Figuring out a healthy diet can be extremely frustrating and confusing. With all the new diets and conflicting information, it can be hard to know where to start and how to eat consistently well.
Tracking macros is a method that shows exactly where the nutrients are coming from and in what amounts. It is a simple way to adjust a diet and can be used in the long term.
What are macros?
Macros, or macronutrients, are the three main types of nutrients a body needs to survive: protein, fat, and carbohydrates. By tracking macros, it is easy to tell what types of foods a person is eating too much, or too little, of. When discussing general health, this is where most personal trainers, dietitians, nutritionists, and health coaches start with clients.
How should macro needs be determined?
While numbers vary from person to person, there are some base equations to determine just where a body needs to be.
To start, calculate the Basal Metabolic Rate, or amount of energy it takes to run a person’s body at rest. The equation being used in this example is for a woman. The formula changes slightly for males.
BMR = 655 + (4.35 x your weight in pounds) + (4.7 x your height in inches) – 4.7 x age
Next, multiply this number by the person’s activity level.
No exercise – x1.2
Few times a week – x1.375
3-5 times a week – x1.55
6-7 times a week – x1.725
The result is the daily amount of calories that it takes for this person to just breathe, digest food, regularly function, and do some fitness.
How many of each macro should someone eat?
Specific macro amounts are going to depend on a person’s weight loss and fitness goals, but in general, it is 40% protein, 30% fat, and 30% carbohydrates.
A 30-year-old woman weighing 170 pounds, is 5’4’’ tall, and exercises 3-5 times a week will need 2,380 calories a day with 952 calories of protein, 714 calories of fat, and 714 calories of carbohydrates.
An extremely easy way to determine macronutrient needs during the day is to use a macro calculator. This will take the guesswork out of the daily calories and give an exact picture of where macros are for the day.
Protein is vital for repairing muscle tissue, building tone, and having healthy hair and nails. Protein also helps satisfy hunger, keeping stomachs feeling fuller for longer.
With one gram of protein being equal to four calories, the woman in this example needs 238 grams of protein per day to maintain her weight.
Fats are vital to a body’s basic functions like energy, cell growth, absorbing nutrients, and creating hormones. Instead of skipping fats, opt for healthier ones like avocados, nuts, fish, chia seeds, eggs, and dark chocolate.
Fat contains about nine calories per gram, which means approximately 79 grams of healthy fats.
Before opting for low carb diets, know that carbohydrates include fruits and vegetables. Carbohydrates are used to make glucose, which the body loves to use for energy. While simple carbs like bread, pasta, cookies, and crackers spike blood sugar, carbohydrates like dark, leafy greens, apples, broccoli, and berries help fuel the body without a blood sugar spike and subsequent crash.
Carbohydrates have four calories per gram, meaning about 178 grams of carbohydrates for a daily diet.
If tracking macronutrients seems a bit overwhelming, opt for a macro tracker to stay focused and on track with those end goals.