You may have heard of this new diet strategy called “counting macros,” or “If It Fits Your Macros,” which is often accompanied by pictures of bodybuilders chowing down on donuts and svelte athletes enjoying bowls of frozen yogurt. How in the world is this possible?! The answer is: macros.
The science of counting macros (short for macronutrients) is based on the theory that feeding your body is more about quantity than quality. By eating the proper amounts of foods, you can achieve better results in fat loss and muscle gain. This means combining different amounts of macronutrients per meal or per day to reach a certain number overall.
What are macros?
Macros are the three main components of food- carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Alcohol is also a macronutrient, but acts differently in the body and is not factored into this breakdown. When you count macros, rather than counting calories you will be counting the grams of carbohydrates, protein and fat in your food. The macros in your food can be found easily on package labels or online.
- Carbs = 4 calories per gram
- Protein = 4 calories per gram
- Fat = 9 calories per gram
How many macros should you be eating?
To calculate the number of macros you should be taking in each day, you first need to calculate how many calories you should be consuming per day. There are many methods to doing this, but the easiest way to use an online calculator like this one from the Mayo Clinic.
Now, it’s time to grab a pen and paper because we’re taking you back to math class, with Dr. Mike.
As a starting point, take your total number of calories and divide it into three parts:
- 40% Carbohydrates
- 30% Protein
- 30% Fat
For someone with a total of 2,000 calories per day, this would break down as:
- 800 calories of carbohydrates
- 600 calories of protein
- 600 calories of fat
Let’s refer back to our “What are macros?” section where we stated that carbs = 4 cals/gram, protein = 4 cals/gram, and fats = 9 cals/gram. This is what we’ll use to determine exactly how many grams of each macronutrient we need to consumer. Divide each number of calories per macros by the number of calories per gram. This is your starting point – from here, you can adjust the percentage of carbs, protein and fats based on how your body reacts. Some people benefits from less fat, more protein, and so on.
- 800 (calories) ÷ 4 (calories per gram) = 200 grams of carbohydrates
- 600 (calories) ÷ 4 (calories per gram) = 150 grams of protein
- 600 (calories) ÷ 9 (calories per gram) ≅ 67 grams of fat
200 C / 150 P / 67 F
Congratulations, you’ve calculated your macros!
How do you count macros?
When you first begin tracking your macros, you may find the math to be a bit overwhelming. Not to worry, with the right tools and a bit of practice you’ll be able to fit your macros in your sleep! The first thing you’ll need are measuring tools.
- Escali Arti Glass Digital Kitchen Scale: No macro-counter is complete without a digital scale. This one measures ounces, fluid ounces, grams, milliliters and pounds.
Oneida 4-pc. Stainless Steel Measuring Cup Set: Heavy duty stainless steel can hold up to the many measurements you’ll make.
OXO® Good Grips® Measuring Spoons: For those smaller measurements, these spoons will stay safely in hand with a durable grip design.
Next, you’ll need your method of tracking. Many people use an app like MyFitnessPal, but some even use good old fashioned pen and paper! Find whatever works for you.
How do you fill your macros?
Whatever you choose to eat, that’s up to you! However, your body does still need vitamins and minerals. It’s important to continue feeding your body whole foods instead of surviving solely on Pop Tarts as a carbohydrate source. Practice the 80/20 rule, with 80% of your foods coming from whole, healthy sources, and 20% for the fun stuff.