Recently, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about “counting macros”. Whether in the gym, at the supermarket or on social media, everyone is chatting about their macros! Maybe I’m late to the macros train but I had no clue what that meant.
After doing some digging, I’ve written up a little guide for all of you who (like me) just nodded along when someone started talking about their macronutrient guide.
What are Macronutrients
You have three main macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein, and fats. All extremely important to your health but need different amounts of each, which makes things a bit confusing.
Lets start with Carbohydrates
Often (lovingly) called carbs, carbohydrates include sugars, starches and fibers. These can be broken down into glucose, which is the main source of energy in your body. If you eat too many carbohydrates then your body will store your excess glucose in the form of glycogen for a rainy day.
Carbs give you 4 calories per gram and are one of the main macronutrients in your diet. However, carbohydrates are all different. From complex carbs to simple carbs, all carbohydrates should not be treated equally. Complex carbs that come from legumes, whole grains and vegetables are a great source of nutrients and will keep you full for longer. Dietary fiber is also another type of carbohydrate, which has a variety of important functions in your body!
High fiber diets have been linked to lowering risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain types of cancer by multiple studies.
Soluble fiber can also be an essential part of your weight-loss regime because it keeps you full while also regulating your blood sugar and lowering your cholesterol levels. Dietary fiber isn’t included in your total carbohydrate count either. When you add up the total carbohydrate count from the Nutritional Facts Panel, don’t forget to subtract dietary fiber from the total carbohydrates!
Fats are a great source of energy and are essential for the absorption of Vitamins A, D, E and K. There are, however, many different kinds of fat. Some good for you, some bad for you.
Trans fats are fats that are solid at room temperature due to all of the hydrogens that they contain. These fats can raise LDL cholesterol levels (the bad kind of cholesterol) and have been publicly frowned upon by the American Heart Association. Saturated fats are similar to trans fats and can also raise LDL cholesterol. These types of fats should be avoided as much as possible. Olive oils, avocado oil and nuts, however, contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats have been shown to actually reduce LDL cholesterol levels and raise HDL cholesterol levels (the good kind of cholesterol).
Fats contain 9 calories per gram providing the most amount of energy.
Proteins are vital for a multitude of functions within your body. Proteins are used for more than just muscle building. They are used in cell signalling, hormone synthesis, enzyme functioning and many more pathways. There are 20 different types of amino acids that your body needs, with 9 of those being essential amino acids. Any nutrient that is “essential” is one that cannot be made in your body. Your body can break apart other nutrients in your body to create 11 of those amino acids but 9 cannot be made internally and must be digested.
Similar to carbohydrates, proteins provide 4 calories per gram of protein consumed.
How to Count Macros
Firstly, every single person has a different diet. Some people need more carbs, some need more protein – it really depends on your lifestyle. If you’re unsure you should speak with a nutritionist to design a food plant that matches your lifestyle and exercise regime. Here is a quick, basic and general rule of thumb though for counting your macros!
You will need to calculate your resting energy expenditure (REE) to find out how many calories your body typically burns at rest.
Women: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (yrs) – 161
Men: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (yrs) + 5
Then, you will need to calculate your non-resting energy expenditure (NREE). This you can do by simple multiplying your REE by your energy level.
Sedentary: x 1.2
Lightly active: x 1.375
Moderately active: x 1.55
Very active: x 1.725
Extra active: x 1.9
That will give you your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)!
Now, depending on whether you want to lose weight or gain weight you can adjust your calorie intake based on that number - maybe add or subtract 100 calories?
Once you’ve decided what your ideal calorie intake should be (depending on whether you are going to eat the same, more or less than your TDEE) then you can start to calculate how much of each macro you should consume!
Typically it is recommended to consume 45-65% of carbohydrates, 20-35% of fats, and 10-35% of protein. For example if you wanted to consume 50% carbohydrates then you’d take your specific calorie intake and multiply by 0.5 to get the amount of calories from carbohydrates that you should be eating. Then you can divide that calorie number by 4 grams (because remember carbohydrates provide 4 calories per g) and voilaaa you have your total grams of carbohydrates!
However, a nutritionist can adjust these numbers to suit your specific needs and goals. Remember, every person is different and needs a different amount of each.
Good luck counting those macros! And if you need some extra help, there are lots of apps that can help you to track what you are eating :)