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How to Track Macros: A Step by Step Guide for Beginners

What Are Macros?

So, what is a macro? Macro is the shortened version of the word macronutrient. Macronutrients are the nutrients your body needs in significant amounts daily to function properly. The three macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates (carbs), and fats.

Counting macros has become one of the most popular ways of tracking nutritional goals. Whether you want to burn fat or build muscle, counting macros is one of the top ways of tracking your nutrition. Counting macros may seem a little overwhelming at first. However, once you have familiarized yourself with the basics, it is plain sailing from there on out.

The 3 Macros

1. Proteins

Proteins provide four calories of energy per gram consumed. Proteins are essential for processes such as:

  • Cell signaling
  • Tissue building
  • Immune function
  • Enzyme and hormone production

Depending on your age, health, and body composition goals, proteins should comprise between 10% and 35% of your daily energy intake. Protein-rich foods include meats like beef, poultry and fish, eggs, lentils, and tofu.

2. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates usually make up the greatest portion of people's energy intake. They also provide four calories per gram eaten. Carbs include sugars, starches, and fibers. Carbs are broken down into glucose, which is the energy currency for your body. Glucose travels through the blood for immediate use and is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles for later use. Muscle movement, brain function, and all internal processes require energy.

Most health organizations recommend 45% -65% of your daily energy needs derive from carbs. However, this is a hotly contested topic. Individuals following a keto diet will try and limit their carb intake to less than 50 grams per day. Source carbohydrates from foods such as fruits, starchy vegetables, grains, beans, and dairy products.

3. Fats

Fats are the most energy-rich food source. They provide nine calories of energy per gram. Fats are an essential energy source and vital for functions such as:

  • Nutrient absorption
  • Hormone production
  • Maintenance of body temperature

Depending on your nutritional goals, fats should make up 20-35% of your daily calories. Foods rich in dietary fats include butter, plant oils, meat, fish, avocados, and nuts.

Counting Macros vs. Counting Calories

Counting Macros vs. Counting Calories

It would be slightly simpler just counting calories. However, the trouble with counting calories instead of macros is that you are not accounting for where your energy is coming from. Eating three chocolate chip cookies may be the same calorie count as eating a green salad with grilled sweetcorn and 3 ounces of grilled chicken. The cookies will give you heaps of carbs with some fat and a little protein, while the grilled chicken salad is heavier with lean protein. When homing in on your fitness and dieting goals, the ratio of fats, proteins, and carbs in your daily meals is meaningful.
The Importance of Macros: Proteins vs. Carbs vs. Fats

The Importance of Macros: Proteins vs. Carbs vs. Fats

For clarity, let’s look at an example. If you aim to lose body fat, your primary goal is to be in a caloric deficit. In other words, you want to eat fewer calories than you expend. To make this journey easier and more pleasant, you should also make sure to eat sufficient protein to maintain muscle mass (because muscles burn energy) and keep your energy levels constant throughout the day.

Dietary fat is often taboo for those trying to shed pounds. However, adequate quantities of dietary fat are essential for protecting your organs, regulating blood sugar levels, and hormonal health. So, in this instance, you want to get most of your calories from proteins, some from fats, and some from carbs. If your caloric intake is primarily from carbs (like the cookies), you will go on a rollercoaster ride of energy levels throughout the day.

How to Calculate your Macros

Whether you are tallying calories or counting macros, the basic equation of the amount of energy you consume versus the amount of energy you expend must balance to meet your nutritional goals. If you want to build muscle mass, the number of macros you eat should be more than the energy you burn. However, if you want to drop a few pounds, your input (food intake) should be less than your output (energy expended throughout the day).
Step 1: Determine Your Maintenance Calorie Intake
To accurately track your macros, you need to know what your daily calorie needs are (maintenance calorie intake). There are various equations, such as the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation, for doing this or you can use an online tool. Most of these calculators will need the following information:

  • Age
  • Height
  • Current weight
  • Goal weight
  • Activity levels
Step 2: Set Your Daily Calorie Goal
Once you have calculated your current total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), you can either adjust this number up or down to the number of calories you should consume daily to attain your nutritional goal. If you aim to lose weight, you will want to reduce the number of calories consumed. Whereas if you want to build muscle, your goal will be to increase the number of calories per day.
Step 3: Decide your Macro Ratio
You have established how many calories you need to consume each day. The next step is to figure out what ratio of macronutrients will help you achieve your goal most efficiently. The typical recommendation for macronutrient ratio is as follows:

  • Carbohydrates: 45-65% of total calories consumed
  • Fats: 20-35%
  • Proteins: 10-35%

You can fine-tune this ratio to attain specific objectives. For example, if you want to build muscle mass, you may want to decrease the number of carbs and fats in favor of an increase in proteins. On the other hand, if you are following a Keto diet, you will want to drop the percentage of carbs right down to about 10% and up your fat intake.
Step 4: Count Your Macros
Here is an example of how to calculate the macronutrients required for a 2000-calorie diet:

Let's say you choose a ratio of 50% carbs, 30% proteins, and 20% fat.

  • You need 50% of 2000 calories = 1000 calories from carbohydrates per day. At four calories per gram, you need 250g of carbs.
  • You need 30% of 2000 calories = 600 calories from protein per day. At four calories per gram, this translates to 150g of protein daily.
  • You need 20% of 2000 calories = 400 calories from fat per day. At nine calories per gram, this equates to 45g of fat per day.

With this macronutrient ratio, your ideal daily intake would comprise 250g carbs + 150g protein + 45g fat.

Track Your Macros: Tools for Tracking Macros

The term ‘tracking macros’ simply refers to keeping track of the foods you eat. You can do this the good old-fashioned way with pen and paper, or you can use a website, food journal, or macro tracking app.
Macro tracking app
There are several macro tracking apps available for iPhone or Android devices. This is one of the most convenient ways of logging your macros. These user-friendly apps are specifically designed to simplify how you track your food consumption. You can use the apps to calculate the calories in the different foods you eat and monitor your macronutrient percentages daily.

Digital Food Scale
To track your macros accurately you should measure and weigh everything you eat. To do this, you can use measuring spoons, measuring cups, and measuring jugs. However, the most accurate way of measuring your food portions is using a food scale. If you want results, being precise with your nutrition is critical.

Glass Food Storage Containers
Weighing out portions of ingredients before each meal may seem like quite a mission. To save time, you can weigh out a few portions of the same thing at a time or weigh out all the components for your meals over the next two or three days at one time. In this case, you may want to store your weighed-out ingredients in separate containers so you can easily use them later without having to get the scale out again. Opt for glass containers. They last longer than plastic and are better for your health, especially if you plan to microwave your food portions.
Make Tracking Macros Easy

Make Tracking Macros Easy

Eating balanced meals is an essential component of any nutritional plan. Getting just the right ratio of macronutrients across your meals in a day can be tricky. Factor takes the thinking work out of meal preparation. Skip the irksome portion weighing and choose from a variety of dietary preferences such as Keto, Calorie Smart, and Protein Plus. Our dietitian-approved, ready-made meals are delivered to your door weekly. Healthy diet-appropriate food at your convenience!

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