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Macronutrients: What, Why, and How?

Macronutrients are the latest craze in the fitness industry. Maybe you’ve been in the gym and have overheard a trainer talking to a client about ‘macros?’ You may have wondered: “What are those?” “Is this for me? “How do I get started?” Well, it’s much simpler than you might think. You’ll only need a food scale and some patience!

So, WHAT Actually Are Macronutrients?

It is widely known that people count calories to lose or gain weight. While that is a very valid tool in reaching health and wellness goals, tracking macronutirents can provide you with much more insight. Macronutrients, or macros for short, are everything we consume on a large scale when it comes to nutrition. This includes: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Understanding the macros your food consists of can help you pinpoint specific nutrients you may be consuming too much or too little. This can then aide you in setting and achieving your nutrition goals.

As a general rule of thumb:

  • Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram
  • Protein provides 4 calories per gram
  • Fat provides 9 calories per gram

WHY is it Important to Track My Macronutrients?

Everyone is different, and therefore, has different nutritional needs. By calculating your macros, you can see firsthand if you are eating a balanced diet for YOU personally. Tracking your macros, instead of calories, can also help ensure that you continue to eat correctly while achieving your goal of losing, maintaining, or gaining weight.

For example, 100 calories of an avocado (fat) are different from 100 calories of a delicious Krispy Kreme doughnut (carbohydrates). While both have the same number of calories, the 100 calories in an avocado are primarily fat, while the doughnut is made up of mostly carbohydrates. The avocado may also fulfill your entire daily requirement of fat, but the doughnut most likely will not. The avocado provides a much more dynamic amount of vitamins, minerals, and quality calories that your body will use, too, compared to the doughnut. However, when you’re looking at only the calories, they are equal!

Real Life: Calculating Macronutrients

Grab your food scale, and let’s take a look at Quaker oatmeal for a real life example! If you ate one cup of oatmeal and wanted to calculate your macros for that meal, you would first need to determine how many servings you ate. If the serving size is a half-cup, measured dry (40g), you would simply multiply every number on that label by two. So for eating one cup of oatmeal, your macros would be: 54g carbs, 10g protein, and 6g fat for the meal. Now do this for EACH of your meals (or every time you eat) throughout the day. At the end of the day, add up all your macronutrients to visually see your total for the day.

Quaker Oats Macronutrients Calculation ExamplQuaker Oats Nutrition Facts Macronutrients Calculation Example

Macros into Calories

You could also easily take this a step further to determine your overall calories for the day. For reference, scroll back up to the calories per gram of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Multiply each macronutrient total by the number of calories in each unit. That’s it! You now have your total macronutrients for the day, as well as your total calories.

So, if all you ate in a day was oatmeal (side note — we’re not suggesting this!), your total macronutrients for the day, as we calculated above, would be: 54g carbs, 10g protein, and 6g fat. To turn those into calories, take each macronutrient, multiply it by the relevant amount of calories per gram, and add up your totals:

  • Carbohydrates: 54g x 4 cal = 216 calories
  • Protein: 10g x 4 cal = 40 calories
  • Fat: 6g x 9 cal = 54 calories
  • 216 + 40 + 54 = 310 Total Calories

It’s that simple! To help speed up determining your macros in the future, write your meals down on a piece of paper or keep a “food log” for quick reference. Now, next time you eat oatmeal you won’t have to add up your macros!

HOW Do I Determine My Macros?

Your optimal macronutrient intake depends on several different factors including: gender, age, current weight, activity level, lifestyle, diet plan and goals. The college recruit who is trying to add lean muscle, while dropping weight, will be eating according to a different nutritional plan than a retiree now focusing on longevity.

So, where do you start??  Just buy a food scale (Amazon, Target, Walmart) and START! Food scales are relatively inexpensive and are well worth the investment. Before immediately changing your normal routine, eat your regular meals for 1-2 weeks while tracking your numbers. At first, this may seem like a lot of work: writing down meals, calculating numbers, and tracking EVERYTHING. However, the benefits are absolutely superior! Tracking your macros reveals so much. Are you eating too many or too few carbs, protein, or fat? Are your numbers fairly consistent or all over the place? Do you find yourself eating too much in the evenings or eating extremely unhealthy on the weekends? With a little dedication, you’ll be reading labels, learning which foods are high or low in your specific macro areas, and seeing results in no time!

Finally, it is essential to establish some baseline numbers that align with your lifestyle and goals. A good starting point is: 50% carbohydrates, 20% protein, and 30% fat. Do some research online; there are several “macro” calculators that can assist with establishing baseline numbers. MyPlate and MyFitnessPal are also two very useful apps to help track your macros. MyFitnessPal offers a large database of food and lists out the calories, carbs, fats, and proteins to save you calculation time, as well. Search for the food, brand, or restaurant on this page.

Let’s Get Started!

Tracking your macronutrients is important, whether you are on a specific diet or just want to eat well for your overall health. It teaches you if you’re eating too much or too little for your body and how to properly read nutrition labels. Educating yourself on WHAT you are putting into your body is a huge part of maintaining overall wellness. Once you’ve established how much you should eat, counting your macros might be exactly what you need to see the results you want. If you have further questions about macros or exercising, please reach out to us to set up a FREE consultation with one of our Wellness Coordinators!