Tracking Your Macros For Weight Loss
Counting macros is a term that you have probably come across if you tune in to the health community, belong to a gym, or are looking for the most effective way to lose weight. Counting macronutrients (macros) is a method popularly used by people that want to lose weight and it can help you reach various health goals.
Counting macros is all about keeping track of the types of food and calories you eat to achieve certain calorie and macronutrient goals. It might be relatively simple to count macros, but it can be quite confusing when starting out. The following is a step-by-step guide on how to get started with counting macros.
What Are Macronutrients (Macros)?
To successfully count macronutrients, you should first know what they are and why some people require different macronutrient ratios than others.
Carbohydrates include starches, sugars, and fibers. Carbohydrates are typically broken down into glucose also known as blood sugar that’s subsequently used by the body either to provide immediate energy or stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles.
Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram and usually make up the greatest portion of the calorie intake of most people. The major health organizations suggest consuming 45 to 65 percent of your daily intake of calories from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can be found in foods such as dairy products, starch vegetables, grains, fruits, and beans.
Fats have the highest number of calories of all the macronutrients providing 9 calories per gram. Fat is needed by the body to provide energy and for critical functions, such as nutrient absorption, hormone production, and maintaining the body temperature.
The typical macronutrient recommendations for fats ranges from 20 to 35 percent of the total calorie intake, but people have found success following a diet that’s higher in fat. Fats can be found in foods such as butter, oils, fatty fish, meat, and nuts.
Proteins provide 4 calories per gram. Proteins are critical for processes such as immune function, cell signaling, building of tissues, enzymes, and hormones.
The typical recommendation for proteins is between 10 and 35 percent of your total calorie intake. However, recommendations may vary depending on age, goals, body composition, health, and more. Proteins can be found in lentils, tofu, fish, poultry, and eggs.
How to Count Macros
It takes some effort to learn how to properly count macronutrient, but it is a method that can be used by anybody. Follow the steps below to get started:
1. Determine Your Calorie Needs
To calculate your overall calorie requirements, you must first determine your resting energy expenditure (REE) as well as your non-resting energy expenditure. REE refers to the number of calories burned at rest while NREE refers to calories burned during digestion and activity.
If you add the REE and NREE, you will get the total number of calories burned in a day, which is also referred to as the total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). To determine your calorie requirements, you can use the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation or a simple online calculator.
The Mifflin-St. Jeor equation goes as follows:
Men: Calories per Day = 10 x Weight (Kgs) + 6.25 X Height (cm) – 5 x Age (Years) + 5
Women: Calories per Day = 10 x Weight (Kgs) + 6.25 X Height (cm) – 5 x Age (Years) – 161
The result you get above should then be multiplied by an activity factor, which is a number that represents different levels of activity:
– Sedentary (Limited Workout): x 1.2
– Lightly Active (Light Workout Less Than 3 Days Weekly): x 1.375
– Moderately Active (Moderate Exercise Almost Every Day of the Week): x 1.55
– Very Active (Hard Exercise Daily): x 1.725
– Extra Active (Strenuous Exercise 2 or More Times Daily): x 1.9
The end result will be your TDEE.
You can either add or subtract calories from your TDEE to achieve different goals. Simply put, if you are trying to lose weight, you should try consuming fewer calories than you expend and if you want to gain muscle mass, you should increase the number of calories.
2. Determine Your Ideal Macronutrient Breakdown
Once you have determined the number of calories you should consume on a daily basis, the next critical step would be to determine what ratio of macronutrients is ideal for you.
The typical macronutrient recommendations are:
Carbohydrates: 45 to 65 percent of Total Calorie Intake
Fats: 20 to 35 percent of the Total Calorie Intake
Protein: 10 to 35 percent of the Total Calorie Intake
Keep in mind that the recommendations above may not necessarily fit your specific needs. You can fine-tune the ratio to achieve your specific goals.
For instance, if you want to lose excess body fat, you may create a meal plan that comprises 35 percent of carbohydrates, 35 percent proteins, and 30 percent fat. In contrast, a person following the ketogenic diet would require fewer carbohydrates and more fats while an endurance athlete would probably require a higher intake of carbohydrates.
It is quite clear that the macronutrient ratios may vary depending on your weight loss goals, dietary preferences among many other factors.
3. Track Your Intake of Calories and Macros
The final step is to track your macro and calorie intake. Tracking your macros and calories simply refers to logging the foods that you eat on a website, food journal, or app.
Using an app to track your macros is the most convenient way. Some of the most popular apps for this include My Macros, Lose It, and MyFitnessPal. The apps are user-friendly and specifically designed to make macro tracking simple.
You can also consider investing in a food scale to help you track your macros. However, it is not necessary. If you invest in one, you simply weigh each food item before you log it into your preferred app.
You can also hand-write your macros into a physical journal.
You might feel overwhelmed when you start counting macros, but the steps described above can streamline the process and ensure your success. The important thing is to set a calories goal and macronutrient range for fats, proteins, and carbohydrates that works best for you. Next, log your food intake and strive to stay within your macro targets.