If you want to lose weight, you might think that decreasing your calorie count and increasing your activity level are the two main changes you’ll need to make to your daily routine. While counting calories and tracking activity are both essential to most diet plans, monitoring your macronutrients can take your weight loss goals to the next level. Find out what a macro-based eating plan is and learn how tracking macros can help you lose weight.

What Is a Macro-Based Eating Plan?

A macro diet emphasizes the importance of macronutrients, which include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. When you’re following a macro-based eating plan, you’ll have a daily goal of consuming a certain number of grams of each macro. That means you’ll track each macro carefully to ensure that you’re consuming the balance of carbs, fats, and proteins that’s right for you.

It’s easy to design a macro-based meal plan that works for you, as these diet plans are totally customizable. Most are based on a target ratio of macronutrients, such as 50 percent carbohydrates, 25 percent protein, and 25 percent fat. If you’re trying to build muscle, you might increase your protein macros in favor of reducing carbs. With the help of an app and a little experimentation, you can strike your ideal macro balance.

Keep in mind that a macro diet focuses on whole, unprocessed foods, which makes this type of meal plan great for optimal health. For carbs, you’ll want to skip sugar and starches in favor of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. For proteins, forget about most fatty meats and instead opt for lean meats, fatty fish, and eggs. For fats, choose healthy oils, avocados, and nuts.

It’s not hard to see why many people consider a macro-based eating plan to be a step above a simpler diet plan that focuses solely on calorie cutting. With a less restrictive diet, you could get more of your calories from convenience foods or base your daily calorie consumption around carbs. With a macro-based eating plan, you can still eat plenty of carbs, but you’ll need to balance them with fats and proteins.

How You Can Benefit From Tracking Macros

If you’re relatively new to learning about diet and nutrition, you’ll absorb a ton of helpful information as you get familiar with macro-based eating plans. You’ll find out where your energy comes from, which foods offer the most nutrients, and how macronutrients fuel your body. You’ll also learn about portion control, which is great if you’re trying to get your appetite under control and decrease your daily calorie intake.

As you track your macros and learn more about what makes you feel your best, you can also hone in on the best macro balance for boosting your metabolism while maintaining your desired activity levels. If you want to build muscle, monitoring macros is also a smart choice, as it can help you make sure you’re getting enough protein to bulk up.

For many people, weight loss is one of the biggest benefits of tracking macros. As you track your macro consumption, calorie intake, and physical activity, you’ll determine the right balance of macros for your body and your weight loss goals. Once you hit the right mix of macros, you could lose up to 10 pounds in the first month and then as much as 5 percent of your body fat in subsequent months. While the initial loss can be exciting, in the long term, the potential for weight loss can really add up.

Why You Should Use an App to Track Macros

One of the biggest downsides to a macro-based eating plan is that it requires a lot of math. First, you’ll need to determine your daily calorie needs. You can do this by calculating your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories your body needs for essential functions, and multiplying it by your activity level, which will be 1.5 if you’re moderately active. If you want to lose weight, you’ll need to reduce that number by about 10 percent to decrease your daily energy consumption.

Once you have your daily caloric intake, you’ll need to determine the percentage of calories that should go to each macronutrient. As you plan meals or eat snacks, you’ll need to do more multiplication to find out how many macros are in each dish.

While the math can be overwhelming, using an app to track macros streamlines the process. Not only do the best macro tracking apps help you monitor your daily intake, but they’ll also let you know if you’re low on protein, fat, or carbs so you can make necessary adjustments throughout the day.

What Is IIFYM and Is It Always Right?

No matter what your goals might be on a macro-based eating plan, you’re bound to appreciate the flexible approach that this meal plan takes and the wide range of foods you can enjoy. However, it’s possible to take the flexibility too far and impact your weight loss or muscle building goals in the process.

Some people who follow macro diets have embraced the “If It Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM) concept, which suggests that you can eat virtually anything you want as long as it works with your macro calculation. Although technically you can eat anything that works with your macro-based eating plan, following the IIFYM approach has the potential to encourage unhealthy decisions. After all, you could opt for saturated fats, greasy burgers, and whole grains while completely cutting vegetables out of your diet.

Although this would technically fit your macros, it isn’t a healthy choice in the long run. It could even leave you undernourished, as you wouldn’t get many of the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy and perform your best. While the IIFYM concept is fun, try not to adhere to it too closely. Understand that a macro-based eating plan is more than just numbers and requires you to make healthy decisions, too.

While tracking and adjusting your macros can be challenging, following a macro-based diet plan can pay off in the long run. Whether you want to lose weight, build muscle, or maintain your current health status, a macro diet could be a smart choice for you.

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