If you’re new to the fitness world- or just don’t live there at all- you may have never heard of macros. And what the heck is tracking your macros? It all used to be so super confusing to me too, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature.
Let’s break it down. Your macronutrients aka “macros” are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Each nutrient is found in every food in varying amounts (or sometimes not at all- pork rinds have no carbs!) To lose weight, gain muscle or maintain your body composition- you need to have a general idea of what your ratios are. cIt doesn’t matter if you’re vegan, keto, vegetarian, paleo, or want to eat the “bro diet” with chicken and broccoli… macros matter to everyone.
Counting Calories vs. Counting Macros- What is the difference?
If you go into a calorie deficit, yes, you will likely lose weight. The standard is a 500 calorie deficit per day will lose 1 lb a week. But if you aren’t careful, you can be losing muscle as well. You will also likely feel horrible and have low energy levels if you aren’t eating a good balance of nutrient-dense foods and meeting your macro requirements. Its not just ‘calories in, calories out’ like we’ve all been told a million times.
But how do I track?
There are tons of macro calculators available online, but there’s also an app called My Fitness Pal that is probably most popular for counting macros. This is what I’ve always used and I’ve never really felt the need to go elsewhere. Once you’ve made an account- you set in your statistics and goals. It will preset your macros, but you can always go in and change them if your way of eating is different. Since I personally eat a ketogenic diet, I had to adjust mine to a higher fat ratio.
Each day, or however often you decide to track, you’ll enter in all the food and drink (I skip water) you consume that day- you can scan a barcode or search for the food listing closest to what you’re eating. You can also enter in recipes if you’re eating homemade meals. You will edit the servings (if you’re eating a 4 oz steak, you can select “serving size: 1 oz” and enter 4 servings, or “serving size: 4 oz” and enter 1 serving. There are usually plenty of options for this. It will give you a breakdown of what percentages you’re hitting and how many grams. This can be pretty time consuming if you are really dedicated to tracking. I usually go through phases of dedicated tracking for weeks, and then I won’t track for several months.
Let’s take my personal macros for example. Some may see mine as extreme- and they are. Eating keto is one of the most extreme ways of eating, but the benefits are also extreme. I’m 10 months in of eating this way, and I’ve never had more energy (even with a toddler!), I’ve had no problem with keeping my weight off, my blood work is great, and I’m seeing cognitive benefits that are through the roof. It is amazing.
So the macros I’m using- 5% carbs (20g), 20% protein (78g), and 75% (130g) fat. There is no doubt that’s extreme- but it works because my body makes ketones with that low amount of carbs. I’ve found that I can run just as well off higher carbs- so if I want to add in sweet potato to my dinner one night, it isn’t a problem.
I usually eat the same breakfast every day, so I know my day usually starts off with the same percentages. If I already know what lunch or dinner I’m having, or if I want to eat ice cream that night, I can enter it in early to see where that lands me with the rest of the foods I will need for the day.
Don’t obsess with tracking macros!
Keeping track of your macros can be a great tool for weight loss, but it can cause problems. If you currently have an eating disorder or have had eating disorders in the past, this may not be for you. This is meant to be a guideline, not something to make you miserable or send you into a panic trying to get your numbers perfect! Like I mentioned earlier, I go through phases of tracking.
A word about intuitive eating….
I may do a whole post on this sometime, but I think the opposite of macro tracking is intuitive eating. In a nutshell, it is just how it sounds- letting your body guide your eating. When you’re hungry, you eat. When you’re full, you don’t have to clean your plate. You aren’t looking at your macros, but you still need to have a general idea of what ratios you’d like to be eating. For me, mostly fats, moderate protein, and very little carbs. Pretty simple, and it works for most people living in the maintenance stage.
Hope this helps you have a better understanding of macros! Leave a comment or message me with any questions!