If you’ve done any research at all about trying to lose weight or build muscle you’ve likely come across the idea of macro counting for your nutrition success.
Macro based diets are really common, and variations of macro-based diets have been in and out of the fitness industry for over a decade now.
And there’s a reason they’ve been popular for so long and still continue to be – IT WORKS!
The reality of it is that no matter what diet you end up choosing you can break down why it works in terms of macros/calories to some degree. Whether you make use of them purposefully or not, they’re still there helping you change your physique.
That’s why I’m going to break it all down for you today: why they work, what they are, and how you can implement it for yourself!
What Are Macros?
Before we get into setting up your macro diet, let’s actually understand what they are first.
Macros are short for Macronutrients. As the name suggests, these are the big nutrients that makeup all the calories you consume – aka every calorie you eat comes from Macronutrients. There are 3 different Macronutrients: Protein, Carbohydrates (Carbs), and Fats.
As we know, having the right calorie balance is the biggest determinant of physical change. If you want to lose weight, you need to be in a caloric deficit (burn more calories than you eat). If you want to maintain weight, you need to be in caloric maintenance (burn equal calories as you eat). Lastly, if you want to gain weight you need to be in a caloric surplus (burn fewer calories than you eat).
So what role do macros play if managing your calorie balance is what really matters?
As I mentioned before, macros are what your calories are made of!
So if you manage your macros you also manage your calorie intake.
You have an extra advantage when you manage your macros though because with the right proportion of macros you can maintain (or build) muscle, improve your strength, have more energy, improve your hormonal health, improve your digestion, and so much more!
That first starts with understanding what role each of the macros plays in your body:
Protein: 1g of Protein = 4 Calories Protein is primarily used for tissue repair across the whole body. It’s an essential nutrient – meaning it’s required for you to eat to live. It’s also the most satiating nutrient, has the highest thermic effect of food, helps build/maintain muscle mass, supports recovery, and is the most difficult to be stored as fat. Here’s a more in-depth article on protein so you can learn more.
Carbohydrates: 1g of Carbs = 4 Calories Carbs are the primary source of energy in the body. If you’re looking to improve your strength, training performance, or any other work output, an adequate amount of carbs are needed. This means that your brain and body use carbs to support your nervous system, muscular system, and cognitive function (that’s right, your brain uses carbs to think). They also help improve thyroid function, metabolic systems, and hormonal output. Learn more about Carbs here.
Fats: 1g of Fat = 9 Calories The fats you eat are different from the kind that’s stored in your body – so don’t avoid them because they’re necessary! Like protein, fats are also an essential nutrient. They play a big role in supporting your hormonal system, nervous system, inflammation (especially joints), and are also used as a secondary energy source after carbs.
If I were to describe each in a few words it would be: Protein helps us recover, Carbs help us perform, and Fats help us live longer.
What Advantages Does Tracking Macros Have?
Why I’m glad you asked! There’s a number of reasons why tracking macros will help you reach your goals better than any other type of tracking. It’s also why we use it with most of our clients to help them get the body of their dreams.
One of the biggest flaws that come with “one size fits all” meal plans, fad diets,and diet programs is that they fail to account for individualization.
You are a unique person. You have different caloric needs, transformation goals, training style, metabolic history/makeup, health conditions, food intolerances, food preferences, timeline, social life, and more!
It doesn’t make sense to have you follow the same exact plan as someone else because you both are completely different individuals that require an individualized nutrition plan to match! Macro tracking delivers just that – a way to help you manage your calorie intake to get you to your goal while customizing it to work for you and your lifestyle!
This is a central principle in our coaching program. The reason most people fail with their diets is that they are over-restrictive with their food choices and think that they need to only eat healthy foods to hit their goals – when that isn’t true at all!
As I mentioned earlier, as long as you manage your calorie intake you’ll be able to create a significant physical change. Of course, we don’t just want to create a physical change. We want to be healthier and feel better too – not just look better. Because what use is fitting in size 4 jeans if you don’t have any energy at all and constantly have joint pain.
That’s where macros come in. We set certain targets for you to hit with your protein, carbs, and fats. As long as you can hit those marks, you’ll be making progress toward your goals.
That means you can have freedom with your food choices as long as you can hit those goals!
You can have eggs, chicken, potatoes, donuts, almonds, chocolate, and a salad in your day and still make progress!
This also opens the door for flexibility with your healthy food options as well. You don’t need to eat chicken and white rice every day to hit your protein – you can switch it up to be fish, turkey, steak, eggs, or whatever you feel like having that day.
Macros are how you can make your diet fit for you instead of against you!
The more you train, the more carbs you’ll likely need.
The more sedentary you are, the fewer carbs you’ll likely need.
The more muscle you have, the more carbs you’ll need to maintain muscle mass.
As we now know, Carbs are your main source of fuel. The more work that you demand from your body, the more carbs you’ll need to fuel that performance. Carbs are what get you to be faster, stronger, and more explosive in your training; and the faster, stronger, and more explosive you are the more fat you’ll burn, and the more muscle you’ll build!
If you like foods that are high in carbs, it just doesn’t make sense to put you on a no/low carb plan, does it?
Because you might stick to that no/low carb plan for a little while, but after some time you’ll want to get back to eating carbs again. This means you wouldn’t be able to stick to this plan for the long term and that just leads to rebounding in weight.
Nobody wants to just lose weight for a little while, you want to lose weight and KEEP IT OFF!
That starts with following a plan that YOU enjoy and YOU can follow for the long run.
So if you jump into a diet/macro split that doesn’t feel right or is hard for you to stick to then switches it up for something that you can adhere to for the long haul.
Numbers Don’t Lie
Just like having a budget or making investments – money doesn’t lie. Well, macros are like your nutritional currency. It’s our way of tracking, recording, and analyzing the metrics that create a physical change.
This makes the process of your transformation more predictable and removes the guesswork that comes with losing weight. It won’t just determine why something is working for you but also why something isn’t working for you too! This opens the door to make adjustments that can help you break through plateaus and push to your ideal weight!
You’re not going to be tracking forever – that’s not the goal.
The goal is to have you track so you can gain a better understanding of what you’re eating, what kind of macros make up those foods, what the best portion sizes for you look like, and what kind of foods you should incorporate into your day.
You can’t accurately gauge what that looks like without first taking the time to track foods properly and gain that experience.
How Can I track?
Lucky for us, food tracking has never been easier. There are a number of food tracking apps that you can download to help you monitor your calories/macros. The app I recommend for tracking is MyFitnessPal, there are just a few things to keep in mind when tracking:
- Not all data in MyFitnessPal is accurate, so don’t just pick the first thing you see.
- Make sure to log how you measure your food. If you use measuring cups log measuring cups. If you weighed your foods make sure you match the same measuring unit (g or oz). Using a food scale is most accurate when it comes to macro tracking.
- Restaurant macros aren’t the most reliable, but they are a good general gauge of what you’re eating. Make sure to round up whatever they say so you can overestimate your intake.
- You don’t have to hit your macros spot on! You can be a few (5-10) grams off in either direction with any macro and be good for the day.
How Can I Find Out My Ideal Macro Prescription?
Lucky for you, I have just the resource for that. Download your free copy of my Ebook The Nutrition Manual. This is where I walk you through the entire process step by step so you can learn exactly what your ideal macros should be for your goal! Get your free copy here.