The media is full of messages telling us to count calories if we want to get anywhere with our fitness goals. However, those who practise fitness follow a different message, count macros.
What are macros?
Macro is the shorthand term for macronutrients. These are the three main food groups that our bodies recognise and use to get energy. Carbohydrates are primarily used to fuel our bodies throughout the day. Fats keep you full and satiated. Finally, Protein helps to build and repair your muscles.
Counting macros puts focus on getting the correct balance of these key food groups which improves your ability to burn fat and build lean muscle. So, why count macros instead of calories? Each calorie is not created equally, which is why many calorie focused diets fail. The body will process a calorie of carbohydrates differently to a calorie of fat. By choosing which type of calorie you put into your body, you choose the way the body handles it.
A macro controlled diet uses ratios to calculate the amount of each food group you should be consuming. Choosing your ratios depends on what your fitness goal is, bodybuilding will have a higher amount of protein compared to someone who is focusing on endurance cardio, who will instead have a higher amount of carbs. A good starting point is 40% carbs, 30% fat, and 30% protein. The percentages/ratios refer to where your calories should from. From here, you can begin tweaking your ratios until you find the perfect one which suits your lifestyle and goals.
Why counting macros is the way forward
Unlike traditional diets, counting macros lets you still enjoy all the same food, as long as it fits into your daily allowance. This can be a huge factor in increasing motivation and ensuring the success of your lifestyle change. Instead of focusing on the bad foods and the good foods, macro counting allows you to just focus on the three main food groups in the same way the body does.
Now you know why macros can help you achieve exactly what you want, follow the steps below to calculate your macros.
Step 1 – Calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
To calculate your BMR, you will need your weight in pounds, your height in inches, and your age. Just plug these numbers into the equation below to calculate the rate your body uses energy to survive.
BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age)
BMR = 66 + (6.2 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 × height in inches) – (6.76 × age)
Step 2 – Calculate your Recommended Calorie Intake (RCI)
Now you know how quickly your body uses energy, you can calculate the number of calories it needs to remain at its current weight. Choose your activity level from the information below and use it in the following equation.
Little or no activity, desk job: 1.2
Light exercise, 1-3 times per week: 1.375
Moderate exercise, 3-5 times per week: 1.55
Heavy exercise, 6-7 times per week: 1.725
RCI = BMR x Activity Level
Note: If you’re trying to lose weight, deduct a maximum of 500 calories from your RCI. Do NOT go below a total of 1200 calories for women or 1500 calories for men.
Step 3 – Calculate your Macros
The ratios you choose to calculate your macros depends on your fitness goals. A good starting point is the 40% 30% 30% ratio. In order to calculate how many grams of Protein, Carbs, and Fat you need, you need to know how many calories are in each gram.
Protein: 4 calories per gram
Fat: 9 calories per gram
Carbs: 4 calories per gram
Now that you have all of the information you need, use the equation below to calculate the amount of protein, carbs, and fat you should aim for each day.
Grams = RCI x (percent/calories per gram)
Things to keep in mind
Counting macros is not an excuse to eat lots of junk food because it fits your macros.We need more than just these macros in our life, we also need micronutrients, such as vitamins. This means you still need to eat healthy the majority of the time to get your body to its peak healthiness.