Macronutrients are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins necessary for maintaining body structure and systems and to produce energy. There are various apps to help you count your calories with easy without struggling to count the calorie in each food.

People struggling with weight loss or aspiring to gain muscles have at one point heard the term counting macros as it involves gaining muscle mass and shedding weight. Counting macros entails tracking the type of food one eats and calories to attain a certain calorie or macronutrient goal, often using a counting macros app. Though the process of counting macros is simple, some people have found it a challenge. This discussion aspires to demystify counting macros to help you achieve your goals with ease.

What are Macronutrients?

Macronutrients are considered the main cornerstones of your diet, taken in varied ratios depending on your nutritional goals. They include fats, carbohydrates, and proteins needed to maintain body structure and systems and to produce energy. A healthy diet will allow the consumption of these macronutrients for the proper functionality of the body.

Carbohydrates– Carbs are primarily starches, sugars, and fibers, broken down in the body to produce blood sugars. The resulting glucose is used as an energy source used by the body, with excess stored in the liver or muscles as glycogen. It forms the most calorie intake in diets around the world, providing four calories per gram. Foods such as vegetables, beans, grains, fruits, and dairy products contain carbohydrates.

Fats– Fats are useful macronutrients, providing nine calories for every gram used to facilitate nutrient absorption, hormone production, and balancing body temperatures. There is increased demand for a high-fat diet among health enthusiasts. Foods rich in fats include butter, nuts, avocados, fatty fish, and oils.

Proteins– are the bodybuilding blocks needed for cell signaling, hormone and enzyme building, immune functions, and tissue formation. They also boast four grams of calories per gram. The recommendation of protein intake varies depending on age, body composition, and goals. You can get protein from foods such as poultry, eggs, lentils, tofu, and fish.

How You Can Count Macronutrients

You can begin counting your macronutrients following certain steps as outlined below.

Know your calorie needs

In determining your calorie need, two terms come to mind: non-resting energy expenditure (NREE) and resting energy expenditure (REE). The REE is the calories one burns while resting, whereas NREE is the calories one burns when active. Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is cumulative of REE and NREE. You can use counting macros apps and online calculators in determining your calorie needs. The Mifflin-St. Jeor equation shows calorie intake for men and women as follows:

Men’s daily calorie= 6.25 x height+ 10x weight- 5 x age + 5

Women’s daily calorie intake= 6.25 x height+ 10x weight- 5 x age – 161.

You will then need to multiply the answer with activity levels. The activity levels include light active (x 1.375), sedentary (x 1.2), moderate activity (x 1.55), very active (x1.725), and extra active (x1.9). You can change your calorie intake to suit any goal you have.

Breakdown Your Ideal Macronutrients

Breaking down your macronutrients is the next step, where you decide on the macronutrient ratio that best fits you. The commonly recommended quotients are carbs consisting of 4-65% of one’s total daily calorie intake, fats contributing to 20-35%, and proteins adding 10-35% of your total daily calories. However, these ratios can be varied to accommodate specific needs and objectives. For instance, a person to lose body fat and improve blood sugar levels could consume 35% carbs, 35% protein, and 30% fat. The ketogenic diet may increase fat intake and considerably lower carb intake.

Track Your Calorie and Macro Intake

Tracking macros means keying the food you eat on a counting macro app, website, or food journal. Macronutrient apps such as Lose It!,MyFitnessPal, or My Macro + can help you track the calories. Some of these user-friendly apps and websites have a barcode scanner that helps to log the scanned food automatically. You could also track your macro intake using a hand-written journal.

When doing a manual calculation of calories, you will need to know how many calories are in one gram of a macronutrient. Carbs and proteins have four, while fats have 9 calories. You will also outline the ratio at which you want to balance your macros. The formula would be dividing the total expected calorie consumption multiply by the ratio and divided by the number of calories per gram to know the weight of each macro consumption. 

The Benefits of Counting Macros

Some of the known benefits of counting macros include:

Enhanced diet quality-this method emphasizes food quality instead of calorie content. For instance, a bowl of oats coupled with blueberry topping and pumpkin seed sprinkle may have similar calorie content with a bowl of sugary cereal. However, their macronutrient content varies greatly. Those counting macros are likely to choose a nutrient-dense food.

It could enhance weight loss– Since the diet sets certain dietary recommendations, it can result in weight loss. The protein-rich diet and low-carb diet, followed by counting macros, can easily contribute to weight loss. 

It Could Help with Achieving Specific Goals– Athletes can use macronutrient counting to acquire specific goals, such as muscle gains. If the goal is to improve muscle mass, you can increase your protein ratio. It is possible to acquire lean body mass and enhance performance through counting macronutrients.

How You Can Meet Your needs

Those practicing macronutrient counting will increase or reduce their macro components depending on one’s needs. Some of the foods you can incorporate to fill your macronutrient needs are as below:

Carbs– here, you can consume grains, whole wheat, starchy vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, beans, fruits like bananas, apples, pineapple, and berries. Some legumes and dairy products also contain carbs.

Proteins– they include meat, fish, egg whites, poultry, tofu, shellfish, protein powder, and milk.

Fats- You can incorporate butter, egg yolk, avocado, nuts, full-fat cheese, full-fat yogurt and milk, flaxseed, chia seeds, and fatty fish.

Macronutrient Counting Does Not Suit Everybody

Though macro counting can increase your awareness of the quantity and quality of your food, it is not for everyone. It is mostly suitable for individuals on a ketogenic diet or those on a high-protein diet. Individuals with an eating disorder should not use macro counting because it can worsen their negative relationship with food.

It is good to remember that macronutrient counting can result in poor eating since it allows all food that fits in the macronutrient range. When engaging in macro counting, ensure your diet is full of healthy fats, fresh produce, protein sources, and complex carbs.

The Bottom Line

Following any diet can seem restricting and overwhelming at times. However, you are set to begin your macro counting journey with success because of the above information. First, you will need to set your calorie goal and the macronutrient ranges of proteins, fats, and carbs that best fit your needs. Then you will select the appropriate app for logging the eating of the food to help you know your daily calorie intake. Sooner or later, counting the macronutrients will become second nature.

MS, Lund University, Sweden

Nutrition plays an important role in human life. Eating habits are one of the factors that affect our health. There is often a misconception among people that nutritionists force a very restrictive diet, but that is not true. In fact, I don't ban any products, but I point out dietary mistakes and help change them by giving tips and new recipes that I've tried myself. I advise my patients not to resist change and to be purposeful. Only with willpower and determination can a good result be achieved in any area of life, including changing eating habits. When I don't work, I love to go climbing. On a Friday evening, you are most likely to find me on my couch, cuddling with my dog and watching some Netflix.

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