Macronutrients are what make up the caloric content of a food.
Sometimes referred to as “macros,” the three categories of macronutrients are carbohydrates, fat, and protein. The caloric combination of the macros is where that mysterious total number of calories comes from. Here’s the breakdown: They are found in all foods in varying amounts, measured in grams (g) on the nutrition labels.
- Fat provides 9 calories per gram
- Protein provides 4 calories per gram
- Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram
So it’s not about how many calories are in your food, but what kind of calories are in your food. Even if you set a strict calorie limit and stick to it, you could be eating total garbage and not getting the nutrients you need.
If you eat less calories than you burn, you will likely lose weight. But counting calories can only tell you so much; if you’re not careful and don’t eat the right calories, you’ll likely lose muscle too! To maintain, lose or even gain weight, many people rely on counting macros to make sure they’re eating correctly. 100 calories of chicken (protein) is a lot better than 100 calories of a doughnut (carbs).
What are the benefits of ditching your calorie-counting ways? For starters, you can indulge with a little less guilt.
When counting macros, you simply add up how many grams of fat, protein and carbs you ate that day.
Let’s take an example: If you ate oreos and wanted to calculate your macros for that, you would first determine how many servings you ate. If the serving size is 2 and you ate 4, you would multiply every number on that label by 2. You would have eaten 10g of fat, 26g of carbs, and 1g of protein in that snack. In your log, you would then add all your grams of carbs, protein and fat up to a total so far. By seeing your macros visually, you can easily tell when you’re running a little high in carbs and know when to slow down.
Your optimal macronutrient intake depends on many different factors- your age, gender, weight, BMI and activity level. To best determine what you should be eating, you’d need to decide what “diet” to follow. Every diet is different.
Should you count calories or macros?
Ideally, you should track macros because your macros make up your calories. In the end, as long as you create a negative energy balance, that’s all that matters.
The biggest thing to consider when trying to decide if you should take on a macros based diet is if you will take the time to track everything you eat. If you can’t commit to tracking your food, macros plans may not be right for you. Every person has a different macronutrient range that they need to achieve, and no two people respond the same way. This is something huge to consider as there is no one size fits all cookie cutter diet with macros.
Macros are great for flexibility in dieting. You can follow the old 80/20 rule and consume 80% perfect clean foods, and leave yourself some room for treats like those oreos I mentioned earlier!
Now that you know what macros are, stay tuned for how to calculate your macros, and more info. on why counting macros is really the secret to long lasting great physiques!