At this point, many of us have either tried paleo, currently practice paleo or at least know what the paleo diet is. However, more and more people are now starting to talk about “macros” in regards to their diets, and while some of you may know what that is, others may be a little lost and wonder “what the heck are macros anyway?”.
What are Macros?
‘Macros’ is the shortened term for macronutrients — the fat, protein, and carbohydrates that make up a food’s composition and help you create energy. You can find them listed on the nutrition facts panel of most foods. Gram for gram, macronutrients are responsible for the calorie count in your food. One gram of carbohydrates provides 4 calories, one gram of protein provides 4 calories, and one gram of fat provides 9 calories.
Is this just calorie counting?
When you follow a macro plan, you go beyond counting calories and focus on tracking your individual macros. Depending on your goals, you can adjust the ratios of macronutrients you consume to lose weight, build muscle, or enter maintenance phase. Counting calories is NOT the same as tracking your macronutrients as calories alone won’t tell you the balance of fat, carbohydrates, and protein in the foods you eat. Macros zero in on the composition of your daily calories so you can alter each one to help reach your goals. For example, if you just count your calories, you may get 70% of your calories from carbs and not even know it, which will make you feel much different than if that 70% came from healthy fats. With tracking, you can understand the source of the imbalance and adjust accordingly.
How do I start counting macros?
The tricky thing about macronutrients is that the amount you should be eating can vary drastically from person to person. Your perfect amount is called your “macronutrient ratio”. Your ideal macro ratios depend on your height and weight, your activity level, your age, and your goal. There are plenty of online calculators and tools to start you off, however, keep in mind those are just an estimate based on the information you input. As a certified Precision Nutrition Coach, I am qualified and able to do this for you if this is something you are interested in doing in the future. Let me know and we can set time up for a nutrition assessment!
I have my Macro Ratios…now what?
As you begin your macro plan, you will need to keep track of your food and portions so you can stick to your macro ratio as close as possible. A food scale will be very helpful so you can weigh your food and see exactly how big your portions are. Once you’ve used the food scale for a while, you’ll probably get good at eyeballing your favorite foods to log portion size into your nutrition tracking app (example- my fitness pal) or food log (notebook).
Counting macros is a very personalized, efficient way to eat and fuel your body based on your goals. It opens your eyes to what an actual serving size is, allows you some freedom of choosing the foods that you eat as long as you stick within your macro ratio, and it doesn’t eliminate any food groups, such as dairy, unless there is a personal health reason to do so. On the other hand, it takes some time and effort, especially at the beginning, because you need to weigh, measure and track your food, so you need to be committed to the process in order to really reap the benefits. After the first few weeks of tracking, it becomes second nature and doesn’t take as much time as it once did. Meal prepping is something I HIGHLY recommend to save you time during the week and to keep you on track. If you have any questions or want to talk more about macros and get started on your own macro plan, reach out to me anytime!