Tracking Macros- How it Works
Macros (a fancy way of talking about nutrients we need in large amounts: carbohydrates, fats and protein) are all the buzz in the fitness world these days but rest assured, there’s not necessarily anything new to see here. After all, macros have been around since eating became popular… and whether you’re gnoshing with a goal in mind or not, make up everything you put in your mouth regardless.
So what’s the big deal? Why the hype around this whole tracking macros thing? It’s the WAY people are using them to inform their fitness, nutritional and fat loss/muscle gain goals. Macros can be a powerful tool in monitoring your nutritional intake, so let’s dig in:
WHAT ARE MACROS?
Macros is short-hand for “Macronutrients”- large blocks of nutrients your body needs to operate and which make up, in part or in whole, almost every bit of food we eat. Though you may not know them by their fancy name, macros are simply carbohydrates, fats and protein. Based on your goals, personal preferences and nutritional history, you may need more of some and less of others and vice versa.
For example, if your goal is more energy, you may consume more carbohydrates than protein or fat. If your goal is to cut fat, you might eat more protein to retain muscle that may be lost as your body starts looking to other resources beyond fat and ready carbs to burn for fuel.
Ultimately, your macros should and must fit into your total caloric equation. In the end, calories still matter (as do “micronutrients” like vitamins, minerals, etc.) so no matter how your macronutrients are split up, they should still meet a caloric goal that nourishes you, gets you to pack on muscle, torch fat or just maintain your current weight.
MACROS AND CALORIES
Any nutritional plan (or “diet”) intended to help you lose weight will account for calories and how your body uses them (IE- “energy balance”) in one way or another- in short, you need to burn more calories than you take in. If you’re eating more than you’re using, hello fat pants. If you’re using more than you’re eating, hello fat loss. If you’re just right… hello maintenance.
Think of your body as a bank, and the macronutrients are your deposit and/or withdrawal. Each macronutrient has its own calorie value:
Protein: 4 calories per gram.
Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram.
Fats: 9 calories per gram.
Taken together, these macro to calorie values add up to your caloric goal- that is, the amount of calories you need to consume to achieve fat loss, weight gain or maintenance. Of course, there’s always things that make YOU unique. Age, lifestyle and metabolism all play a role in how many calories (and subsequently, macros) you should be consuming to reach your goals.
HOW DO I MAKE MACROS WORK FOR ME?
Tracking or distributing your macros allows you to eat, in essence, pretty much anything you want as long as it falls within your macro (and ultimately caloric) goals. In short it takes the pressure off of choosing “good” or “bad” foods and allows you to sustainably eat for the long haul without the usual “can’t eat this, can’t eat that… I quit” pitfalls.
First things first- protein is going to play an important role and, for most people starting a fitness program, will probably be a little more than you’re used to– and it’s for a reason. When your activity levels pick up, your body requires more protein for repair and maintenance. Protein also helps retain that muscle you’re building and using. Protein is going to be your primary macro to pay attention to. After that, it’s carbs (and you’ll likely be eating more than you’re probably used to- remember, it’s not the carb you eat- it’s how much of it you’ve been eating) followed by fats.
CALCULATING AND TRACKING MACROS
If you decide to give tracking your macros a shot, there’s a lot of resources out there to help you calculate your needs and get you dialed in. We recommend this free calculator but first, you’ll need to know your weight, your body fat percentage (we can definitely help there- call to set up your Body Scan appointment) and your activity level. From there, you’ll get a ballpark approximation of where your macros should be according to your goals.
Once you know your macro goals, it’s simply a matter of tracking them. Using apps like My Fitness Pal (Free) and My Macros+ ($2.99) you can log your food on the go, which makes tracking your macros easy. And while tracking might sound like a pain, logging what you’re eating and hitting those goals really does become second nature pretty quickly.
In the end, the way you choose to meet your nutritional goals is all about what works for you. Whether you track macros, calories or use another method the real goal is making sure you see success in your fitness journey.