When it comes to adopting a healthy lifestyle, it all starts in the kitchen and first and foremost in paying attention to what you feed your body. Only if we eat the right things, will our body respond well to regular exercise and become fitter and healthier in the process.
Years of trial and error in the diet department (low carb, no carb, high protein – you name it, I probably tried them all at some point) have taught me that it’s not about the number of calories at all, but rather – and more importantly – the kind of calories you consume. Eating 100 g of white bread is not the same as eating 100 g of meat. And that’s when the famous macros come in to play.
Macros is short for macronutrients and represent the the three essential nutritional components our bodies need to function properly: carbohydrates, fat and protein.
To give you a better understanding, here are the calorie values for each macro:
- 1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
- 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
Eating according to my macros has helped me find a healthy balance and has put an end to any cravings or binges I used to experience in the past from dieting and ultimately depriving my body of important nutrients. Cravings are in fact your body’s way of crying out for calories because it is deficient in vital nutrients.
It’s all about fitting my foods into my daily macro allowance. Nothing complicated, and if I can do it, so can you. Obviously, I pay attention to include the right kinds of carbs (complex carbs over processed carbs), fats (healthy fats from seeds and nuts as opposed to animal fats) and proteins (lean meat and legumes over red meat). For more on this subject, read my previous post Eat well out of self-respect, in which I explain the differences and what foods contain which macros.
The optimal macronutrient intake depends on many different factors, such as gender, age, weight and activity level. Mind you, there are a lot – and I mean A LOT of different opinions out there on this subject. I’ll just outline what has worked for me and how I do it.
Step 1: Determine your daily energy expenditure
Your daily energy expenditure is the amount of calories you burn in a day, based on your activity level, age, gender, height and weight.
I recommend you use an online calculator to determine your daily energy expenditure. Here are two calculators I have used and find to be quite accurate:
Once you have determined your daily energy expenditure it’s pretty straight forward:
- Eat more than this = weight gain.
- Eat less than this = weight loss.
- Eat this amount = weight maintenance.
In my case and based on my age (34), gender (female), activity level (moderate) my daily energy expenditure is 3607 calories/ day. Based on this value I calculate my daily macros intake.
Step 2: Calculate your macros intake based on your daily energy expenditure
In order to calculate your macros intake, you need to decide what your goal is. Is it weight loss, boosting your metabolism or building muscle?
Here are two recommendations on how to split your daily calorie intake depending on your goals:
- Weight loss: 45% protein, 35 % carbs, 20 % fat
- Boost metabolism and/or build muscle: 40 % protein, 35 % carbs, 25 % fat
Step 3: Keep track of your macros using an app
There are countless apps out there you can easily download to your phone to help you keep track of your macros.
These three are my favorites:
- Fitocracy Macros
- My Macros+
My advice: shop around to find the right app, which works best for you.
Step 4: Like everything in life: don’t obsess
Yes, I keep track of my macros but I certainly don’t obsess over it. If at the end of the day I had 5 grams more carbs than I was supposed to, then so be it. All in moderation and you can always “even out” the score the next day by eating 5 grams less.