Calculate Your Macros
Macros..Macros..IIFYM..Macros..IIFYM.. If you’re into working out and eating right, I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of talk lately about macros and IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros). Have you ever wondered how to calculate your macros?
What are macros?
“Macros” stands for macro-nutrients. Counting your macros means that you will track how many grams of protein, carbohydrates and fats you consume on a daily basis.
Let’s dig more into the three nutrients that you will be tracking..
Protein is the nutrient that will help you build muscle and/or prevent muscle loss if you’re in a calorie deficit. Protein requires more energy for your body to digest, as opposed to carbs and fats. Because protein requires more energy to digest, you will in return, burn more calories during the digestion process and will feel fuller longer.
What are good sources of protein?
Meat, fish, eggs, dairy and protein shakes are all good sources.
How much protein do I need in my diet?
Depending on your goals, I would say a good starting point would be to aim for about 1-1.25 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass (per day).
Lean body mass is your total body weight minus your body fat percentage.
So say I weigh 140 lbs, and my body fat percentage is 25% (140 multiplied by .25) , that is 35 lbs. That means your lean body mass is 140 minus 35, which is 105 lbs of lean body mass.
Weight * Body Fat Percentage = Body Fat
Weight – Body Fat = Lean Body Mass
Let’s say this scenario is for me. This means I should aim to get around 105-132 grams of protein each day. (Some people think .5 grams per pound is efficient, but I’ve found 1 gram to 1.25 grams per pound is more efficient).
The calculations may vary based on activity level and goals.
Carbs are our main source of energy. Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is converted to energy used to support bodily functions and physical activity. Carbohydrate quality is important though, some types of carbohydrate-rich foods are better than others!
What are good sources of carbs?
Whole grains, sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, vegetables, fruits and beans.
How much do I need?
The days of thinking that we need to cut carbs and fat to lose weight are OVER. Carbs are an important factor to a lean and strong physique.
0.5-1 grams per pound of lean body mass is a good target, again, depending on activity level, weight, bodyfat percentage and goals.
Fat is an essential nutrient that our bodies require to live. Fat assists in vitamin absorption, hormone regulation, brain function, and more. If you notice your skin is extra dry or your hair is falling out, you may not be getting enough fat in your diet. Gone are the days of no-fat diets. Our bodies need fat to function.
Where do I find good sources of fat?
Nuts, avocados, nut butters, olive oil, grape-seed oil, corn oil and canola oil.
How much fat do I need?
Again, it depends on your weight, bodyfat percentage and goal – probably somewhere between 15% and 30% of your total calories. However, it can vary based on your total calories consumed and whether you are in a caloric surplus or deficit. Somewhere between 0.3-0.5g per pound of lean body mass is a good range.
Now that you understand what each of the nutrients are and how much of it you need, how do you put it all together?
You still need to figure out the biggest key factor..your calories!
How many calories do I need each day?
Each nutrient is broken down into an amount of calories. Each gram of proteins and carbs equal 4 calories. Each gram of fat equals 9 calories. That’s why you will always find higher calories on items that are higher in fat. Think peanut butter. High in fat – High in calories!
The best way to find out how many calories your body burns during a typical day is to wear a heart rate monitor for 24 hours. I highly recommend getting a Polar watch. I have the Polar FT4
and the Polar FT60. They have helped me realize how my body responds to different activities and how many calories a day I burn.
When I wore my heart rate monitor on a lazy Sunday, I found that I burned around 2000 calories in a day.
My BMR (basil metabolic rate) is around 1500 which means my body requires 1500 calories a day to keep going and maintain my current physique. You can calculate your BMR online by using a calculator like this one.
Now that I know how many calories I need, how do I figure out my actual macros?
On non-workout days, my body burns 2000 calories. When I workout, I typically burn 400 calories per session so on workout days, my target number should be 2400 calories.
First you need to figure out what your goals are. If your goals are to lose 1 lb a week, then I’ll need to drop my calories by 500 a day in order to create a calorie deficit (since there are 3,500 calories in a lb). If I want to gain a pound a week, you will simply add on 500 calories a day. If you’re looking to maintain, stick with that target calorie burn number of 2000 on non-workout days and 2400 on workout days.
Let’s say my goal is to lose 1lb a week.
On non workout days, I’m going to aim for 1500 calories. On workout days, I’ll aim for 1900 calories. This will create a calorie deficit and I should start seeing results.
Remember though, calories should come from GOOD sources as stated above. Don’t consider 300 calories from a donut the same as the calories you’ll get from a meal of chicken, broccoli and almonds. The nutrient breakdown is important, and that’s why we look at our MACROS!
Now we are SOOOOO close to figuring out our exact macros. Hang in there!
Start with the IIFYM approach – Calculate your macros
A great macro breakdown to start with is finding out your protein and fat intake first and then using the rest for carbs.
For my 2000 calorie example, let me break it down.
Protein = Lean Body Mass (figured above) was 105 so I’ll have around 132 grams of protein each day which equates to 528 calories coming from protein sources.
Fat = Lean Body mass (figured above) * .5 = 52.5 grams or about 472 calories from fat sources
Now I have a total of 1,000 calories accounted for. Since I’m trying to lose a pound a week, I’ll figure out my carb intake by taking 1500 – 1000 = 500 calories left for carbs.
Carbs : 125 g of carbs or 1000 calories.
Protein: 132 g
(About 43% of my calories are coming from protein)
Fat: 53 g
(About 17% of my calories are coming from fat)
Carbs: 125 g
(About 40% of my calories are coming from carbs)
If someone were to ask me what my macros were, I could tell them 40/43/17 to be exact (carbs/protein/fat). The most common breakdown is 40/40/20 and this example is pretty darn close to that.
In order to put this into your dialy nutrition plan, divide the numbers by how many meals you’ll have. If I have 5 meals a day, I’d make sure to get in around 26 g of protein, 11g of fat and 25g of carbs at each meal.
I would suggest sticking with your macros for about a month. Be sure to track EVERYTHING. I suggest using the app MyFitnessPal to track your food on your mobile phone. It helps a lot and even shows you your macros for the day broken down into a pie graph.
After a month of eating to your macros, you can readjust based on your results. One word of advice is to make sure to give it some time before switching up your macros. If you switch up your macros too much, your body will never be able to fully adapt to it and will be out of wack. Get your body on a routine and then if you hit a plateu, you can adjust your macros accordingly!
(Hint: Hover over the above image to pin to Pinterest so you can come back to this later!)
I hope this helps you figure out what your macros are. This guide should save you the trip to discuss macros with your personal trainer! Since I learned all this in school to become a personal trainer, I wanted to share it all with you for FREE!!! Sorry it was so long, but it’s pretty complex. Once you figure out your macros once, you’ll be very happy you did!
Feel free to leave comments in the comment section below!