Finding Balance in Macro Tracking

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What are macros???

What are Macros you ask? Well macros short for macronutrients are what food is made of, namely proteins, fats and carbs (there are also micro-nutrients but we can save that for another day). They determine how many calories we eat in a day.  Our bodies need proteins, fats and carbs to thrive and it is important that we make appropriate choices to find the right macro balance for each meal.  To do that you will need to weigh and measure your food and log it in an app like My Fitness Pal.

It doesn’t matter if you are you new to tracking macros, because everyone was a beginner at some point, What matters is that you get started tracking and that you recognize that it is important that you are getting eating a balanced diet of YOUR appropriate macronutrients.

Tracking macros give us a framework with which to work and I find that this is what makes tracking macros great because it allows us to fit in our favorites foods without guilt and can keep us honest about our choices because what matters at the end of the day is that we were in a calorie deficit and we were close on our proteins, fats and carbs – best within 10 grams.

It can be so satisfying when I hit my macros but also don’t stress when I don’t.  I practice consistency with my tracking and it’s what I recommend to my clients. While I find tracking macros super important I do not let the practice of tracking consume and control my life.  It helps me to make mindful choices and puts those choices into perspective.

In each macro there are:

4 calories per gram of Protein

4 calories per gram of Carbs

9 calories per gram of fat 

The 4th macro is alcohol which is 7 calories per gram of alcohol, but remember that alcohol has absolutely NO nutrient content or value.

It is important to point out that macros are not a one size fits all approach. Creating a program that is specific to each individual is where to start.  To set your macronutrients and the percentages  you will need each day for proteins, fats and carbs will depend on your current weight, activity level and goals.  This calculation will let you know how many grams of each you need to eat to lose weight and build muscle.

Get Started with Tracking

To get started with tracking your macros you first need to calculate what your “TDEE”  (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) is.

This is the amount of calories you burn in a day. when you consistently eat less than this amount, staying in a calorie deficit, you will lose weight or if you eat more than this amount you gain weight.

Next, you need to calculate your needed intake of each macro nutrient you’ll need to consume of each (again, carb/fat/protein splits) by using this formula:

Step one – Calculating your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate)

BMR refers to the number of calories burned over 24 hours while completely at rest. This calculation is not 100% accurate for those who are obese (it will overestimate your calories).

Example: 655 + (4.35 x weight in lbs) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years) = BMR

Step two – Calculating your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure)

TDEE refers to the number of calories burned on an average active day.

  • You are not active at all? Use this **BMR x 1.30 = TDEE
  • Do you exercise 1-2 times a week? Use this **BMR x 1.40 = your TDEE
  • You exercise 3+ times a week? Use this **BMR x 1.55 = TDEE

Step three – Calculating your macros

  1. Your body weight x 1 = grams of protein per day
  2. Your body weight x .45 = grams of fat per day
  3. Grams of protein x 4 = calories consumed from protein
  4. Grams of fat x 9 = calories consumed from fats
  5. TDEE – #3 – #4 = calories consumed from carbs
  6. Calories consumed from carbs / 4 = grams of carbs per day

Put it to use

I like to use the “My Fitness Pal” app because it is customizable  from day to day and it allows you to control your splits (proteins/carbs/fats) and input everything you eat to breakdown your macros and keep you on track throughout the day.  This will maintain your splits and calorie goal and keep you accountable during the course of the day to show you how you are doing with you intake and split.

When tracking for fat loss it is important to not completely dismiss your total calorie intake you need to be sure you are in a calorie deficit and that you are hitting your protein goal. Protein and fiber (at least 25 grams a day) are the power houses when it comes to fat loss.  Protein is the most filing of all macros so it keeps you fuller longer throughout the day.  When we aren’t hungry we are more likely to stick to our eating plan.

Protein is also the only macro that can build and maintain muscle.  Did you know that the more muscle you have the more calories you will burn at rest?  Be sure that you make protein a priority every day so that you can keep your metabolism stoked.

About Balance

Remember tracking macros can be a great way to find lifestyle balance. Whether you are a person who is looking to stay on track and still enjoy “cheats” from time to time, this IIFYM approach allows you to decide which days to allow for this and to track and calculate it into your macros and not fall off and derail progress.  Enjoying that cheat can still be part of the system that will work FOR you not against you. 

However, we need to be clear that not all calories are created equal— while a brownie may have 200 grams of fat/carbs— it definitely doesn’t have the same nutritional density as that of 200 grams of chicken.  Overall, while this approach allows for cheat meals, you should still aim to focus on clean whole food eating for the best results but allowing for the occasional cheat meal pre-calculated into your macros for the day.

If you are interested in starting this system to see how it can work for you, I would LOVE to help you begin your journey! Together we can work on an approach that will work for you and help you shed fat and gain muscle utilizing a macro based approach to and help you achieve your goals!

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