Crushing Your Physique Goals: A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Count Macros
Are you trying to lose weight, gain muscle or simply feel more energized? If so, a balanced diet is key.
While many health and fitness routines are built around counting calories, it’s equally important to make sure you’re getting the right number of nutrients in each meal.
Yet, it’s all too easy to lose track of what you’re eating or what it contains. This why it can be helpful to track your macronutrients, or macros.
Wondering how to count macros? Today, we’re taking a deep dive into this method of food logging. We’ll share the science behind macros, why they’re important, and how to calculate your ideal balance.
What Are Macros?
As their name implies, macros are nutrients that you need in large amounts. In other words, they’re the building blocks that your body requires to survive.
Conversely, there are other nutrients known as micronutrients. While these are important, they’re only needed in small quantities. These include certain vitamins, minerals and electrolytes.
There are three main macros. These are:
While some diets may claim that you can cut carbs or eliminate fat to reach your fitness goals, this isn’t true. You need adequate amounts of all three nutrients to look and feel your best.
Let’s take a look at how each macro works.
Proteins are comprised of amino acids. These organic compounds help build muscle, prevent illness, and transport nutrients throughout your body, along with other functions.
The human body needs 20 unique amino acids, and nine of those are considered essential. Your body cannot produce essential amino acids on its own, so you’ll need to get them from the food you eat.
Protein-rich foods can help you ingest the amino acids you need. These include:
- Certain dairy products (e.g. yogurt, cheese)
Feeling sluggish? If so, you might not be eating enough carbs. These give you quick energy and help ward off fatigue.
How does it work? Your body converts carbs to sugar (glucose). If you need an immediate uptick, it will use it right then. Otherwise, it will store it for later use, in a form known as glycogen.
Look for complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, to make sure you’re getting enough dietary fiber for optimal digestive health.
Despite what you may have heard, not all fats are bad for you. In fact, your body needs dietary fats to function properly. A few reasons why it’s important to keep healthy fats in your diet include:
- To absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K)
- To feel full and healthy between meals
- To keep your body insulated in cold weather
Avocados, whole eggs, fatty fish, chia seeds and extra-virgin olive oil are a few examples of healthy dietary fats.
Calculating Calories Per Gram
For each gram of each macro you consume, there is a corresponding calorie amount. Here are the universal guidelines:
- Protein: Four calories per gram
- Carbohydrates: Four calories per gram
- Fat: Nine calories per gram
Keep these formulas handy as you begin to count your macros.
Key Percentages to Know
You know why macros are important, but how much do you need?
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Your individual macro needs will vary depending on your weight, physical condition, health goals, and other factors.
However, the most recent guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) suggest the following intake ratio:
- 45% to 65% from carbohydrates
- 25% to 35% from fats
- The remainder from protein
Why is there such an emphasis on carbs? Put simply, these are your body’s main source of fuel. They also convert into energy quicker and more effectively than any other macro.
On the other hand, fats and proteins have a more complex metabolic process. They’re equally important for optimal health, but they won’t deliver the same quick energy boost.
How to Count Macros: Doing the Math
If your intake ratio is understood in percentages, but nutrition information is usually presented in grams, how can you make sure you’re getting the macros you need?
To get the answer, you’ll need to do a little basic math. Here are the steps to follow.
Step 1: Determine Your Daily Caloric Intake
Your recommended daily caloric intake will vary based on your goals.
Are you looking to lose weight, gain weight or simply maintain your existing weight? How active is your current lifestyle?
These answers will affect the number of calories you need to eat in a given day. This guide can help you find your target number.
For the purpose of this exercise, we’ll use an example regimen of 2,400 calories per day.
Step 2: Find Your Ideal Percentages
Using the above guidelines as a starting point, brainstorm what you’d prefer your macro intake ratio to be.
For instance, you might feel your best when your diet consists of 50% carbs, 25% fats, and 25% protein.
Step 3: Multiply Your Calories by Your Percentages
Now, it’s time to bring out the calculator. Multiply your total daily calories by the percentages you chose to understand how many you’ll need in each macro category.
- 2,400 calories x 50% = 1,200 calories worth of carbs
- 2,400 calories x 25% = 600 calories from fats
- 2,400 calories x 25% = 600 calories from protein
Step 4: Calculate Gram Amounts
Next, look back at the chart that lists calories per gram of macros. For this example, the equations would look like:
- 1,200 calories divided by 4 calories per gram = 300 grams of carbs
- 600 calories divided by 9 calories per gram = 66.67 grams of fats
- 600 calories divided by 4 calories per gram = 150 grams of protein
If math isn’t your strong suit, that’s OK! Today, there are plenty of online calculators that can do the legwork for you.
Start Counting Macros and Crush Your Goals
Who knew that a few calculations could be the secret to unlocking your most stubborn health and weight-loss goals?
Now that you know how to count macros, you can transform your diet and routine from the inside out.
Ready to set new goals that are realistic, attainable and results-driven? Check out our step-by-step guide for the tips you need to try!