Macros: Should we all be Tracking?


We are sure you have all heard of macros by now, they used to be something reserved for the most dedicated bodybuilders and physique competitors but these days many average gym goers have started counting their macros. What’s the deal? Should we all be calculating our diets?

What are they?

Macros is short for macronutrients, that is, the three main nutrient groups in our diet: protein, fat and carbohydrates. All calories are not created equal, your body utilises each macronutrient differently and so varying ratios of these in our diets can have different effects. In short, we use carbohydrates for quick energy, fats for slow energy and energy storage and protein for building and repairing muscle. Tweaking your macro balance can improve your ability to build muscle and lose fat.

How does it work?

Using a macro calculator, such as IIFYM, you enter things such as your weight, activity level and your fitness goals and the calculator will tell you how many calories to eat a day and also how many grams of fat, protein and carbohydrates. To accurately follow these targets you will need to then plan, weigh out and calculate the macronutrients in everything you eat so that you hit your macros for each day – scales are an essential for macro tracking! You can use an app such as MyFitnessPal to input your macros and easily track what you eat.  

You can spend hours on the internet reading about different macro combinations, everyone has a different theory about what the “perfect” split is but let's go through the basics. As you can see in our diagram below, the average UK adult eats a balance of around 50% carbohydrates, 35% fat and 15% protein. For a standard 2000 kcal diet, this would be around 250g carbohydrate, 78g of fat and 75g of protein. A normal weight loss macro plan would be around 30% carbohydrate, 15% fat and 45% protein whereas a normal muscle building plan would be around 50% carbohydrate, 30% protein and 20% fat. You can see this is quite a big range! 45% of your energy from protein is a massive increase from 15% and your diet would look very different. 

Is it worth it?

Without a doubt, if you are trying to see results in the gym, tweaking the amount of protein, carbs and fats you eat can make a huge difference to your progress. If you don't mind weighing out every component of every meal, tracking it and even planning out the macros of your meals in advance, then it can be a great way to control your diet and quickly see results. However, on a day-to-day basis, this can be a lot to deal with! If you have a busy job or love eating out or if you also cook for your family, this is not the most sustainable way of monitoring your diet. It certainly is a great thing to do short-term, whether that be for a few weeks before holiday or even just to try and get a hold of your diet in general. Tracking for a few weeks will make you much more aware of how much of each food group you eat and will also teach you a lot about portion size. 

What about long-term?

Long-term it is much more sustainable to just learn how to incorporate some of these principles in to your normal diet. In general, protein is great for keeping you full and also for maintaining your muscle, so it is great for weight loss and muscle building.

Fats have the most energy and calories in them, so you can eat a lot less volume of fat for the same number of calories as carbs and protein. Fats are essential in our diets, but picking healthier forms of unsaturated fat (olive oil, fish, nuts, seeds) and not overeating them will help you reach your weight loss goal.

Carbohydrates are vital in our diet, especially for exercise, so no one should be cutting them out completely, but opting for wholegrain carbohydrates will keep you much fuller and less likely to reach for the snacks.

You will find that after paying attention to your diet or tracking for a few weeks, you will learn what good portions of these look like. So even if you are at dinner with lots of sharing plates, you will still have a rough idea of what ratios to fill your plate with. For some easy tips on how to build your plate for lunch or dinner, check out our article on
the Anatomy of a Meal Prep.

Variety is the spice of life, being obsessed with your macros all the time will likely cause you to miss out on a lot of social events and a lot of yummy food! At the end of the day, varying your protein intake by 15g a day isn't going to make a massive difference and you certainly can still reach your fitness goals with just a normal balanced diet. When you are 80 you aren't going to look back and wish you had followed your macros more closely but you likely will regret not going out for dinner with friends or eating foods that you love! It's all about balance! 

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