same macro balance, but enough variety to keep me from having to eat the same thing every day. I’m finding that it’s easier to not think of it in terms of meals like breakfast/lunch/dinner, to avoid having to cook a bunch of different meals.

I have one staple meal, for example “cod and eggs” which supplies most of my daily protein and has enough volume to be split into 2 or 3 separate meals. This way I only have to cook once daily…and the rest of the macros are filled out by easy to prepare small meals or protein shakes or fruit…or basically things that don’t involve using the stove.

I’m already seeing more improvements in my body, although that could be from what I did in the previous week. My waist hit 31.5 inches this morning, and I was stuck at 32 for a while, and I’m starting to see that vertical line near the navel (in the right lighting).

I love not having to count calories every day.

This is the best presentation of what you need to do to get to the next level I have come across:

I’m really loving the results so far. After only 8 days I can see a visible difference in my body, although I need to add some calories back into the plan because I lost a little too much weight.

But I don’t think macro balances are some magic bullet. It’s mostly the strict adherence I practice when I know I have a specific list of things I can eat for one day. I stick with it to the last item and amount and it’s working. I’m down another mm tick on the caliper at various spots on the 7 point skin fold test.

So it’s been 2 weeks and I’ve decided to post some progress.

My waist hit 30 inches…and it probably hasn’t been that small since high school. Weight is now 165 and I’m repping around 7 times with 315 on the deadlift, so I haven’t lost too much strength. Incline bench press is in a holding pattern also.

7 point caliper test gives me 7%, but I added a point because I don’t believe it. I actually think I may be closer to 9 or 10. Are calipers really that inaccurate?

I have 3 plans now. Two normal ones with 40/30/30 split, and another one for carb refeeds which I do once a week.

I wish I’d starting working my abs a long time ago, because I think the lagging development shows. Once I start upping my calories and go into a perpetual muscle building mode I’m going to really focus on making the abs “pop” more.

So there’s three ways I’ve gone about this endeavor…

  1. Just wing it and eat instinctively. That can work but there’s some luck involved.

  2. Count calories only. That works, but ended up spinning my wheels once I got rid of the bulk of my body fat.

  3. Counting macros. It seems like the best option so far.

Looking great man!

I’m 5’11 210 24%… at 35. Going to be following your progress very closely, as proportionately we’re likely holding about the same lean mass… nice idea of what I might expect as I lean out.

Keep up the hard work.

Thanks…I can tell you that if you try this “preset list” thing and stick with it’s very possible you’ll see some results – and it’s easy. No more counting anything.

Nice work!

I’m back down to 13% after a short bulk to 16% and am leery of calipers as well. My scale and hand held have me at 13% but my calipers have me at 8% on the three site calculation. I know the 8 is low, but suspect the 13 may also be slightly high, but don’t really pay too close attention to the number, more the trend.

I wanted to contribute to your three ways idea. For me, it seems like it’s three waves. First, just get in a caloric reduction for a while and get the scale moving in the right direction. Next, start with the macros - 40/30/30 is working for me. Then, consider carb and calorie cycling. Finally, for me, IF.

I started 16/8 IF about a week ago and dropped weight very quickly - some muscle but mostly fat. I haven’t gotten the hang of cycling carbs and calories on training days on IF yet, but am trying. My maintenance is 2450 but I frequently get another 1000 calories from activity, and then I have a very hard time eating 3400 calories in eight hours. I’m worried about losing LBM because of the inability to eat enough in the window right now, but will see how it goes.

I greatly appreciate you sharing your experiences, it helps me figure some stuff out as well.


The better the shape you’re in, the more anal retentive and determined you will have to be for every additional gain. If it’s worth it, count it.

I’ve officially reached that stage, and my wife (who is a fit person herself) thinks I’ve gone crazy.