In my opinion, there isn't a universal nutrition plan that works for everyone. However, counting macros can be an excellent choice for many people. Personally, and with many clients, I've witnessed incredible results with this method. Counting macros can effectively aid in shedding body fat, building muscle, boosting performance, and offering numerous health benefits - all while still being able to enjoy your favorite foods.
Hold your horses - if I track macros, calories don’t matter?
Oh how I wish that were the case. BUT sadly, no. Calories DO matter. In the simplest terms, weight loss occurs when you burn more calories than you consume and weight gain happens when you burn less calories than you consume. So, in order to lose or gain weight, you will need to be in a calorie deficit or surplus, respectively.
What counting macros does is help you understand where those calories are coming from and how they affect your body. It also helps you understand that not all calories are created equal.
What are macronutrients?
Macronutrients are nutrients that we need for energy, growth, and other bodily functions. We need these nutrients in large quantities, hence the term macronutrients, and are typically measured in the form of grams (g).
There are 3 main macronutrients:
Carbohydrates, fats, and protein are the three macronutrients that we will focus on in this article. This is because they play a crucial role in fat loss, performance, strength gains, muscle building, and overall health.
It's important to note that each macronutrient has a specific caloric equivalent per gram. Specifically, protein and carbs are both 4 calories per gram and fat is 9 calories per gram.
Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue. It is also important for maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails. Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle. Consuming too little protein can lead to muscle loss and weakness. Foods like meat, poultry, fish, soybeans, eggs, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt and tofu are all great sources of protein.
Carbs are the body's primary source of energy. They are broken down into glucose, which is used to fuel the body's cells and organs. Carbs come in two forms: simple and complex. Simple carbs are found in foods like sugar and fruit, while complex carbs are found in foods like whole grains and vegetables. Consuming too few carbohydrates can lead to fatigue and decreased performance in physical activities.
Fats are important for maintaining cell structure and function. They are also a source of energy for the body, particularly during low-intensity exercise. Fats come in three forms: saturated, unsaturated, and trans. Saturated and trans fats are generally considered unhealthy and can lead to heart disease, while unsaturated fats are considered healthy and can improve heart health when consumed in moderation.
What exactly is counting macros?
Counting macros, also known as flexible dieting, is a dietary approach that involves tracking the intake of macronutrients to achieve specific health or fitness goals. Instead of focusing solely on calories, counting macros involves monitoring the quantity of each macronutrient consumed in every meal or snack.
Each macronutrient serves a unique purpose in the body. The goal of counting macros is to ensure that the body receives the appropriate balance of nutrients needed to achieve a specific outcome, such as losing body fat, building muscle, improving athletic performance, or maintaining overall health.
By tracking your macro intake, you can make informed food choices that support your goals while still enjoying a variety of foods you love. Counting macros provides a more flexible approach to dieting than many other diet options, allowing for greater variety and enjoyment in the foods consumed while still achieving desired health and fitness outcomes.
That's pretty cool, what should MY macros be?
It's hard to say exactly what your specific macros should be, because determining the optimal macro intake varies from person to person and depends on factors such as age, weight, activity level, and personal goals.
To start, it's recommended to calculate your daily calorie intake, which can be done using calculators such as those provided by the National Institute of Health.
Once you have your daily calorie target, you can determine your macro breakdown based on recommended guidelines. The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine as well as The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults aim for 10-35% of calories from protein, 45-65% from carbs, and 20-35% from fats.
However, these percentages are not set in stone and may need to be adjusted based on your body's response as well as your physical activity levels/training goals. As we mentioned earlier, each macronutrient has specific roles in your body, so you may need more or less of each to reach your specific goal. It's important to track progress and adjust your macros accordingly.
How do I keep track of everything?
The tracking process may seem a bit daunting, but apps like MyFitnessPal make it easy to set up daily goals and track your macro intake throughout the day.
Most people who successfully count macros as part of their daily routine will tell you, “A failure to plan is planning to fail,” and recommend meal planning and prepping to help you stay on course.
If tracking seems too cumbersome (we get it, like you need ANOTHER thing to do every day), try just tracking your macros for a week. This can help you identify places you could optimize your diet. Many people find that they’re light on protein and can make an effort to beef up the meat (or beans for those vegetarians).
To summarize, counting macros is a dietary approach that can help you achieve your specific health or fitness goals by tracking your macronutrient intake. While it's not a one-size-fits-all solution, counting macros can provide greater flexibility and variety in your diet. If you're interested in trying it out, remember that determining the optimal macro intake is unique to each individual and requires tracking progress and adjusting macros accordingly.
Until next time,