Imagine with me for a moment that you’re a 200-pound man, and you decide to start your day with breakfast at Starbucks.
You’re supposed to eat ~2,000 calories a day. And Starbucks seems like a better bet than McDonald’s, right? So you pull up to the buck of stars, pick out what you want to eat, and plug all that info into MyFitnessPal — the tracking app you’re using to record what you eat each day.
This morning you chose a medium Vanilla latte and a breakfast sandwich — the latte is 340 calories, and the breakfast sandwich is 400 calories.
For your first meal of the day you’re about to consume a breakfast that totals 740 calories. Subtract that from the 2,000 you’re supposed to eat all day, and you’re left with 1,260 calories. Ideally, that would leave you with 630 calories for lunch and dinner; that doesn’t count any “snacks” you might eat later in the day either.
BUT WHAT ABOUT MACROS?
Macro(s) is short for macronutrients. And macronutrients are protein, fats, carbs. Macros are what your body uses for fuel to keep you alive. And nearly everything you eat is made up of 1,2, or all 3 macronutrients.
In the case of your Starbucks order, here’s a rough estimate of what the macros would look like:
8 grams of fat
24 grams of carbs
12 grams of protein
14 grams of fat
43 grams of carbs
17 grams of protein
And each gram of protein, fats, and carbs have a certain number of calories in them.
1g of protein = 4 calories
1g of carb = 4 calories
1g of fat = 9 calories
So you can do some math and determine the number of calories in food based off of how many grams of carbs, fat, and protein it has. (This is how companies determine the calories on their nutrition labels.)
Basically: calories are determined off of the macronutrient makeup of the food you consume.
WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO COUNT MACROS?
Counting macros makes it easier for you to eat more protein.
Protein builds and repairs the muscles of your body.
Along with building muscle, protein is vital in:
• repairing cells;
• helping you feel full;
• hormone production; and,
• helps you burn more calories through its thermogenic effect on digestion
After eating a big, juicy, protein-packed steak, you feel full for hours. And when you’re eating in a calorie deficit, filling full for longer helps make dieting a lot less painful.
Protein’s real superpower, however, comes from what is known as the thermogenic effect. After we eat, our bodies have to digest our meal.
The digestion process requires our bodies to burn calories for this process. This is what smarty pants people call the “Thermic Effect Of Food.” Fats, carbs, and protein produce different thermic effects during their processing.
Protein gets broken down into amino acids (the building blocks of life) for our body to use. Breaking protein down into amino acids burns extra calories. Simply put: if you eat more protein you help your body burn more calories.
Macros > Calories
Here’s the thing: if you count ONLY calories, it’s super easy to come well below the optimal protein you need.
By counting macros and having a set number of protein, carbs, and fat to eat each day, you make it easier to give your body the right amount of fuel it needs to build and repair muscle, keep you feeling fuller for longer, and to provide your body with the proper nutrition it needs to feel your best.
Science has shown that for WEIGHT LOSS, calories are king. You can lose weight by eating a certain caloric goal while consuming nothing but Twinkies.
However, if you want to change your body composition by building more lean muscle and giving your body the right amount of carbs, fat, and protein that it needs, counting macros is a far better option.
And before you ask, here’s how you can determine a starting point for macros:
- Take your bodyweight and multiply by 8-10 — if you’re super sedentary during the day, start with 8; if you’re on your feet all day, use 10 — this is your starting calorie goal.
- If you weigh 180 pounds or less, consume 150g of protein per day; if you weigh 200 pounds or more, consume 185g of protein a day; you would then take that protein number, multiply by 4 (for the calories per gram of protein), and subtract that number for your calorie goal.
- After subtracting your protein calories from your TOTAL calorie goal, the number you have left is what you can use to determine your carbs and fats
- Carbs and fats can be more flexible; if you love bacon, eat more fat and lower (but not lower than 150g) carbs; if you love bagels, eat more carbs and less fat (but not lower than 50g)
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