For the next 38 days (it’s been two days since I started this) I am/will be “counting macros” as a part of my diet/health journey. As my friend Bethany stated quite accurately, it’s a lot “like a living puzzle” – in the way that you are working to piece together a plan for your food to create this ideal ratio (or amounts) of certain macronutrients. The purpose of “counting” macros is to try and achieve a specific goal, such as fat loss, weight gain, or maintenance. Counting Macros could be part of a health directed plan, it can be something to help shed that last stubborn bit of fat, sometimes it’s used by physique competitors and professional athletes, and many more reasons – but no matter the purpose, it can be challenging.
**I am going to interject here to say I am NOT a licensed nutritionist, or anything of the sort. This information is based on my research of the topic and my personal experiences. With any diet or exercise routine – please consult your physician before attempting**
What are macronutrients? In relation to “counting macros” there are three primary groups of “macros”:
There are also micronutrients – like the vitamins and minerals that we ingest – if you’re interested, here’s a little video on the subject of Micro/Macro nutrients.
How much of each do you need? THAT is the question. There’s a LOT that goes into figuring this out, such as:
General Metabolic Rate
CALCULATE – I strongly recommend you see a nutritionist or use an online calculator to help you figure these ratios out – because you can end up doing a LOT of math … unless that’s what you like, and in that case – enjoy! If you don’t want to do a ton of math, give it a google and you’ll find plenty. Here’s one from bodybuilding.com – but I still recommend finding 2 or 3 of them, putting in the numbers and options and then landing somewhere in the middle. There should be a “range” of each macro that you can go between to still achieve your specific goal – so don’t get fixated on the numbers toooooo much.
EAT – The thing about this is you have to eat in order to have something to count! I know we live in an age when skinny seems to be a pervasive marker for “beauty” – but really – eating isn’t going to ruin you. Now that we’ve covered THAT – in preparation for your eating, you may need to start by getting a food scale. I prefer to measure things in grams, but most scales will do ounces or grams. You will need to plan ahead and actually weigh food out – especially in the beginning. It’s easier to flexibly diet/track macros after you’ve done it for a while, but most people (dieting or not) will almost always UNDER estimate the amount of food they are eating … so to get results, you do need to be precise.
*Also – if you work out you NEED to compensate for that so you are not going into TOO deep of a caloric deficit and accidentally starving yourself!
TRACK! – Now – once you have your numbers, you need a way to TRACK. There are a LOT of apps and websites to do this – but I can say that I’ve used “MyFitnessPal” and “Cronometer” – both have their ups and downs but MFP has a lot more “community” in it and the interface is much more about people having support along their journey.
Cronometer is better for those (like me) who don’t need to have a “social” aspect to their logging, they just want to keep track of numbers. Cronometer also doesn’t break it down by category of “breakfast/lunch/snack/dinner” so it can be a little harder to find things in the list of your daily food – but really it does the job.
As I said in the start of this – it’s kind of like a shifting puzzle. I prefer to (during the M-F work week) PRE-plan my meals and snacks and it can get really tough, but fun, to try and figure out where I can have more or less of a specific category, while still meeting my needs for caloric intake. For ME – I am doing this to try and reduce body fat – but at a slow/steady rate, so my calorie deficit is around 300-400 calories per day, but with a lower fat intake. It SOUNDS complicated – but I promise it’s not so bad. I think most of it truly comes down to planning.
By now, I’m sure it’s evident that I ENJOY planning. I like structure, I like routine, and I like to know what’s coming – so I know it’s no surprise that I don’t mind to do this. If you don’t – that’s OK! My experience and my journey are just for me, and they won’t be a fit for anyone else, because I am unique. My body reacts differently to foods, to workouts, to stress, to hormones and more – so don’t try and match me, just try and make your own map for your best health and fitness journey!