“Macros” Part 2: Why Track Them & What You Need to Know
Bodybuilders have been using this for years to help reduce body fat and optimize muscle development for competition. The government has been using it, and tweaking it since the invention of the RDA’s when we believed 60% of our diet should come from carbohydrate (they mean grains!), 15% from protein and 25% from fat…and it’s waxed and waned in and out of different percentages over the years.
My husband always says: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. This applies to your diet as easily as it does to your business statistics or personal goals. Taking a crap shoot at your diet when you have specific goals in mind (feel better, perform better, look better) is like target shooting with your eyes closed: not many bullseyes.
WHY CAN TRACKING MACROS HELP YOUR…
There are a few things you’ll learn as you keep reading and researching about food and how it affects not only your mood, your weight, your performance, but also your health. High levels of refined carbohydrate and fructose are leading contributors to the higher level of incidence of youth obesity, diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Remember what Socrates said:
let food be thy medicine
Refueling after training ensures your muscles have been reloaded with glycogen and protein for energy and repair. Ensuring you are well fed and fueled prior to your workout will ensure you have the energy and muscle strength to push through the workout and produce the greatest effort and force. You want to be fitter, faster, stronger and be able to go longer. This often requires a bit of a calorie surplus on some days.
I know, we all want to look good naked. Having a 6 pack and being able to see your quads and biceps versus seeing a wool blanket covering them typically takes a calorie reduction and some strategic management of you macros to ensure your BMR (basal metabolic rate) doesn’t slow down and you stay healthy.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Your metabolic rate, or the rate at which your body burns calories, is determined largely by the amount of lean muscle mass you have. In fact, the most accurate formulas for tracking BMR (basal metabolic rate) or TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) are based on your lean body mass. Your BMR is basically calories needed to sustain life (heart beat, organs function, respiration, etc.). TDEE is your BMR plus your activity level. This is your complete formula for calorie intake per day for maintaining one’s current body weight. So any formula for calculating the number of calories you should be consuming in a day that does not take into consideration your lean body mass (your body weight minus the pounds of fat your carrying) isn’t very accurate data.
Now, we can go through our macros first, or, better yet, we can get our total calories we’re working with and back into our macros. That’s most efficient way to do this.
On the page linked above (BMR at Wikipedia), it offers several of the more common formulas used for calculating BMR in calories. Remember, BMR is only part one of the puzzle. We have to add in our “activity factor” in order to get active calories needed.
Before I post the formulas, which is simply a good little remedial math lesson, I do have to mention that I know there are so many people that buy in to the very low calorie diets in order to lose body weight. Truly what happens here is that you’re semi-starving yourself on 500-800-1000 calories per day, when a body might need 1600-2500 (female example) to properly function and get enough nutrients to operate optimally. You’re also lowering the nutrients your body receives through food, so double whammy: less healthy. While you might be losing body weight, a lot of it is muscle mass…which as we noted above, is the key to metabolism. Lose muscle mass and your metabolic rate is slower. Make sense?
Each of these formulas take lean body mass into consideration:
where P is total heat production at complete rest
where 1 kg = 2.2 lbs
.P = 370 + (21.6 x LBM) where LBM is lean body mass in kg, or
.P = 370 + (9.79759519 x LBM in pounds)
.P = 500+ (22x LBM) where LBM is lean body mass in kg.
Now, we need to add our activity factor to the results of this equation. The results of the above equation give us BMR – energy (calories) needed to live, but not to CrossFit, make dinner, chase the kiddo…etc.
There are a few variations out there, some which are completely off the reservation (where extremely active = competitive cyclist as the description! – what about CrossFitters, right?)
Sterling Passmore produced these activity factors for multiplying your BMR with to reach your TDEE:
x 1.200 = sedentary; little or no exercise; low intensity leisure activity
x 1.375 = light activity; light exercise/sports (like golf)/leisure walking 1-3 days/week
x 1.550 = moderate activity; moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week; around 60-70% of your max heart rate, 30-60 min sessions
x 1.725 = active/very active; moderate to hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week; higher intensity of 70-85% of your max heart rate, 45-60 min sessions
x 1.900 = extremely active; very hard exercise/sports or a physical job like manual labor or heavy lifting; endurance athletes; competitive team sports 6-7 days / week for 90+ minutes sessions
So let’s do an example.
180 pound male, 17 percent body fat.
That’s 180 x .17 = 30 pounds of body fat.
180 pounds minus 30 pounds = 150 pounds of lean body mass.
We’re going to use the Katch McKardle Formula, so let’s convert that to kilograms. 150 pounded / 2.2 pounds per kilogram = 68.18 kilograms.
Our formula is: BMR = 370 + (21.6 x LBM) where LBM is lean body mass in kg.
BMR = 370 + (21.6 x 68.18) = 1,842 calories…just to sustain life!
Let’s base this person’s activity factor as a 5 day a week, typically RX athlete. So….between 1.55 and 1.725? How about 1.6. We need a starting point.
1,842 calories x 1.6 = 2,947 calories.
So try to do your math and see what you come up with.
AND, before you freak out if you get a number that seems high to you, unless you’re currently tracking your macros based off an educated estimate, then this number is a starting point and you probably have no idea where you currently are. Generally, these Activity Factors give you a TDEE that is HIGH…you have to find what’s right for your body.
Finally, after I put you through the how, there’s actually an easier way! Eat to Perform has a great online calculator! “The Eat to Perform Calculator“. Just like an educator, I want you to know there’s an underlying formula to all this madness. The great thing about their calculator is that at the top of the final product, it lists all the different formulas for BMR and an average, then you can adjust your activity factor or use their predetermined one.
WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND HOW MANY CALORIES THERE ARE IN A GRAM OF EACH OF OUR MACROS
This is pretty easy – you already did a little review on this:
PROTEIN: 4 calories per gram
CARBROHYDARTE: 4 calories per gram
FAT: 9 calories per gram
ALCOHOL: 7 calories per gram
Only our macros have calories. Our micronutrients, that come from our macros don’t have calories. Water (needed for life) doesn’t contain calories. Phytonutrients and antioxidants from food…don’t contain calories. Got it?
So in the last (Part 3) installment, we’re going to go through how to use these numbers to create a map that will take you to one (or two or three) of the aforementioned goals. Well put our calories together with how our macronutrients work in our bodies and boom!
In the meantime, if you really want to work this as a trial, you should find a good app to track your macros. Some of the more popular are:
My Fitness Pal
And there are a lot of apps that will create meals for you and do your macros….so many possibilities!
A lot of our peeps use My Fitness Pal and Cronometer. Try them out and see what you like!