Have you heard people talking about “counting their macros” and wondered what they were talking about?
Understanding macronutrients can be pretty simple. And if you are a busy parent, knowing the basics can save you some inches on the waistband. So, let’s make it simple for you.
The calories you eat every day, are made up of macronutrients, or “macros.” There are also micronutrients, but no one cares about them. Okay, that’s not true, but they aren’t as crucial for what we are talking about today.
If you know how to count and understand macros, it can be very effective for fat loss or gaining muscle.
So, what are these so-called macros?
Runner up would be alcohol (technically it’s #4), but we aren’t going to focus on it. Hopefully you aren’t imbibing the spirits on a daily basis.
How do these macros make up the calories you are eating?
Every macronutrient has a caloric value.
- 1 gram of protein = 4 calories.
- 1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories.
- 1 gram of fat = 9 calories.
So let’s look at my food from yesterday, for an example.
- Protein, I had 205g x 4 = 820 calories.
- Carbs, I had 230g x 4 = 920 calories.
- Fat, I had 65g x 9 = 585 calories.
- Daily total = 2,325 calories.
There you have a brief explanation on understanding macros.
Now that you know what a macro is, let’s look at how counting macros can be used for fat loss or mass gains.
First, let’s figure out your TDEE – Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. The number of calories you are burning during the average day, just doing what you do. If you were to stay at this number, you would not lose or gain weight. You would just maintain your current weight.
Find your TDEE here – Fill out the questions. For formula, pick total body weight formula. You’ll then get an email with your calculated TDEE. You can also search other TDEE calculators.
Now you can decide if you want to lose weight or gain it.
Okay, let’s look at my results.
35 years old, 5’11, 200 lbs. I selected the sedentary option, because I do work an office job Monday-Friday.
I exercise 4 days a week (usually), for around 45 minutes per workout. When I am working out, my intensity is good, so I selected “difficult.”
So, my maintenance calories = 2,425. Obviously this is an estimate, but it should be pretty close. You can use this as a good starting point.
Alright, you have your TDEE, you understand what a macronutrient is, you are ready! Now what? Good question.
Do you want to lose weight?
If you said yes, take your TDEE # and subtract some calories. TADA!!! How many is going to vary on each person. A good place to start is around 300-500 calories.
Alright, looking at mine, for example. I need 2,425 to stay where I currently am. Therefore if I wanted to start losing weight, I’d start by cutting calories to 2,100 a day. So -325 calories.
For the first week, you want to weigh yourself daily, after a morning poop. Hopefully by the end of the week, you’ll notice a drop of 1-2 lbs. Remember, the more overweight you are, the more you’ll probably lose.
If you are hitting your macros and by end of week 1 you haven’t lost any weight, then drop more calories. If you don’t want to drop any calories, because you love to eat, then add some cardio.
Each week you’ll need to gauge how you are doing and adjust your macros. If you haven’t lost anything in the past 2 weeks, it is time to drop calories lower or add more cardio.
Okay, so if you subtract a few hundred calories to lose weight, can you guess what you do to gain weight?
You got it! Add 300-500 calories and you’ll be on your way to beefcake status.
So am I saying that only Protein, Carbs and Fat matter? And that you don’t have to worry about sugar or anything else? Technically, yes.
The one caveat I have is fiber. Fiber is important, too. Try to get at least 20-30g a day. Stay regular my friends! Isn’t understanding macros fun?!
Should you get all of your carbs from cake and cookies? Probably not. If you do, but still hit your macros and stay under your caloric goal, will you lose weight? Yeah, oddly enough, you will.
But remember, there is a reason why “Bro Science” has been around for so long. Brown rice and sweet potatoes have been a staple in bodybuilding and diets since forever. For good reason.
You can definitely enjoy some treats here and there though, if you hit your numbers. That’s what’s so nice about this method. So feel free to steal a few of Jr’s Chicken McNuggets or enjoy some ice cream on occasion.
How it all adds up
- Try to get around 1g of protein per lbs. of body weight. (1g x 200lbs. = 200g of protein).
- For fat, aim for around .3g per lbs. of body weight. (.3g x 200lbs. = 60g of fat).
- The rest will be made up of carbs. (200g protein x 4=800 + 60g fat x 9=540) = 1,340. Remember from before? Protein and carbs = 4 calories. Fat = 9 calories.
- 2,425 (my TDEE) – 1,340 = 1,085 calories from carbs. (1,085 / 4 = 271g carbs).
So that is what I’d be shooting for, if I was trying to hit my TDEE of 2,425 calories a day. 200g P, 60g F, and 271g C.
Also keep in mind, if you have a bad day and you go over your macros and your calories, it’s fine. The next day you can adjust and just aim lower on everything to even it out. Try to think about this as a weekly goal, not just a daily one.
If you know you are getting pizza Friday night, drop 500 calories and a 1/2 your carbs from Thursday.
The main things I focus on are 1) calories, 2) protein and then carbs and fats fall into place. If your carbs are high, dial back the fat. And, vice versa. But try to always hit your calories and protein.
So that is my not-so-quick spiel on understanding macros. I hope I made it kind of simple for you. Feel free to comment or ask questions. Thanks! – Ryan