If you want to lose weight, the tried-and-true tenets of diet and exercise are no fad—they work. But within that dynamic duo, you’ve got lots of room to experiment. One popular method that goes beyond counting calories is counting macros, which means tracking all the macronutrients—protein, carbs, and fat—that go into your body.
You could do that now, but without having a target ratio in mind, it won’t do much good. If you want to try out the macro diet for yourself, it’s important to find your ideal ratio of macronutrients. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s dietary reference guide suggests that adults get 45-65 percent of their calories from carbs, 10-35 percent from protein, and 20-35 percent from fat. That’s a big range, and that’s why it’s helpful to find what’s best for you.
You can find these numbers by inputting your vitals (height, weight, activity level) into an online calculator. Or you can find them by working with a nutritionist. The latter will likely help you determine a more accurate ratio.
Counting Macros for Weight Loss
The idea behind a macro diet is that you’re literally feeding your body what it needs. This will help it utilize calories more efficiently. Think about it: A 300-calorie food containing protein, fat, and carbs will provide your body with a lot more nutritional benefits than 300 calories of candy—as delicious as candy may be.
Of course, while nutrition plays a big role in your health, so do exercise. Get started on a fitness routine with Aaptiv.
The Harvard School of Public Health expounds on that idea, noting “Rather than choosing foods based only on caloric value, think instead about choosing high-quality, healthy foods, and minimizing low-quality foods.”
Paying attention to macros is one way to make those nutritious choices that will allow your body to perform at its optimal level. That said, calories are still a factor when trying to lose weight. A 5,000-calorie diet, even one composed of healthy foods at ideal macronutrient ratios, is too many calories for the average person. Don’t let your macros overshadow the fact that to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than you burn.
How to Get Started Tracking Macros
First, it’s smart to recognize your personal health and fitness goals. If your goal is just to lose weight, your macro needs can vary from someone who wants to lose weight and pack on muscle. Finding a plan that’s tailored to you and your body is key.
Then, you have to actually count the things. Keeping track of all the protein, fat, and carbs you eat each day can be a taxing endeavor. Fortunately, there are plenty of nutrition websites, calculators and apps to help you along the way, but it can be difficult to sustain.
Beware of Counting Burnout
Registered dietitian Maya Rams Murthy is skeptical of macro-focused diets. “The No. 1 reason that diets fail is that they are not sustainable. Eventually, one gets tired of counting the numbers.” She also notes that aiming to hit certain numbers will keep your focus more on those ratio targets than the actual nutrient content in the food.
Rachael Hartley, R.D., agrees. She writes: “Counting grams of fat, protein, and carbs, even when an online food diary is doing the math for you, is distracting and tedious and promotes disordered eating habits. Instead, aim to eat mostly high-quality, nutritious choices within each category, and tune in to how your body feels afterward.”
Clearly, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss. Do you need to count macros to lose weight? No. But for certain people, it can be helpful in giving them the focus they need to make a positive impact on their health. Either way, being mindful of the foods that fuel your system will help you make nutritious food choices to keep your body running at its best.
The best way to lose weight is with exercise. Get started with Aaptiv to try it today.