According to the Merck Manual, macros are the essential nutrients that make up most of your diet. The three main sources of macros are:
- Carbohydrates: Found in grains, starches, and fruits, carbs get broken down into glucose which gives your body energy.
- Fats: These high-calorie macros help your body with critical functions like absorbing nutrients and maintaining normal body temperature.
- Proteins: Proteins help boost your body’s immune functions and build tissues. They’re found in eggs, poultry, lentils, meat, and more.
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How Do You Count Macros for Weight Loss?
Calculating macros requires a daily practice of counting both your calorie intake and your macro intake, then either increasing or decreasing those numbers to achieve your weight goals. Most people use an app or a spreadsheet to do the math.
To calculate your macros, you’ll want to first calculate your overall calorie needs. Online fitness calculators can help you figure out your resting energy expenditure (the number of calories burned when you’re at rest) and your non-resting energy expenditure (the number of calories burned when you’re doing activities or digesting food). When you add those two numbers together, you’ll get your total daily energy expenditure — in other words, how many calories you use daily.
If your goal is to lose weight, you’ll want to consume fewer calories than you expend. If you want to gain weight, you’ll want to consume more calories.
Next, you need to calculate your ideal macros. The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Medicine recommends the following proportion of calories from each category:
- Carbs: 45 to 65 percent
- Fats: 20 to 35 percent
- Protein: 10 to 35 percent
The amount of protein you need is based on your weight in kilograms. Typically, you need one gram of protein for every kilogram of weight. These percentages may differ based on your goals and body type. For example, endurance athletes typically will want a higher carb percentage because they burn so much energy during workouts.
Can Counting Macros Help You Lose Weight?
Some research suggests that counting macros can help you lose weight. Counting macros can take the focus off calories and allow you to prioritize the quality of your diet which can be a good thing. However, it’s worth noting that a systematic review by the journal PLOS One found that low-carb, high-fat diets and high-carb, low-fat diets led to the same amount of weight loss.
Talk with your doctor before starting any diet — including diets that involve counting macros, such as the If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) diet or the ketogenic diet.
To learn how to count macros for weight loss and other healthy diet strategies, visit Nutrition Services at UPMC or call 412-692-4497 to schedule an appointment with one of our nutritionists.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on . Refreshed 2/16/22
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