Does macro tracking intimidate you? Fitness influencers and health coaches all over Instagram keep mentioning macros, but what are they? Are they that important, and do you really have the time to keep up with them?
Macros are all the rage for good reason.
Balancing out your macros in the appropriate ratio is the key to weight loss success. Today, I’ll make macros much more approachable. Plus, I have a huge time-saver tip that’ll make setting and tracking your macros super simple.
“Macros” is the nickname for macronutrients. Macronutrients are the substances that our bodies need in large amounts to function at our best. Macronutrients are essential for growth, energy, and staying alive, plus they play a critical role in how much we weigh (I’ll talk more about this later).
There are three main macronutrients:
Before you start counting, let’s look at each macronutrient so you know what it is, what it does, and why it’s important for health and fitness.
Carbohydrates provide instant energy. All carbohydrates eventually broken down into glucose, which is our body’s main energy source. Carbs also allow us to store energy, and they aid in digestion. Fiber, one type of carbohydrate, helps rid your body of waste and keeps your intestinal tract healthy.
Wait, but shouldn’t I be cutting carbs for weight loss?
If you’re in the carb-cut club, you may be thinking about carbs the wrong way. Carbs are an essential macronutrient, meaning that we need carbs to perform at our best. In fact, specific organs, like your brain, need glucose (from carbs) in order to function properly.
Your carb-cutting instinct may be onto something though, because not all carbohydrates are created equal.
Carbs fall into two categories: simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. If you’re curious about carbs and want to know which ones aid in weight loss and which ones pack on the pounds, check out my Carb Guide here.
Protein is the powerhouse of macronutrients. In fact, I’d bet my next burger that if you’re struggling to drop weight, it’s probably because your diet lacks protein.
Proteins are important for building and repairing our muscles and tissues. They also provide structure to your body’s cell membranes, organs, hair, skin, and nails.
Here’s the kicker: Our bodies can make some of the proteins we need (these are called non-essential amino acids). But some of them (the essential amino acids) we can only get through our diet.
Protein-rich foods include animal products like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, and cheese. You can also eat a variety of plant proteins like beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and soy to boost your protein intake. Eating enough protein is critical when it comes to weight loss. Wonder how? Read up on exactly how protein influences your weight and body fat.
Remember the low-fat fads in the ‘80s? Thank goodness those days are behind us. Fats are one of the critical macronutrients our bodies need. They’re used as stored energy, help create our cell membranes, and they protect our organ health. Plus, fats allow our bodies to absorb and transport fat-soluble vitamins (like vitamins A, D, E, and K) from the food we’re eating.
Of course, there are good fats and there are bad fats. If you want to feel your best and have the most success in your weight loss journey, make sure you know which fats to indulge in and which to avoid.
There’s another macronutrient hiding at the bottom of your margarita glass. That’s right—alcohol is technically its own macronutrient. While alcohol is sometimes referred to as the fourth macronutrient, it’s nonessential, meaning it does provide energy but is not necessary for sustaining life. Below, I’ll show you which macronutrients are important to track and which matter less.
Quality and quantity matter when it comes to weight loss. Research continues to show that what you eat, in addition to how much, is important for both fat loss and physical health. Tracking your macros allows you to prioritize nutrient-dense foods and eat the right amount of them. Keep your protein, carbs, and fat in balance to fuel your body from the right sources.
How do I know what the right balance is for me?
In general, a moderate-fat (20%-30% of calories), moderate-carb (30% to 40% of calories), and adequate protein (30% to 40% of calories) diet tends to promote weight loss in most people. However, your perfect macro balance depends on your personal goals, activity level, age, health, gender, and genetics.
Here are 5 quick steps to finding the right macronutrient balance for your body.
A piece of paper, a pen, and some basic arithmetic are all you really need to set and track your macros. But if you want to confirm that you’re on the right path, try a food tracker app, like LEAN. Food tracker apps will help you set macro goals and calculate your macro and micro nutrients when you log the food you eat.
Your BMR is the number of calories you burn in 24 hours if you didn’t get out of bed all day. Find your BMR with a tool like this.
Multiply your BMR by the number associated with your average activity level:
Cut body fat while maintaining toned muscle mass and healthy hormone production by dividing your daily calories into this ratio:
Macro tracking is critical, but two diet rules matter the most when it comes to weight loss:
Your BMR and activity level that you found above will determine how many calories you burn each day and how many calories you need to consume each day to create a deficit.
Regarding your protein needs for weight loss, shoot for 50-75% of your current weight in grams of protein. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, your protein needs will be 75-115 grams a day.
That leaves two macronutrients: carbohydrates and fat. But research shows that as long as you’re staying in a caloric deficit and getting adequate protein, where these two macronutrients fall matters less.
Keep your diet as simple as possible. Focus on being in a caloric deficit and hitting your daily protein goal.
If you wake up some days ready to nerd out about nutrition, spend that extra time calculating and tracking healthy, healing, and balanced carbs and fats. If on other days, you barely have time to shower, don’t stress out about the outliers.
And you thought counting macros was complicated! Understanding the right ratio of these macronutrients in your daily diet is key to weight loss success. But macro-counting doesn’t have to turn into a second job.
If you’re serious about weight loss, start simple. Focus on hitting your protein goal and staying in a caloric deficit. After that, let your carbs and fat fall where they fall within your caloric deficit.
Weight loss doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to take over your life. For more practical tips and tricks for health and weight loss, join my weekly newsletter. If you’re serious about seeing real results, starting today, sign up for my 7-week LEAN program now!