Everything You Need to Know About Counting Macros
How to count macros: A beginner’s guide.
Believe it or not, it is possible to eat pizza and cake and wash it all down with a nice glass of red wine and lose weight and build up some muscle at the same time!
The secret is simple: stop counting the calories and start counting the macros instead.
Macros? What are they?
Basically macros (short for macronutrients) is the term which is used to describe three important food groups:
- Carbohydrates – necessary to give us energy.
- Fats – necessary to keep us satisfied.
- Proteins – necessary to build up and repair muscles.
The trick is to get the balance right between the three groups. If you do this, you’ll lose weight and your body will more effective at burning the fat and building muscle too.
All calories are not created equal
This is the key point. For many people trying to lose weight, carbs are seen as the mortal enemy. However, for someone who is regularly exercising, carbohydrates are actually your friend and they are essential to give you energy. It’s only when you are being a couch potato and have a sedentary lifestyle that consuming too many carbs becomes a problem.
This means that on lazy or rest days, it is better to have more fat and protein in your diet than carbohydrates. When you are being more active, a higher ratio of protein and carbs is better. Excess fat will just be stored up by the body for later.
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
Your BMR is the rate your body uses up energy. By considering your level activity too, the calculation will give you your daily target of calories and these can be split into your macro ratio – the ratio of carbs, fat and protein.
BMR x activity level = Daily amount of calories (DAC).
You can work it out like this:
BMR (for women) = 655 + (4.35 x weight lbs) + (4.7 x height ins) – (4.7 x age)
Next multiply your BMR by your activity level:
Little exercise: 1.2; Light exercise (1-3 times per week): 1.375; Moderate exercise (3-5 times per week): 1.5; Heavy exercise (6-7 times per week): 1.725.
If your goal is to lose weight and retain muscle then the starting point for macros is a 4-4-2 (protein/carbs/fat) ratio. Calculate this by multiplying your DAC by 0.4 or 0.2 to get the daily target in grams for each macronutrient.
Be sensible about it
Of course, counting your macros doesn’t give you freedom to eat junk food 24/7! But it does give you the freedom to eat the types of foods (like the pizza and the cake) that you might typically have thought you had to avoid to lose weight otherwise. The best diets are ones that you can stick to, but it’s worth remembering that the body does not recognise foods as being either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – but only whether they are carb, fat or protein.
Keeping on track
Following the rule of thumb that 80% of your food should always come from good, nutritious sources should help you to keep on track. If you are going to have the odd blowout, then timing these to your most active days is definitely a good idea too.
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