By Carl Jackson
Let’s start off with the basics – what does the word macros mean? Ultimately Macros is short for Macronutrients – Macronutrients refers to the nutrients you get from food that gives us calories or energy. The word ‘macro’ means large, therefore, macronutrients are nutrients needed in large quantities. There are three types of macronutrients and they come in the form of Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins.
What Does Tracking Your Macros Mean?
Fundamentally, tracking your macros means counting how many grams of carbohydrates, fats and proteins that you consume on a daily basis. This may shock some of you who are completely new to tracking macros but yes many people, including myself, count their daily macros every day! It has become increasingly more popular to prep your meals for your working week ahead but in order to prep your meals appropriately you should weigh out how many grams of each specific food items that you have cooked in order to get a correct balance of nutrition. Thus, when you know how many grams of food you have in your prepacked meals, you can easily workout how many grams of carbohydrates, fats and proteins are in these foods.
Why Is It Important To Track Them?
If you have a fitness goal in mind tracking your macros should be an important element of your daily routine. Whether you are looking to lose fat, build muscle or simply maintain your current shape and fitness levels then diet and nutrition plays a vital role. Merely being mindful of the foods you chose to consume will not allow you to reach your desired goals very quickly and may even hinder your progress in the gym. Fat-loss for example, will only happen when your body is in a calorie deficit, however if you put yourself in too much of a deficit this can be extremely detrimental to your health and not only will you burn precious muscle, you will find yourself lacking in energy and motivation to hit the gym – causing your body to preserve the fat you do have. At worse, this can lead to eating disorders and even kidney and heart failure. Therefore, it is crucial that you track your macros and thus calories in order for you to reach your goal safely and healthily. Now, if your aim is to build strong muscle then your body requires an increase in calories that is higher than the calories you burn on a daily basis. However, it is not as simple as ‘I need to eat more so let’s have the whole cake instead of just one slice’; if you want to build muscle without putting on too much excess fat – which is detrimental to our health – then you need to make sure the calories you are consuming come from specific percentages of the three macronutrients, i.e. higher protein content than carbs and fats.
How Can You Track Macros?
Method 1: Via Fitness Apps On Your Smart Phone
These days, we are lucky enough to live in an age where our phones can do pretty much anything we ask and one of the most reliable and simple apps to use in order to track your daily macros is; myfitnesspal. This app has been around since 2009 and gives us the ability to access an extremely large database of everyday foods and their accompanying macros. Newly added to the app has been the ability to scan the barcode of the food packet you’re eating from and instantaneously the macros of the food will be brought up into your phone. You have the ability to adjust serving sizes and portions as you wish and you can keep track of not only your macronutrients but always your fiber, sugar, salt, vitamin, minerals intake and much more. Additionally, myfitnesspal syncs to your phone’s step-o-meter and counts how many steps you take on a daily basis which is converted to miles or kilometers and then derived into calories burnt based on your body weight. I use this app every day and crucial to my success when competing especially for the 3 months that I am on prep for a competition. The best part of myfitnesspal is the simplicity of adding your specific goals and the ability of the app to give you your macros; additionally, at the end of each day, you can see your daily intake in terms of calories, grams of protein, carbs and fats and the percentages of your macronutrients. * Bonus Point: The App is Free! *
Method 2: Keep A Food Diary
Always look at the nutritional label of your foods! Check out my post on how to read the nutritional label here if you don’t already know (enter link). Go by the ‘per 100g’ column of the table as the macronutrients will be given in a percentage. Find out how many grams of the food you are eating, or how many servings you are having, for example; Oats – Serving size of 50g. You can see by the table to the left that there is 7g of fat per 100g in oats (therefore 7%); 60.6% carbs and 10.3% protein. If we divide this amount in half as we are having 50g of oats then we know we are having: 3.5g of fat, 30g of carbs and 5g of protein in our bowl. As the nutritional label says there are 363 calories per 100g then we can cut this amount in half again and it works out that we are having 181 calories. Additionally, there is a separate way to workout out calories via this simple method:
We know that: Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per 1 gram, Proteins also provide 4 calories per 1 gram and Fats provide 9 calories per 1 gram.
So if we are having 3.5g of fats that is: 3.5 X 9 = 31.5 calories; 30g of carbs: 30 X 4 = 120 calories; 5g of protein: 5 x 4 = 20 calories. Add them altogether = 31.5 + 120 + 20 = 171.5 calories.
As you can see there is a small difference between both numbers as this allows for errors within the nutritional labels.