A very popular question in the fitness industry nowadays seems to be, “What are your macros?” If you read last week’s blog, Macronutrients 101, then you know that this question simply means, “How many grams of carbohydrates, fats, and protein should I consume in a day?” This is always a difficult question to address because there are infinite factors that go into optimal macronutrient levels specific to each individual. It’s easy to look at someone and think that if you could follow their exact diet, then you’d achieve similar results, but this is not the case.
More generally, some of you might be wondering how many calories a day you should consume to reach your fitness goals. The same concepts apply. It’s an intricate topic that requires special considerations.
Factors to consider when calculating macronutrients and calories:
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the number of calories your body burns at rest. So if you laid in bed all day long, your BMR is how many calories your body would burn just by living.
Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). This is your BMR + the calories your body burns through physical activity.
Body Composition. How much muscle do you have? What’s your body fat percentage?
Goals. Is your goal to lose weight? Is your goal to build muscle? If your goal to maintain your current body composition?
Activity Level. Do you spend most of your day in a sedentary state? Does your job involve you being active?
Exercise. How many times a week do you train? How long are your training sessions? What is the intensity of your training?
This list isn’t even all inclusive, so it’s easy to see why basing your macros off of someone else's isn’t a good idea. If you’re a male, tall, or have a lot of muscle, it’s likely your BMR is high, resulting in needing to eat more. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, you expend less energy, needing to consume less and so on.
Your macros are completely dependent on what your goals are. In order to lose weight you need to simply eat in a caloric deficit. In order to build muscle, you need to eat in a caloric surplus. Not only that, but you need to make sure you’re eating enough protein to help build muscle, carbs to restore your energy, and fats for optimal recovery.
There are several free macronutrient calculators online. Two that I would recommend to use are (1) IIFYM and (2) Katy Hearn’s Macro Calculator. I found these to be the most accurate when it comes to my own body. Remember, because there are so many factors that go into the calculation, these are rough estimates. It’s just a starting point. I suggest to follow your results closely for a couple weeks to see how your body reacts, and then make adjustments from there.
An easy way to track your food intake is to use MyFitnessPal. Although I know there are multiple options out there, my experience using MyFitnessPal has exceeded all expectations. It’s simple to use, it’s free, and it provides everything necessary in order to track my nutrient intake.
Through research, I’ve found that it’s typically recommended that 40-60% of your caloric intake should come from carbohydrates, 25-35% from protein, and 15-25% from fat. These numbers are a great starting point.
For some people, tracking macronutrients is not something that is necessary in order to reach your goals, so please don’t read this and think it’s the only way to get healthy. If you are a beginner and simply want to lead a healthier life, I would recommend to start slow and eat intuitively. The drastic change might feel like more of a diet instead of a lifestyle change, making it unsustainable. Keep an eye out for future blogs on why or why not tracking macros is a good idea for you.
Feel free to send me any inquiries regarding nutrition. If you have any questions related to this subject I’d love to help. Do keep in mind that I am not a nutritionist. Through my own experiences, I have gained considerable knowledge about nutrition that has allowed me to lose weight and build lean muscle mass at the same time.