Tracking your macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats) is important to ensure that you’re getting adequate nutrients for your specific fitness goals.
Different goals require different percentages of macros. If you’re already consistent with tracking overall calories, then the next step is to start tracking macros.
Reaching your long-term fitness goals and getting past plateaus that you may face throughout your journey may require you to start paying attention to the (macro)nutrients that you’re eating as opposed to only the total calorie count!
What is a macronutrient?
All foods can be broken down into macronutrients, which contain energy. It is the conversion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats which change chemical energy into biologically usable forms of energy. The breakdown of the chemical bonds in these macronutrients provides the energy necessary to perform biological work.
Basically, you eat food that is made up of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that get broken down in your body and converted into energy which your body can use to move, lift heavy objects, jump, run, and work!
What are some examples of carbs, proteins, and fats?
Carbohydrate-rich foods include foods like rice, bread, pasta, oats, fruits, and sugar. They are the main source of energy for your brain and body and are first in line to be broken down for fuel! Your body relies on them for energy, and they can help you perform at your optimal level!
At the cellular level, your body is made up of proteins. When you exercise, the breakdown of your muscles from the exercise needs to be repaired by protein that you eat. Protein-rich foods include meat, eggs, dairy products, beans, and soy. Without protein, your body would not be able to repair itself and help you grow lean muscle.
Fats serve many functions. Body fat insulates and protects organs, regulates hormones, and carries and stores the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Your body requires fat in order to continue functioning at its optimal level. Foods high in fat include plant oils, fish oils, and fatty meats. Eating fat doesn’t make you fat! It’s good to remember that eating TOO MUCH of any of the macronutrients we have discussed will be stored as body fat.
What is “Counting Macros?”
When people talk about “counting macros” they are describing a dieting technique that allots a person a certain number of macros per day, like a monetary budget. For example, you might receive $100 a day to spend on groceries, gas, and electricity. By allotting your $100 to these three categories, you won’t go over your budget.
Maybe you spend $40 on groceries, $30 on gas, and $30 on electricity and you break even with your $100 budget. This kind of budgeting is how counting macros and calories work. You are given a set amount of each macronutrient, and then utilizing food tracking, you fill your macronutrient budgets to hit your target number. Depending on your physical goals, you can manipulate the calorie and macro budgets to help you lose, gain, and maintain your weight. The foods that you choose can be flexible as long as you hit your macro budgets.
For example, you could spend 200 calories on cookies early on in the day. This means that you will have to adjust your diet the rest of the day to account for the 200 calories of cookies that you ate earlier in order to hit your other macro goals.
By tracking your food, you can consistently consume a similar amount of calories and macronutrients. This consistency will ultimately lead to physical change and help you reach your lean goals!