Are you someone who’s planning to commit to pursuing your fitness goals this year? If so, I’d be willing to bet that at least one of these goals is related to a diet or nutrition goal.
Am I right?
You don’t have to answer, but I do ask that you do me one favor. Instead of exploring different fad diets or other practices that can lead to disordered eating habits, you take a quick journey into the wonderful world of macronutrient tracking.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or want to make sure you eat enough to “bulk up”, counting your macros and tracking food consumption can really accelerate your progress in meeting your nutrition goals.
In this article, we’ll explain the basics of macro nutrition, guide you through the process of calculating your macro needs, and provide practical tips for counting macros effectively.
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Why Get Into Macro Tracking …Extra Motivation to Calculate your Macros
I know how intimidating it can be to count macros for the first time. Compared to “diets” like the “keto diet”, there seems to be a lot more involved in the process. However, the results of macro counting are undeniable. According to a study in 2017, people who track their macronutrient intake are more likely to maintain a healthy weight, especially if it’s done as a daily habit.
Understanding macros is key to achieving your fitness goals. Whether you’re looking to lose weight, build muscle, or improve your athletic performance, tracking your macros can help you optimize your nutrition and fuel your body efficiently.
While counting macros differs from counting calories, it provides a more comprehensive approach to nutrition. Instead of solely focusing on things like overall calorie count or calories per gram, macro counting emphasizes the importance of balancing your intake of proteins, carbs, and fats to meet specific goals.
What Are Macros and Why Do They Matter?
So, what exactly are macros? Macros, or macronutrients, are the three main components of food that provide energy: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Each macro plays a crucial role in your body composition and overall health.
Macronutrients are the nutrients that our bodies require in large amounts to function properly. They provide energy, promote growth and repair, and support various bodily functions. Maintaining an optimal macronutrient ratio is vital to maximizing personal health and fitness success. The three main macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
|Role in the Body
|Protein is crucial for building and repairing tissues, supporting immune function, and producing enzymes and hormones.
|Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. They fuel the brain, muscles, and other organs, helping us perform daily activities.
|Fats provide insulation, cushioning, and energy storage. They are important for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and the production of hormones.
Macro Counting vs. Counting Calories: What’s the Difference?
You might have heard a lot of people say, “You should count your calories!” However, solely focusing on your total number of calories consumed is different from counting your macronutrients.
When you count your calories, you would only focus on the overall energy consumption that a certain food item provides your body.
But by counting your macronutrients, you monitor the amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that you consume from that specific food.
Here’s an example:
1 medium-sized banana contains 110 calories. From that you would get:
- 28 grams of carbs
- 1 gram of protein
- 0 grams of fat
If you track your macronutrients, you can tailor your meal and food consumption to meet your fitness goals, manage your appetite, and improve your overall health (while not having to limit many of the foods you actually want to eat!)
How Exactly Can Beginners Track Macros / Count Macros for Weight Loss?
Counting macros can seem overwhelming at first, but with a step-by-step approach, you’ll be able to track your macros effectively and achieve your nutrition goals. Here’s a beginner’s guide to help you get started:
Determine how many calories you need in a day
The most important thing to remember when counting your macronutrients is that it coincides with your caloric requirements. You have to determine your daily caloric requirements first before you determine your macronutrient needs.
This can be done using a calorie calculator like the Mifflin-St Jeor Equation, a helpful tool that takes into account your personal information and goals to provide an estimate of your daily calorie intake.
If you’re planning to lose some weight and want to achieve some fat loss, it is recommended to cut out 500 calories per day from your recommended calorie intake.
Distribute your calories into macronutrients (fat, carbohydrate, protein)
Once you have determined your caloric needs, the next step is to distribute these calories into specific macro ratios. The recommended macro ratios typically include protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
Protein is essential for supporting muscle growth and repair, so it is important to ensure that you are consuming a high amount of protein. A common recommendation is to consume around 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.
Carbohydrates provide energy for physical activity and are an important fuel source. The ideal carbohydrate intake can vary depending on factors such as activity level and goals. For example, individuals engaging in high-intensity exercise may benefit from a higher carbohydrate intake, while those aiming for weight loss may opt for a lower carb approach.
