When you’re working hard to lose weight and improve your health, you’ll need to do more than exercise regularly and count calories. For optimal health, knowing your macronutrients is essential. Discover why tracking your macros is more important than you think and learn how to use a food tracker to streamline the process.
For most people, a weight-loss plan begins with a workout routine that helps burn fat while building muscle, as well as and a restricted calorie plan that reduces the amount of energy consumed. While this is a reasonable place to start, it shouldn’t constitute your entire diet plan.
When it comes to the food you eat, calories only paint part of the picture. They represent a measure of the energy you consume, but they don’t explain the nutritional aspects of what you eat. Counting calories ensures you get the right amount of energy as you work toward your weight-loss goals, but this process won’t help you make smart diet choices that will boost your health in the long run.
“Macros” may have become a buzzword recently, but these components are timeless. All the food you consume consists of three macros: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. These are the building blocks of your food, and most items you eat provide two or even three macros.
One of the biggest differences between counting calories and tracking macros is that calories focus more on quantity, while macros highlight quality. If you’re only counting calories, you could let yourself indulge in sugary treats and then not be able to fit fresh fruits and vegetables into your daily calorie count.
In contrast, tracking macros often encourages you to make healthier food choices. A healthy diet plan consists of a balance of all three macros, so it ensures that you consume enough carbs, protein, and fat while fueling your body with the right amount of energy. You might be able to sneak in a sweet treat, but few macro ratios would allow you overload on carbs. Instead, you’d need to consume proteins and fats, such as lean meats, nuts, and seeds, to get the right daily count.
If you’ve found counting calories hasn’t helped you achieve your weight-loss goals, finding and sticking to the right macro ratio could help. Before you get started, however, it’s important to understand that not everyone needs the same macro ratio. A variety of different nutrient balances can help you burn fat or build muscle, especially if you opt for healthy foods over empty calories.
Most macro ratios follow the acceptable macronutrient distribution range (AMDR), a scale determined by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institutes of Medicine (IOM). For optimal health, the average person needs an AMDR with 45 to 65 percent carbs, 10 to 35 percent protein, and 20 to 35 percent fat. While the total should never exceed 100 percent, different macro ratios within this general range can yield different results.
To burn fat and lose weight, you’ll typically want to increase your protein and fat intake while decreasing your carb intake. Studies have shown that increasing your protein intake can help you feel full while lowering your daily calorie intake, so consuming more protein at the expense of other macros can be a smart choice. In this case, your macro breakdown might include 40 percent protein, 30 percent fat, and 30 percent carbs, although the exact ratio will depend on your unique needs. Try eating a protein-heavy snack an hour or two before your workout for best results.
To build lean muscle while burning fat, you’ll typically need to work more carbs into your macro ratio so you have enough energy to get you through weightlifting sessions and enough protein to build muscles. In this case, your macros might include 50 percent carbs, 30 percent protein, and 20 percent fat. You’ll typically increase your carb intake after a workout to help your muscles make the most of the protein you consume. Most fitness experts recommend having a carb-heavy snack within an hour of your workout for best results.
Although devising the ideal macro breakdown is key to losing weight and building strength, you don’t have to stop tracking your protein, fat, and carbs once you’ve met your weight-loss goal. It’s also helpful to track macronutrients in order to maintain your current weight.
For weight maintenance, most people opt to eat a moderate amount of carbs with a nearly equal balance of protein and fat. Your ideal macro breakdown might be 50 percent carbs, 25 percent protein, and 25 percent fat, which will keep your body fueled while maintaining your strength.
Tracking macros can be challenging at first, as the process involves a series of math equations. Fortunately, there’s an easier way to tackle tracking macros. Rather than calculating your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and adjusting for weight loss or muscle gain, you can use a health tracker to do the heavy lifting for you.
Keeping track of your macros by hand can be incredibly time consuming, but a food tracker app does the math for you and takes the guesswork out of the process. The best apps also feature macro-based meal plans so you don’t have to wonder how to add more protein to your diet while keeping your carb count down. Instead, you can follow a high-protein diet plan or a Mediterranean meal plan to ensure that you consume the right macros while sticking to your goals.
Tracking macros might be more complicated than counting calories, but it’s likely to pay off. Prioritizing nutrients over energy can help you make healthier food choices while giving your body the fuel it needs to meet your goals.
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