Why track macronutrients?
Ahhh macronutrients (also lovingly called "macros.") Many people haven’t heard of them. But they might be the missing piece that will unlock all of your fitness goals. Unfortunately, most people don’t count them, even if they should.
So just what are "macronutrients?"
Before we explain, it’s helpful to talk about calories, which you have probably heard of before.
Simply put, a calorie is a unit of energy. All foods contain calories and all of our daily activities – exercising, walking to work, breathing – burn calories. In fact, unless you’re a laborer or professional athlete, most of your daily calories will be used by the bodily processes just required to stay alive.
At a high level, the basics of weight loss and weight gain are straightforward. When you eat more calories than you use (in which case you’re in what’s known as a "caloric surplus") you gain weight. Conversely, when you use more calories than you eat (in which case you’re in a "caloric deficit") you lose weight.
Which brings us to macros.
Macronutrients, are one of the following three substances that make up all food – protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Macronutrients contain calories, a different amount for each macronutrient.
More specifically, there are 4 calories in each gram of protein, 9 calories in each gram of fat, and 4 calories in each gram of carbohydrates.
So why count macros instead of just counting calories?
When most people embark on a diet, they only count calories, not macros. Unfortunately, this often leaves people prone to many of the typical side effects of dieting – feeling hungry, lacking energy, and being irritable to name a few things.
Targeting macronutrients, alone or in combination with counting calories, allows you to counteract these side effects. With the right macros, you can remain full all day, stay energetic, and build muscle to give you that "toned" look.
Is it magic? Not quite. It seems like magic, but it’s science.
Here’s what one participant in Fitocracy’s "Weight Loss Made Simple" group had to say after counting macros:
"This new way of dieting was life changing. I lost 10 lbs, all while remaining incredibly full – sometimes too full. My energy was sky high and I will never go back to pure calorie counting again."
How to look up a food items macros?
For the most part, looking up macros is easy. Sites like FitDay or Calorie Count have a tremendous amount of macronutrient data on everything from common groceries (like chicken, steak, eggs, rice, potatoes) to common restaurants like Chipotle.
You may need a food scale or measuring cups in order to most accurately track items that you prepare at home.
How many macros do I need?
If you need help figuring out what macro targets you should be following, try out our calculator! You can access the calculator in the settings menu.