Everyday we need a healthy dose of protein, fats and carbs to fuel our body.
These three food types are called macronutrients and as well as providing the building blocks for living, they also contribute to our energy intake.
The ratio of these nutrients in our diet is important and can be manipulated to help us achieve our body goals.
Each gram of macros gives us energy (measured as calories)
- Carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram
- Protein has 4 calories per gram
- Fats have 9 calories per gram
Alcohol has 7.2 calories per gram and has almost double the energy of protein and carbs, even though it is not a nutrient.
Body weight transformation or maintenance depends on your unique energy blueprint and energy intake
Whether you want to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain your body weight, your total energy intake is what's most important.
But it's not as simple as just calories in and calories out (aka calorie counting).
The ratio of these macronutrients matters, which means that if you know what your ideal protein, fat and carb intake should be, then as long as you hit those goals you don't even need to track calories.
I haven't 'tracked' calories in over 10 years ... but I do track my macronutrient ratios.
Members of my program, The Elegant Eating Solution, each get a dedicated meal plan with all these ratios worked out for them. So, if you're following a macro-optimized meal plan, you don't even need to track your macros either.
But, if you would like to track your own food (macros), instead of following a meal plan, then I recommend using the app MyFitnessPal.
How to Track Your Macros in My Fitness Pal
Eating enough protein helps to preserve your gorgeous and important muscles when you're trying to lose fat and are in an energy deficit.
So, if your goal is fat loss, then you set your protein at 1.8g/kilogram of body weight. Some people, however, may need higher amounts at around 2.2 - 3g per kg bodyweight.
So, let's say a woman weighs 70 kgs and her goal is fat loss, then I’d recommend starting her protein at 126g per day, which is 1.8g x 70 kg.
We need healthy fats in our diet for overall health. Fat is used for many vital functions in the body, such as in our cell membranes and hormones.
I recommend setting your healthy fat intake at 30% of total daily energy intake ... or another way to calculate the amount is 0.8 -1g per kg of body weight per day.
So, if a woman was eating 1,800 calories per day, she would calculate her fat intake to be 540 calories (1800 x 30%). This converts to 60g of fat per day (540 gm / 9 calories).
We use carbohydrates in the body for energy, to fuel workouts, and to help promote muscle gain.
Carbs are calculated last, after protein and fat have already been accounted for, meaning our carb intake is based on what's left over after protein and fats.
So, in our example above, if a woman was on 1,800 calories per day, and she was having 126 gm of protein and 60 gm of fat ... then these come to 1,044 calories, leaving 756 calories available for carbs. And this convert to 189 gm of carbs.
Your Total Estimated Daily Energy Requirements
There are a couple of equations we can use to calculate the total energy requirements you need each day.
So, it's time for some maths!
(Well not really because I have done it all for you :)
As a member of the Elegant Eating Solution, you can go to the MacroNutrient Ratio Calculator I have provided in the members area on the website. All you do is:
- Enter your weight
- Select your activity level
- Select your goal for fat loss or weight maintenance
- And hit 'calculate' to get your macros
It's that easy:)
Now you have your daily macro targets in grams (protein, fats and carbs) and you are ready to enter these into MyFitnessPal.
My Fitness Pal (MFP)
The MFP app is free to start with, however there is a premium version that I get my clients to use because then you can add in the exact macronutrient targets.
I recommend you start by entering a typical day of food (under the diary tab) to see what alterations you need to make to meet your macros.
It's likely that you will need to eat a protein source at most meals, so make some adjustments to meet your protein level first.
It may be as easy as starting your day with a protein shake.
From there you could have a high protein yoghurt as a snack, a healthy salad with a protein source at lunch, and then for dinner a good plate of vegetables along with your choice of protein.
It's important to make sure you track extras such as cooking oil, sugar or milk in coffee, that little mini chocolate bar, or those 10 almonds you nibbled on at morning tea.
If you are unsure of food quantities then I suggest you weigh your food with digital kitchen scales.
For example, if you are eating a serve of chicken, weigh it with the kitchen scales and then enter in the exact amount in grams into MyFitnessPal.
You can weigh meat either cooked or raw, but be consistent with what you choose.
Entering Food Into MFP
You will find that there are alot of food items to choose from in MFP.
One of the most useful features of MFP is the barcode scanner. I recommend using this to scan your packaged food, or search for the brand or entry that you feel is close enough.
Usually the entries with a green tick have been validated. The barcode is found at the top right of the screen in the diary section.
Tap the barcode and a screen will appear for you to scan the barcode on the packet or container.
You can also add your own recipes under the recipe tab which is really useful.
Don't worry about entering in any exercise component in MFP. Just use it as a tool to track your macros.
I've found that the best way is to plan and enter my food into MFP the night before. While you need to be organised, it does help to have this already planned as you go through the day.
It's important to try and get within +/-5 gm for your carbohydrate and protein target and within +/- 2 gm for your fat target. This will get easier as you practice each day.
Lastly, don't be too hard on yourself when you are just starting to track your food, because it's very easy to go under or over your targets until you get used to it.
You won't always have to track your macros as you can learn to eat intuitively, but I do recommend tracking for the time you are in a fat loss phase.
If you are part of the Elegant Eating Solution Facebook group please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about tracking your macros.