Whether you’re eating to maintain your weight, build muscle or lose body fat, understanding how macro dieting works is a vital step to eating healthy. When you know the calories in fat, protein and carbohydrates, you can plan your meals accordingly to fit within your dietary needs.
Best of all, a diet plan based around macros is simple and easy to follow; you don’t have to worry about restricted foods, complicated points or other difficult tricks. You just need to know the basics: what are macros and how many should you eat?
What Exactly Are Macros?
Macros, short for “macronutrients,” are the three primary building blocks of nutrition: fats, protein and carbohydrates or “carbs.” Each macro type fulfills a necessary role in the body.
• Carbohydrates provide energy and are used as the body’s “fuel” source. They are present in plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables and grains. Healthy carbs are those with lots of fiber to aid in slowing down their digestion and regulating blood sugar.
• Proteins are the basic building block of muscle tissue. They are found in meat as well as some vegetarian sources like tofu and legumes. Proteins are necessary for building muscle mass and healing from injuries.
• Fats provide energy to the body and are essential in the digestion and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients.
Proteins and carbohydrates each have four calories per gram. This means that one gram of protein will have the same caloric value as one gram of carbohydrates. Fats, on the other hand, are more calorie dense, each containing nine calories per gram.
The secret to a healthy, balanced diet is understanding how to balance your macros and calorie requirements.
Understanding the Macro Diet
The basic idea behind macro dieting is to develop a meal plan based around your macro requirements. By following basic macro guidelines, you can automatically control your calorie intake as well.
Based on current research, a macro diet should follow certain guidelines:
• Protein – 1 gram per pound of body weight. If you are more than 50 pounds overweight, multiply your body weight by .7, then eat that many grams of protein.
• Carbohydrates – 1 gram per pound of body weight at minimum. If you have a more active lifestyle, you may want to double or triple this amount as high-intensity activities require the calories in carbs to replenish the body’s energy.
• Fats – 15 to 20 percent of your overall caloric intake. If you have a physically demanding lifestyle, the calories in fat may help in providing a necessary energy boost. If you require a low-fat diet for health reasons, you can discuss ways to adjust your macros accordingly with your doctor.
The second step of designing a macro diet is to know your body’s caloric needs. Everyone’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) will differ based on age, gender, activity level and body composition. You can use our BMR calculator to identify your specific caloric needs.
Based upon that information and the macro guidelines above, you can establish a basic dietary plan. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds and need to eat 2,000 calories per day to lose weight, you would need to consume:
• 200 grams of protein, or 800 calories from protein.
• 200 grams of carbs, or 800 calories.
• 44 grams of fat, or about 400 calories (20 percent of your overall calorie intake).
Based on your specific needs, you may adjust this. As you can see, however, focusing on your macro requirements will automatically work to keep your calorie intake in line. If you focus on the ratio between nutrients, you know that you can fill your meals accordingly without stressing over the calories in protein, fat or any other element.
If It Fits Your Macros – IIFYM
When you understand your macro requirements, you can build your diet around the idea of, “If it fits my macros, I can eat it.” This idea, often abbreviated to IIFYM, is a liberating way of approaching food and healthy habits.
In an IIFYM diet, you don’t have to worry too much about the calories in carbs and other foods you eat; you just need to know approximately how many servings of a particular macro you can eat in a day. Rather than cutting any food from your diet, you can simply look at how that food may fit into your day’s macros and make adjustments as necessary to ensure your day’s consumption fits your macros.
Best of all, when you’re getting calories in protein, whole grains and healthy fats, you know that you’re giving your body nourishment. This is why IIFYM diets are so much easier to maintain and more enjoyable to live with than more restrictive and complex meal plans.