If you’re working out and counting calories, you’d expect to lose weight, right? Well, some people do, but even they will reach a plateau at some point. The problem is, counting calories alone is just not exact enough. Macros are where it’s at.
(macros) are simply ratios of fat, carbohydrates and protein. All calories are not equal, and it matters where they come from. If you hit the right macros, you could find yourself shedding even stubborn fat.
How do macros help weight loss?
We all need certain foods to keep our bodies functioning, including fat for satiety, carbs to fuel energy and proteins to repair and build muscle. Finding the right balance of these three macros will mean losing weight, burning fat more efficiently and building lean muscle.
The most effective diet for sustained weight loss is one you can stick with. Counting macros allows you to include foods that, on traditional diets, are cut out entirely. This helps to keep boredom at bay so that you stick to it long-term.
People who are calorie counting but not losing weight or building lean muscle, are not eating the right kinds of calories in the right numbers. In short, they don’t know where the calories are coming from and think that calories from sugar are the same as those from fats.
How to count macros
Firstly, shed the idea that carbs are the enemy and should be completely eliminated. The fact is, you need them, particularly if you are working out regularly. Carbs give us energy to exercise, and fat energy at rest. Eating more carbs and protein on active days and sticking to a higher fat/protein to carb ratio on rest days is the ideal solution.
To work out the right macro ratio for you, first you need to work out your BMR. This is your basal metabolic rate, which is basically how much energy your body needs to stay alive. When you have this, figure out your activity level. Try this calculator to find out your macro needs.
When you have your macro split in front of you, how you use this is up to you. So, you can factor in foods that would be forbidden on other diets.
Macros for losing fat
If you are using macros specifically for fat loss, a good approach to start with is 4-4-2. That equals 40% carbs, 40% protein and 20% fat, which allows your body to burn fat and keep muscle mass. People following vegan or vegetarian diets can still formulate their food in exactly the same way.
If you’re considering counting macros as part of a ketogenic diet, then I’d advise caution. There is some evidence to support the results of a keto diet, which essentially cuts out all carbs. However, an increasing number of fitness experts say that the weight you lose on keto is not fat. Instead it’s just water weight, and the risk of gaining back the weight you’ve lost when you stop restricting carbs is high. You can also expect to feel tired and struggle with exercise on a keto diet, which often just isn’t worth it.
Adjusting macros for different goals
As you become familiar with counting macros, you can alter yours to meet your specific needs. Macros for losing weight are different to those for bulking up muscle, for example. And if you are training for a marathon or similar, then you should adjust your macros in line with an endurance ratio.
When you have your macros worked out, you must still eat wholesome, nutrient packed foods to get the micronutrients, such as minerals and vitamins. It’s useful to keep the old 80/20 rule in mind when working out your daily food. This means 80% of everything you eat should be properly nutritious, leaving 20% for treats.
The great thing about counting macros for fat loss is that you can factor in some chocolate here and there and still stay within your allowance. And if you are careful to align any blowouts with days of high intensity exercise, your progress will not be in ruins. Try it and see.
About Surya Gabriel Iacono
Surya G. Iacono is a fitness and wellness expert and blogger based in London, UK. Surya Iacono’s fitness blogs are aimed at keen gym-goers and exercise fans already well into their journey and looking for tips, tricks and ideas to take it to the next level.