It wasn’t too long ago that people only had a vague idea of what their body required fuel-wise in order for them to see results in the gym.
However, smart fitness means smart nutrition and with the help of macronutrient calculator tools like the one below, it’s now easier than ever to meet goals.
What are Macronutrients?
For people who want to find out more about the macro diet plan, counting macros involves tracking every gram consumed.
The three macronutrients are carbohydrates, Proteins and fats.
In order to thrive, your body needs a healthy balance of all three.
By macro counting, it’s possible to discover how many calories and in what ratio your body requires on a daily basis according to needs.
Doing so makes it much easier for those who are cutting, bulking or maintaining their physiques.
When calculating Macros, a basic caloric guideline to follow is:
- Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram
- Protein: 4 calories per gram (we recommend approximately 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight)
- Fats: 9 calories per gram (we recommend approximately 0.65g of healthy fats per lb of bodyweight)
How to Count Macros
The amount of calories a person requires each day will vary according to certain criteria such as body composition, daily activity, goals and more.
It’s also important to understand that what may work for one person may not work for another, so adjust as necessary.
With this in mind, there are a number of macronutrient formulas and factors to consider when counting macros.
The macronutrient calculator below uses the Mifflin-St Jeor formula to discover your basic Metabolic rate, which is the minimum number of calories your body requires in order to function.
We’ve then added our own calculations based on your level of daily activity and desired goal.
Because few people know their exact body fat percentage, the macro calculator below is designed to provide an accurate assumption without that data.
However, it may overestimate needs slightly if you have a high body fat percentage.
Always use the results as a guideline only, and adjust according to your own results.
Also, remember that not all macronutrients are equal – try to consume lean protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats.
If you do consume simple carbs, then it should be the fruit kind and ideally part of your pre or Post Workout meal.
Count Macros the Right Way
When following a flexible diet plan, there is more to think about than simply “If It Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM).
The type of protein, fat, and carbohydrates you consume is just as important as the amounts you take in of each, which is why you should follow these tips to ensure you are counting macros the right way.
Michael Matthews, author of Bigger, Leaner, Stronger, notes that the carbs in processed baked goods convert into glycogen and glucose just like the carbohydrates in vegetables do.
However, he also advises against eating too much junk food just because it “fits your Macros.”
Instead, he recommends eating nutritious foods that contain plenty of micronutrients in order to avoid developing some major health problems.
That doesn’t mean you have to avoid junk food altogether, but it does mean that you should not consume too much of it on a regular basis.
Carbohydrates and their Glycemic Index
When counting macros, it’s also important to pay attention to the Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL) of carbs.
A food’s glycemic index has to do with the rate at which it increases blood glucose levels.
The glycemic load on the other hand measures how high your blood sugar could go after eating it.
A study performed at the University of Sydney showed that consuming low GI/GL carbohydrates was associated with a reduced risk of certain diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.
The glycemic index of food is usually listed on the package.
Multiply that figure by the number of carbohydrate grams in a serving, then divide by 100 to come up with the glycemic load.
For comparison purposes, you can see some examples in our “foods with a high glycemic index” article.
Quality of Protein
Another common mistake people make when counting macros is assuming that all sources of protein are the same.
While Matthews admits that the amino acids found in a juicy burger are the same ones found in a lean piece of Chicken, there is nonetheless a difference.
For example, a study showed that eating processed meat can increase your risk of colorectal cancer by 20 to 50 percent.
As such, you should avoid processed meat whenever possible and instead stick with quality sources of protein.
Protein shakes are also good for supplementation, but they shouldn’t be relied upon as your sole means of getting protein.
It’s also important (to better reach your goals) to use a protein blend, or focus on consuming faster acting protein after workouts such as whey, and slower-longer acting protein like casein before bed.
Avoid Trans Fats
When you are counting macros, it is also important to identify the type of fat you are consuming.
The Institute of Medicine recommends consuming as little trans-fat as possible, as it is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, infertility, and diabetes.
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are full of Omega-3 fatty acids, something the American Heart Association recommends for heart health.
Polyunsaturated fats are also known to reduce triglyceride and blood cholesterol levels.
Monounsaturated fat can be found in olive, peanut, or sesame seed oil, while polyunsaturated fats are often abundant in fatty fish such as mackerel and salmon.
Counting macros requires doing more than just using a macronutrient calculator to determine your amounts and then planning your meals accordingly.
Choosing quality sources of protein, fats, and carbohydrates is also needed if you are to meet your weight loss and/or fitness goals and maintain optimum health.
Macros for Weight Loss
There are three macros: protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
Consuming the right amount of each can affect how much testosterone, insulin, and growth hormone is produced by the body.
These hormones in turn can affect how well your body sheds fat and builds muscle.
The idea behind counting macros for weight loss is that taking in the right balance will help you optimize the production of hormones to make eliminating fat easier.
