The Basics of Counting Macros
Macronutrients, or macros, consist of proteins, carbs, and fats. You can think of them as the building blocks for food, and each of them serves a specific function in your body. This is why you’ll often hear the phrase, “Not all calories are created equal”. While each are important, eating too much or too little of any one of them can lead to an unoptimized approach to nutrition. Let’s take a deeper look at their specific functions.
Protein helps support the production and retention of lean muscle mass. It also contains essential amino acids that allow your muscle to fully repair and recover from daily use as well as intense training sessions. Lastly, protein is also the most satiating macro, meaning that a diet that is high in protein helps to keep hunger at bay.
Carbohydrates are your body's most readily available source of energy. This includes the energy you need for basic bodily functions (ie: breathing, digestion, etc) and living your everyday life, but it is especially impactful for training. For athletes that compete in endurance sports or higher-volume exercise, carbs work to replenish glycogen stores in your muscles that are depleted throughout the session. This translates into better recovery and higher levels of performance.
Omega fatty acids such as EPA and DHA help to support cardiovascular health, joint health and also aid in digestion. Further, fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K require sufficient dietary fat in order to be properly absorbed by the body. Fats also help to keep your hair and nails strong and promote skin health!
By tracking macros, you are ensuring you’re getting enough of each macro and optimizing your nutrition to support your goals - whether that’s losing body fat, gaining strength and muscle mass, or improving performance in a chosen sport.
While on the surface it might appear as if eating within the framework of a macro prescription would be restrictive, it’s actually quite the opposite. Nothing is “off limits” with a flexible dieting approach and by finding a balance between what you enjoy and what your body needs, you can achieve nutritional freedom while still working towards your goals!
Sound too good to be true? It’s not as complicated as you might think. Follow these simple steps to get started:
Set your macros
You have two options here. If you want to shift the “heavy lifting” to us, simply sign up for 1-on-1 coaching with Working Against Gravity and our certified experts will prescribe the perfect macro set based on your goals!
If you’d prefer to try it on your own, you click below to download our macro calculator spreadsheet!
Buy a digital scale
The more accurate you can be about measuring the foods going into your body, the better and more consistent your results will be. It might seem like a lot of extra work, but in actuality, you’re adding an easy step to actions you’re already taking! Simply weigh and record your portions before cooking and you’re all set.
Track your intake with a food-tracking app
Our go-to tracker is MacrosFirst. Built from the ground up with macro tracking in mind, this FREE app includes a comprehensive food database, easy-to-use interface, food barcode scanner, precise target setting, and much more. Paid alternatives include MyFitnessPal or myMacros+.
Head to the grocery store
Environment and preparation play such an important role in seeing success with this approach to nutrition. By filling your fridge and pantry with whole, minimally processed foods, you are ensuring you have the tools you need on hand in order to reach your macro targets. Not sure which foods to buy for each macro? No sweat - check out our handy “Help! What Do I Eat?” infographic below!
We’ve also covered shopping at some of our favorite grocery stores including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Costco, and Woolworths. You might also consider diving into our, “How to Eat Healthy on a Budget” post for some cost-saving hacks!
Pro Tips for Beginners
Include a protein, carb, and fat source at each meal. There’s nothing worse than reaching the end of the day and finding you’re woefully short in one (or multiple!) macro columns. By making sure you’re getting a bit of each at every meal, you’re setting yourself up for success.
Pre-log your meals ahead of time. Better yet, do a bit of meal prep! The further in advance you have your intake planned, the easier it will be to hit your macro targets. Reactionary food choices are the enemy and make dialing in your numbers much, much more difficult.
Brush up on your understanding of nutrition labels. All of the info you need is there for the taking, but to the inexperienced, it can be a bit overwhelming. Lucky for you, we’ve written a complete guide that explains the ins and outs - from serving size to calories and everything in between.
Focus on whole, high-volume, unprocessed foods. While it’s true that most things can fit within the framework of your macros, by allocating the lion’s share to “the good stuff”, you will feel your best and be providing your body with valuable micronutrients.
Building a sustainable approach to nutrition
By learning the ins and outs of the flexible dieting approach and tracking macros, you’re building the habits and skill sets that will last you a lifetime. Whether you tackle it on your own or sign up with a 1-on-1 expert coach with WAG, we encourage you to try it out. You might be just surprised at what you’re able to achieve!