THE BASICS OF COUNTING MACROS

March 17, 2018

By Layla, MISSION’s Health, Wellness and Nutrition Intern

Counting macros… What does that even mean and why is it all the rage in the fitness world? There is so much talk about this magical way to manage your weight while still being able to actually eat, and even eat your favorite foods. Is this too good to be true? Losing weight while still getting to eat pizza or donuts? Count me in.

“Macro” comes from the term macronutrient. Macronutrients include the three key players in our diet: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Macros play a large role in what we eat and how what we eat affects our bodies. An individual’s daily macros are personalized to them. Online there are an abundance of different “macro calculators” and basically all it takes is entering some information about your body weight, height, age, fitness goals, and daily activity level. Your fitness goals could be to gain weight, lose weight, or maintain weight. You hit calculate and it will spit out some numbers at you. These numbers are an estimate of how many calories you should intake and more specifically how grams of carbohydrate, fat, and protein you should eat to reach these calories.

This breakdown of macronutrients takes away the “dieting mentality” of hopelessly trying to give up some of your favorite foods in hopes to meet your fitness goal. The benefits of counting your macros exceeds just the ability to reach your fitness goals, but to also maintain them over time. This is because in order to correctly count your macros, you become much more aware of the nutrient make-up of your food. You will learn how to estimate calories in relationship to carbohydrates, fats, and protein and you learn to understand portion control and serving sizes.

Sometimes people take this ability for granted, but overtime you may see that it can have a positive effect on your diet lifestyle. It allows you to keep your sanity and have that bacon, egg, and cheese for breakfast. This just means for your next meal, you may up the protein and lower the carbs in order to stay within your daily goal, possibly have a grilled chicken salad for lunch. It offers balance and is not overwhelmingly restrictive. This is why counting your macros is often referred to as “flexible dieting” or abbreviated I.I.F.Y.M (if it fits your macros). Your eating patterns are different than most diets.

 

The largest problem about counting macros is miscounting your macros. You could be selling your food’s nutrient profile short, which could significantly throw off your daily intake. These miscounting instances can occur from a few things, most commonly from forgetting to track liquid calories, such as milk in your coffee, sodas, and juices, not tracking or under-tracking dressings/dips (yes, this includes nut butters), or trying to estimate portions before you have enough experience. There is a huge difference between what you might think 2 tablespoons of peanut butter is and what 2 tablespoons actually is, which could cost you a good amount of hidden calories and fat.


The best way to avoid miscounting is to start off by measuring everything. In a perfect world, weighing food by the gram is the most accurate way to count macros and will lead to the most substantial outcomes. This is not completely realistic for everyone, but measuring everything by cups, tablespoons, fluid ounces, etc, is still effective. It still takes time, but planning meals ahead of time through meal prepping can make it easy to stick to your macros and stay on track.

Although counting macros and sticking to them does significantly help individuals reach their goal, it is not for everyone. Some times while counting macros you may feel forced to overeat, which maybe does not sound that bad if you love to eat. In reality, to reach your goals, you may need to increase your intake, which might go against your own personal hunger cues. Even though you might get to enjoy foods you like that you would not get to enjoy on other diets, you may find that you begin to see all food like a math problem or that they simply only consist of these 3 macronutrients. In reality, food is so much more. Think of an avocado. These offer many benefits to our bodies and are packed with vitamins and minerals, but maybe due to macro counting, you do not want to risk the extra 10 grams of fat. It is important to focus on what works best for you. No diet works perfectly for everyone, but macro counting could be for you and could yield the results you have been looking for.

Content of the blog is opinion and not to be considered scientific fact. All readers should consult a medical professional for questions concerning individual medical and dietary needs.

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