Updated: Feb 23, 2022
Counting Macros for weight loss has never been easier! Read on, knowing and mastering what you are about to read below may be the key to achieving your goals once and for all. Digest it in parts, have a few cups of coffee in the meantime, and bookmark it to come back to it whenever you need to. However, that said... this is a guide on Counting Macros for Beginners. The information we will cover is clear and simple. Perfect for those just starting out in this and a good refresher on the basics for those more advanced in nutrition.
What are macros?
To keep it short I'll sum it up: protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
What does it do?
Apart from everything you already know about tissue repair and building/maintaining muscle, protein helps us control our appetite in a number of ways. Protein digestion takes much more energy than other macros (your body burns more to digest it) and makes you feel fuller for longer since that digestion process is also slower. That's why it's normal to hear that high protein diets are usually effective when it comes to fat loss. What you need to understand is that you tend to eat fewer calories overall because you are full, there is nothing magical about eating protein but it is essential for our health.
Where do we find it?
Meat, fish, eggs and dairy are good examples. You may have heard of other sources of protein such as nuts and legumes, and although 15% of all calories in these foods come from protein, having them as main sources of protein would not be very wise. If we use almonds as an example, we are talking about a composition of 75% fat and 15% protein; this is not to say that you shouldn't eat almonds, it's just to give you the idea that "nuts are a good source of protein" doesn't make much sense. There are better ways to eat protein.
How much do I need?
There are a thousand ways to calculate it and it depends on several factors, but if improving your physique is the goal, between 2 - 2.3g per kg of weight would be a good place to start.
What do they do?
Our body uses carbohydrates for energy. They are stored in the liver, brain, blood and muscles in the form of glycogen. They also make foods crunchy and richer as a rule. Where do we find them?
Fruits, vegetables, rice, bread, cereals, energy/sweetened beverages and a bunch of things you always obsessively missed if you've tried a very low-carb diet. Yes, I've been there. Not eating even a piece of bread because you think it's fattening isn't cool.
How much do I need?
It also depends. Technically, we can live on 0 grams of carbs, but the range is super wide: bodybuilders or runners consume up to 600 or more grams a day depending on their needs. As with everything, you'll need to find the amount you need for your lifestyle and goal. A good start would be between 1.25g per kg of lean mass going up to 6-7g+ per kg.
What does it do?
Counting Macros for weight loss implies keeping track of your fat intake. However, it's not the enemy. Fat is an essential nutrient; it helps us with vitamin absorption, regulates our hormones, brain function, etc... You need to eat fat.
All the fat we eat is either used as energy or stored. That does NOT mean that fat is fattening, the total calories for the day, week, month, year is what will make you store that fat more permanently or not.
I repeat again. Fat is NOT bad or fattening, we need it to function properly and it makes food taste amazing! Where do we find it? Meat and fatty fish, whole eggs, nuts, oils and butter, cheeses, etc...
How much do I need?
If you've read the previous sections I'm sure you've guessed this answer. Exactly, it depends on several things-about 15-45% of your total calories. The total calories you target will dictate the amount of fat you eat, try not to go below 15% total because of hormones and whatnot. Vitamins, minerals, sodium, etc, are micronutrients and have NO calories. You can't get fat on sodium or potassium. Remember: ALL calories come from macros. ONLY protein, carbohydrates -including fiber-, fat, and alcohol have calories.
HOW DO YOU COUNT MACROS?
Were you good at math? Me neither. Luckily this macro thing isn't registered by NASA as advanced practice; we just need the basics: (+), (-), (x), (/).
Each macro gives us a certain number of calories:
1 gram of protein gives us 4 calories.
1 gram of carbohydrate gives us 4 calories
1 gram of fat gives us 9 calories
1 gram of alcohol gives us 7 calories
Nutritionally labeled foods
Anything that comes with a nutrition label is super easy to track. Take 10 seconds to look at the label, write down their macros and go about your day. easy! I've warned before, sometimes labels look like hieroglyphics. Focus on what matters: protein, carbs, and fat.
Unit, serving or servings
On many labels, you will have the nutritional information per 100g of product and per serving as the manufacturer estimates. It is important to keep this in mind because many things usually have 3-4 servings in each package.
Watch carefully these differences between the 100g and the recommended serving, in things like juices and other beverages usually show only the information per serving and in small print, it tells you that it has 2.5 servings.
You drink the whole bottle of juice believing that it had only 11g of sugar when in fact it contains 78...
What about everything else on the label?
Let's look at what to do with everything else that usually appears on nutrition labels:
Saturated fat has been demonized for the past few decades without much good reason.
In fact, constantly eating more calories than you need along with a sedentary lifestyle is what fuels all those cardiovascular risks and other things they still blame on saturated fat. Fat has beneficial effects on our bodies; it helps us have proper hormone levels and can help with better brain function and immune system. Do I have to count it? Nope. Saturated fat along with all other types of fat (including trans fat) add up to the total fat in any given meal. Considering the total fat, you don't need to count saturated fat as well.
Cholesterol, like saturated fat, occurs naturally in the body. It has also been demonized for years, and your doctor along with Danacol ads seem to have the definitive solution to this. The truth is that no evidence has been found of any relationship between cholesterol intake, blood levels, and cardiovascular disease. Cholesterol is present in every single cell of our body and has a lot of benefits, you don't have to be afraid of it. And for God's sake, stop throwing money in cholesterol burners and other scams...
Fiber is a carbohydrate with a lot of benefits: it slows down digestion, so it helps us stay full and satiated longer, regulates total blood cholesterol, and helps us go to the bathroom better. Do I have to count it? No, just count total carbs but don't forget it's important to eat enough fiber daily, make sure you include plenty of vegetables/fruit in your diet.
Let's stop the endless debate about how bad sugar is and how much you can eat. Here's what you need to know: Sugar is a carbohydrate. You probably shouldn't eat a diet where ALL your carbs come from sugar, but there is absolutely no need to eliminate it or avoid it like the plague. Moderation and common sense is your best bet in this regard. As mentioned before, include plenty of fruits and veggies in your diet and feel free to sneak in your favorite desserts and foods to hit your macro total without worry. In fact, we can help you with that! We have lots of delicious options on our menu.
As you may see, Counting Macros for weight loss is easy when you know where to look and what you expect! Of course, things can get tricky sometimes. If you are interested in the macros of our menu items, we can provide you with the info on macros such as fat, protein, and carbohydrates via our chatbot on our website!