Fats play a crucial role in hormone production, brain function, and overall health. It is recommended to consume a moderate amount of healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts, and olive oil.
The recommended distribution of macronutrients are as follows:
- Carbs: 45%–65%
- Fats: 20%–35%
- Proteins: 10%–35%
On the other hand, this distribution may or may not be applicable depending on your body needs. If you’re experiencing chronic medical conditions like hypertension, diabetes, etc. it is highly recommended to consult with a Registered Dietitian (RD) to determine the appropriate macronutrient distribution for your body
Track your Macros and Count Macronutrients you Consume
Start by tracking your macros using a food diary or a mobile app (we’ll discuss some of these a little bit later on). Measure and record the amount of each macronutrient you consume throughout the day. This will help you stay accountable and identify any imbalances or areas of improvement.
You can also invest in a food scale to accurately measure your food portions. This will ensure precise tracking and help you maintain accuracy in your macro calculations.
Discover the Benefits of Counting Macros
While it might seem like hard work to count your macronutrient intake, making a habit out of it and committing to it can give excellent results and benefits to your body like the following:
- Helps improve your overall health and well being through better food choices
- May promote sustainable weight loss
- Provides more energy before working out
- May benefit people who have sedentary lifestyles and unable to exercise
- Helps maintain muscle mass
Tools and Apps to Help You Count Macros
In your journey of counting macros, utilizing the right tools and apps can make the process much more efficient and enjoyable. Macro tracking apps have gained immense popularity among individuals who are serious about their fitness and nutrition goals. These apps allow you to easily log your food intake, track your macros, and monitor your progress.
Let’s explore some popular options:
- MyFitnessPal: This widely-used app offers a comprehensive food database and allows you to set personalized macro goals. It also provides insights on your nutrient intake and offers a barcode scanner for quick and accurate logging.
- Lose It!: With a user-friendly interface, Lose It! enables you to track your macros and calories effortlessly. It offers a range of features like meal planning, recipe suggestions, and community support.
- Cronometer: This app offers detailed nutritional tracking and lets you set specific macro goals based on your preferences. It also provides information on micronutrients and allows you to track hydration and exercise.
These macro tracking apps are available for both iOS and Android devices, making it convenient for you to track your macros on the go.
Frequently Asked Questions
We understand that counting macros can be overwhelming for beginners. Here, we’ve compiled some frequently asked questions to help you get started.
Tracking your macros can be a helpful tool for staying on track with your nutrition goals, but it's not necessary to do it every day. If you're just starting out, it can be helpful to track your macros for a few weeks to get a sense of how much you're consuming and where you might need to make adjustments. Once you have a good sense of your portions and the macro content of the foods you eat regularly, you may find that you don't need to track as closely.
- Carbohydrates: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes
- Protein: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils
- Fat: nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, fatty fish
Remember, it's important to aim for a balance of all three macros in your diet to ensure that you're getting all the nutrients your body needs.
If you're not seeing the desired results, you might need to adjust your macros. It's essential to consult a registered dietitian or Precision Nutrition-certified coach who can help you determine the right balance of macros based on your individual needs and goals. Additionally, ensure that you're consuming nutrient-dense foods and engaging in regular physical activity to support your goals.
By understanding the basics of nutrition macros, you can make informed choices about your diet and achieve your health goals.
Macros for Beginners, Too!
As you embark on your macro counting journey, remember that your body is unique, and your macro needs may change as you progress. To increase your chances of long-term success, it’s essential to stick to your macro goals consistently. Consistency is key when it comes to reaching and maintaining your desired body composition.
Find strategies that work for you, whether it’s meal prepping, using a macro tracking app, or seeking support from a nutritionist or fitness community.
We encourage you to take what you have learned from this guide and implement it in your daily life. Start counting macros today and unlock the potential for greater control over your nutrition and fitness journey. With dedication and consistency, you can achieve the results you desire!
Interested in really becoming an expert at counting macros? Consider becoming a Precision Nutrition Certified Coach (PN1-NC); Tom wrote all about his experience with the course here!