Macros and If They're Worth Counting

The ‘I need to get bikini-body ready’ season is upon us. As the summer draws ever closer the University gym seems even more busy than usual. While it is my belief everyone is bikini-body ready, if you are wanting to shed or gain a few pounds before heading to the beach, you might look to instagram fitness models for inspiration. All over their pages of healthy food inspiration you might find talk about ‘macros’. Whether it is in weight-gain, loss or muscle building, the current trends look toward counting macros in order to gain the perfect physique. But is it worth it? Are people seeing results? What even are macros come to think of it? Here is your guide to macros and counting them.

What are macros?

Macros is short for macronutrients. Macronutrients are essentially what make up the caloric content of food, split into three main groups: carbohydrates, fat and protein. 1 gram of carbs contains 4 calories, 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories and 1 gram of protein contains 4 calories. So counting macros is essentially about counting what kind of calories are in your food, as opposed to how many calories.

What are the benefits of counting macros?

Firstly counting macros can be a way of dieting that isn’t about strict control. You can indulge with less guilt, which can be good for your mental and emotional health. Rather than having a restrictive and meticulous diet, leaving you with a poor relationship with food, it is perfectly fine to have treats; cravings will often go away as your are filling your body with exactly the type of foods it needs.

Secondly, many people (including those Instagram models you’ve been stalking) have seen great results by counting macros, particularly when bulking or cutting to gain muscle or look leaner. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak; if its working for a lot of people, there is probably some truth in its success.

What are the problems with macro counting?

However, its not all success sorties and instant-abs; there are some drawbacks to the macro-counting trend. Firstly, if you are consuming far more calories than you are burning, even if they fit perfectly into your macros, you will gain weight. Eating 3000 calories of anything, be it Big Macs or carrots will result in weight gain; while one will certainly be less healthy, the end result in terms of weight will be the same.

Secondly, it does take a lot of effort. Often you have to meticulously plan your meals; while this may be seen as a good think to avoid binge-eating and grazing throughout the day, it does require a bit of time in advance which can be difficult if you’re busy writing your dissertation. While apps such as My Fitness Pal do certainly make this easier, it does require dedication.

How do I start counting macros?

Everybody (and every body) is different. Things that worked for your friend might not necessarily work for you. So it is important to keep that in mind, and not become disheartened. Moreover, how you count macros depends on what your goal is. One nutrionist, Carrie MacMahon, recommeneds this:

  • Boost Metabolism and/or Build Muscle: 40% protein, 35% carbohydrates, 25% fat
  • Lose Fat: 45% protein, 35% carbohydrates, 20% fat

Is it important to work out what works best for you. Download an app such as My Fitness Pal in order to start counting, and adjust your macros to start reaching your health goals, whatever they may be.