You may run through many different health and fitness goals throughout your life. Signing up for a gym membership will help you to achieve these goals. Sometimes you may want or need to lose weight in the form of bodyfat. Sometimes you may go through a muscle building phase, seeking to elicit hypertrophy. Sometimes underlying health conditions may require certain dietary considerations, whilst at other times you will be looking at improving sporting performance or boosting overall energy levels.
Whatever your goals, you will do well to have a firm handle on how to plan and structure your dietary intake, with a clear view of what your body will need to be taking in. This means, realistically, working out how many calories you need and breaking those calories down between macronutrients in the correct ratio.
Why plan and track your macronutrient intake?
There are three types of macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Each delivers energy to the body, measured in calories, and each serves a number of unique functions within the body. A deficit of any of them will bring severe health complications, and each will represent a unique piece of the puzzle when trying to manipulate your health, fitness and body composition.
For example, protein is needed to build muscle. Carbs are needed as a prime source of energy. Fats are essential for maintaining correct hormonal balance. These are just a few of the uses to which macronutrients are regularly put.
In addition, each macronutrient delivers a specific amount of energy:
1 gram of protein will give you 4 calories
1 gram of carbohydrate will give you 4 calories
1 gram of fat will give you 9 calories
Planning and tracking macronutrient intake will therefore mean that you default to tracking calories, which will always be the main focus of any program of weight loss or gain. Moreover, balancing the amount of each (your macronutrient ratio) will allow you to make the most out of each, without over- or under-indulging in any.
For example, a good ratio may be:
- 30% of your calories from protein
- 40% of your calories from carbohydrate
- 30% of your calories from fat
This macronutrient is 30:40:30. There are many different ratios, however, and a great many factors need to be taken into account when planning for one.
A nutrition calculator will be ideal, here. It will make everything pretty easy. Generally speaking, a nutrition calculator will take a few variables into account:
- Your personal detailsand biometrics (such as your height, age, weight, sex, and so on)
- Your physical activity levels(both passive daily exercise and training)
- Your health and fitness goals
- The date by which you want to reach your given goals
- Your dietary preferences
- Your macronutrient preferences (balanced, high protein, low carb and so on)
These will be used to calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR), your metabolic rate adjusted for activity levels, and the changes needed to your caloric intake based on your goals and the speed at which you want to meet them. It essentially works as an automatised nutritionist.
Many online nutrition calculators will be able to do this. Many apps can also do it. Apps can be quite beneficial as they will generally be meal planner and tracker apps, meaning that they will break down your macronutrient needs per meal and help you to plan for them and hit each target. They will also help you to keep track of your weight, enabling you to make any adjustments as you go, and will adjust your needs accordingly as your biometrics change.
This takes the complex nature inherent to meal planning with macronutrient goals in mind out of it, logging everything you eat and removing the hassle of calorie and macro tracking. It will be far easier to use an app or online source like this, making it much more likely that your will stick to your requirements and meet your health and fitness goals.