Maintaining your health can seem tricky and complicated when considering lifestyle factors such as the foods you eat. But when you focus on macronutrients — the large food groups that provide energy so that your body can maintain its functions — you create a personal plan for boosting all aspects of your health. Tracking macros in your diet will help guide your food planning so that you make smart food choices each day.
If you want to boost your overall health, a “macro diet” is an ideal way to make smart food choices. These choices will help you achieve the goals you have for your eating habits, whether you want to build muscle, lose weight, or simply maintain healthy habits overall.
Instead of counting calories, you’re instead counting macronutrients, which are the grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats that you eat. You count the macros you eat within your calorie goal and also look at the ratios among them.
Tracking macros allows you to make smart choices with your food. Instead of choosing a high-calorie snack such as cookies, you’ll know to find something packed with proteins and healthy carbs. This knowledge cuts down on more than your calorie intake — it also gives your body the fuel for healthy activity throughout the day. Protein, carbs, and fats are your three main macros.
As an essential macronutrient, protein helps you build muscle while preventing muscle loss. At the same time, protein is the best macro to stop hunger in its tracks. The primary sources of complete proteins include eggs, whey, and meat.
Of course, you shouldn’t take protein’s hunger-stopping capabilities as an excuse to eat burgers all the time. Instead, look for lean grass-fed beef, turkey, or fatty fish such as herring, mackerel, and salmon. Nuts and eggs are also great sources of protein.
Carbohydrates are the macronutrients that provide the biggest sources of energy. Essential to both physical activity and mental health, carbs keep you going throughout the day. It’s important to differentiate between the two types of carbs when calculating macros: simple and complex carbohydrates.
You digest simple carbs such as sugar and fruit easily, and they provide a quick energy boost. However, complex carbs are what keep you going. They pack in more nutrition than simple carbs and are high in fiber, which means they take longer to digest. In other words, complex carbs keep you feeling fuller for a longer time. For more sustained energy, turn to these complex carbs. Build healthy carbs such as whole grains, root vegetables, and leafy greens such as broccoli, squash, oatmeal, and quinoa into your meals.
Don’t be fooled by the common dieting idea that fat is bad. You need healthy fats to maintain a balanced metabolism and hormone levels, and they’re also key for much of your vitamin absorption. However, you should avoid trans fats that won’t help you reach your fitness goals and instead reach for foods that get you fats from healthy sources.
Nuts such as macadamia nuts and almonds, avocados, and coconut and olive oil are good sources for good fats. Foods such as walnuts, salmon, and fish oil also provide essential fatty acids that your body can’t produce by itself. The specialized fats omega-3 and omega-6 that build from essential fatty acids support the normal functioning of all types of tissue in your body. These good fats can help your heart health as well.
No matter what fitness goals you have, from securing fat loss to gaining muscle and maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle, finding the right amount of carbs, fats, and protein is key. Make sure you balance the three macros well when planning your meals.
If you don’t get enough protein in your diet, you could lose muscle instead of losing fat, which leads to a lower metabolism. Likewise, not enough carbs can make you feel sluggish, while a diet too low in fats can lead to imbalances in your hormone levels. If you take in too many fats or carbs, you may not lose enough fat from your body composition.
Counting macros is a more in-depth way of tracking calories. One gram of carbs or protein both translate to four calories, while one gram of fat equals nine calories. You don’t need to worry about meeting a precise calorie goal when you track macros, as you’ll get the calorie count you need simply by meeting your macro goals.
At first glance, tracking macros can sound tricky. Fortunately, you can find resources like an app to help you keep to your fitness goals.
The great part about tracking macros, also known as flexible dieting, is that you can customize it based on your own goals and body type. From there, you can also adjust based on the results you see. Getting a macro calculator such as the Lifesum app can help you stay on track: You can find macro calculators in the App Store or download them from Google Play.
Meal planning through macros helps you learn about portion control and make informed choices when you look for whole foods instead of processed food. Every person’s body is different, and working with customized macros can help you lose between 2 and 5 percent of body fat in one month.
Even though tracking apps will help you lose body fat, remember that tracking macros is not actually a “diet.” Rather, it is a way to know that you’re eating enough of each macronutrient, which, in turn, affects your health and body composition needs in a customizable, personal way.
Tracking your macros goes far beyond simple dieting. By working on your custom plan, you’ll work out your meals using a macro tracking app in a way that allows you to optimize your own body’s composition for fat and muscle. When you start eating in a targeted way, you’ll see the effects in your overall health, and you’ll boost your heart health, too.
Learning the correct ratios among carbohydrates, proteins, and fats — the three groups of macros — helps you find a balance for these major energy groups. You’ll start seeing and feeling the difference when you calculate the macro ratio that fits your lifestyle.
All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice. If you have or think you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, do not use the Lifesum app and seek immediate medical help.