Tracking your macros (macro nutrients) is a common practice in the world of heath and fitness. And for many fitness professionals and enthusiasts tracking macros has become an effective and manageable way to be in control of eating habits and overall nutrition using this fairly easy to track method.
First off, lets be clear on what your macros actually are. Macros consist of your protein, fat and carbohydrate intake. Tracking macros is how you know how many grams of each of these three you are consuming day to day. You’ve likely heard people talk about this and the practice of following an “If It Fits Your Macros, or IIFYM” style approach to nutrition. This approach can also be referred to as “Flexible Dieting” as for some, as long as the food they are consuming “fits within their macros” they can choose to eat it and “make it work” within their splits.
So how does this all work from person to person. First off, tracking your macros is not a one size fits all system. As with anything, creating a program specific to the individual is where to start. To determine your macronutrients and what percentages of your daily food intake needs to be protein, fat and carbohydrates will depend on your current weight and your goals. This calculation will help you to know how many grams of each to eat to loose weight, build muscle mass and so on.
When getting started with tracking your macros you first need to calculate what your “TDEE” (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) is.
This in a nut shell is the amount of calories you burn in a day. when you consistently eat less than this amount you will lose weight or if you eat more than this amount you gain weight.
Next— calculate your needed intake of each macro nutrient you’ll need to consume of each (again, carb/fat/protein splits) by using this formula:
Step One - Calculating your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate)
BMR refers to the number of calories burned over 24 hours while completely at rest. This calculation is not 100% accurate for those who are obese (it will overestimate your calories).
Example: 655 + (4.35 x weight in lbs) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years) = BMR
Step Two - Calculating your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure)
TDEE refers to the number of calories burned on an average active day.
**If you are not active at all use this** BMR x 1.30 = your TDEE
**If you exercise 1-2 times per week use this** BMR x 1.40 = your TDEE
**If you exercise 3+ times per week use this** BMR x 1.55 = your TDEE
Step Three - Calculating your macros
- Your body weight x 1 = grams of protein per day
- Your body weight x .45 = grams of fat per day
- Grams of protein x 4 = calories consumed from protein
- Grams of fat x 9 = calories consumed from fats
- TDEE - #3 - #4 = calories consumed from carbs
- Calories consumed from carbs / 4 = grams of carbs per day
I encourage my clients to use the App “My Fitness Pal” that is customizable from day to day- allowing you to control your splits and input everything you eat to breakdown your macros and keep you on track throughout the day. This will maintain your splits and calorie goal and keep you accountable during the course of the day to show you how you are doing with you intake and split.
There are many programs that utilize counting your macros within your calorie specific range to help you attain your goals. I am a huge fan of and advocate for Carb Cycling and intermittent fasting. Carb cycling is a system created around alternating days of high, moderate and low carbohydrate intake along with the alternating of low, high and moderate fat/protein intake. This is a favorable method for jump starting your body, dropping body fat and weight and allowing the body to consume the nutrients it needs (often consuming more calories to ensure adequate nutrient intake to sustain and fuel the body) to truly thrive and function optimally.
Tracking macros is also a great way to find lifestyle balance. For the person who is looking to stay on track and still enjoy “cheats” from time to time, IIFYM approach allows its user to decide which days to allow for this and to absorb it into their macros and not fall off the wagon or derail. For example after a leg day or more strenuous workout, having a cheat meal can work in the context of higher carbs or fats. Enjoying that cheat can still be part of the system that will work FOR you. However, lets be clear that not all calories are created equal— while a piece of cake may have 200 grams of fat/carbs— it definitely isn’t the same nutritional density as that of 200 grams of chicken. While an IIFYM approach does allow for cheat meals, one should still strive after a clean eating approach for the best results overall….with the occasional cheat meal built in to your system. That’s what makes IIFYM a favorable choice for many. Parameters but also some flexibility because none of us are perfect and we all enjoy our favorite treat or burger from time to time!
If you are interested in starting this system to see how it can work for you, I would LOVE to help you begin your journey! We can definitely find an approach that will work for you and help you shed fat and gain muscle utilizing IIFYM and helping you achieve your goals!
And don't forget - if you haven't downloaded my FREE eBook - The Comprehensive Guide to Fat Loss - be sure to do so today and learn all the strategies I implement for fat loss!