Macros 101 – Counting Up to Win!

Many people have been moderately successful when they consistently count calories in an effort to reduce or increase intake and to lose, or gain bodyweight. Yet, true success – the type that lasts longer than just a “diet” – comes from being able to examine what type of calories you are taking in, and more importantly, whether or not you are getting enough of each macronutrient to fulfill your needs and achieve your goals.

It requires understanding how to read a nutrition label for the protein, carbohydrates, and fats that a food contains, as well as knowing the correct amount of these three macronutrients your body needs to succeed. You must have a light understanding of each nutrients role in the body:

  1. Protein – An amino acid structure that provides critical information to support the function and regeneration of all cells in the body. It is 4 calories per gram and should be consumed at a rate of .8 to 1.2 times your body weight (in pounds) in order to meet the needs of your body and provide additional nutrients for your goals.
    1. Found in meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, beans, lentils, Brussel sprouts, and even peas.
    2. Protein can build muscle, maintain your current muscle mass, and even help burn fat due to how much energy it takes to properly digest it.
  1. Carbohydrates – These hydrocarbons are the tasty foods that so many of us crave. Also coming in at 4 calories per gram, the consumption rate varies due to age, sex, current physical condition, exercise intensity, and training goals.
    1. Fruits, vegetables, grains, rice, potatoes, beans, sugar and pastas.
    2. A successful diet is still centered upon the fruits and vegetables, but those looking to gain muscle will want to put enough grains, potatoes, and even pasta in their diets to fuel their workouts and provide nutrients for growing muscle.
  1. Fats – Known as saturated and unsaturated fats – the benefits to each are prominent, although consuming too many saturated fats has pointed towards cardiovascular disease and weight management issues. Fats come in at 9 calories per gram, and should be found from mostly unsaturated sources, especially those that aren’t processed or chemically altered.

    1. Fatty fish like salmon, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, and the fats found in quality cuts of meat.
    2. A good diet should have 80 to 90% of your fats coming from unsaturated sources such as olive oil, nuts, and salmon.

How much of each should you consume?

  • A healthy starting ratio is 40/30/30 in terms of protein/carbohydrates/and fats.
  • If your goal is to lose body fat you may sway towards 40/25/35.
  • If your goal is to gain muscle you sway towards 45/35/20

In order to know how many calories you should be eating in a day do the following:

  • Take your weight in pounds and multiply it by either 17 (women) or 19 (men). This is how many calories you need to sustain your level of performance and weight.
  • Now, if you are looking to lose weight while not exercising much harder you can decrease your calories to 15 (women) and 17 (men).
  • To the contrary, if you are looking to gain muscle, or plan on engaging in very intense workouts – increase your calories to 19 (women) and 21 (men).

For example, a 200 pound male who exercises moderately hard, but isn’t going crazy would multiply 200 x 19 to get 2,380 calories per day. He’d then multiply it by his desired ratios of protein, carbohydrates, and fats to achieve his macronutrient totals.

Once you know how many calories you should be eating you can safely calculate how many of each macronutrient you should be consuming each day. It’s important to consider your goals and adjust your intake on days when you are more or less active.


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