So what are macronutrients exactly? Plain and simple, macronutrients are the three categories nutrients you eat most and provide you with most of your energy: protein, carbohydrates and fats. What is not a macronutrient? The other aspects of your foods—micronutrients—are the vitamins and minerals your body needs in smaller amounts.
Macronutrient #1: Carbohydrates
Fill your plate with healthy carbs, including leafy greens, whole grains and root veggies. Broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, squash, dark leafy greens, green beans, onions, cucumbers, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, potatoes and quinoa.
Macronutrient #2: Protein
You need plenty of protein but NOT greasy burgers and wings. Instead, choose: fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring), cod, lean grass-fed beef, turkey, eggs and nuts
Macronutrient #3: Fat
Getting plenty of healthy fats is important for healthy hormone levels, metabolism, mood vitamin absorption. Foods high in essential fatty acids include: coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, almonds, brazil nuts and macadamia nuts.
How do you calculate—and track—your macronutrients?
The tricky thing about macronutrients is that the amount of each you should be eating can vary drastically from person to person. Your perfect amount is called your “macronutrient ratio.” Ideal macro ratios depend on your height and weight, your activity level, your age, and your goal.
An online macro diet calculator or meal planning app can also help guide you along the way, by giving you an easy place to log the foods you’re eating and to calculate how many macros are them. Here are a few popular macro diet apps to try:
How to Start a Macro Diet Plan?
As you begin your macro diet plan, a food scale will probably be helpful, so you can see exactly how big your portions are. Once you’ve used the food scale for a while, you’ll probably get good at eyeballing your favorite foods to log portion size into your tracking app.
Macronutrient ratios can be tricky. Always stay within these guidelines to ensure you’re getting the right nutrition: Generally, for adults 19 years and older, the macronutrient breakdown recommendation is 45-65% calories from carbohydrates, 10-35% from protein, and 20-35% from fat. It is though a wide range that covers people with a variety of different activity levels.
First you want to calculate your personal calorie goal; to estimate your current calorie needs for maintenance, and then reduce that by 10-20% to determine your personal calorie goal for weight loss; a healthy weight loss is about 1-2 pounds weekly.
Estimated calorie goal for maintenance = 2,000 calories
For weight loss, reduce that by 20%, so your daily goal = 1,600 calories Macronutrient ratio: 50-25-25
50% carbohydrates: 1,600 calories/day x .50 (or 50%) = 800 calories/day. Divide 800 by 4gm to get 200 grams of carbs daily.
25% protein: 1,600 calories/day x .25 (or 25%) = 400 calories/day. Divide 400 calories by 4gm to get 100 gm protein daily.
25% fat: 1,600 calories/day x .25 (or 25%) = 400 calories/day. Divide 400 calories by 9gm to get ~44.5 gm fat daily.
Are macronutrient ratios different for men and women? There’s some evidence that suggests that most women need a lower ratio of carbohydrates than most men do. This may be because of differences in hormones. Regardless of your gender, as you continue your macro diet, adjust your ratio according to how you’re feeling. Here are her six guiding principles of macro dieting to follow:
If you're hungry, add more protein as it is the most satiating nutrient. More fiber is also filling.
If you're tired, add more fibrous veggies to ensure sufficient energy from carbs.
If you're not losing weight, lower your carbohydrate intake, especially with dinner.
If you have sugar cravings, balance your blood sugar better with more protein and fiber and remove all sugar.
If you are losing weight too fast, add 5 to 6 bites of starch, such as sweet potato, oatmeal or squash, with one meal per day.
If you are losing muscle mass, add more protein—ideally, an extra 5 to 6 bites of protein per day—and add strength training to your workouts.
You'll need to use a bit of trial an error as you’re counting macros to adjust the macro ratio to meet your specific body, lifestyle and goals. Below, find several different examples of how to count macros, whether you're trying to lose weight or build muscle.
1. Counting Macros for Weight-Loss
If you’re counting macros for weight loss, you’ll want to make sure you’re counting macros in such a way that you’re also cutting calories.
Try this range of macro ratio for weight loss: 10-30% carbs, 40-50% protein, 30-40% fat.
Then adjust accordingly. If you’re very active, for example, you’ll need more carbs—450 grams per day if you exercise five days a week, for example.
2. Counting Macros for Bodybuilding
If you’re counting macros for bodybuilding and/or muscle gain, you’ll want to add overall calories to put on weight.
Try this range of macro ratio for bodybuilding: 40-60% carbs, 25-35% protein, 15-25% fat.
3. Counting Macros for Maintenance
If you’re counting macros for maintenance, you’ll want to stick to the amount of calories your body needs to sustain your current weight.
Try this macro ratio range for maintenance: 30-50% carbs, 25-35% protein, 25-35% fat.
Using macro counting to maintain a healthy weight is a good idea—this diet plan will keep you on track, choosing healthy, well-balanced meals, and keep you from feeling starved or having low energy. The great thing about maintenance is you don’t need to stress yourself out with exact measurements (of you don’t want to) or feel guilt if you have a meal that doesn’t completely meet your macros. You can make up for it with your next meal or the next day’s meals.
There are plenty of excellent resources for finding delicious macro diet recipes, such as The Macro Experiment or Bodybuilding.com's Healthy Recipe Database, but you'll also find easy clean eating and protein-packed snacks and meals on Cooking Light. Here are a few to try: