Tracking Macros for Beginners

Updated: Jul 15


If you have had any fitness goal, whether wanting to lose weight, build muscle, or just change how your body looks then you have probably heard of tracking macros as a tool to help you achieve your fitness goal.


Tracking macros can seem complicated which is why this article will break down the basics of the macro tracking process to make tracking macros for beginners easy to understand and execute.


In this article we will:




What are Macronutrients?

"Macros" refers to the term"Macronutrients.


Macronutrients are nutrients that your body need in the largest amount in order to survive and function properly. This is different from “micronutrients” which refer to thee nutrients your body also needs to survive but in significantly smaller amounts Generally- macronutrients provide the body with energy.


The three macronutrients are:

Protein

C


arbohydrates

Fats


Micronutrients, on the other hand include:

Vitamins

Minerals

Enzymes



Unlike some of the micronutrients, our body is unable to create or manufacture macronutrients on its own. In order to get the amount of macronutrients that the body needs, they must bee obtained through the food we eat.


Tracking macronutrient intake specifically can help you to reach various health and fitness goals more quickly as well as create awareness and mindfulness of the food you eat every day.


What do fitness people mean when they say “macros?”

When your favourite instagram fit star talks about macros, they are likely talking about the number of daily calories you should be eating which are made up of the specifically proportioned amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats that are dependent on your goal.

Or that’s what they should be talking about. If they say about other things when they talk about macros then you should stop listening.

Why do you care about macros?

Because without them you would literally die. But why do you care about calculating them? Because different health and wellness goals may be reached more quickly if your daily nutritional intake (the food you eat) has a specific amounts of protein versus carbohydrates versus fat. Your body uses macronutrients for different purposes and therefore how much you consume of one macronutrient versus another macronutrient can impact how quickly or efficiently you are able to reach your fitness goal.

I still don’t get it.

Basically, intentionally calculating the number of calories you will eat each day and what percentage of your daily food intake that will consist of protein, carbohydrates, and fats can help you align your nutrition to best fuel your body for your specific goal. Let’s look at an example:

Let’s say you want to run a marathon. Then you would benefit from having more carbohydrates in your diet as carbohydrates are the body’s primary fuel source for endurance activities. In order to ensure you are eating enough carbohydrates to run your marathon well then you may calculate your “macros” to ensure that a certain percentage of your diet comes from carbohydrates so you can perform well.

Tracking Macros for Beginners

The first thing you need to understand when tracking macros is that each individual macronutrient has a specific energy value. The amount of energy your body uses is measured in calories. A macronutrient energy value is the amount of calories that macronutrient provides to your body to use for energy.


You can find the energy values of each macronutrient listed below:

Protein: 4 calories per gram

Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram

Fats: 9 calories per gram


Tracking your macros will involve not only tracking how many calories you are consuming each day, but how many of those calories come from protein, from carbs, and from fats.


If you have never tried tracking your macros then one of the easiest ways to track your macros is using a mobile tracking app.


Mobile apps like MyFitnessPal, Cronometer, MyMacros, etc. contain large databases of energy values for various foods including whole food sources (apples, broccoli, chicken breast) as well as the energy values of food products. (Quaker's oatmeal, Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, Lay's potato chips, etc.). Some mobile apps also contain the energy value of fast food such as McDonald's Big Mac or Subway sandwiches.


Mobile app tracking is one of the best ways for tracking macros for beginners because these databases are so large that you will almost always be able to find the food item you want to track already loaded into the app. For food items that you are not able to find pre-loaded into the app, most mobile app trackers will also allow you to input the energy values of the food you want to track manually so you are able to track as accurately as possible.


Measuring and Weighing Your Food

When it comes to tracking macros for beginners you will need at least one piece of equipment. In order to track macros accurately you will need to weight or measure your food in some form before you consume it. If you are eating food products then tracking becomes a bit easier as the food energy values will be listed on the nutrition label of that food product. But if you are tracking whole food sources then you will need to weigh or measure the food item.


Using a food scale is the most accurate way of tracking whole food items as you are able to weight to exact amount of the food item before you eat it.


Using measuring cups and spoons is the second best way of tracking your food intake but you need to be mindful not to overfill or under-fill cups or spoons when you measure your food as being even slightly overfull or under-full can throw off the accuracy of your tracking.


For example a tablespoon of peanut butter has roughly 96 calories, but a slightly overfilled tablespoon of peanut butter can have as many as 120 calories. This is a very large difference in calorie intake made by a very small measurement margin.


How to get Started

I recommend the following steps for tracking macros for beginners.

  1. Download and set up an account in a mobile food tracking app like MyFitnessPal.

  2. Purchase a food scale and any necessary measuring cups or spoons so you have all the tools you need to track your food as accurately as possible.

  3. Start by tracking one meal a day for a week (usually breakfast is the easiest meal) so that you can get used to the process of tracking as well as build up consistency in your new habit.

  4. After a week of consistently tracking that one meal, add a second meal to your day and track both meals consistently for another week.

  5. Once you have established the habit of tracking for two weeks, you can then begin to track all your meals, snacks, and beverage intake on a daily basis.


I recommend tracking all your food and beverage intake for two weeks consistently. After this two week period you will then have the data you need to assess what your current macros are and if you need to make any changes to your macro intake to better align with your goal.


Tracking macros does not have to be difficult, but it is a skill and a habit that is best built up over time as accuracy and consistency matter in providing you with the best data to make informed decisions for your health and fitness.



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