In the world of health and fitness, many people talk about tracking calories. While calories are important, they don’t offer a complete picture. That’s where counting your macros comes in. Keeping track of your macros may provide you with a better understanding of where your calories come from and could help you achieve your fitness goals. Let’s take a closer look.
The term “macros” — short for macronutrients — comes from the Greek makro, meaning big or large. In essence, macros are nutrients that your body requires in large amounts.
Three main categories of macronutrients make up the calorie content of the foods you eat:
Macros are essential nutrients, meaning your body can’t make them — or can’t make enough of them — on its own. They provide your body with energy or “fuel” to function properly.
Protein breaks down into amino acids, which it uses for a variety of jobs. There are a total of 20 amino acids, nine of which you can only obtain from food. Your body can make the rest.
You can get your protein intake from a range of sources:
Every gram of protein contains four calories.
Most carbohydrates (“carbs”) break down into glucose, the body’s preferred energy source. Other carbohydrates are dietary fiber. Your body doesn’t break these carbs down. Instead, dietary fiber helps you feel fuller longer and promotes healthy digestion.
Sources of carbohydrates include:
Like protein, every gram of carbohydrates has four calories.
The body digests fats into fatty acids, which the body can’t make on its own, and glycerol.
Sources of dietary fat (saturated and unsaturated) include:
Fats have more calories per gram, with nine calories for every gram of fat you consume.
Each macro performs different essential roles in your body, so your diet should include a balance of all three.
So, what exactly do macros do? When you eat them, they break down in the digestive system. Proteins become amino acids. Many carbohydrates become glucose. Fats become fatty acids and glycerol. After they break down, your body uses them for various functions.
Amino acids are building blocks. They’re integral for building, maintaining, and repairing body tissues, including your muscles and bones. They also play a crucial role in many processes within your body, such as hormone and enzyme production and maintaining your body’s acid-base (pH) balance.
Glucose provides energy for your muscles, so it’s crucial for strength and endurance training. It also helps with functions such as temperature maintenance and keeping your heart beating.
The glucose your body doesn’t use right away gets stored in the form of glycogen in the muscles and liver. Your body can then tap into it later when necessary.
Fatty acids are vital for absorbing and transporting fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, and E. They support cell growth and can help you maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Your body stores fat in various locations, using it to insulate and protect your organs. Stored body fat also serves as a reserve energy source, which you turn to after you deplete your glycogen stores.
Keep in mind that many foods consist of more than one macronutrient. For instance, many meats and dairy products have both protein and fat. Combining ingredients into a meal, such as a high-protein macaroni and cheese, can also help ensure you get a mix of all three macronutrients.
Counting macros offers a few benefits:
While you can count calories, that information alone doesn’t tell you anything about your diet’s composition. Tracking your macros, on the other hand, helps you understand what you’re eating. You can see exactly how much of each macronutrient you’re getting every day and make any necessary adjustments to your eating habits.
Too little of any macronutrient can harm your overall health and wellness. Protein deficiency, for instance, can cause changes in your body composition, namely the loss of muscle mass. It can also lead to poor immune function and an increased risk of bone fractures. Not eating enough carbohydrates can cause low energy and weakness. Insufficient fat intake can result in vitamin deficiencies, a weakened immune system, and poor skin health.
If you’re eating enough calories, you might automatically think you’re getting enough of each macronutrient. Tracking your macros, however, could reveal a different story. The information can help you adjust your diet to ensure you consume the macros your body needs for optimal health.
Armed with information about what you’re eating, you can adjust your diet to better align with your fitness or weight loss goals and avoid going over your daily calories. For example, you can increase your protein intake and lower your fat intake to build lean body mass more effectively. Or you can alter your macros to allow for more carbs to boost your endurance.
Tracking macros doesn’t require you to eliminate any foods from your diet. You eat anything you like, such as white cheddar mac and cheese, smoothie bowls, burgers, and even cake, so long as it fits within your macros. That gives you a lot of freedom and flexibility in creating your meal plans. Additionally, macro counting accommodates pretty much every dietary need. Whether you’re vegan or vegetarian, eating keto, or following another diet plan, you can track your macros to achieve your goals.
The general recommendation for macronutrients is as follows:
Your exact macronutrient ratio will depend on you, your activity level, and your fitness objectives. Even then, it isn’t set in stone. You can alter the numbers as your needs — and goals — change.
Let’s look at a quick example. Let’s say you have calorie goals of 2,600 per day and decide on a macro ratio of 50% carbs, 30% protein, and 20% fat. That means you’ll need 1,300 calories from carbs, 780 from protein, and 520 from fat. Breaking that down further, that’s 325 grams of carbs, 195 grams of protein, and 58 grams of fat per day.
If it seems like a lot, don’t worry. There are a few easy ways to count macros that you can use. One option is to keep a manual journal. Or you can invest in a macro tracking app to simplify the process.
Log your food items and portion sizes — a food scale can be helpful here — and add up your macros. At the end of the day, you’ll be able to see if you’re on target or if you need to make adjustments.
When it comes to achieving your macro goals, the right foods make all the difference. And fortunately, you don’t have to sacrifice flavor in your meal plan to do so. Muscle Mac’s High-Protein Macaroni and Cheese products make it just as tasty as it is easy to meet your macros and support your healthy lifestyle. Shop Muscle Mac and satisfy your hunger today!