I get asked quite often “what are macros” and “should I count calories”? To help understand the difference I thought I would explain.
Macronutrients (macros) is needed every day and consist of protein, carbohydrates and fats. They are important to how your body will function but if eaten unbalanced it will mess up your fitness progress.
Calories are simply a source of energy a food item give your body. You can read some pretty formal and confusing definitions, but basically each macronutrient has a specific number of calories per gram. Protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram.
As an example, when someone eats a high-protein diet, maintaining a healthy weight is usually easier. Why? Mainly because it takes more energy for protein to break down without affecting your blood sugar. That is why protein is less calories than carbohydrates or fats. So when wanting to increase body mass, it would be suggested to eat a diet consisting mainly of protein and making up the extra calories in fat and carbs.
With that being said, it’s not any better for you to have too much protein especially if your goal is to loss weight. Consuming a high-protein diet will stall your fitness and you will notice you won’t have any energy. It’s all about balance!
A great place to start would be to aim for 45/35/20, which means your calories would come from 45% carbohydrates, 35% from protein and 20% from fat. You may have to adjust that ratio to meet your individual needs but this would be a good starting point.
As for how to track what you’re eating, I recommend using “MyFitness Pal”. This in so easy and simple. All you do is enter exactly what you are eating and the app will calculate your calories and macro breakdown. One of the coolest things about using this app is it has a barcode scanner so you don’t even need to type everything. How cool is that.
What MyFitness Pal also does is keeps track of your caloric intake. BUT if you are staying in the desired range for your daily intake and see most of those calories are from fats, this may not be the best way to go. The bigger question is “What do those calories consist of?”! Also consider if counting calories take into consideration your lifestyle, your activity level or individual needs that will affect how your body responds?
Your approach needs to match your goal. What is it you are wanting to achieve? Weight loss? Maintain your current weight? Build more body mass? These are better questions to ask yourself and then you can aim for the best method to reach that goal.
Personally, I don’t count calories each day. I know my total calories will be covered if I consume the proper portion size of each macronutrient. I simply look at how much protein, carbs and fat I’m having each time I eat. I try to keep a running total throughout the day aiming to hit my targets of each food group by the end of the day. I will also think about what will be my workout out tomorrow. If tomorrow is a running day for me and I have a salad with a lean protein for dinner, I know this won’t give me the fuel I need on my run. I will need to add a sweet potato to my dinner for the carbs.
Once you start keeping track you will see areas that will need adjusted. The other thing I highly recommend you do is you also write down how you felt after that meal. This will help you get a better handle on balancing the needed macronutrients.
I hope this helped to make thing a bit clearer for you. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what works or doesn’t work for you.