Everything You Need to Know About Tracking Macros (Including What They Are…)
You’ve probably heard of macro counting by now. Enthusiasts tout benefits such as more muscle mass, increased energy levels, and sustained weight loss. But what exactly does macro tracking mean and is it right for you? Here’s everything you need to know.
What are Macros?
It’s simple. Macros (aka macronutrients) include fat, protein, and carbohydrates. They’re called macronutrients because they’re the three large nutrients your body can use or store for energy.
When counting your macros, you’re simply tracking every gram of protein, carbs, and fat that you consume each day. Each macro also has a certain number of calories per gram, so you can control your caloric intake this way:
- 1g protein = 4 calories
- 1g carbs = 4 calories
- 1g fat = 9 calories
However, macro tracking takes the emphasis away from calorie counting, since that doesn’t necessarily help you find a balance of all the macronutrients your body needs. The premise is that by customizing the ratio of macros – factoring in your age, activity levels, body composition, etc. – you’ll better meet your wellness and fitness goals.
Who is Macro Tracking For?
If you’ve tried countless eating plans and nothing has worked, counting your macros may be something you want to explore. But it’s no secret that this approach is a lot of work—it requires precision and a commitment to prepare, weigh, and track each meal. If this doesn’t seem compatible with your lifestyle, or if tracking everything you eat each day to get the numbers “just right” sounds frustrating, then you likely won’t stick to it for long.
If you’re new to nutrition and wellness, have a history of eating disorders, or are dealing with any hormonal imbalance or autoimmune condition, you should steer clear of this approach.
How Does it Work?
Choosing the right eating plan takes a lot of trial and error. As with any pattern of eating, there’s no one-size-fits formula. For example, some people might need 10% carbs, 20% protein, and 70% fat, while others need something totally different.
A simple way to start is to estimate energy needs (the number of calories you need) and divvy them up between percentages of protein, carbohydrates, and fat based on your lifestyle and goals. From there, you’d divide the calories in each bucket by four, four, and nine and end up with the number of grams of protein, carbs, and fat you need each day.
Play around with the percentages based on your goals and you’re all set to go. But for best results, the plan should also take into account several factors including your current lifestyle, age, sex, goals, metabolism, gut health, and more—so it might be a helpful to work with a nutrition coach to get started.
Final Thoughts on Tracking Macros
It’s also important to note that counting macros shouldn’t be a free pass to consume processed foods to simply “meet your numbers.” Eating whole, unprocessed foods that are full of fiber, healthy fats, protein, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients should be the main focus. In other words, food quality is equally or even more crucial than quantity to achieve optimal health.
While tracking macros has helped thousands of people achieve their health and fitness goals, it’s not for everyone and is certainly not the only approach that works. The key part of any routine is consistency, so my advice is to find what works for you and stick with it to see optimal results.
Danica is a holistic nutritionist, wellness expert and health coach on a mission to help women around the world find their optimal well-being. She is the founder of Nakd Health, where she coaches clients to prioritize wellness in their busy lives with delicious recipes, nutrition advice, fitness and lifestyle changes.