The Beginner’s Guide to Macros

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As some of you may have read in my previous most, I have decided to experiment with my macros. I won’t ramble on about why I have decided to start tracking my calorie and protein intake in this post, but if you want to find out more about my reasoning, head on over to https://mybusinessbody.com/2017/02/14/why-ive-decided-to-track-my-macros/.

In this post, I’m going to clear up all those confusions. Bulking? Cutting? “IIFYM”? These are all buzz words we don’t hear the end of these days, and until recently, I had no idea what 99% of them meant. If you’re like me and think “TDEE” is some sort of medical disease, carry on readin’.  In 5 minutes time, you’ll be a complete macro pro.

So, what exactly is a macro?

All foods are are made up of macronutrients or “macros”. There are 3 types of macro: carbohydrate, fat and protein. GCSE Biology suddenly coming back to you? I thought so. To put things simply, that “kcal” number you immediately rush to when eyeing up the 500g bar of Dairy Milk in the confectionary aisle of Tesco is actually made up of a combination of calories from carbs, fats and protein. Therefore, some food has more calories from carbs (think pasta, bread) and some has more from protein (chicken, whey). The calories in 1g of each macro is as follows:

  • 1g of protein = 4 calories
  • 1g of carbohydrate = 4 calories
  • 1g of fat = 9 calories

This means that if you were to eat 5g of pure carbs (e.g. sugar) and 5g of pure fat (e.g. olive oil), you would be consuming a higher amount of calories from the fat, despite eating the same weight. It is also important to understand that 100g of pasta does not equal 100g of carbohydrate and 100g of chicken does not equal 100g protein. Nearly all foods are made up of a combination of macros.

Let’s look at an example. A 115g chicken breast contains roughly 117 calories, 26g protein, 0g carbs and 1.4g fat. Therefore:

  • 104 kcals come from protein (26g x 4 = 104)
  • 13 kcals come from fat (1.4g x 9 = 13)
  • 0 kcals come from carbohydrates

Easy, huh?

Okay, so I now know what a macro is… but why on earth do I need to know there are 4 calories in a gram of protein? Calories in < calories out = weight loss, right?!

To a certain extent, yes. However, macro counting and tracking goes beyond weight loss. Macro tracking enables individuals to focus on specific goals such as preparation for a competition, a wedding or simply wanting to “lean up”. In my case, I just wanted to learn more about nutrition and what I was putting into my body on a daily basis. I had no concept of how much protein I should have been consuming/how much I was consuming. To put this into context; calculating my macros indicated that I was consuming about 60% of my recommended protein intake and only 1/2 of my recommended carbohydrate intake. Yep, all those extra calories were coming from fats. (I LOVE PB, avo & eggs).

Makes sense. But why should I start tracking? 

Macro tracking definitely isn’t for everyone, but there are a few situations in which this diet tweaking magic can really make that sought after difference. Here are a few examples:

  • You’re already in relatively good shape, but are struggling to shift those final few pounds.
  • You have a deadline to meet. Whether it’s a photo shoot, holiday or bikini competition, macro tracking will keep your nutrition in check and allow you to alter your calorie/protein intake during different phases of your prep.
  • You’re like me, and want to improve your general nutritional knowledge and concept of protein, fat and carb content.
  • You’re also like me and need to learn that it’s OK to eat a double cheeseburger and large fries once in a while and not feel guilty about it. Well, IIFYM? FYI, “IIFYM” stands for if it fits your macros, meaning if you can make it fit, EAT IT.

So, I think tracking is for me. How do I start?

First things first. Get yourself an app. My Fitness Pal is the most widely used (and free), but I’m sure there are many others out there. Next, you need to calculate your TDEE, or total daily energy expenditure. This is the total amount of calories your body burns on a daily basis. There are a lot of different calculations out there, all giving roughly similar results, just have a Google (I’ve also provided a couple of example sites below).

Once you have your total daily calorie intake, you can start working out your macro split. Once again, there are many calculations, apps and websites that can help you but the most simple method is using percentages. For example, say your TDEE is 2,000 calories. A typical macro split may look something like 35% protein, 40% carbs and 25% fat. This means that you should be consuming 700 calories from protein, 800 calories from carbs, and 500 calories from fat. In terms of grams, this equates to 175g of protein, 200g of carbs and 55g of fat.

If this all seems a bit too much or you’re a first time tracker, you may want to look at just tracking your protein intake. Personally, I see this as a good option for us gals, because most of us under-eat protein. Plus, it provides more flexibility as your remaining calories can come from wherever you like. This one is great for those who prefer foods with higher fat content over carbs or vice versa.

So there we go! You’re all set to become complete tracking pros. For some help on calculating TDEEs and ideas for macro splits, check out the links below. GOOD LUCK! 

https://www.iifym.com/tdee-calculator/

http://www.fitnessfrog.com/calculators/tdee-calculator.html

https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/macronutrients_calculator.htm

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