The fitness and nutrition world has had this word on its tongue for some time now: “macros”. You might have only heard of it in passing, though, or you might be curious but unsure where to begin. The subject can be overwhelming for those new to it. However, as with any other aspect of nutrition and dieting, it comes down to discipline and knowing a few tips and tricks to achieve it. Read on to find out more.
What Are Macros?
Short for “macronutrients”, macros are the three sources of caloric content in what you eat:
carbohydrates, fats, and protein.
Carbohydrates are the densest source of energy; simple carbs like sugars break down quickly for a short-term boost of energy, while complex carbs from oats, grains, and vegetables digest more slowly for a sustained supply of energy. Fats provide energy as well as the key components for hormones and other chemicals. Finally, protein is the basis for building and maintaining muscle and other body tissues. Tracking macros separately gives a fuller picture of your diet, since each works differently for you.
Are Macros That Important?
Calories aren’t all there is to nutrition. A proper balance of macros is vital to fulfilling a diet plan. Skipping out on fats or carbs can leave you with low energy or induce hormonal imbalances, while an abundance gets in the way of weight loss. If you miss necessary proteins, you lose muscle mass and could harm your metabolism. While one often learns from experience and estimation, misjudging the macro content of your food is all too easy if you’re just sizing it up at a glance. Learning how to calculate macros helps structure your diet better, as well as illustrating where it could use a little push from supplements if need be.
How to Make Tracking Macros Easier
Calculating and tracking macros begins with budgeting caloric intake and use based on your daily activity and goals. A number of online and mobile apps exist to do the math for you, but generally speaking:
- 1 gram of protein or fat = 4 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrates = 9 calories
Figuring out exactly how much of each macro you need depends on your diet goals – building muscle, adjusting your body shape and weight, getting hormones in control, etc. Each body response to nutrition differently, so research and expert advice are critical here.
From there, set targets for proteins and fats first, since these macros do more than just provide energy, then put the rest in carbs. Again, calculator apps are your friend here. Also, planning ahead for daily menus when you can make for easier tracking than trying to tally it up after the fact.
Diligence Is Key
You already know this if you’re already dieting, but it’s worth saying again: the most important part of good nutrition is making it a habit, and that goes for tracking macros too. At the same time, though, you can’t control every meal out with friends, and even the best need a snack occasionally. Don’t stress when life doesn’t follow the numbers perfectly, especially when you’re just starting out – keep your goal in sight and you’ll see results in time.