Why and How You Should Track Macros for Weight Loss

By: Alex Michaels

What are Macros?  

Macros is short for macronutrients and they are protein, carbohydrates, and fats.  These three components make up our total number of calories.  Macronutrient ratios vary depending on whether your goal is weight loss, weight gain, or weight maintenance.  In this case, we are going to focus on weight loss.  

Let’s break down each macronutrient:

Proteins

Proteins are made up of amino acids.  The two types of amino acids are essential and non-essential.  After protein consumption, amino acids are broken down in the stomach and distributed throughout the body for many different jobs.  The main role of protein is to build and repair, however it can serve as a backup energy source if carbohydrates and fats are not available.  Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, which means the more protein you have in a meal the more full you will feel.  Protein provides 4 calories per gram.

Carbohydrates

There are two categories of carbohydrates: simple and complex.  Simple carbs are digested at a fast rate, provide a quick source of energy, and often times result in a higher blood sugar spike.  Complex carbs are digested at a slower rate and often result in higher satiety (feelings of fullness).  The body breaks down carbs into glucose, which is the body’s preferred source of energy.  The brain also needs at least 130 g of carbohydrate per day in order to maintain high cognitive function. Carbs provide 4 calories per gram.

Fats

There are several kinds of fats.  Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated are the more heart-healthy fats.  Two types of polyunsaturated fats that cannot be made by the body are the essential fatty acids called omega-3 and omega- 6.  The next type is saturated fat and this is not heart-healthy. Trans fat is the most unhealthy type of fat to consume and can greatly increase levels of LDL cholesterol.  Fats are the most energy dense, providing 9 calories per gram.

Tracking for Weight Loss

One of the most effective ways to maintain alignment with your weight loss goal is to track your macronutrients and calories.  No, you don’t have to become a “calorie-counter”...but, understanding exactly what the food you are eating is made up of is essential for progress and long term success.  We typically recommend tracking food for 2-3 months to analyze trends, get in the habit of being mindful about what you are putting into your body, and to keep you accountable.

The bottom line is this; if you want to see results, you have to track your food intake, even if it seems overwhelming.  This is the only true way to stay accountable and make sure you hit your target numbers!  

Ate a pint of ice cream or a few donuts, knocked back some marg’s after work?  TRACK THAT TOO!!  It is eye opening to see just how easy it is to consume excess amounts of sugar, salt, and calories and how it can really offset your macro distribution.  An important note to remember is that it is okay to have a “treat meal” here and there.  That is one meal, not the entire day of eating or the entire week and it does not mean you completely fell off the wagon.

How Can You Track Macros?

There are tools will help set up your macros to fit your goals.  One of the most popular free apps to track your nutrition is myfitnesspal.  Another great tool is the SuperTracker on the USDA website.  Keep in mind these are not always accurate and your numbers may need to change frequently depending on several factors.  The benefit of working with a fitness professional is that they can modify your macros based on your specific needs.

myfitnesspal

SuperTracker

Why the IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) “diet” is kinda sorta not the best. . .

It is important to remember that even if the protein, carbs, and fat on a food label fit into your daily macro goal, that does not mean that it is the healthiest option.  Sure, you can fit donuts, ice cream, cookies, processed meals, etc. into your macros - but what about the short-term and long-term effects on your health?  Eating food just because it fits in your marco budget for the day and not considering the nutrition aspect of that food could mean an increased intake of foods that are high in refined sugar, salt, additives, evil sneaky little ingredients that cause you to grow a 3rd arm or 2nd head, etc.  Stick with whole foods, lean sources of protein, fruits, and veggies.

What Now?

Set a goal to track your food intake for the next 2-3 months and keep track of your weight loss progress along the way.  

If you have any questions or want any help, please email and let us know at info@fromtherootsfitness.com