How To Count Your Macros, and When it Matters
Updated: Oct 5, 2018
Why everyone should learn this skill, and how to really use it for your health
Even if you aren’t a fitness nut, you’ve probably heard of counting your macros. The phrase references a method of measuring food so you can track your protein, fat, and carbohydrate consumption. Though some people live by their macros, the real power of the system is simply better understanding of what’s in what you eat.
Basically, counting your macros is a measurment system, and learning to do so is essential to a deeper and more aware relationship with your food. The first step is to learn what your macro goals are, be it a diet or just calory intake. One particular diet where counting your macros is truly essential is the ketogenic diet.
This is because the ketogenic diet relies on getting your body into a fat-burning state called ketosis, but you need to consume high amounts of fats and very small amounts of carbs. If you eat too much carbohydrate, or too much protein without any fats, your body will exit ketosis.
So, for the sake of example, let’s say you are trying to eat a ketogenic diet of 60% fats, 30% proteins, and 10% carbs. Here’s how you could count your macros:
Get a scale: You need a scale to measure the grams of food you are eating. I don’t actually advocate measuring your food on a scale forever, but for the ketogenic diet, you really do have to, and I think everyone should measure with a scale for at least a month for any diet. This way you begin to learn how to “eyeball” foods, and realize how much you really are or are not consuming daily. You can get a food scale on amazon for $10.
Get a macro-counting app or chart: This is the next “must.” You can’t just consider all meats to be “protein” or vegetables to be “carbs.” You need a reference chart to tell you what percentages of protein, fat, and carbs are inside your foods. You also need to account for cooking style. The way you cook meats will affect the amount of fat that gets burned off, and failing to consider this can lead to varied intakes that add up at the end of the day. Myfitnesspal is the most popular app for good reason, but you can browse around. There are plenty of great options.
Don’t leave anything out: This is where a lot of people mess up. You have to add everything you consume to your macro count. Don’t assume that just because it’s a salad that it’s too small to matter on your charts. It is important to be “all-in” with this process, if you really want it to be worth your time, and frankly, effort. Don't skimp on the salads!
Adjust accordingly: If you’re counting your macros as part of a diet plan, then this may seem obvious, but if you’re counting to become more aware, then start experimenting and adjust. The power of macro-counting is learning how different amounts of different foods help you feel better or worse. Start changing things up and tweaking the system. Another powerful use for macros is to use them to finally cut out the junk! If you learn about what is healthy to eat and what isn’t before hand, this can be a great way to truly cut out the bad foods since you’ll be recording everything you eat, or at least measuring it.
In conclusion, counting macros is a powerful tool for understanding food, and some diets cannot be performed without it. However, at the end of the day, it is far more important what you eat (or don’t eat) than how much you eat. I like macros, and I think everyone should count them for a month in order to upgrade their intuitive relationship with eating. However, if I’m honest, I don’t personally weigh anything, and I pay much closer attention to the types off foods I’m eating.
Long story short, you should try counting your macros for a month, but while trying it, use macro-counting as an opportunity to eat healthier quality food while paying attention to the quantity. I would rather you increase your caloric intake, but finally stop eating processed sugar, than see you counting your macros and eating cake.
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