Whether you’re looking to burn fat, build muscle, or simply improve your performance in the gym, nutrition is an aspect you cannot overlook. To start maximizing your progress, one thing that you’ll want to start doing is tracking your macros.
Macros have been a buzzword in the fitness industry recently and for good reason: they’re important for maximum success.
While simply choosing healthy foods and eating according to hunger can help many people maintain a healthy body weight, tracking macros takes it a step further.
To help you get started, let’s go over everything you need to know about macro tracking.
What Are Macros and Why Track Them?
First, let’s address the question of what macros are for anyone who is unfamiliar with this term. “Macros” refers to macronutrients, which are the proteins, carbohydrates, and dietary fats found in the foods you eat every day. Throughout the day, you should track all of your macronutrient intake as it will factor into your physique results.
Carbohydrates and proteins both have four calories per gram while dietary fats contain nine. Together, these all add up to give you your total caloric intake, which can determine which direction the scale moves. Each macronutrient plays a different role in your body.
Proteins provide the building blocks that new tissues and hormones are made from, while carbohydrates are the primary energy source for the body. Carbohydrates also deliver dietary fiber (a specific type of carbohydrate), which helps slow the rate of digestion, decreases cholesterol levels, and helps to optimize your bowel movements. Finally, dietary fats are another slower digesting source of energy and are also important for optimizing hormones in the body, keep you feeling satisfied between meals, and ensure that your brain functions as it should.
If you aren’t getting enough of one particular macro, you may start to experience some negative outcomes. For example, a diet lacking in protein could lead to an unwanted loss of muscle mass. A diet that isn’t delivering sufficient carbohydrates may result in an individual who is tired and unable to complete intense workout sessions. Finally, diets that are very low in dietary fat often cause the person to become extremely hungry during the day, and may also lead to abnormally low testosterone levels.
By tracking your macros, you can ensure that you’re able to optimally fuel your body, optimize your health, and manipulate your body weight as you desire.
Setting Your Macros
Now that you have a better idea of what macros are, how do you establish your appropriate quantities of each? There are many ways to set your macros based on your specific goal, and the number of macros you have will vary considerably from individual to individual, or even from day to day.
Generally speaking, most people are best off taking in about 0.8-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day. The lower your caloric intake, the more protein you should consume on that scale as you’ll be at a higher risk of utilizing stored protein, such as muscle mass, as a fuel source.
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When it comes to dietary fats, you should aim to consume about 0.3 grams of dietary fat per pound of body weight per day. For carbohydrates, consume approximately 100 grams per day. Consider these your minimum values, a good starting point to measure progress. You can increase or decrease your intake according to how your body responds.
Once those baselines are met, you can simply divide your remaining calories between the macros according to your personal preference. Some people may feel better eating a higher carbohydrate diet while others may prefer having more dietary fat in their plan.
What’s most important is that once you have your numbers set, you hit those targets daily. By doing so, you can easily monitor progress and adjust your macros based on the results that you’re seeing. For example, if you’re trying to lose body fat, but start to gain weight, you’ll know to reduce some of your macros. Give your body two to three weeks of consistently using these values before making any adjustments.
Tracking macros add a very scientific focus to the process of body weight control. Then, as long as you’re tracking your macros every day in the future, you should have no problem seeing results. It’s the best way to guarantee success.
Macro Tracking Made Easier
You might be thinking…count every single gram of protein, carbs, and fats? I don’t have time for that!
It’s true. Tracking macros do take a bit more time and effort when on a diet plan, but the results are well worth it. And, if you learn a few tricks of the trade, you can do it easier.
First, consider using a macro tracking application such as MyFitnessPal. This allows you to simply enter the foods you eat, in their specific quantity, into the app and it totals your macros by meal, as well as for the day. It’s also quick and easy to use on the go, making it helpful when dining out. This tool will also teach you the values of the foods you commonly eat.
Once you have a grasp on macro values, you can consider a macro exchange system. For instance, if you know that half a cup of rice, 100 grams of sweet potatoes, and a third of a cup of oatmeal all contain around 25 grams of carbohydrates, 0-2 grams of fat, and 1-3 grams of protein (in which case the fat and protein are both relatively negligible), you can easily interchange these foods in your plan without much thought.
Don’t worry about hitting your macro values 100%, either. You’ll soon learn that it’s almost impossible to hit every gram exactly. Rather, allow yourself a range of macros. For example, if your carbs at lunch are 30 grams and you end up eating half a cup of rice (approximately 25 grams of carbs), consider that value fulfilled. Throughout the course of the day or the week, these small differences will balance out.
You can consider this the basics of macros and how to track them. If you’re hoping to optimize your performance in the gym or meet your physique goals, it’s highly recommended to figure out your values and track them on a daily basis. Monitor your changes and how you feel to make changes, and you’ll be seeing results in no time!