There are some other benefits to following a flexible diet or IIFYM plan, such as:
- The ability to eat the foods you love
- Eliminating the need to count calories
- Making it easier to stick with a diet plan
- Ensuring you have the right combination of nutrients to support fat loss and muscle gain
Calculating Macros for Weight Loss
As mentioned, a flexible diet plan is not “one size fits all”, but instead is customized for each individual.
The amount of macros you need will vary based upon your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the rate at which you burn calories while at rest.
Your BMR is based upon your age, sex, height, and weight.
Your activity level will also affect your macros, and can be broken down into four different categories:
- Lightly active (you have a sedentary job but perform light exercise)
- Moderately active (working a moderately active job and performing moderate exercise)
- Very active (holding down a very active job and performing heavy exercise outside of work)
- Extremely active (you have an extremely hectic job and/or participate in endurance Training)
A very precise formula is applied to each one of these factors, which is why we have created our own macronutrient calculator to help you determine yours.
Calculating these numbers will give you the number of macros you need to maintain your weight.
Our calculator adds 20% to your final calorie total if you are bulking, and subtracts 20% from your final calorie total if you are cutting.
These totals should be used as a starting point only.
You may require further adjustments in the amount of protein, carbohydrates, or fat you consume based upon your own individual results.
A food diary can help you monitor your progress, and will become especially helpful if it becomes necessary to modify your macro intake.
Keeping track of macros is every bit as effective as counting calories or carbohydrates alone, yet many people find doing so is less restrictive and makes it easier to stick with a diet plan.
If you are having difficulty Losing Weight or are particularly concerned with losing fat and not muscle, counting macros for weight loss could be the way to go.
You’ve probably been told more times than you care to admit how to optimize your macronutrient ratio.
You’ve tried the different calculations and percentages.
You’ve tried eating at different times. You’ve tried with supplements and without supplements.
But no matter what you do, you still can’t seem to find the macronutrient ratio that works for you.
Maybe what you need to do is to focus on going “micro” instead.
Think Beyond Your Macro Ratio
For the few that don’t know, your macronutrient ratio is the ratio of macronutrients in your diet – protein, carbs, and fat.
If you’ve ever tried to break down your calories daily to the correct percentages between the “big 3” or ensure that you consumed the correct number of grams of protein and/or carbs in relation to your bodyweight, then you were addressing macronutrients.
Where you run into a problem is when you’re getting your macronutrient ratio on point, yet still don’t have good energy, your body fat is higher than it should be, and/or your performance is still suffering.
This usually happens because though your macronutrients are in line, you’re not getting the right micronutrients.
According to a study by Shenkin in the Postgraduate Medical Journal, micronutrients are needed to maintain and optimize all the body’s processes.
This includes metabolism, muscle repair, growth, functions of the CNS, bone density, and more.
Even if you’re getting the proper amounts of macronutrients, if they don’t contain the right Vitamins and minerals (i.e. – micronutrients), then your diet will still be deficient.
Which Micronutrients are the Most Important?
Though there are 13 different vitamins and several minerals the body needs, one panel of experts broke down a list of the five most important micronutrient areas to be concerned about:
- Vitamin A – Important for vision, reproduction/growth, and a healthy immune system; found in carrots, spinach, broccoli, milk, liver, eggs, and fish.
- Folic Acid – Group of B vitamins necessary for metabolizing amino acids, formulating red blood cells, and the production of Proteins; found in eggs, asparagus, and dark leafy green vegetables.
- Iodine – Vital for brain development and Cognitive functions; found in fish and seaweed, often added to salt.
- Iron – Directly responsible for carrying oxygen through the body via Hemoglobin, anemia can develop if an iron deficiency pervades for too long; found in lentils, red meat, and fish.
- Zinc – Important for children to be able to build a resistance to infectious diseases, aids in healing of wounds, cognitive and gonadal functions; found in liver, eggs, nuts, and seafood.
How to “Get it All” in Your Diet
Micronutrients and your macronutrient ratio shouldn’t be looked at in an “either/or” sense.
Rather, try to use one to satisfy the other.
When picking out what foods you’ll eat to get your protein, carbs, and fats, try to “eat the rainbow”.
This means you have foods in your diet of many different colors.
Doing this usually ensures that you’re eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
By ensuring you have all manner of fruits and vegetables in your diet, you’ll get most of the vitamins and minerals you need by default.
Then ensure that eggs and fish are both protein sources you pull from regularly, and you should have everything above covered.
Keep it Natural
When possible, limit your diet to natural, “real” foods.
This means eating as little as possible that was made by man.
Any time you eat something man-made, you run the risk of the food not having the adequate amounts of either macro or micronutrients it should have.
And since man-made food often has to have a shelf life, you’ll be ingesting preservatives and other unnatural substances that could end up proving harmful to your health.
By taking a “natural” approach by varying your protein, fruits, and vegetables, you’ll be eating in a much overall healthier fashion.
You’ll have your macronutrient ratio on point, won’t have to wonder if you’re accidentally ingesting toxins with man-made foods, and you’ll have all the micronutrients you need to keep your body running optimally.