On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness information for all Oklahomans, published three times a week.

What is Macro Tracking and Does It Work?

Dieting is a struggle for so many people. It seems like the instant you restrict something from your diet, all you can do is think about how much you want that food.

Most diet plans, such as Keto and Paleo, eliminate or dramatically reduce your intake of certain food groups. While these diets can result in weight loss, they can also be frustrating and difficult to maintain. Restrictive diets also make it difficult to eat proper portions of food when you return to a less restrictive diet, making it easy to regain weight quickly.

Macro tracking, when done correctly, can be an effective alternative to restrictive dieting. While it may not be right for everyone, tracking your macronutrients can help you maintain a proper caloric intake for your goals and change your body composition without being restrictive or feeling sluggish and hungry.

What are macronutrients?

All nutrients can be divided into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are those nutrients the body needs in large amounts in order to function properly. Micronutrients are vitamins, minerals and water that aid in the digestion of macronutrients and other bodily functions.

There are three types of macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Each macronutrient serves a different purpose in the body.

Protein

Amino acids, or proteins, are essential to the building of muscle tissue. Protein also helps boost the immune system and can make you feel full longer. There are nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own and must obtain from dietary sources, which can be found in meat, poultry, fish, legumes, eggs and nuts.

Each gram of protein is equal to four calories. The Institute of Medicine recommends that protein make up 10 to 35 percent of your daily caloric intake. If you consume 2,000 calories each day, protein should make up 200 to 700 calories of your diet, equaling approximately 50 to 175 grams of protein.

Adults should consume at least 0.8 grams of protein per 2.2 pounds of body weight each day. However, most people should actually consume between 1 and 1.2 grams of protein per 2.2 pounds of body weight. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, you should consume between 72 and 87 grams of protein each day.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are sugars, fibers and starches that give the body glucose, which is converted into energy. Carbohydrates can be simple or complex. Simple carbs can be found in white bread and high-sugar foods. They provide quick energy but little satiety. Complex carbs, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, provide fiber and vitamins to aid in digestion and keep you feeling full longer.

Like protein, each gram of carbohydrate is equal to four calories. The National Association of Sports Medicine recommends that carbohydrates make up 45 to 65 percent of your total caloric intake. The majority of carbs consumed should be complex carbs, as simple carbs offer less nutritional value.

If you consume a 2,000-calorie diet, you should eat between 900 and 1,300 calories, or 225 to 325 grams of carbs each day.

Fat

Fats, or lipids, include triglycerides, phospholipids and sterols. Fats can be trans, saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Unsaturated fats are considered healthy fats. Saturated fats can increase bad cholesterol but are okay in moderation. Trans fats are man-made and are not recommended for daily dietary intake. The best sources of healthy fats include fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds.

Each gram of fat is equal to nine calories. It’s recommended that 20 to 30 percent of your total calories come from fat sources. In a 2,000-calorie diet, that would be 400 to 600 calories from fat, or 45 to 67 grams of fat. 

Why count macros?

IIFYM or “If it fits your macros” is the main concept of macro tracking, which means no foods are off limits as long as you can work it into your macros. Most diet plans are restrictive, meaning they cut out entire food groups or severely reduce carbs or fats. Macro tracking ensures you get the macronutrients you need while eating whatever foods you want.

While it’s possible to follow a macro tracking nutrition plan with only processed junk food, it’s not recommended. For your overall nutrition, it’s best to work in as many whole foods, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals as possible.

Macro tracking isn’t just for weight loss. The primary benefit of macro tracking is that it focuses on altering body composition, rather than just focusing on counting calories. It can be used to lose weight, gain muscle or maintain a specific body weight over time. Because it is less restrictive than other diets, many people find that macro tracking is more maintainable over a long period of time.

How to get started tracking your macros

Before you get started, you’ll need a food scale and a tracking app. MyFitnessPal offers a free calorie-tracking feature.

The second step is to determine your macro ratio. A macro ratio is the percentage of each macronutrient that combined will make up your total diet. Your macro ratio will change depending on your goals. You can use this macronutrient calculator from BodyBuilding.com to determine the appropriate macro ratio for you.

Meal planning will be key to hitting your macros on a regular basis, but keep in mind that precisely hitting your macros to the gram every day is not likely. You should aim to be close, but don’t beat yourself up if you aren't 100 percent accurate every time.

When you’re doing your meal prep, weigh all meat and produce raw for better accuracy. You can weigh foods in bulk before you cook them. Then, portion them out evenly based on weight after cooking. You can save recipes into MyFitnessPal for easier, more efficient daily tracking.

If you have questions regarding your nutrition, you don’t have to do it alone. The INTEGRIS Weight Loss Center offers help every step of the way. Attend one of the free weight loss seminars for more information.

Subscribe to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog

Subscribe for weekly emails full of useful and interesting Oklahoma-centric health and wellness info, from the doctors and health experts at INTEGRIS.

On Your Health

INTEGRIS Physicians Here For You

Weight Loss Center