Do you keep track of the macro nutrients you consume? Some people control their fat loss or muscle gain by keeping track of the number of each specific macronutrient that they eat. Counting macros isn’t as hard as some think, once you get used to tracking your food, you will be on your way to a leaner body in no time!
What Are Macros?
Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates make up the three important macronutrients.
What Do They Do and Why Do I Need Them?
Don’t fear fat! As well as many other crucial bodily functions, you need to eat fat to lose fat. Fat is an essential nutrient that our bodies require to live: it assists in vitamin absorption, hormone regulation, brain function, and much more. Healthy fats are the fats that you want to consume, and not so much lard/butter/grease, or trans fats in things like margarine. Healthy fats come from meat, fatty fish, avocado, nut butters, and olive oils. Depending on your weight and body mass, 15%-35% of your daily calories should come from healthy fat. Again, this also depends on your goals and exercise routine.
Adequate consumption of protein will help build muscle whilst preventing muscle loss if you are in a calorie deficit. Protein controls your appetite and staves off hunger more than fats or carbs because it causes you to feel fuller longer. Unlike other macros, protein also requires more energy for your body to digest, therefore it effectively burns more calories gram for gram through the digestion process. Sources of protein come from meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and protein supplements. The amount of protein consumption depends on body mass and personal goals. Overall, a higher protein diet is a great aid for fat loss.
Carbohydrates are another thing not to fear. Carbohydrates are stored in the blood, brain, liver, and muscles as glycogen, which our bodies use for energy. Your body needs energy to fuel your workout, you cannot exercise to your full potential if your body is carb-depleted and lacking energy. Carbs are essential in your daily diet, unless competition prepping or for other goal-oriented reasons calls for a low-carb diet! Once again, there are healthy carbs and not-so-healthy carbs. Healthy carb choices are complex slow-digesting carbs, such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, oats, quinoa, wheat, and rye. Healthy carbs do not include white bread, white pasta, anything processed or in a package such as Pop Tarts or cereals.
How To Count Macros
Protein, carbs, and fat are the only things you need to count. Each macronutrient yields a certain number of calories:
One gram of carbohydrate yields 4 calories.
One gram of fat yields 9 calories
Based on your total calories for the day, again dependent upon your personal goals, you can calculate the macros you need. If you are eating 1500 calories for the day at a 40/40/20% ratio, 150g of protein is 600 calories, 150g of carbs is 600 calories, 35g of fat is 315 calories. This equals 1515 calories for the day.
All body types and goals require different macros – what is good for one person will not work for another. A 140lb woman looking to lose weight will not eat the same macros as a 250lb man that is bulking.
Foods with a nutrition label are easiest to track because the macros are already listed for you. If the nutrition label is not posted, as for instance an apple or a sweet potato, simply type the food into MyFitnessPal and you can choose the size/weight to determine the macros for that piece of food. You can also record and add up your macros for the day using the MyFitnessPal app.
Nutrition facts listed on the nutrition label are generally for ONE serving. If you eat more than the 30g serving listed, you must calculate that – you must calculate everything that is being put into your mouth to be 100% accurate. If you aren’t hitting your weight loss/gain goals, it could be the fact that you aren’t being 100% accurate with recording your macros.
Ignore this part of the nutrition label – this is based on everyone eating the same 2,000 calorie diet, when really every body has different caloric and macro requirements.
Put It Into Action
Now that you KNOW how to count macros, let’s be precise! Measuring is the number one most important factor of counting macros. It’s too difficult to eyeball serving sizes, especially how used to such large portion sizes. Buy a food scale – they’re inexpensive, and vital to your accuracy! Measuring cups and measuring spoons should be on that list as well.
You might think that 6 ounces of chicken doesn’t seem like very much, but when you start piling it on the scale, you’ll realize you’re not eating near as much as you think you are, causing yourself to overestimate the amount of protein you’re consuming.
This occurs with all foods. Imagine the big bowl of oatmeal you pour in the morning. Do you think you’re actually eating 1/4 or 1/2 cup? A normal bowl of cheerios is around 2 1/2 cups, which is 3x the suggested serving size! That innocent 120 calorie cereal bowl just turned into a whopping 460 calories.
Learning how to track macronutrients is a great skill, crucial to being in control over your body. Be honest with what you’re putting into your mouth. Be accurate with how you track/count the macros/calories that you consume. You’re only cheating yourself! Remember, no matter what you fib about when you log your food, the mirror shows the truth!