Chances are you’ve seen or heard the term “macros” on social media, but many people don’t know what they are and why they matter. “Macros” is actually short for macronutrients, which are the elements that make up the caloric content of the food you eat, i.e. protein, carbs and fat. Some believe that the ratio of protein to carbs to fat you consume can affect the amount of fat you burn, the muscle you build and the overall shape of your body.
While that may be true for some, macros, and diets in general, are never one-size-fits-all. That’s why it’s essential to calculate your own macro counts as opposed to following somebody else’s. Even someone who weighs as much as you do, and shares the same fitness goals might not reflect your same macro count, because it’s not simply a numbers game. To wrap our heads around the minutia of macros, we spoke to Nutrition Guru, Blogger and Content Director of Mealplan, Amanda Meixner.
“There’s no one right way to determine your macros. One might work better for you over the other, for instance some people might prefer a higher fat diet to a higher carb diet,” Meixner says.
“At the end of the day what matters most is if you’re hitting your calorie goals. Your macro counts mostly determine how you feel.”
What Are Macros?
Simply put, macros are the macronutrients that make up the calories in your food: protein, fat and carbs.
Protein is an essential building block for every cell in the human body. It is the foundation of your bones, muscles, skin, and blood, as well as your hormones and enzymes. Getting the right amount of protein on a daily basis promotes overall bodily function and will help you get better results from your workouts. Protein is found in meat and animal products, as well as plant-based sources like beans and quinoa.
“I think all cuts of meat are great and I think it’s good to eat a variety of types of meat,” Meixner says. “For example, white fish is leaner and so is chicken breast, but if you can afford grass fed organic red meat, that’s great, too.
“Red meat has a lot of benefits, actually; it’s a great high quality source of protein, usually high in iron and has CLA and omega 3 fatty acids.”
For the herbivores among us, tofu, tempeh, chickpeas and seitan are all great protein options; however, their carb content may affect your macro counts.
Good fats provide your body with energy and have shown to improve cholesterol levels, and may also decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes.
“I love fats, fats are my favorite macros,” Meixner says. “Any nuts like almonds, cashews, or walnuts, and oils like coconut and olive. And who doesn’t love avocados? You can’t forget about avocados.
“Also fatty fish like salmon are great, and olives, not just olive oil, are great, too.”
Carbohydrates, aka carbs, are sugars and starches. They provide energy and can lead to weight gain, which can be a positive or negative outcome depending on your fitness goals. Potatoes, pasta, bread, and fruit all fall into the carbohydrate category.
“There’s a misconception that carbs are bad. I think sometimes carbs get over-demonized, but if you’re super active and trying to lose weight, a certain number of carbs can be beneficial! Glycogen stores are utilized during your work out, so it’s advantageous to replenish those stores with quality carbs at some point in the day.
“Definitely the majority of carbs should be starchy and fiber carbs like sweet potatoes, rice (brown or white, doesn’t matter), and beans are great, too.” Meixner adds. “Some of your carbs should be from fruit, but I wouldn’t overdo your fruit because too much fructose tends to get stored as body fat.”
How to Calculate Your Macros
Here is a basic breakdown of how to calculate macros; however, it doesn’t take into account your gender, age, and level of activity, which can make a significant difference. When working toward a fitness goal, what matters most is hitting your optimal calorie target —your macros come second.
“If you’re trying to gain weight, going for high carb macros might be better for you,” Meixner says. “It’s better for muscle gain, but if you’re not in a calorie surplus you’re not going to gain weight. That’s why hitting your calorie target is the most important thing.
“If you’re not working out and you’re sedentary, a higher fat diet is definitely better.”
Pairing a healthy diet with a workout plan will get you the best results, and you’ll feel incredible, too. Need guidance? Try Fitplan FREE for 7 days.
Step 1: Determine your maintenance calories
Maintenance calories are the number of calories you need to eat per day to maintain your current weight.
How to calculate: Your weight (lbs.) x 14 – 15
Step 2: Set your calorie target
Your calorie target is based on your fitness goals, i.e. whether you want to lose weight or build muscle. We recommend a minimum of 1,200 calories a day for women and 1,500 calories a day for men. If your calculated daily target is lower than this, please stick to the recommended minimum or consult your doctor.
How to calculate:
For fat loss: – 500
For muscle gain: +350
Step 3: Set your protein intake
Protein is essential to muscle growth and overall bodily function. Lean proteins like chicken, fish and grass-fed beef are great sources.
How to calculate: Your weight (lbs.) x 1.0 = total grams/day
Calculate your protein calories: Grams of protein x 4
Step 4: Set your fat intake
Healthy fats power your body and can help regulate cholesterol and overall bodily function.
How to calculate: Your weight (lbs) x .03 = total grams/day
Calculate your fat calories: Grams of fat x 9
Step 5: Set your carb intake
Unprocessed carbs are important for fueling your body through challenging workouts.
How to calculate: Divide your remaining calories by 4.
Now that you’ve figured out your macros, it’s time to start training! Start Fitplan FREE for the first 7 days.