Have you heard people talk about counting their macros? If not, it might sound as if it takes a Ph.D. to do so! But counting macros is actually a popular way of tracking food intake.
Find out more about this method of healthy eating and see if it’s right for you.
What are Macros?
Macros are short for macronutrients. Every food is made up of these three macronutrients:
Counting macros requires two different things — tracking the number of calories eaten and tracking the macronutrients that make up those calories per day.
The goal is to make sure your calories and macronutrients are proportioned correctly. You don’t want to eat too much fat and not enough carbs, or too many carbs and not enough protein.
Instead, based on your overall goal, you’ll follow guidelines by which you should distribute your macronutrients. Goals could be to add muscle, lose fat or maintain either or both.
A common breakdown of macros is 40/40/20, which means 40 percent of your calories should fall to protein, 40 percent of your calories should be from carbohydrates and 20 percent should be from fat.
Learn more about healthy eating.*
How Do I Count Macros?
Once you’ve decided on a breakdown of your macros, you’ll want to make sure the total number of calories you eat per day reflects those percentages. To do this, you’ll need your total daily energy expenditure number (TDEE) —the average number of calories you burn each day based on age, sex, weight and lifestyle.
You can calculate your TDEE using an online calculator. Then, you’ll want to deduct about 10-20 percent of that total from your TDEE to create a calorie deficit.
For example, say you’re a female who is 32 years old, 5’7″ and 152 pounds. You found your basal metabolic rate (BMR) to be 1,480 and your TDEE to be 1,970. You want to reduce your calorie intake by 15 percent, so you’ll be eating 295 fewer calories a day. That brings your goal calorie intake per day to 1,675.
From there, you’ll want to calculate your goals for macronutrients. You figure you’ll start with the standard 40/40/20, so you’ll calculate 40 percent of 1,675 and 20 percent of 1,675. That makes your goal:
- 670 calories from protein
- 670 calories from carbohydrates
- 335 calories from fat
A calorie-tracking app like MyFitnessPal will automatically calculate your macronutrient totals each day, so these are the numbers you’ll be aiming for. You’ll want to scan foods you’re planning to eat and plan ahead though.
How Is Counting Macros Different From Other Forms of Dieting?
A popular acronym for those who count their macros is IIFYM, which stands for “if it fits your macros.” IIFYM means that no food is off limits. As long as stay within your goals, you can eat what you like in moderation.
Counting macros is not as straightforward as counting just your calories. To be successful, you need to know the precise number of nutrients you’re putting into your body. From weighing your food using a scale to logging your meals to keeping track of your daily totals, tracking your macros can be a lot of work.
Consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program.