Healthspan November 20, 2017

Once upon a time people counting calories was the closest you could come to numerical dieting but – in today’s health conscious society – calculating your food intake has become much more complicated.

If the word ‘macros’ is as baffling to you as it is to most people then listen up, we promise it’s not as scary as it sounds.

What are macros?

‘Macros’ is short for the word ‘macronutrients’ and is effectively a way of calculating your calories with nutrition in mind as opposed to just for the purpose of reducing your calorie consumption.

Macros allow you to eat the correct amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat in accordance with the correct calorie intake for your personal fitness or weight loss goals.

So instead of eating 1500 calories per day of low sugar, low fat ready meals and snacks because you’re trying to lose weight, you eat a specific number of calories of carbs, protein and fat that depends on how much exercise you’re doing, how much weight you’re trying to lose and what your current height and weight is.

How will calculating my macros benefit me?

If you’ve been cutting calories drastically in an attempt to lose weight but nothing is happening it might be because you’re eating the wrong foods, which is where calculating your macros could come in very handy.

Calculating macros isn’t just a dieting mechanism but a fantastic way of learning to balance your meals effectively for optimum health, too. The best judge of the portion size on your plate is the scales and calculating your macros brings you one step closer to opting for a pasta portion size fit for one person as opposed to two. Remember learning how much of each food group equated to a balanced diet at school? Macros will open your eyes to the bad habits you’ve picked up since then.

How do I calculate my macros?

We know macronutrients are the three food groups our body requires to function; protein for building and repairing muscle, carbohydrates for energy and a little bit of fat too keep you full, too. But what if we told you 10 calories of protein was very different to 10 calories of carbs? Confusing, we know.

This is where following the macros diet is different to counting calories.

To work out your macros you firstly need to work out how many calories you should be consuming per day (DAC) for which you need to know:

  1. Your basal metabolic rate (BMR)
  2. Your activity level

You can use the Harris-Benedict equation to work out your BMR:

Men: BMR = 88.362 + (13.397 x weight in kg) + (4.799 x height in cm) - (5.677 x age in years)

Women: BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 x weight in kg) + (3.098 x height in cm) - (4.330 x age in years)

Use this guide to work out your activity level:

You work in an office and never exercise = activity level 1.2

You exercise a little bit, maybe 1-3 times per week = activity level 1.375

You exercise a fair amount (3-5 times per week) = activity level 1.55

You’re an exercise addict a.k.a. you work out 6-7 times every week = activity level 1.725

Now to work out your macros

Now you know your calorie consumption all that’s required is for you to work out your macro ratio i.e. how many calories worth of protein, carbohydrates and fat you should be eating.

If you’re trying to lose weight and retain muscle – a popular use of macro dieting – then physical trainer Russ Howe recommends a ratio of 4-4-2 to start.

Though we’re about to throw more equations your way they’re not as complex as they sound, rather a way of converting the ratio above into exactly how many grams of carbohydrates, protein and fat you should be eating per day.

So to follow the 4-4-2 ratio all you have to do is apply the following equations to your daily allowance of calories:

Carbohydrates
DAC x 0.4/4 = your answer in grams

Protein
DAC x 0.4/4 = your answer in grams

Fat
DAC x 0.2/9 = your answer in grams

And there you have it, the exact number of grams in each macronutrient you should be eating per day (depending on your goal).

An example

Let’s just do a quick example to make sure we’re clear. If you were a 66kg, 5ft 4, 30-year-old woman looking to lose weight and retain muscle, who worked in an office and never exercised, this is what you’d do to work out your macros:

BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 x 66) + (3.098 x 163) - (4.330 x 30) = 1432.969 (BMR)

DAC = 1432.969 (BMR) x 1.2 (activity level) = 1719.5628 (DAC)

We’ll round this up to 1720!

Carbohydrates = 1720 (DAC) x 0.4/4 = 172 grams

Protein = 1720 (DAC) x 0.4/4 = 172 grams

Fat = 1720 (DAC) x 0.2/9 = 38 (38.2) grams

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