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Stop Counting Calories - Count Macros Instead

Updated on August 3, 2020
Gerry Yang profile image

Gerry is a freelance writer, nutrition fanatic, self experimenter, and an avid researcher.

Been counting calories, have you?

Without a doubt, the logic behind calorie deficits and surpluses checks out.

Burn more than you eat = lose weight
Eat more than you burn = build muscle

But this leaves out something vital.

Let me explain.

What are Calories?

Simply put, calories are a unit of energy.

Well, if you want to be fancy, you could say that a calorie is the amount of energy required to increase the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius.
(That sounds a bit obnoxious if you ask me.)

Anyway, everything you eat contains calories. From the tiniest grain of rice all the way to that scrumptious steak.

Calories are essential for your body as they give you the energy to carry out basic functions like walking or breathing.

Depending on your age and gender, you will have a BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate.) This is the minimal amount of calories you need to function.

By this, I mean that if you were to literally sit for a full day, your BMR would be the number of calories you need to survive.

But you don’t want to just merely survive, do you?

You want to lose weight and build muscle.

Do I hear a “yeah I do!”

Well, I've mentioned this earlier, but I’ll tell you again anyway.

If you want to lose weight you should go on a calorie deficit. And if you want to bulk up on muscle, you should go on a calorie surplus.

Lose Weight = Calorie Deficit = More Calorie Out than In
Build Muscle = Calorie Surplus = More Calorie In than Out

Simple right?

Not quite.

Although the logic behind this checks out, this method doesn’t take the type of calories into account.

The type of calories come from macros.

What are Macros?

Macros are short for macronutrients. These are the nutrients that provide you with the most energy.

They can be divided into three categories; carbohydrates, protein, and fats. They’re all unique and your body uses each nutrient differently.

Let’s dive in and explore each.

Carbohydrates

You’ve probably heard people say that they want to cut carbs to lose weight. But as a matter of fact, carbs are your body’s preferred source of energy.

There are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates provide fuel for your body's central nervous system and energy for its working muscles.

Because your body likes it so much, carbs prevent proteins from being used as an energy source. (More on this later.)

Carbohydrates also influence your mood. Good carbs from foods like potatoes, quinoa, broccoli, lentils, bananas(and many more) can boost your mood and make you happier.

Wait, so why do people cut carbs then?

Well, as I said, carbs are your body's preferred source of energy.

They like it so much that they store excess carbs for future use. (How great is that? Your body is preparing for the future.)

Well, not really. Stored excess carbs can also be known as body fat.

And that's not good. People hear fat and they turn around and sprint. That's why you hear people say that they're cutting carbs for weight loss.

However, low carb diets can lead to headaches, muscle cramps, fatigue, constipation, among others, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Protein

Protein, the bodybuilder’s favorite word.

But guess what, it’s not just for building muscle mass.

Your entire body is made up of crucial proteins called amino acids.

It is used for anything from transcribing DNA to repairing muscle tissue to creating digestive enzymes.

There are 4 calories per gram of protein, like carbohydrates, and it's the only essential macronutrient. Your body specifically needs protein to form amino acids and the cells in your body.

It is so important that your body only uses it as an energy source when absolutely necessary.

Fats

Uh oh… fats.

Contrary to what many people believe, fats do not make you fat.

They actually do a surprising number of things for your body.

They can be used as energy when you’re lacking carbs and they also form good cholesterol and fatty acids.

These help protein perform better. Fats help protein insulate organs and act as better messengers via hormones and neurotransmitters.

There are 9 calories per gram of fat.

So, eating fats, especially healthy fats like avocados or olive oil can help you feel fuller for longer.

So, adding just the right amount of fat can help you eat less.

Why should you stop counting calories?

When you’re solely just counting calories, you don’t take macros into account.

For example, if you’ve set a goal to eat 1500 calories every day, these 1500 calories will be a combination of all three macronutrients.

It could be made up of 1400 calories of carbohydrates, 50 calories of protein, and 50 calories of fat.

Despite hitting your goal of 1500 calories, this wouldn’t be beneficial as you would have excess carbohydrates which would subsequently lead to body fat.

Similarly, if you hit your goal of 1500 calories by eating 1400 calories of protein, 50 calories of carbs, and 50 calories of fat, it wouldn't be beneficial either.

You wouldn't have enough carbs, so you'd more than likely be in a bad mood and your body would have no choice but to draw its energy from protein.

Get what I mean?

Yes, your calorie count is important. But, so is the balance of the macronutrients that make up those calories.

Why should you start tracking macros?

When you track macros, you’re not only tracking the number of calories you eat, but you’re also tracking the types of calories you eat.

Too much of any one macronutrient isn’t good for you. And too little of any one macronutrient isn’t good for you either.

So, when you track macros, you’re ensuring that you have a healthy, well-balanced diet.

And as a plus, you don’t have to go on any extreme diets where you completely restrict yourself from something.

All you have to do is plan your meals a little better, and become more mindful of the foods that you’re eating.

Conclusion

In conclusion, you not only have to track the number of calories you eat, but you also have to track the types of calories.

A lot of one macronutrient and too little of another isn’t beneficial.

A well-balanced diet is key.

And counting macros ensures just that.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Gerry Yang

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