Counting macros for beginners
Have you heard of macro counting? I have been seeing this pop up a lot on social media these days, as well as lots of conversation about how much carbohydrate, protein and fat we should be eating. Let’s delve into macro counting so you can better understand what it is and if it’s right for you!
What are macros?
“Macros” refers to macronutrients. The macronutrients are carbohydrate, protein and fat. These nutrients provide calories, which is the way we measure energy in the diet. The macronutrients provide different quantities of energy per gram, with carbohydrate and protein providing 4 calories per gram and fat providing 9.
How much of each macro do we need?
Contrary to what you might have been hearing in the media about the need to cut down on carbs and get a lot of protein, we need all of the macronutrients for health. The acceptable macronutrient distribution range tells us how much adults need of each one in terms of percentage of calories:
As you can see, there are ranges for each one. There is no “magic” number in terms of how much of each we should be getting. In fact, diets around the world that support health differ in terms of how much of each one they provide.
You might be surprised to see about half of calories coming from carbohydrates. While carbs have had some bad press, they play important roles in the body, including providing energy. There are so many great carbohydrate-containing foods, including rye bread.
How does macro counting work?
The basic idea of macro counting is to keep track of how much of each one you are consuming. You can do some calculations to see what percentage of your total calories is coming from each.
You’ll want to know how many calories you should generally be consuming as a starting point. An easy way to get an idea is through MyPlate Plan. Here, you can put in some basic information and get a basic plan, including the number of calories to eat.
If you know how many calories you are eating per day, as well as how much of each macronutrient, you can then do a calculation to see the percentages. For example, if you ate 50 g of protein in a day, you can multiply this by 4, as there are 4 calories per gram of protein. That gives you 200 calories. If you then divide 200 by 2,000 calories (if that’s what you ate that day), you’ll see that you had 10% of your calories from protein and were at the low end of the acceptable range for the day.
As it might be cumbersome to record things by hand and do the math, you can also see your numbers in apps like MyFitnessPal.
Should everyone do macro counting?
I certainly think it’s a good idea to know what you’re eating in terms of all nutrients in the diet and how that compares to the recommendation. However, rather than macro counting, I would generally advise people interested to obtain their plan from MyPlate.gov and then check out the number of servings from each food group recommended. This is much simpler, doesn’t require you to do calculations, and is cognitively easier as you’ll think in terms of different types of foods to eat.
Once you get a general idea as to whether you’re meeting the recommendations, you can then have those in mind as you’re planning your meals. I’m definitely in favor of keeping things simple when it comes to eating and making sure you don’t get overwhelmed!