"Counting macros." Ever heard about them?
If you are into fitness and health, there's a great chance that you’ve already come across this term. But if you haven't yet, well, we’ve created this step-by-step guide to help you understand macros and how to count them.
But first, what are macros?
Counting macros are popular among people who are looking to lose weight or build muscle mass.
Macros are basically defined as type of foods required in certain amounts in a diet, and explained by Carrie McMahon, the author of “Why Should Count Macronutrients, Not Calories”, macros make up the caloric content of food.
There are three categories of macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. To be able to count macronutrients successfully, you have to be familiar with these three:
Carbohydrates make up the largest portion of people's calorie intake and should take at least take 45-65% of your daily calorie intake. They provide 4 calories per gram. It’s usually found in corn, oats, rice, bread, potatoes, cereals, etc.
Fats provide 9 calories per gram, which means that it has the most calories among the three macronutrients.
Our body needs fat for a number of reasons including body temperature maintenance, hormone production, and nutrient absorption. You can get your fat needs by eating different nuts, fatty fish, olives, guacamole, egg yolks and using coconut oil on your food among others.
And while a typical macronutrient recommendation for fats ranges from 20-35% of your total daily calorie intake, there are quite a number of people who find it successful when they followed a diet with a higher fat intake than the usual recommendation.
The same with carbs, proteins provide 4 calories per gram.
Protein is important since it helps build enzymes, hormones, and tissues and it is also crucial for processes such as immune function and cell signaling.
As per recommendation, protein should be at least 10 to 35% of your total calorie intake. You can get your protein from eating quinoa, tofu, spirulina, chia seeds, chickpeas, pork, tilapia, poultry, beef, etc.
But, just so you know, protein recommendations actually differ from one person to another depending on age, body composition, and health.
Is too much protein bad though? Find out here.
Counting Macros 101
And now, let’s go to the most important part of this article. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to count macros!
1. Find out and assess your calorie needs
We all have different body types so the calorie needs of others may be too much or too little for us. This is why it’s important for us to figure out how many calories our body needs.
To calculate your total calorie needs, figure out your REE (resting energy expenditure) and NREE (non-resting energy expenditure). Adding your REE and NREE will result to your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) or the total number of calories burned in a day.
To determine and compute yours, follow the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation:
Men: calories/day = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5
Women: calories/day = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161
Then, multiply your result by an activity factor — a number that represents different levels of activity:
Sedentary: x 1.2 (limited exercise)
Lightly active: x 1.375 (light exercise less than three days per week)
Moderately active: x 1.55 (moderate exercise most days of the week)
Very active: x 1.725 (hard exercise every day)
Extra active: x 1.9 (strenuous exercise two or more times per day)
The end result gives you your TDEE.
Keep in mind that you can adjust your TDEE depending on your goals. To learn more about this, you absolutely need to talk to a nutrition coach to help you with your meal plans.
2. Decide Your Macronutrient Breakdown
Here’s the typical macronutrient recommendation:
Carbs: 45–65% of total calories
Fats: 20–35% of total calories
Proteins: 10–35% of total calories
While this is the general recommendation, there may be instances that a certain macronutrient may be increased or decreased but again, it’s always best to ask for expert opinion about this matter.
3. Track Your Macros and Calorie Intake.
Now that you’ve assessed your TDEE and decided your macronutrient breakdown, it’s time to track your macros and calorie intake.
There are plenty of apps and websites that record the food you eat in a day and help track the macros. Among the most popular apps that act as a food journal are Lose It!, MyFitnessPal, and My Macros +.
These, of course, are just some of the apps available that are user-friendly and specifically designed to simplify tracking macros.
There you have it! You now have an idea on how to count macros. It may take a while before you get the hang of it but you’ll eventually get to that point where you’ll thank yourself for deciding to incorporate counting your macronutrients to help you with your macros weight loss or weight gain macros efforts.
One more thing, don’t forget to stick to it and be consistent enough so that you’ll be able to experience optimal results!
Happy macros counting!