Counting macros is a way to track food intake using grams of protein, carbs, and fats (macronutrients) instead of calories. The advantage of focusing on macronutrients over calories is that it tells you a bit more about the quality of your food, and how it affects your body. The disadvantage of tracking macros is that you must plan, measure, and record everything you eat.
Macros, or macronutrients, are large groups of nutrients. There are three main macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Most foods and beverages are made up of a combination of these three macronutrients. But many foods have one dominant macronutrient that provides most of the calories.
- Brown rice is mostly carbohydrates but also has a bit of protein and fat.
- Cashews are mostly fat but also contain protein and a bit of carb.
- Lean chicken breast is mostly protein but also contains some fat.
Each macronutrient provides a certain number of calories:
- 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
As a result, tracking macros means you’re automatically tracking calories. Macronutrients can impact how you feel, perform, and even behave.
Your macronutrient ratio (also called your “macronutrient split”) refers to how much of each macronutrient you’re eating. For most people, a good split is 35 percent protein, 35 percent carbohydrates, and 30 percent fat. I generally calculate protein on body weight goals :1g per pound of ideal body weight for women with a max of 150g. Same for men with a max of 200g. You can absolutely eat more protein than this but I tend to set my numbers to what I think people can also functionally sustain. Then I calculate 30% fat and the rest is carbs. So a 150# goal for a person in a gentle weight loss state might calculate to 150g protein, 50g fat and 112 carbs for a total of 1500 calories. 600 calories from protein, 450 calories from fat and 448 calories from carbs. If you are new to this, just use 35% of total calories. Determining your calories can vary-for most women in a weight loss phase (if you have not been chronically dieting-which in that case I’ll want you to eat MORE calories until your metabolism is ready to lose weight) is about 1400-1700 calories total. Age and activity levels as well as other factors come into play that I won’t get into during this blog but if you want to take my full Macronutrient Magic course you can find that HERE.
Hit your macros primarily through a variety of minimally processed whole foods, or course. Not bars, crackers, cookies, applesauce, packaged yogurts etc.
How do I measure my food?
Use a food scale for the best results. People tend to overestimate what a “tablespoon” or “cup” looks like, sometimes unintentionally doubling their portion. Cooking certain foods like grains, pasta, and meat, can change their weight and volume. So, if you measure a food raw, log it raw. If you measure it cooked, log it cooked. Consistency will get you the results you want.
- Provides 4 kcals/g
- Converted to glucose
- Both simple and complex carbs have important roles - there are no bad foods
- Inadequate intake of CHO can impair athletic performance and rehabilitation
- Our best sources of dietary fiber - essential for gut health and more
- Food sources: Starches, fruit, veggies
- Building blocks of muscle, cells, and hormones, etc.
- Provides 4 kcals/g
- Commonly under consumed
- Inadequate intake leads to catabolism of muscle for essential amino acids,
regardless of body fat percentage and intake of other macronutrients.
- Optimal distribution of protein at every meal to achieve adequate overall intake
and utilization for tissue repair and maintenance.
- Food sources: Meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs
- Essential for optimal functioning of biochemical processes, absorption of fat- soluble nutrients, cushioning, and overall health and wellbeing
- Provides 9 kcals/g
- Inadequate fat intake (less than 20% of calories) may inhibit hormone production.
- Food sources: animal products, oils, whole milk dairy, seeds, nuts
How to manage macros when you are tracking to hit your numbers
- Egg whites
- Turkey breast
- Chicken breast
- Pork tenderloin
- Turkey jerky
- Soy / tofu
- Canned tuna in water
- Mung bean pasta
- Cod / flounder
- Bone broth
- Beef jerky
- Chia seeds
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Coconut milk
- 90% dark chocolate
- Nut butter
- Sesame oil
Need Carbs and Fat
- Fruit & nut butter
- Peanut butter & banana
- Avocado toast
- Fried plantains in oil
Need Carbs and Protein
- Oats & yogurt & protein powder
- Protein shakes & fruit
- Egg whites & potatoes
- Quinoa or wild rice
Need Protein and Fat
- Nut butter
- Eggs, egg yolks
- Canned oysters / sardines
- Bacon / pork belly
- Plain whole yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Chicken thighs with skin
- Salmon, fatty fish
Using the macros breakdown, you’ve created; you can start building a menu! Think PROTEIN, CARB, and FAT with each meal! Stay tuned for my 3 facebook lives this month. Each live will be dedicated to either fat, carbs, or a protein focus.
Keep Moving Forward 😊 Sarah