By Tiffany Sosa
Should you be Counting Calories or Macros?
Calorie and macro counting are done on apps like My Fitness Pal or My Macros. To understand what they are and how they differ, let’s begin with the basics.
- A Calorie is defined as, “the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1 °C”
- Macronutrients (or Macros) are defined as, “a type of food (e.g. fat, protein, carbohydrate) required in large amounts in the diet.”
Calories are a measure of energy, normally used to measure the energy content of foods and beverages. While macros give your body energy to perform essential functions.
Carbohydrates include sugars, starches, and fibers. Most types of carbs get broken down into glucose, or blood sugar, which your body either uses for immediate energy or stored as glycogen — the storage form of glucose — in your liver and muscles. They are found in foods like grains, starchy vegetables, beans, dairy products, and fruits.
Fats are found in foods like oils, butter, avocado, nuts, meat, and fatty fish. Your body needs fat for energy and critical functions, such as hormone production, nutrient absorption, and body temperature maintenance.
Proteins are vital for processes like cell signaling, immune function and the building of tissues, hormones, and enzymes. However, protein recommendations vary depending on body composition goals, age, health and more. Examples of protein-rich foods include eggs, poultry, fish, tofu and legumes.
Each macronutrient is essential to life, and each provides a certain amount of calories. Fat is the most calorie-dense nutrient, providing about 9 calories per gram. Carbohydrates and protein both provide about 4 calories per gram.
Tracking your calories or nutrients depend on how much you are currently consuming and your goals.
Are you looking to maintain, gain, or lose weight?
- To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn.
- To maintain weight, you need to eat about the same amount of calories a day.
- To gain weight, you need to eat more calories than you burn.
Your amount of calories depends on factors like gender, age, weight, and activity level. Any excess calories you eat will be stored as fat, and consistently eating more than you burn will cause weight gain over time. This is where counting comes in.
Oftentimes, many people focus on counting calories to lose weight. But with the simple calories in, calories out equation, you may be missing consistent results. By also focusing on your macronutrients, you will not only get amazing results, but you’ll also learn more about your nutrition, body, and mindset. You’ll want to find the right macronutrient balance for you to keep yourself where you want to be.
Average macronutrients are:
- Carbs: 45–65% of total calories
- Fats: 20–35% of total calories
- Proteins: 10–35% of total calories
Keep in mind that these recommendations may not fit your specific needs. But this is often where diets come in. They alter these figures to extremes to create drastic changes to your lifestyle in order to see results.