Counting Macros is very popular in the health and fitness world, but what exactly does counting your macros even mean?
The term “macros” refers to the macronutrients in each meal to reach your daily target goals. Similar to counting calories, but this is more specific to the types of foods, not just their caloric content. Traditionally, counting macros has been limited to the fitness industry to reach specific goals aligned with a regimented exercise program. However, if you ask me, counting macros should replace counting calories in regard to traditional weight loss plans since calories are not all digested the same way.
So if you want to count something on your plate, counting macros is a much better idea than counting calories.
Macronutrients encompass the major food groups needed on a daily basis for survival, which includes PROTEINS, FATS, and CARBS. You need all of these essential nutrients for optimal health and longevity.
Proteins (4 cal/g) are amino acids in various formations. Protein is essential not only for muscles, but also for bones, skin, and cartilage health. Having an adequate intake of dietary protein helps to maintain and build lean muscle mass, promotes a healthy weight by curbing hunger, and aids in recovery by boosting cellular repair. Proteins, although they do stimulate insulin, it’s a smaller amount of insulin compared to carbohydrates. Protein takes longer to digest and even burns more calories just by digesting high-protein foods.
Fats (9 cal/g) are high in calories and are composed of fatty acids and glycerol. Healthy dietary fats are mono/polyunsaturated fats and omegas. Unhealthy fats consist of saturated and trans fats. Once ingested fats are broken down by bile from the liver and digestive enzymes (lipase) from the pancreas. Contrary to protein and carb digestion, many fats absorb into the lymphatic system and eventually into the bloodstream. However, some fats, like medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream and then diverted to the liver, while long-chain triglycerides take longer to break down. Dietary fats can also be used as an energy source as they are converted into ketones by the liver when glucose is in short supply.
Carbs (4 cals/g) are the primary source of energy and are in the form of sugars, starches, or fiber. Carbs are made from either individual simple sugars or linked together forming a starch bonded by fiber, some of which is undigestable. Although fiber is a type of carbohydrate, for the purposes of counting macros, it’s typically focused on carbs from whole grains, oats, and quinoa as an energy source. However, complex carbohydrates, like fiber, should also include beans, legumes, and other vegetables.
Personally, I feel that WATER should also be added to this list of Macros. Being well hydrated is underrated. Did you know that you should at least be drinking a 1/2 gallon a day of water? That’s 4-6 water bottles daily for the average adult. According to the National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, the daily recommended intake for water is:
- Men: 3.7 L (125 oz) = 7 bottles (16.9oz) of water, basically a gallon of water
- Women: 2.7 L (91 oz) = 5 bottles (16.9oz) of water, more than 1/2 a gallon of water
Many of us don’t even come close to that mark, which is why I think you should track your water intake as well.
So, let’s just add water to your macro list.
Now, let’s get to the good part of how to determine and count your macros!
How to Count Macros
Macros are scaleable to your goals, which allows for diversity in dietary approaches for weight management. This means that your goals should determine your macros. However, your basal metabolic rate (BMR) also plays a role here. Your BMR is the number of calories you burn a day while at rest. Breathing, digesting food, pumping blood, and temperature regulation all require calories to work. How many calories you burn in a day, workout aside is your BMR, which is important to know when determining your macros.
- Here’s a sample: You can break it down by percent, like protein 10-35%, carbs 45-65%, and fats 25-35% for your daily calories. Everyone’s macros will be different depending on their individual goals.
I like to keep it simple so using a tool to calculate my numbers is how I like to keep track of my nutrition. Here’s my secret! First, calculate your BMR using this BMR calculator. Next, calculate your macros using this Macro Calculator. I like these ones because you can be more accurate based on your physical activity level and your weight goals.
To get an idea of how these numbers translate into your meals it’s best to visualize what your total calories and macros look like in a daily meal plan. Even if you don’t want to follow a meal plan, I suggest you plug your numbers into this tool for a FREE customizable meal plan based on your goals and food preferences. You can even choose a specific diet like vegan or paleo. This is a great tool especially if you’re just starting out or even if you want to spice up your routine. By clicking on the calorie button under “today’s meal plan” you can edit your target goals and tailor your meal plan to total YOUR macro intake. It’s amazing and easy! Plus you also get directions for meals and a complete ingredient list, Bonus!
Remember this is not 100% accurate and should be used to guide you, but it’s important to go by how your body feels and not force anything. Keep it simple! I can’t stress this enough. This should be an enjoyable process so if it feels like work, it won’t be sustainable.
There are plenty of apps and calculations to help you with this. For me, I find many to be overwhelming to tally up my food into a calculation as I’m eating it. You just have to find what works for YOU! If seeing the numbers keeps you accountable, track it! If it’s too much work, find an easier method.
Also, there are plenty of ways to get these calculations so feel free to use one that you trust.
Now that you’re all set planning out your macro meals for home dining, check out these tips on How to Eat Healthy at Restaurants.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat any health conditions without consulting your healthcare provider. Information used is based on experience and opinion, not 100% evidence. Always consult with a health care practitioner before relying on any information in this article or on this website.