If you’ve ever heard of flexible dieting or IIFYM (if it fits your macros), you’re probably familiar with macronutrient tracking.
Popular among the bodybuilding community, macro tracking is a simple and practical approach to nutrition. Rather than allowing convenience and taste to guide your nutritional choices, you bet on the mathematical truths.
While the process is mostly straightforward, it can be challenging for beginners to get started. To that end, we’ve put together this beginner’s guide.
Below, we’ll go over everything you need to know to get started.
What Are Macronutrients?
Macronutrients are the components that make up the foods we eat. Each macronutrient carries an energetic value, and each has specific roles within the body.
Proteins and carbs carry four calories per gram, while fats offer nine. For example, if you consume a meal with 35 grams of protein, 60 grams of carbs, and 15 grams of fats, you would consume 515 calories:
(35x4) + (60x4) + (15x9) = 515
Among their many functions, proteins are vital for growth, development, and recovery. Carbs serve as the primary source of energy for the body. Fats are essential for cardiovascular health, metabolism, hormonal synthesis, and more.
Why Should We Calculate Them?
Calculating and tracking your macronutrients is incredibly beneficial because it takes the guesswork out of the equation. Rather than worry if you’re eating enough calories or enough of a given macronutrient, you know because you’re tracking your intake.
For example, many skinny guys declare that they can’t build muscle. But, once they start tracking their macronutrients carefully, they kickstart the process because they take the guesswork out of it.
Overweight folks are in a similar boat. Many feel they can’t lose weight no matter how little they eat. Of course, as they start tracking their macronutrients, they realize that they were eating much more than they thought. More importantly, with their more precise approach, they can now begin to lose fat effectively.
How to Calculate Your Macros (Step-by-Step)
To get started, you first need to calculate your calorie needs. Start with the below Harris-Benedict equation:
Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)
Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)
Once you have your BMR, use one of the below values to calculate your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure):
- Sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2
- Lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375
- Moderatetely active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55
- Very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week): Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725
- Extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9
For most people, the 1.55 multiplier works best. But, you need to be honest here and pick the right one.
Once you have your calorie needs, it comes down to picking a macronutrient split. A good starting point for most people is this:
- 25-35 percent protein
- 20-30 percent fats
- 45-55 percent carbs
Say that you’ve calculated your TDEE to be 2,800 calories. In that case, your macronutrient goals would be as such:
- 175 to 245 grams of protein
- 62 to 93 grams of fats
- 315 to 385 grams of carbs
For example, with your protein calculations, it looks like this:
2,800 (calories) x 0.25 (percent) = 700 (calories)
700 (calories) / 4 (calories per gram) = 175 grams of protein
Use the same calculations for all three macros, and you’ve got your targets.