“Macros” is the new buzz-word around town, from your fitness-forward girlfriend to your babysitter. It seems like the secret password to an exclusive club and I want in. What’s the big whoop about macros and why should I count them? Here’s the scoop on everything macro and then you can decide for yourself whether it’s for you.
What are macros?
The term “macros” is short for “macronutrients”—or the molecules from food that our bodies use to create energy (or calories). Confused yet? Let me try and clarify. When you look at the nutrition information on say, an energy bar, it will give you a calorie total. That calorie total is made up of macronutrients and micronutrients. Micronutrients like vitamins and minerals don’t provide our bodies with energy, but are vital for overall system maintenance. Macronutrients on the other hand do provide our bodies with energy in three main areas:
Macros are a fancy way of breaking down your caloric intake so that you know how many calories you are consuming from fats, carbs, and proteins.
Why count them?
Well, not all calories are created equally. That means that 135 calories from three Oreo cookies is not the same as eating 135 calories worth of grilled chicken. If you are just counting calories for calories, then there’s a major flaw in the system. On the other hand, counting macros makes you break down the amount of “good” calories you are consuming versus the “bad” ones. Counting calories alone limits your nutritional intake and although you may lose weight, you’ll lose muscle as well because of the types of calories you are getting.
Counting macros makes it easier to eat correctly—not just cutting calories, but making sure you get the right ones for the diet you choose. Contrary to belief, counting macros actually gives you more freedom with your diet.
How to count macros:
The tough thing about counting macros is that it requires some math. You know, that thing you told your algebra teacher you’d never use in real life? You won’t find macros conveniently listed on a nutrition label—yet—but with a few easy calculations, you can figure them out.
When you “count” your macros, you are really just figuring how many calories, grams of fat, carbs, and protein you ate that day. It does require writing down a list or tracking on MyFitnessPal (which has an awesome database of thousands of foods and their nutritional information). It’s a good way to make yourself accountable.
First, you need to calculate how many calories you should consume each day to meet your goals. This may require more extensive research, but here is a quick guide: multiply your body weight (in pounds) by 14. If you are overweight and trying to drop pounds, multiply by 13. So a 140-pound woman would shoot for 1,960 calories per day.
Here’s an example of how you would count your macros:
Your total calories so far would be 1,010. Your fat grams equal 20, carb grams equal 131, and protein grams equal 68. From counting your macros, you can tell that the majority of your calories are coming from carbs. This is a great article to help you know more about calculations and how to count macros to meet your fitness goals.
The bottom line: macros aren’t the secret that I initially thought they were. They are actually a pretty cool way to track your nutrients. You can be on nearly any diet or healthy lifestyle and still use macros to help you track the quality of your calories and I like that. I guess it’s time to brush up on my math skills because as it turns out, Mr. Bennett, my high school math teacher was right—I do have to use math in real life.
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