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I have spoken before about falling off the food wagon and mastering my food has been the main challenge of my weight loss journey. Because of this I am always looking for ways to ensure I don’t fall “down the rabbit hole” and so that I can work towards my goals.
Recently I have found that macros can help to keep me accountable and also focus on the type of food I am putting into my body so that I am healthier overall! You don’t have to be trying to lose weight, you could be maintaining, bulking or just trying to improve your diet but they are a useful tool for understanding the make-up of what we put in our bodies.
HOWEVER, there is A LOT of information out there on macros and it can be hard to figure it all out so I thought I would write a handy beginner guide so that you know the basics to get you started.
First off, what is a ‘macro’? Some of you may know, but if you’ve found me by searching “how do I count macros” then you likely need a short lesson. Without getting too technical, macros, or macronutrients, are what make up the caloric value of any given food.
What does this mean? Well, there are three generally accepted groups of macros – carbs, fats, and proteins. The combination of these three things is what is used to basically come up with the caloric property of foods. A lot of nutritionists recommend actually counting macros instead of calories because 200 calories from a salad is definitely not worth the same to your body as a 200 calorie mars bar! Here’s a really simple breakdown that is a good starting point for roughly working these things out, although you can get calculator apps on your phone, you may want to go old school.
- 1 gram of fat is equal to about 9 calories.
- 1 gram of carbs is equal to about 4 calories.
- 1 gram of protein is equal to about 4 calories too.
So, If you’re trying to diet or eat a little healthier, you may be better off counting macros. To put it simply, it’s not about how many calories are in your food, rather, what kind of calories. If you’re trying to burn fat and you’re still eating the wrong kind of calories, you may start to lose muscle mass too (or instead)! That’s where it gets a little more technical and you can read more on that later. Let’s get to the reason you’re here!
How Do I Count Macros?
Counting macros are similar to counting calories. If you have 100 calories of avocado and 100 calories of doughnut, you’re still only having a 100 calorie snack that will help you lose weight right? If you’re just counting calories, then, of course, that’s what you would believe because they are “worth” the same. However, the 100 calories of avocado which come from the high-fat content are much better than the 100 calories of doughnut that come from carbs. Here are some simple ways to count your macros and stay on track with your diet.
When you’re counting up your macros for the day, you just add up how many grams of each category, for each food item you ate. So you’ll take the amount of the fat, protein and carbs that you ate throughout the day and add them up. If you keep them separated (like in a food journal) into three separate columns you can start to easily see which one you favor (for me it was carbs and fat! and that was partly the problem) and if you’re intaking more of one macro than the other. Some diets, for example, recommend having low carb intake. If you’re counting calories you likely aren’t seeing what kind of macros you’re actually getting. So, how do you find out how many macros are in each food?
You can use different percentages but I started on the 40/40/20 (40% carbs, 40% Protein, 20% fat) ratio just to see where I was at and to increase my protein intake and reduce the fat to eat healthier and feel fuller. You can easily adjust these ratios according to your diet, whether you need more protein or carbs for bulking, less carbs for your diet or you just want to lose a few pounds and improve the type of food you are eating!
Where Do I Find the Macros for Foods I’m Eating?
First, you’ll want to look at the nutritional facts on the packaging of your food. Look at the serving size and go from there. If the suggested serving size of crisps is 10 but you actually ate 20 then you need to double all of the nutritional facts on the package. If the nutritional panel says that there are 2 grams of fat per serving, you’ve just had 4 grams, because, with the doubled serving, you’ll have doubled the intake of macros too.
Keeping track of these number visually will help you see if you start to get a little too much fat, or carbs, and allow you to see where you need to cut back. If you need to cut back on carbs, you’ll know within a few days of counting your macros.
Ultimately it is all about finding the right balance and eating healthily, so now over to you. Do you count your macros? What ratios do you use and why? Let me know down in the comments! I’d love to have a chat with you!