Macros – What Are They and Should You Track Them

If you belong to a gym, follow a fitness programme or check out a fitness influencer’s Instagram once in a while, chances are, that you have heard of macros. But why are macros so important, and should we track them?

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What are macros?

Macros or macronutrients are divided into three: carbohydrates, fats and protein.

Carbohydrates typically make up the largest portion of people’s calorie intake. Carbs are a good source of fast energy to fire your brain and muscles. Acceptable macronutrient distribution range for carbohydrates is normally 45–65% of total calories. Carbohydrate-containing foods include grains, vegetables, fruits, pulses, nuts, seeds, and milk products. Carbohydrate foods are also an important source of fibre and other nutrients. Carbs provide 4 calories per gram.

Fats have the most calories of all macronutrients. Your body needs fat for energy and critical functions, such as hormone production, nutrient absorption and body temperature maintenance. Typical macronutrient recommendations for fats range from 20–35% of total calories. Fats are found in foods like oils, butter, avocado, nuts, meat and fatty fish. Fats provide 9 calories per gram.

Proteins are vital for processes like cell signalling, immune function and the building of tissues, hormones and enzymes. It is recommended that proteins comprise 10–35% of your total calorie intake. However, protein recommendations vary depending on body composition goals, age, health and more. Examples of protein-rich foods include eggs, poultry, fish, tofu and lentils. Like carbs, proteins provide 4 calories per gram. 

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For beginners all this could be rather confusing and learning how to track macronutrients does take some effort, but the following steps will get you started.

Figure out Your Calorie Needs

In order to calculate your overall calorie needs, you need to determine your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).                                                                                                            In order to determine your overall calorie needs, you can  use the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation:

Men: calories/day = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5

Women: calories/day = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161 

Then, multiply your result by an activity factor — a number that represents different levels of activity:

Sedentary: x 1.2 (limited exercise, sedentary work) 

Lightly active: x 1.375 (light exercise less than three days per week, sedentary work) 

Moderately active: x 1.55 (moderate exercise 3-4 days per week) 

Very active: x 1.725 (strenuous exercise 4-6 days per week, physical labour)

Extra active: x 1.9 (strenuous exercise at least 6 days per week, hard physical labour)

The end result gives you your TDEE. 

Calories can either be added or subtracted from your total expenditure in order to reach different goals. In other words, those trying to lose weight should consume fewer calories than they expend (max -500, ideally -150/ -200), while those looking to gain muscle mass should increase calories.

Decide Your Ideal Macronutrient Breakdown

After determining how many calories to consume each day, the next step is to decide what macronutrient ratio works best for you.

Typical macronutrient recommendations are as follows:

  • Carbs: 45–65% of total calories
  • Fats: 20–35% of total calories
  • Proteins: 10–35% of total calories

Keep in mind that these recommendations may not fit your specific needs. Your ratio can be fine-tuned in order to achieve specific objectives. For example, a person who wants to obtain better blood sugar control and lose excess body fat may excel on a meal plan consisting of 35% carbs, 30% fats and 35% protein

Also, counting macros is essential for people who need to consume specific amounts of macronutrients in order to boost performance and gain lean body mass. For example, research shows that resistance-trained athletes may need as much as 1.4 grams of protein per pound (3.1 grams per kg) of body weight per day to maintain muscle mass.

It is Time to Start Tracking Your Macros

The term “tracking macros” simply means logging the foods you eat on a website, app or food journal. There are a lot of free macro tracking apps to help you log your food, or you could just make it easy on yourself and get a meal plan , where macros are already counted for you.

Also, all these numbers still have you confused; we can calculate this for you:                                                                             

Choose Whole Foods to Fuel Your Body

If you are in a calorie deficit, you will lose weight no matter what, however, if you want the weight loss to be sustainable and fuel your body, it DOES matter whether you eat a packet of gummy bears or a balanced healthy colourful meal. 

Unhealthy foods may still fit into your macros and calories — so it is important to make healthy food a priority. Counting macros can focus your attention on food quality in addition to calorie content and even if, at first, it takes a lot of effort, before you know it, counting macros will feel natural.

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