Macros 101: What, Why, and How to Count Them?
Before macros took the fitness world by storm, people were following the simple rule of staying in a calorie deficit. This worked for some people, but others really struggled seeing results. Then came IIFYM - if it fits your macros, and it changed the fitness world in the greatest way!
Tracking your daily macros can be a real game-changer in your fitness! It can help you start seeing the results you want all by just helping find how much per nutrient you should be eating for your fitness goals. We've got the lowdown on macronutrients, why they are so important, and how to use the Fit With Iulia macro calculator to start getting the results YOU want!
What Are Macronutrients?
Macronutrients, macros for short, refer to the three basic components of every diet: carbs, protein, and fats. They help give us energy, grow and repair muscle, and just make us feel good!
Every food is specified as one macro, either a - carbohydrates, fat, or protein. That is classified by calculating the highest percentage of the macronutrient in each food. So for example, a raw piece of skinless, boneless breast has 21.2 grams of protein, 2.6 grams of fat, and 0 grams of carbs. That would be considered a protein because it's a protein-dense food. 
Now, let's meet our macros and find out about their uses..
Protein in our bodies are made up of 20 amino acids, 9 of them are considered to be essential. That means that the body requires them from food sources. Guess what the best food source to get these essential amino acids? Protein from animal sources! BUT don't worry, you can still get them from various plant sources and/or supplements.
Protein is the building blocks of cells and muscle structure, it's crucial for muscle growth and recovery. It doesn't end there, protein has many roles in the body! It's used as an energy source, helps keep the immune system strong, provides structure in the body, and so much more!
So what are the best protein sources?
- Lean, organic meat
- Fish and seafood
Carbs are the body's main source of energy AND the brain's primary source. They are made up of sugars and starches that are then broken down into glucose. There are two main types: simple and complex carbs. Complex carbs are nutrient dense and digested slowly. Simple carbs are digested quickly, and are mostly refined and processed.
Everyone always says "carbs are bad for you! They make you gain weight!". That may be true, but that applies to any food. A calorie surplus makes you gain weight. As for carbs - our body needs carbs to provide us with high energy levels to help us get through the day and to crush it at the gym! It's also the highest source of dietary fiber that keeps our large intestine healthy.
So what are the best carbohydrate sources?
- Whole grains
- Starchy vegetables
Fats are an essential nutrient, despite the bad reputation it has. Dietary fats are needed for energy and to support cell growth. It's also needed to produce important hormones your body needs and to absorb nutrients - vitamins A, D, E, K. Fats are also more calorie dense, which means they require more energy to burn. But adding fats to your diet will help keep you full longer.
There are four different types of fats: saturated fats, trans fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. The bad fats that you should limit are saturated and trans fats. Stick to the healthy fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
So what are the best sources of fats?
- Nuts and seeds
- Olives and olive oil
- Fatty fish
- Nut butters
Tracking Macros - Why Is It Important?
The number of calories you consume is important, but tracking macros is absolutely essential if you are serious about achieving your fitness goal! Think of it this way... Let's say you want to gain muscle and your only counting calories. Your daily calorie goal is 1,800 calories, where do you get the calories from? Well it's a free for all! You can get them from healthy whole foods and/or processed foods, it's entirely up to you. You might lose weight, but if you're not counting your protein intake you're not going to gain much muscle. That's why keeping track of your macros is important!
A person who is focused on building muscle mass will want to focus on high protein intake. A person who wants to focus on weight loss and fat loss will want to decrease their fat intake, maybe go slightly low carb, and high protein. Macros allow you to tailor your diet to your lifestyle and fitness goals.
What is IIFYM?
IIFYM - If It Fits Your Macros is a form of flexible dieting that helps people with weight loss without being too restrictive. This form of dieting only focuses on the three macronutrients, no calorie counting. That way you can eat the amount of macronutrients you need to achieve your fitness goals.
