Counting macronutrients is a great way to get lean, add muscle, or boost your performance in CrossFit.
The method ensures you’re eating a balanced diet, and also naturally makes it so you don’t overeat (unless part of your goal is to gain lean muscle).
However, there are a million macronutrient guides online and thousands who offer paid services to calculate your macros—which can be helpful, but isn’t necessary and could be confusing.
This CrossFit macros guide will break it all down for you so you can count macronutrients yourself or outsource the job to someone else.
What Is a Macro in regards to CrossFit?
The term ‘macro’ is short for macronutrient. Macronutrients are protein, carbs, and fat, the three “building blocks” of food that humans eat.
Each macronutrient contains a specific number of calories:
- Protein has 4 calories per gram
- Carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram
- Fat has 9 calories per gram
Many CrossFit athletes use counting macronutrients to help them lose weight, enhance performance, or simply fuel their workouts.
Tracking macros is a good way to balance out your diet, set specific nutrition goals, learn how your body responds to certain nutrition plans, and ensure you don’t overeat.
CrossFit Macro Diet
There is no one set CrossFit macro diet, although popular plans like The Zone Diet and RP Nutrition incorporate the practice as part of their nutrition programming.
The paleolithic diet—which is also common in CrossFit—doesn’t call for specific macro splits or counting the food you eat. But CrossFit athletes can easily apply counting macros to paleo if they want to.
CrossFit Example of a Macro Diet
Example: A 200lb muscular male CrossFit athlete requires roughly 2,400 baseline plus an additional 500 calories to make up for his workout (2,900 calories per day).*
*These numbers are examples.
If he adopted a balanced macronutrient split, it might look like:
- 30 percent protein (870 calories) = 217.5g grams of protein
- 30 percent fat (870 calories) = ~96g of fat
- 40 percent carbohydrates (1160 calories) = 290g of carbs
The athlete would then plug this macronutrient split into a CrossFit macro calculator (see below) and track what he eats throughout the day to meet these goals.
On rest or lighter training days, the athlete might also consider lowering macro intake to about 2,400 calories to account for different energy expenditure.
What Is the Best Macro Calorie Ratio for CrossFit?
It really depends on your goals with CrossFit. Trying to lose weight, gain muscle, or simply get great at CrossFit all call for different macronutrient ratios.
Many athletes find that a balanced split of 30 protein, 30 fat, and 40 carbs works for them.
Below you’ll find some guidelines to help you decide which macronutrient ratio is best for your goals.
Macro Percentage for CrossFit Performance
This method is best for promoting performance in CrossFit and maintaining weight or losing weight gradually
- Eat right at your daily caloric needs to drive performance but prevent body fat accumulation
- Eat the same amount of protein and fat, with slightly higher carbohydrates
- Make sure a large percentage of your daily carb intake comes from fruit and vegetables
- Experiment and see what works for your body, then make adjustments based on feedback
Macro Percentage for CrossFit To Lose Weight
Tips for counting macros for weight loss when doing CrossFit include:
- Eating at or slightly below (5 to 10 percent) of your daily caloric needs
- Not overeating on rest days
- Eating mostly whole foods and avoiding sugary/processed foods when possible
- Limiting cheat days or scheduling them around lighter eating days
- Adding in one or two extra HIIT sessions to promote fat loss
Macro Percentage for CrossFit To Gain Muscle
You must really dial your macros in to gain muscle and strength. Eating right at, or slightly above, your daily needs will give your body the materials it needs to build new muscle tissue and recover from heavy lifts.
- Increasing protein to at least 1g per pound of bodyweight each day (or higher, if you’re really lifting a lot)
- Increase carbs and lower fat intake if recovery is slow or you feel fatigued when training
- Train fewer days per week (i.e. 3 to 4) instead of 5 to 6
- Add some low-intensity cardio or walks in to help prevent fat accumulation
How To Determine Calorie and Macro Needs With Crossfit (4 steps)
Here’s a step-by-step guide for determining your caloric and macronutrient needs as a CrossFit athlete.
*Note: these are guidelines and should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice.
1. Determine your BMR
Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body burns at rest.
Use this BMR calculator or try the Harris-Benedict formula, which is:
For men: BMR = 66+(13.7× weight in kg)+(5×height in cm) – (6.8×age in years)
For women: BMR = 655+(9.6×weight in kg)+(1.8×height in cm)–(4.7×age in years)
Some CrossFit gyms and fitness facilities also have access to DEXA scanners and InBody Exams which can estimate body-fat percentage, BMR, and TDEE.
As an example, let’s use a 5’7” 30 year old woman weighing 150lbs with the goal of losing body-fat and maintaining performance. Her BMR is 1474 calories per day.
2. Determine your TDEE
Your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) combines your BMR with the number of calories you burn during exercise.
As a CrossFit athlete, this is one area you can’t overlook. Your BMR alone is not enough calories to fuel your fitness workouts.
Use this TDEE estimator, or simply stick with the general rule of thumb that a one-hour CrossFit class is between 450 and 650 calories.
For most, simply using a +500 calorie plug in should help with initial weight loss. You may need to adjust this as you reach lower body-fat percentages, but if you have lots of weight to lose, it should work fine.
Sticking with the earlier example, a 150lb woman who exercises vigorously 3 to 5 times per week would need a baseline of 2,221 calories on training days.
3. Choose Your Ideal Macronutrient Split
Next, you’ll decide which macro approach you’ll use to reach your goals. The general templates you might choose from include:
- Balanced. Between 30 and 40 percent for protein, fat, and carbs. This approach is optimal for most athletes simply looking for better performance.
- Low-carb. Could be good for weight loss, as many find that eating low-carb helps them stay full throughout the day without eating as much food.
- High-protein. Good for adding muscle or primarily strength athletes.
- High-carb. Good for endurance athletes or those who thrive eating more carbs that don’t need to lose weight.
There are countless variations (i.e. keto, low-fat, high-carb). Do research and find one that works for you.
To determine your macro split, take your calorie baseline (i.e. 2,221) and plug it into your ratio.
- Protein (30 percent)- 166g of protein
- Carbs (30 percent)- 222g of carbs
- Fat (40 percent)- 74g of fat
4. Test and Retest
Making macronutrient counting work for you takes time and patience. No matter what your goal, it’s a patient approach that sometimes takes time to start yielding results.
Give your body two to three weeks to adjust to the new plan. Notice things like:
- Performance during workouts
- Energy levels
- How your clothes fit
- How sustainable counting macros feels
You can weigh yourself if you want, but remember that initial weight loss and gain is often a result of water loss. Don’t read too far into the number in either direction.
If you find that things aren’t changing, try making incremental adjustments. Decrease (or increase) caloric intake by 5 to 10 percent at a time until you start seeing results.
Crossfit Macro Coaching
Many nutrition experts in the CrossFit community build their service around macro coaching. This system helps them tailor nutrition plans to a variety of goals, including weight loss, muscle growth, or general performance.
- Renaissance Periodization (RPNutrition) offers an extremely popular macronutrient counting app for a much lower cost. Their services include macro coaching and other add-ons if you have it in your budget.
- Beyond Macros is also a popular tool some CrossFitters use for macro counting.
- IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) is a program thousands have used across the entire fitness industry to lose weight. It’s one of the oldest macro-counting programs out there.
In any case, counting macros is a patient approach. It’s truly the opposite of more restrictive diets like keto or paleo where you can only eat certain foods. You can eat whatever you want, so long as you work hard in the gym and stick to the goals you set early on.