If you’ve been quite a while in fitness, you should be heard of macros counting. Same as calorie counting, it helps you achieve your goal in an accountable way. You’ll get an idea of how actually your diet looks like despite its calorie content.
When it comes to body recomposition, eating according to macro is way better than just tracking calories.
However, tracking macros is daunting for beginners.
As a person that has zero knowledge about nutrition before, I admit that calculating macros really possess a steep learning curve for beginners. But afraid not, the basics of macros doesn’t as difficult as you imagine and with this step by step guide, you’ll be good to go.
Continue reading to find out!
What is macros?
Macro refer to the short form of ‘macronutrients’, which is a common term that we usually heard of– carb, protein and fat. These are the three basic components of every diet.
Every food is just the compliance with these three macronutrients.
These three macronutrients play different roles in maintaining the body’s structure and systems.
Carb is the main fuel for our body to function. The energy that we need could be range from the bigger amount, from the energy we need to lifting heavyweight, running, even sitting, to a considerably smaller scale such as breathing and digesting. It all relies on the energy provided by carbs.
Protein has to do with repairing and building tissue. Most of us only associate protein with ‘muscle’. That’s partially true. Protein does help build muscle tissue. However, it’s far more than that. Down to a micro-scale in our body, all the tissues in our organs, cell membrane, even our hair and blood is formed with the presence of protein.
Fat as the ‘glycerol’, is essential for our body in order to let everything work. Let’s say you had consumed enough protein and carbs, but without fat, your body won’t function as well as you expected. It insulation your organs, at the same time help your body absorb any required micronutrients (vitamins, iron, zinc etc.)
How are macros calculated?
The calories in food come from macronutrients.
Every macronutrient has calories, no matter which macro type it is. The difference is just fat have higher calories in each gram compared with carbs and protein.
Carbs: 4kcal per gram
Protein: 4 kcal per gram
Fat: 9 kcal per gram
It is the amount of the macronutrient in food that determines how many calories it has. And will not run far from the data above.
Note that the macronutrient does refer to food type. I’ve heard people keep referring rice=carbs, egg=protein, cheese=fat.
This is partially correct, however, you need to know the three macronutrients that can be found at any food. A certain food group doesn’t directly represent one macronutrient. Rice is just dense in carbs, but it also content protein but the protein content is lesser.
Most of the food would have one macronutrient dominant. For instance pasta, it’s carb dominant, lean meat is protein dominant, so is butter. But it doesn’t mean rice does not have any protein or fat. That is just because the protein amount in rice is just too inferior and often sometimes we don’t take it into consideration.
Sometimes I had overheard people having a conversation about “Protein have zero/lower calories’, or ‘eat orange because it has zero calories.
None of this is true.
Let’s take the most protein dense food–egg white, as example 100g of egg white contains 10 grams of protein, with almost no carbs and fat. But it still has 184 calories. Does egg white have zero calories? Of course not. It does have calories, and almost all of them comes from protein.
So as orange, orange consists of almost carbs. But because there are only 13 grams in 100gram of orange, it results in lower calories, which is 43kcal per 100 grams of orange.
From the explanation above, I hope you could understand what macros actually is, and how do calories actually come from.
Ways to calculate Macros
I know, for a beginner to start your first step to track macros is hard. Although I had explained how calories are calculated. However, when it comes to reactical practise, o track macfros in every food you ate and is time-consuming.
I bet that you don want to grab a calculator and record your macro every single time you eat. That isn’t fun. And life should be easier.
These are three steps you can do to make your life easier and start tracking macros.
Step 1: Macros App
There are plenty of macros apps available out there, just head on your application store to download some. You might need to try out a few to find out the one that is most suitable for you. Here are some macro apps that are recommended the most.
- My Macros
Then you log in and key in your details(weight, height, activity levels goals etc.) Then the apps will provide your daily macros and total calories.
You are still free to make some adjustments based on your own preference. But as a beginner, try to not make too much alignment for the macro ratio. Just stick to the general recommendation and you will soon figure out the ratio that works most for you.
Step 2: Start on weighting food
To make the most out of your macros diet, start weighing food in order to get the most accurate macros.
I know you might think that using visuals is more convenient and effortless.
It’s me recently, been there, done that. I will search for portion size images as a reference. But sometimes the images that you saw on google doesn’t really give an idea of how big that food portion is.
The more preferable way is, to weigh that food for once yourself. Then take photos for future reference. In this way, you can really feel the weight and see it. Then when you eat the same food next time, you are more clear of how much that portion of food really is.
Over time, you would more familiar with the portion size of the food through training.
The common unit of food is gram(g) and ounce(oz), and liquid would be measured by its volumes such as ml or cup. For rice, noodles that are uncountable, measuring with cup as a unit is more convenient.
If you have a standard size bowl that is equivalent to 1 cup, use it.
Also, take note that both cooked and raw food weigh different. Most of the packaged food like instant noodles, rice, mushrooms etc weigh lighter in raw. You just need to be consistent with the corresponding data that you are tracking.
Step 3: Get familiar with Nutrition fact labels
Although your macros tracking apps is doing the heavy work on calculating the macros for you. However, I recommended you get familiar with the nutrition fact label.
For a certain food that isn’t universal or is custom made, such as your own recipe, you might need to look for its nutrition label. Because different brands of food has different nutrition content, and you will be surprised by how huge the difference is.
In my early stage of tracking macros, my google search is full of ‘cheese nutrition fact’, ‘apple nutrition fact’, white rice nutrition fact’. I usually will keep the record of 100g for future reference. That is because almost every food label will be stated in 100g. It is easier to make the comparison when you are required to choose among similar foods.
Another benefit to getting familiar with nutrition facts is, it makes you a smarter eater. After you are familiar with Nutrition Facts. You will make a better food choice instead of looking at mere calories.
Step 4: Filling up your macros.
According to your daily nutrition requirement, you don’t want to be in severe deficit or surplus. Fuel your day according to the recommended macro ratio.
When you add up all the food that you eat in a day, you get your macros. An effective macros dieting is to eat a balanced proportion of macronutrients that you need according to your goal.
There is something I need to remind you. Although you already eating with macros, you still need to be aware of your total calories.
In macro dieting, we still do look at calories. According to your goal (deficit for cutting and surplus for bulking), your daily calories might need to be higher or lower than your maintenance. Therefore you need to make sure you follow that amount, at the same time eat with the balance macro within the calories.
Calories still are the main key to achieving the physique you want, secondary of it would be macros.
As I said, every calorie is not the same. When we were just thinking of ‘eating low-calorie food’, we did not consider whether that food has the right macros that balance out our nutrition?
Also, high-calorie food doesn’t mean it is bad. You need to look at your diet as a whole, and figured out what is left out and what needs to be reduced.
Every macronutrient is important and should not be treated just barely as ‘calories’. in macros dieting, we emphasize the balance of three macronutrients throughout your day in the right ratio.
No healthy diet should exclude or seriously restrict any macronutrient.BY HEATHER ALEXANDER