Whatever your health and fitness goals, taking in an appropriate range and ratio of macronutrients will be vital: hitting the correct caloric load for your goals and maintaining a suitable spread of fat, protein and carbohydrates will have a serious impact on your body composition and overall health and wellbeing. This can also affect your performance in the gym.
However, popular mythology mostly revolves around caloric load. As long as you don’t take in too many calories you won’t gain weight. As long as you eat enough, you will gain; as long as you maintain deficit, you will slim down.
This approach works, for the most part, with regards body composition. Simple arithmetic can take you a long way in determining when you will lose or gain weight. However, it’s an incredibly small part of a much broader equation.
Flexible diets, like IIFYM (if it fits your macros), have become popular, in part as a response to this fixation on calories. Ratios have been drawn up for athletes, bodybuilders and gym-goers. More attention is being given over to planning and monitoring macronutrient intake over simple caloric restriction.
Side note: Flexible dieting is also quite easy to follow, where stricter forms of macronutrient planning are not. As long as you hit x grams of fat, protein and carbs per day, it doesn’t matter from where you source them. Sugary treats are carbs just as much as green veggies are; deep fried foods are a fat source on par with nuts and avocado. If you want to make gains in the gym, but don’t like to be too strict or restrictive in your dieting, this could be a good bet for you.
Either way- whether you want to go flexible or super healthy in your sourcing of macronutrients- more people are beginning to work out what macronutrients they need to take in for optimal health and fitness. The results follow pretty quickly once they know where they stand.
Using a macronutrient calculator
A macronutrient calculator will give you a personalised volume, in grams, of each of the three macronutrients (fat, carbs and protein) you will need to eat in any given day, given various lifestyle, biometric and goal-based factors.
If you are used to eating 2,400 calories per day to gain muscle and are pushing yourself hard in the gym to elicit hypertrophy, this could go a few ways. Under calorie counting, you could simply eat and eat until you hit 2,400 calories. However, this likely won’t fuel you properly to get through your workouts. Nor will it fuel your recovery or allow for proper muscle growth. You will most likely experience energy spikes and crashes whilst long-term fatigue and plenty of aches and pains creep in on you.
If you take it from the other angle and use a macronutrient calculator, this would be a different story. You would have adequate protein intake to enable muscular recovery and growth. You would have the right amount of carbs, and no more, to keep your energy levels stable (especially if you go for more complex carb sources) and your fat intake will be enough to keep your major bodily functions in good shape.
The macronutrient calculator itself
Macronutrient calculators are actually pretty simple to use. All you have to know are a few of your key biometric readings, lifestyle factors affecting you, and your health and fitness goals.
First, you will want to put your height, weight and gender in. Then you will add your activity levels. Using the Harris-Benedict formula, the calculator will then be able to work out your basal metabolic rate and adjust this for your actual caloric consumption.
Then, you decide what your priorities are. The macronutrient calculator will use these factors to reverse engineer a suggested daily macronutrient target. It will give you something like:
- Carbs: 50%
- Protein: 30%
- Fat: 20%
On a 2,400-calorie diet, this means 1,200 calories from carbs, 720 from protein, and 480 from fat. As fat and carbs each contain 4 calories/gram and fat contain 9 calories/gram, this gives us:
- 300 grams of carbohydrates (1,200/4)
- 180 grams of protein (720/4)
- 54 grams of fat (480/9)
Then, simply follow a meal plan that will give you about this volume of each macronutrient per day. It may take a little working out at first- though there are plenty of apps that can help- but it soon becomes second nature and will supercharge your health and fitness journey.