As mentioned in our previous blog, counting calories is more beneficial when you actually evaluate where the calories are coming from. Doing this enables you to fine tune your diet and focus on specific health and fitness goals.
Rather than counting calories, you should try counting macros instead. Counting macros is simply tracking your daily intake of protein, carbohydrates, and fat (the three major macronutrients).
Counting Macros Vs. Counting Calories
When you count macros, you are essentially counting calories as well, but you are also able to see how your body responds to the same amount of calories from different sources. You will better understand what helps to make you look, feel and perform well.
Another benefit is a better understanding of your food. For example, counting calories simply tells you that you can have a bigger handful of popcorn than almonds when it comes to calories. When you look at macros, you will see that nuts are filled with healthy fats and a balance of carbohydrates and protein, rather than only fast-burning carbohydrates. Thus, a handful of nuts would be a better option to keep you fuller longer.
Macros Are Not The Only Answer
Because the main focus is macros, people worry that important micronutrients are overlooked. The easiest solution would be to add produce (especially vegetables) to your diet. Doing so will ensure that you still get a good amount of vitamins and minerals in addition to your ideal macro intake. At least 75% of your diet should come from whole, unprocessed foods in their natural states for a high-quality diet.
How To Determine Your Macro Breakdown
As expected, the “best” macronutrient breakdown will vary from person to person. The standard recommendation is 50% carbohydrates, 30% fat, and 20% protein for your daily diet. Those who want to build muscle and trim fat know that it requires more protein, and may break it down to 30-40% carbohydrates, 30-40% fat, and 30-40% protein.
If you’re trying to maintain your muscle and body fat, you want to focus on more protein, and adjust your carbohydrate and fat intake accordingly. Because protein controls hunger, if you eat more protein you are less likely to be hungry regardless of your calorie count. Also, high protein intake attributes to the success of low-carb diets for weight loss.
You should try different breakdowns to see what works for you. Some people function better with a higher carbohydrate intake while others do so with higher fat intake.
Nutrition Planning Based On Macros Needs
Once you have figured out your needs, there are a few different approaches for nutrition and meal planning based on your overall caloric goals.
If you prefer consistency and reliability, you can pick the same breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks that add up to your ideal daily breakdown and calorie total and simply repeat it.
If you can’t stand that type of monotony when it comes to food, you can pick three options for each meal and snack, put them in a spreadsheet and mix and match every day. Your individual meal macros don’t matter as much as your overall day’s worth.
Or you can try this simplified method:
- 6-8 cupped handfuls of quality carbohydrates (starch and fruit)
- 6-8 fist-size portions of vegetables
- 6-8 palm-size portions of protein
- 6-8 thumb-size portions of healthy fats
This will give you a fairly even macro intake (40% carbs, 30% fat, 30% protein) with about 2,300-3,000 calories. Based on your personal goals and needs, you can adjust accordingly. For example, if you want to lose weight, you can remove a few cupped hands of carbohydrates or thumbs of fat. And for a lower carb diet, swap some hand-size portions of carbohydrates for thumb-size portions of fat.
How To Track Macros
Once you have your macro breakdown and all the details figured out, how will you track your macros? You can do it by hand, by reading labels and Googling nutrition facts and serving sizes for your food. While this is a feasible task, it may become quite tedious.
For those who want any easier way, luckily, there’s (many) apps for that. There are various nutrition and diet apps that enable you to track your food intake. Some even allow you to set custom macro goals.
Whether you are thinking about counting macros, or if you have already adopted this method to improve your health, share your thoughts and advice with us! Connect with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
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