- Health & Wellness
How to Count Macros—And How It Impacts Recovery
Counting macros is the practice of controlling the amount of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats you consume in each meal, and is a popular practice with fitness and health enthusiasts and professionals looking to maximize their performance and overall wellness.
Macros, or macronutrients, provide critical fueling for the body. Macros, in fact, provide the most of the energy the body needs for daily functioning, and are broken down into three categories of nutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Taking your performance to the next level doesn’t begin and end with your work in the gym. An intense training schedule is most effective when paired with other healthy lifestyle strategies, including building in muscle recovery time, and properly replenishing your body via a healthy diet. Whether you have a long, grueling fitness session planned or are taking the day off to rest, your body still requires energy.
But not all nutrients are created equal, nor serve your body in the same way, which is where the practice of counting macros can offer some important benefits to your health and fitness routine. Carbohydrates, your body’s primary source of energy, quickly break down into glucose and are used as energy, while proteins and fat fuel the body more slowly, over time.
Macros are an important category of nutrients involved in supplying the body with energy. Counting macros can help support efforts to eat a healthy diet, improve recovery, and promote peak performance.
What Are Macros?
Macros, or macronutrients, are the nutrients that are considered to be the most important for fueling the body. These are the nutrients that the body needs the largest amounts of, and that provide the majority of the energy the body uses to function. There are three kinds of macros: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Each type of macronutrient is made up of different building blocks and serves a different general purpose in the body. Digestion breaks them down into their individual building blocks — monosaccharides for carbohydrates, amino acids for proteins, and fatty acids and glycerol for fats.
When carbs are taken in and broken down into glucose, they aren’t always immediately used as energy. In some cases, the glucose is instead stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver to be put to future use.
Your body transforms carbs rapidly into glucose and to use as energy. But proteins and fats you ingest behave differently, on a cellular level, and deliver energy over a longer period of time, and through different processes.
Protein is broken down into amino acids, which are used in building muscles, skin, bone, and growing tissue. Amino acids are also essential for repairing damaged tissues and broken down muscles after physical activity.
Fats are the macro that takes the longest to provide the body with energy, and are known for their efficiency at storing energy. Excess energy in the body is stored as fat, which can be broken down and put to future use when energy is scarce.
Fats also play a role in increasing feelings of satiety or fullness, maintaining hormonal balance, regulating inflammation, and promoting the absorption of necessary vitamins.
What’s the Difference Between Tracking Macros & Counting Calories?
Tracking macros and counting calories are two strategies for monitoring your diet. While both of these strategies involve tracking the food that you eat, they focus on different aspects of that process.
Calories are a unit of measurement of the amount of energy in food. As a result, counting calories involves recording how much energy you’re taking in. Typically, individuals have a daily goal for the number of calories consumed,which can be met by taking in any kind of food that adds up to meet the calorie requirement.
Tracking macros involves paying more attention to the nutritional makeup of the foods that you eat each day. This includes finding out the macronutrient profile of each food that is consumed (i.e. how much protein, fat, and carbohydrates are in each food) and recording how many grams of each macro category are taken in on a daily basis.
Macro tracking can still involve monitoring how many calories are consumed, but it’s primarily about watching where those calories are coming from and manipulating the ratio of macro intake to optimize wellbeing and performance.
What Are the Benefits of Macro Counting?
Macro counting is considered to have several advantages over the traditional method of calorie counting. Here are some of the benefits of tracking macros that can be seen in these areas of your life:
Specifying certain ranges of macros to take in each day can help improve the physiological function of your body. The body needs protein, carbs, and fat to perform many vital processes. For example, eating enough protein ensures that normal muscle, skin, and bone growth can occur. Consuming the right amount of carbs maintains optimal energy levels, and fat intake is important for preventing hormonal imbalances.
Macro counting allows you to focus on eating a healthy diet with the right balance of each type of macro that helps your body feel and perform the best. When you track macros, you’re taking control of your diet and actively determining what nutrient composition is right for you and your goals. Successful macro counting boosts energy and reduces feelings of fatigue, helping you start the day off on the right foot.
Counting macros can boost performance in several ways. By finding percentages of protein, carbs, and fat that work best for you, you can make sure that your body is well-nourished, energized, and ready to perform at a high level.
Additionally, each type of macro plays an individual role in performance. Protein is necessary for post-exercise recovery and for maintaining muscle mass. Carbs are an important energy source for fueling intense workout sessions, and fat keeps hormones in check so that the body is primed to meet your fitness objectives.
Macro counting is an important strategy that can help you meet several different goals. Whether you’re looking to make improvements in the gym, to overall wellness, or to specific aspects of your health, tracking your macro intake can be a worthwhile addition to your routine.
For example, macro counting can support weight loss goals. Eating the right amount of each type of macro can help you lose weight without experiencing all of the negative aspects of fad dieting, such as cravings, mood swings, and intense fatigue. If increasing muscle mass is one of your fitness goals, tracking macros and increasing protein intake can help you gain and maintain muscle mass.
How to Count Macros
Tracking macros is not as simple as looking at a nutrition label to see how many calories are in a given food, but it can easily be tackled by following a few steps. To count macros:
- Calculate Calorie Goals — The first step in counting macros is setting a daily calorie goal for yourself. Daily caloric intake is dependent on factors including weight, age, sex, and activity level. Online calculators are readily available where you can enter demographic information to compute your calorie needs.
- Determine Macro Ratio — Once you’ve determined how many calories you will aim to consume each day, the next step is deciding what percentage of those calories will be made up of protein, carbs, and fat. One study found that ideal percentages were 10-30% for protein, 45-65% for carbs, and 25-35% for fat. These percentages can be adjusted based on your individual dietary needs and health goals.
- Track Intake — To actually track your macro intake, you need to record the foods you eat each day with an app or website that can calculate the grams of each macro that are in each food. MyFitnessPal is one example of an app that features a food diary where you can log your meals and snacks and see how many grams of protein, carbs, and fat you’ve taken in. WHOOP can auto-log data on macro intake from nutrition apps like MyFitnessPal, keeping all of your health and fitness information in one place.
Track Macros with WHOOP
Tracking macros with WHOOP allows you to unlock insight into how your diet is impacting your health. The WHOOP Journal can be used to record macronutrient data from nutrition apps.
This allows you to see how your daily Recovery score changes in relation to different macro ratios. For example, if you decide to increase protein intake to fuel muscle repair and optimize your macro percentages to boost energy levels and improve performance, you can see how your Recovery is impacted.
Track macros with WHOOP and get data-driven insight into optimizing your diet, recovery, and performance.