Counting calories can be a truly effective means of losing weight. However, it can get tedious quickly. Tracking your macros is another way to go about it, and this can still help you lose weight, gain muscle, and have more energy.
It’s also a lot simpler because you focus on macronutrients, which are protein, fat, and carbs.
What Do Macronutrients Do?
These are molecules that we have to have in large amounts just to survive. This is in contrast to micro-nutrients like electrolytes, minerals, and vitamins.
Carbs are the macronutrient of quick energy, used in between meals or during exercise. Carbs are turned into glucose or sugar for immediate use or glycogen to get used later.
Proteins help your body build muscle, ward off infections, repair injuries, and just generally grow. They’re made of amino acids, nine of which your body can’t make, so you have to get them from your diet.
Dietary fat might sound bad, but it’s necessary. It’s an energy source when you don’t eat, and you need it to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, like A, D, E, and K. Fat also provides insulation in cold weather, supports cell growth, protects your organs, and induces hormone production
How To Count Your Macros
Nutritional information on food packaging is listed in grams, but if you’re following this eating plan, you need to know your percentages are on track. This where the free IIYFM calculator can be so very helpful.
There are two things you need to know first. For starters, you need to know how many calories you typically eat each day. Secondly, you need to know your ideal ratio.
Right now, I’m doing 4,600 calories each day. That might seem insane, but I’m bodybuilding up to a professional competition. Don’t ask me what my exercise levels are like right now, because you don’t want to know.
Anyway, I’m eating roughly 50 percent in carbs, and the rest split evenly between protein and fat.
I have to multiply my total calories each day by percentages and then divide those calorie amounts by the calorie-per gram numbers.
- Carbs: 4,600 x 1/2 = 2,300. That means I get to eat that many calories in carbs every day. Good thing I like pasta. Since carbs have 4 calories per gram, I get to have 575 grams of daily carbs.
- Protein: 4,600 x 1/4 = 1,150 calories per day in protein. Protein, like carbs, has 4 calories per gram, which means I eat about 144 grams of protein per day.
- Fat: 4,600 x 1/4 = 1,150 calories of daily dietary fat. Now, fat has 9 calories for each gram, so I’m allowed 128 grams of fat per day.
Keep in mind that your own ratio and total daily calories may vary. I’d strongly considered halving my own numbers for a normal adult.
If you’re trying to lose weight, subtract about a quarter of your calories. If you’re trying to gain weight, add about 15 percent.
The IIFYM Calculator
Fortunately, the IIFYM calculator can do a lot of the number crunching for you. All you have to do is enter in lifestyle and health information which most other calculators don’t, and you’ll know where your macros need to be.
This calculator factors in things like your work activity, medical conditions, daily routine, and even what sort of cravings you have.
Tracking Your Macros
You still have to do some legwork. You need to track your macros over the course of the day to make sure that your ratio is close to where you need it. Fortunately, using a macro calculator means you only have to look up the grams for protein, fat, and carbs on each label and then input them.
Don’t fret. You’ll quickly memorize the numbers of your favorite or usual meals and even learn how to eyeball portion sizes so you just remember the numbers. I can recite all three for my favorite pizza in my sleep.
Determining Your Own Macro Ratios
The easiest way to determine macro ratios is based on your body weight. I used my own ratio in my example earlier, but it’s not a great fit for everyone.
The first thing you should do is weigh yourself, and be honest about it. You should ideally be getting anywhere from 0.7 to 1 full gram of protein for every pound in your body. Fat would be between 0.25 and 0.4 grams for each pound. The rest gets to be carbs.
Remember, the calculator takes the guesswork out of all of this!
The Advantages Of Calculating Your Macros
First of all, it’s going to be very educational. When you just focus on calories, you can eat anything. You’ll get roughly the same number of calories from 6 ounces of salmon as you would a candy bar. However, it’s looking at macros that shows you which one is more healthy.
Okay, maybe I’ve chosen an obvious example, but you should see how looking at nutritional information in a new light will help you start choosing better foods.
Secondly, you’ll likely lose weight. Following this diet keeps your protein higher, which boosts metabolism.
When you pair a 25 percent reduction in calories with making sure you’re getting enough macronutrients instead of empty calories, you’re going to start dropping pounds.
Third, and this one is my favorite, there are no restricted or forbidden foods. As long as your foods fit your macros, you can balance the healthy with the foods you love. That means enjoyment more than guilt.
Fourth and finally is flexibility. You can eat out when you need to and have anything on the menu by meeting your macro balance or restoring it for the rest of the day.
What I Want You To Take Away From This
IIFYM is a new kind of dieting that offers you a flexible yet effective alternative. Tracking your macros is a lot easier than counting every single calorie, and the IIFYM calculator saves you from having to do the math yourself.
I think you’ll find that it’s an invaluable educational experience and an effective means of weight loss management, thanks in large part to its flexibility and lack of restricted foods.