The idea of ‘counting macros’ has been thrown around a lot lately, from health blogs to Instagram ads. But what are macros, anyway? What does it mean to count them, and do you need to? As your partner in health, we’re here to separate fact from fiction and give you the real deal on things you’re curious about in the wellness space. Let’s get started!
What are macros?
‘Macro’ is short for macronutrients. These macros make up the bulk of our diets, providing essential micronutrients (nutrients we need in smaller amounts) and energy. There are three macronutrients aside from water: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. They all provide energy but differ in how much. Fats provide 9 calories/gram while protein and carbohydrates provide 4 calories/gram.
Though we need protein and fat to survive, carbs are a little more of a gray area, since our bodies can produce ketones from fats to use for fuel instead. Here’s a brief overview of each macronutrient:
- Carbohydrates – Since carbohydrates convert to glucose upon digestion, they’re a source of quick energy and fuel for our bodies. They also taste pretty good (we’re looking at you potatoes!).
- Protein – In the body, proteins are broken down into peptides and amino acids. Protein is responsible for the growth and repair of tissues, biochemical reactions like digestion and blood clotting, hormonal messaging, and maintaining proper pH. There are 20 amino acids, 9 of which are essential (meaning our bodies cannot make them). If someone doesn’t eat enough, the body will break down muscle to supply adequate energy.
- Fat – Fats are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol during digestion. Long villainized as bad for our health, fats are actually essential for quite a few bodily functions including hormone production, brain health, nutrient absorption, cell growth, and more.
How do I know if I should track my macros?
This really depends on your goals! For many people, just paying attention to what they’re putting on their plate is enough. For example, making sure they have a good amount of veggies, 4-6oz of protein, and 1-2 servings of healthy fat at each meal. This ensures a balance of macronutrients without having to count anything. For others who are focusing on getting in a specific amount of carbs or protein in a given day, counting those specific macronutrients can be helpful. For example, for someone following keto (you can shop our keto meals here!), the most important macronutrient to track is carbs.
The good news is that whether you want to track your macros or not, Snap meals make it super easy. Not only do they have a dietitian-verified nutrition facts panel with macros listed, but the meals are all logged in MyFitnessPal! All you have to do is scan the barcode or type in the name and the rest is done for you. Easy as that!
How do I count my macros?
It’s pretty easy to count your macros, but you need to know what you’re counting. Most people don’t have a need to count all three macronutrients strictly. Some diets, like keto, low carb, or high-protein, inherently involve some level of loose counting to ensure you’re keeping your carb or protein intake in line with your goals.
Your macro goals will depend largely on individual factors like your height, weight, activity level and goals. There are loose guidelines for certain lifestyles that you can flex to work for you. For example, a keto diet generally includes 30-40g of total carbs initially. A therapeutic keto diet (for those with specific health conditions) will involve even fewer carbs. For someone aiming to eat high-protein, that could mean anywhere from 100 grams of protein/day to 200+grams/day, depending on size and activity level. We recommend working with a dietitian or other health professional to figure out what works for you!
Want to follow a high protein, low carb, or keto-friendly lifestyle without worrying about counting, weighing, or measuring? We’ve got a meal plan for that!