What are Macros
In the world of weight loss, there are a number of plans, diets and systems you can follow. Some will work and some won’t. Simply put, some are fad’s and some are lifestyles. You can count calories. Or on some plans, points, or carbs. Or you can track one of the most countable elements: macros. Macros or “flexible dieting” is commonly heard of, but is it a proven method to healthy living? Here’s the down low on macro’s and macro counting to help you decide:
What is a macro?
First and foremost, knowing what you’re counting is super important. When we say “macro” , it is short for macronutrient. So what is a macronutrient? They’re the three categories of nutrients you eat in the larger portions and provide you with most of your energy: protein, carbohydrates and fats. So when you’re counting your macros, you’re counting the grams of proteins, carbs or fat that you’re consuming. These three nutrients will add up to your total daily calorie intake.
So do calories matter?
Yes. Calories DO still matter. In the simplest terms, weight loss happens when you burn more calories than you consume. Macro counting helps 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.
For example, let’s say you have a calorie goal of 2,000 per day. One gram of protein = 4 calories. So if you eat 125 g of protein, you’re eating 500 calories from protein, leaving you 1,500 calories to split between your fat and carbs. 1g of carbohydrates also = 4 calories but 1g of fats however = 9 calories.
Why do people count macronutrients?
When counting macronutrients , you have more influence on where your calories are coming from and this can be used in your favour to help see the results you’re after. Paying attention to where your calories are coming from can help you achieve more satiety and allow you to feel better able to sit in a calorie deficit if you have weight loss goals by consuming enough protein to feel full on less food rather than just counting calories alone.
Sounds like a lot of work, but is it worth it?
Well, that’s up to you to decide. Like anything , there are pros and cons. When it comes to finding the right plan for weight loss solution for you it is important that you find something that suits you and your lifestyle. Macro counting is great because it’s not a one-size-fits-all plan. It’s commonly referred to as “flexible dieting” since you’re eating real foods without really depriving your body or following any real restricting diets. People who count their macros might use the acronym “IIFYM,” or “If It Fits Your Macros,” meaning you can eat it as long as it fits into your macros. Now, does this mean you should cheat the system so you can eat a bunch of cookies and nothing else? No. But can you indulge in a cookie every once in a while and still achieve results? Yes! Technically there are no “cheat” foods when you’re counting macros, it just means you have to move some macros around to make it fit.
Counting macros can help you:
- Lose stubborn fat
- Learn how to best fuel your body for your goals & lifestyle
- Maintain lean muscle mass
- Keep your body satisfied
But just because you’re counting macros doesn’t mean you’re eating healthy and this is one of the downsides experts see in this method. Technically, you could hit your macro goals without consuming a single veggie. Because of this, you should also focus on WHAT you’re eating, not just the numbers it adds up to.
OK, how much of each macro should I eat?
There is no standard or set amount of macros a person should eat. It is different from person to person and depends on your height, weight, activity level, age and your personal goals.
The first step is determining your daily calorie intake. The National Institute of Health has a cool calculator to help you figure this out.
Then, it’s time to do some macro math. The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine recommends adults try to get 10-35 percent of your calories from protein, 45-65 percent from carbs and 20-35 percent from fats. You can find macro-counting calculators online to help you determine your magic numbers, but it’s best to work with a coach or make sure you’re using guidelines from a reputable medical source because some websites, particularly those that promise to turn you into the next Miss Universe, recommend unhealthy ratios like 60 percent protein or 40 percent fat.
Even after you get your starting numbers, you’ll likely have to wiggle things around to find the ratios that work best for your body. And if you see success and experience weight loss, you’ll have to continue to adjust your macros based on the changes to your body weight.
How do I keep track of everything?
The tracking process may seem a bit daunting at first, but there are helpful free apps such as MyFitnessPal that make it easy to set up daily goals and track your macro intake throughout the day. You will hear most people who successfully count macros as part of their daily routine say, “Failure to plan is planning to fail,” and recommend meal planning and prepping to help you stay on course.
If tracking seems too intensive (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). Veggies are also commonly missing from the plate but a simple smoothie can help you get your greens. It really is all about finding what works best for you and ensuring you are getting diversity in your diet. An easy way to determine if that plan is right for you is to think about whether it is something you can sustain for 6 months + and if you just can not see yourself being able to stick to it or learn enough from it to maintain your progress then, perhaps it’s not the right one for you.
Okay, so you think you’re ready to give it a try?
Before starting a new diet routine or meal plan, you should always consult your doctor to make sure it’s a safe and healthy thing to do. Also remember that while nutrition is key to weight loss and healthy living, exercise is also an important component of the equation. When setting your weight loss goals, remember losing 0.5 – 1 kilogram per week is a healthy average and consistency is key to achieving long term results!