People often prefer this method of dieting because it's flexible and easy to maintain, less restrictive than others, and there are no forbidden foods. This removes the pressure and guilt that comes with restrictive diets, and you still get results!
How To Calculate The Right Macros For You
Your macros are based on your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) and your fitness goals. There are two ways to calculate your daily macro goals: doing it yourself or by using a macro calculator. Doing it manually is great, but why do the math when I can do it for you! And it takes less than 2 minutes!
Okay so let's get down to business, here's how the Fit With Iulia macro calculator works...
First, input your general information like gender, height, weight, and age - this will calculate your TDEE. So we know the number of calories you need per day to maintain your energy.
Second, input an estimate of your body fat percentage. Not many macro calculators ask for this, but it is important. So you can understand why I'll give you an example... Person A can weigh 195 and have <20% body fat, person B can weight 195 and have 30% body fat. They weigh the same, but their body composition is different therefore their macro ratios are going to be different. For those who don't know the exact number, my calculator displays icons to help you estimate which body fat percentage fits you.
Third, choose your body type. There are three body types: endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph. I want to be as accurate as possible with your macros, that this question is included. Let's briefly explain why...
- Ectomorphs are naturally thin and have a higher metabolic rate, they also have a better carb tolerance. So depending on their goal, they'll most likely get results with higher carbs.
- Endomorphs have a larger structure, more fat, and typically slow metabolisms. They don't tolerate carbs well, so their results will be different than an ectomorph body type. They'll most likely work better with a low carb diet.
- Mesomorphs are the best of both worlds. They have a naturally athletic body and lean muscle mass. They can gain weight easily, but they can also lose fat and gain muscle easily. Their results will depend on their goals, and will be different than ectomorphs and endomorphs.
Fourth, input your activity level. This information has to do with your TDEE. The more active you are, the more calories you need. So try to be as accurate as possible. We've simplified it to five categories:
- Not active - Sedentary job/lifestyle and no exercise.
- Lightly active - Sedentary job, so you're sitting most of the day, but you workout 1-2x a week.
- Active - Sedentary job, but you participate in moderate exercise 3-4x a week.
- Very active - Active job, think mailman, construction worker, a job that requires you to be moving around. Intense exercise 4-5x a week.
- Super active - Active job and intense 5+ workouts a week.
Lastly, enter your overall goal. We have the three main goals:
- Lose weight - This will put you at a slight calorie deficit, the percentage depends on your body type.
- Maintain - Shows you the macro ratios that will keep you at your current weight.
- Gain muscle - This will put you at a calorie surplus, the percentage depends on your body type.
How to use your results to achieve your goal
Once you've filled out your information on the macronutrient calculator you'll know the number of carbs, protein, fat, and calories you need to consume to reach your goals! So where do you go from here? Well, start planning your meals to fit your macros and start tracking!
Consider downloading a tracking app like Myfitnesspal! Input your results to whatever tracking app you chose. Then you can start to set a meal plan that best fits your macros. Keep in mind, this is just an estimate so if you go a little over or a little under your macros you'll be fine! But just a little... don't go too over, you'll just sabotage your progress!
One last thing to keep in mind... Once you start tracking and you start losing weight, or building muscle then revisit my macro calculator. You want to adjust your macros after losing weight and fat, or building muscle because the original macro results were based on the information before you started dieting. So every couple of weeks or once you get significant results, update your macros!
P.S. Aside from macros, you must implement some type of fitness plan if you want to see better results, faster. If you're new to working out and don't know how to plan a workout based on your goals, then check out Iulia's fitness app - Fit With Iulia. She personally creates new gym AND home workout plans every week based on specific fitness goals. The app also features offline mode so you can workout anywhere without an internet connection. Clear, detailed descriptions and videos so you can follow along easily and have proper form. And best of all, the first workout for every goal is available to EVERYONE! So you can check it out and try your first workout for free... if you love it then sign up for a free 7 day trial!