Learn how you can use macros for weight loss. It may be a little overwhelming at first, but learning to count macros can improve your understanding of nutrition and how your body responds to it.
Does it fit your macros? What are macros? And why do they need to be counted? Let’s talk about what macro-nutrients are, macros for weight loss, and calculating macros for yourself.
What are Macros?
Macros is a short for macro-nutrients, which are found in food. There are three macro-nutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates (or carbs). There are also micro-nutrients, which are vitamins (like A and C) and minerals (like iron and potassium).
All foods are composed of macro-nutrients, just in various levels. Some contain more protein or more fat, whereas others have more carbs. But all food is comprised of these three macro-nutrients.
Protein is the building block for our muscles. It keeps us satiated and helps us retain our muscle mass during a calorie deficit and grow our muscle mass during a calorie surplus. Protein is universally considered the most important of macro-nutrients (especially when trying to lose weight).
Fat has previously been the most demonized macro-nutrient (the title that carbs now holds). So many decades people spent trying to avoid fat, only to learn that it is so important for our hormone regulation, performance, and really helps keep us full over the long term.
And carbs, my personal favorite of the macro-nutrients, are the quick energy powerhouses. Our body burns glycogen for energy to move and be active.
We need carbohydrates as an easy form of convenient energy. Carbs also take up more physical space, and can also contribute to feeling full right after eating.
How do macros work
Counting macro-nutrients is actually pretty simple, but applying it to your actual eating habits can be a challenge. In general, a good starting point is to take your daily calorie goal (which you can find by checking out our post Wait, what even is a calorie?) and break it up into the following: 40% protein, 30% fats, and 30% carbohydrates.
For my personal diet, I eat 1700 calories in a modest deficit. Going off the above ratios, my calories from protein would be 680, my calories from fat would be 510, and my calories from carbs are also 510. (I found these numbers by multiplying 1700 by .4 and .3 respectively).
Once you have the calories you can find out how many grams you need. There are 4 calories per gram of protein. So if we take the 680 calories from protein and divide it by 4, we find out I need 170 grams of protein.
There are also 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates, following the same method we find I need 128 grams of carbs. Now fat is far more energy dense than protein or carbs, and has over double the amount of calories per gram.
Fat has 9 calories per gram, therefore we divide 510 by 9 and get 57 grams of fat per day. Therefore my macronutrient profile would be: 170 grams of protein; 57 grams of fat; and 128 grams of carbs per day at 1700 calories.
This is a science, and there are so many different ratios and methods to arrive at these numbers. Some find they prefer more fat in their diet, and back off the carbs, others find they operate better on more carbs, and therefore lower their fats.Either way, you should experiment until you find what works best for you.
Where to find macro-nutrient info
The hardest part of this whole thing is finding out the macro-nutrient profiles and quantities of the foods your eating. You are probably going to need a food scale, unless you purchase a lot of pre-portioned foods.
The easiest place to find macro-nutrient information is on the nutritional label. Be mindful of portion sizes and make sure you are weighing your food prior to cooking for the most accurate measurement.
The label on the left shows where you can find the macros (high-lighted in yellow). Simply multiply or divide these numbers based on the serving size or portion you have chosen.
Counting Macros App
Many restaurants including fast food, also offer nutritional guides where they provide all of the macro-nutrients for their offerings. And calorie counting apps like My Fitness Pal also contain macro-nutrient information.
But some can be wildly wrong, so be very mindful of which entries you are using and opt for ones with the green check mark whenever possible. You cannot just choose the lowest calorie version, make sure to be as accurate as possible.
For foods like eggs, chicken, and other whole foods, you will most likely have to Google their nutrient profiles. Make sure to find the most accurate and reputable version, preferably from a scholarly source or directly from the brand.
Macros for weight loss
Now here is the fun part. Just like calorie counting, when counting macros, you can eat whatever fits into your numbers, hence the “If it fits your macros.” Meaning, if the Pop-Tart fits, or the cheeseburger fits, enjoy!
But as always, your focus should be on quality, whole foods that are also good sources of micro-nutrients. Unfortunately, Pop-Tarts are highly processed and seriously lack in the micros department. After wasting all those macros on the treat, you will most likely find yourself hungry shortly after.
You will quickly learn what keeps you full and what doesn’t so you can start to prioritize the types of food you need. While still being able to incorporate treats and foods you love.