How to Count Macros and Why You Should Do It

Emmie Satrazemis, RD, CSSD

Categories:

If It Fits In Your Macros
,
Macronutrients
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fat loss
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macros
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Nutrition Articles
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lose fat

What are Macros?

Macronutrients or “macros” are essentially your calories from food broken up into three major nutrient groups - carbohydrates, protein, and fat! By counting your macros, you are counting calories and your nutrition intake at the same time.  

Each macro provides important nutrients for daily function and survival, and getting the right balance of all three is crucial for maintaining lean muscle, burning fat and staying healthy.

Macros-Trifecta

Macros for Fat Loss

While weight loss can be achieved through decreasing the quantity of what you eat, fat loss requires you to change the quality of your diet. In other words, fat loss or muscle gain can be triggered when you start tracking your macros because of the way your body utilizes them.

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How to Count Macros

Protein, fat and carbohydrates each provide a certain amount of calories per gram:

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You can calculate the amount you are eating by using the nutrition facts label. But make sure you are measuring for the right portion size!

Macros-Using-Nutrition-Labels-Trifecta (1)Because macros provide the calories in food, the percentage of all three - protein, fat and carbohydrates, should total 100%.

Use a Macro Tracking App

For options that don’t have a nutrition facts label - such as fresh meats and produce - using a database from a food tracking app can help you find the nutrition breakdown.

TIP: Weighing and measuring your food will help you to be more precise!

Or use a “macro-friendly” app, like Trifecta, that allows you to quickly input and track your macros with premium features.

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Is Alcohol a Macro?

Alcohol also contributes a significant amount of calories but is not considered an essential nutrient.

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TIP: If you are looking to lose body fat you may want to consider drinking less alcohol. Your body will prioritize metabolizing toxins from drinking before other macros, slowing down your metabolism and increasing how much fat you are storing from food. This can prevent you from burning as much fat and can also lead to gain over time.

How Many Macros Do You Need?

Step #1 - Choose your Objective. Are you trying to lose fat? Gain muscle? Or do you want to maintain your weight but change your body composition?

Step #2 - Estimate how many calories you need per day to lose, gain, or maintain your weight. You can find this using a total daily energy expenditure calculator or TDEE calculator.

Step #3 - Once you have your target total daily intake, you can estimate your macro needs using the following:

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Best Macros for Fitness

The type of workouts you are doing and the intensity, can affect your daily calorie and macro needs. For the ultimate results, consider adjusting your macros each day based on your fitness regime.

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At Rest

At rest, your body is using mostly fat for long lasting energy.  Fat is preferred because you have an abundant supply and it provides twice as much energy per gram, compared to carbs and protein.                                                           

How your calorie needs change: Low overall calorie burn. Decrease total calorie intake.

How your macro needs change: decrease carbs and fat on these days. For many, 30 to 40% carbs, 30 to 40% protein and 20 to 25% fat work well. 

Moderate Activity

During moderate exercise, your body is still using mostly fat for energy but also starts using carbs for quicker energy. Fat metabolism is slow and requires plenty of oxygen. As you start moving around, oxygen becomes less available and you need energy faster - carbs are a quick and easy source for fuel.

How your calorie needs change: moderate calorie burn. Keep calories the same.

How your macro needs change: Keep protein, carbs and fat moderate. For most, 40 to 50% carbs, 20 to 30% protein, and 20 to 30% fat work well. 

High Intensity

When performing at high intensity, oxygen is not readily available and quick energy is needed. At this level your body is burning mostly carbs for fast energy, and some fat for sustained endurance.

How your calorie needs change High overall calorie burn and increased fat burning potential. Slightly increase total calories on these days.

How your macro needs change: Decrease fat, and increase carbs and keep protein moderate. For many, 50 to 65% carbs, 20 to 30% protein, and 15 to 25% fat work well. 

TIP: Use your estimated daily calorie needs from your TDEE and adjust up or down each day based on your workouts. The total weekly average of calories should still equal your TDEE.

Macro Meal Planning

Once you’ve got your macro needs figured out, you can plan your daily meals around them. Learning to meal prep ahead of time is the best way to keep you on track. Or use a macro based meal delivery program like Trifecta!

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