You might have often heard the term ‘counting macros’ being thrown around in discussions about the gym and fitness. If you’ve ever asked yourself ‘what on earth are macros?’, you’ve come to the right place.
‘Macros’ stands for macronutrients. As per the British Heart Foundation, “Macronutrients are the nutrients we need in larger quantities that provide us with energy: in other words, fat, protein and carbohydrate.”
Simple! But how do you count them, and why?
The Pros of Tracking or ‘Counting’ Macros
Counting macros essentially means keeping track of your intake of macronutrients. This is usually done to ensure the person is eating enough of the right food types, and this can be a great help with healthy weight loss.
The act of keeping track of these nutrients can help you to make healthier, smarter nutrition decisions.
For example, for some people, the act of adding in a bowl of ice cream to an app can give them a chance to pause and think, ‘do I really want to eat this right now?’, or, ‘is this part of my nutrition plan?’
In addition, if you’re checking in with a dietician or a nutritionist on a regular basis, having a record of what you’ve eaten over the week can help you better measure your goals.
Calories & Macros
While some people do find themselves gradually losing weight by counting their macros, it’s important to understand this is not an automatic result.
Whether you’re counting macros or not, your calorie intake still matters. Ultimately, the amount of calories you burn and consume throughout the day determines whether you will lose any weight.
What counting macros does is to refocus the composition of the calories you’re consuming. This is key for goals such as gaining muscle, where you need a certain minimum daily protein intake to see this happen.
Similarly, if your goal is to lose weight, focusing on foods that make you feel fuller, such as whole grains and protein, will make you more likely to stick to your diet as you won’t feel the need to snack. The opposite of this is consuming lots of saturated fats, which are high in caloric value and very low in nutrition.
In this sense, all calories are not created equal. 100 calories worth of fruit is healthier than 100 calories worth of fat, and so on.
How You Can Count Macros
To count your macros, you first need to calculate your daily caloric needs. How many calories should you consume per day to meet your goals, healthily? This depends on things such as your weight, level of activity, age, and sex.
You can do this with your nutritionist, but if you don’t have one, don’t worry. There are plenty of online body weight calculators. Check one out here.
Once you’ve determined your caloric needs, you need to decide on your macronutrient percentage distribution. Meaning, how much of which types of food are you aiming to eat in a day. Check out the Medical News Today’s recommendations on this here.
Lastly, track what you eat! You can do this using a food diary, where you note down what you ate, how much of it (in grams) you ate, and when you ate it each day.
There are also lots of apps that can help you do this! Check out this article on the top macronutrient tracking apps here. It features some great options, such as MyFitnessPal, Cronometer, and Nutritionix. Or, try out this online macro calculator!