Tracking & Calculating Macronutrients:
Tracking & Calculating Macronutrients:
In order to take an individual’s fitness level to the next level, nutrition must be placed at the top of the priority list. Tracking and calculating macronutrients is the underlying determinant when it comes to reaching a desired fitness goal. Monitoring caloric and macronutrient intake allows an individual to gain weight, lose weight, or maintain their current body composition. Calories are units used by the body for energy and macronutrients are the building blocks of these units of energy. Understanding the body’s energy balance is the first step in being able to achieve the desired fitness goal. When the body is in complete energy balance, the energy burned through daily exertion equals the amount of energy the body has used in a given day and this will result in maintaining current body composition. If the body is in a negative energy balance (caloric deficit), then the body is burning more calories (energy) than it is receiving on a given day, and this process will lead to weight loss. When the body is in a positive energy balance (caloric surplus), then the body is receiving more calories (energy) than it is burning through daily exertion, which promotes the body to grow or gain weight.
Once a desired fitness goal is decided, the next step is to calculate the body’s total daily expenditure. This number will vary from individual to individual, but is ultimately determined by the individual’s current bodyweight and as well as their activity level. The activity level of each individual is determined by the number of hours of activity that they undergo in a given week.
- Sedentary or lightly active (1-3 hours per week) individuals use the multiplier of 14.
- Moderately active (4-7 hours per week) individuals use the multiplier of 16.
- Extremely active (8-10 hours per week) individuals use the multiplier of 18.
The activity multiplier will be multiplied by the individual’s current bodyweight. For example, my current bodyweight is 155 pounds so I use the multiplier of 18.
My Total Daily Expenditure (TDEE): 155 x 18 = 2,790 calories
This number is my average daily caloric expenditure, which means that my caloric intake needs to be as close to this number as possible in order to maintain my current bodyweight and keep my body in complete energy balance.
Step 2: Caloric Deficit (negative energy balance)
If the primary fitness goal is to lose weight, then the body must be in a caloric deficit. In order to determine the appropriate caloric deficit, the number for total daily expenditure will need to be used. To ensure the body is in a negative energy balance, the amount of energy taken in each day will need to be lower than the total energy exerted in a given day. The number for total daily expenditure will be multiplied by a specific percentage in order to determine the appropriate caloric deficit.
- Least aggressive approach - multiplier .15 (15% caloric deficit)
- Moderately aggressive approach – multiplier .20 (20% caloric deficit)
- Most aggressive approach- multiplier .25 (25% caloric deficit)
Depending on the chosen approach, the multiplier will be multiplied by the individual’s total daily expenditure. For example, I would choose the more aggressive approach, meaning I would multiply 2,790 (TDEE) x .25 in order to determine my goal caloric deficit.
Goal caloric deficit: 2,790 x .25 = 2,092 calories
This number will serve as the target caloric goal for each day while running a caloric deficit.
Step 2: Caloric Surplus (positive energy balance)
If one’s primary fitness goal is to gain weight, then the body must be in a caloric surplus. In order to determine one’s appropriate caloric surplus, the number for total daily expenditure will be used. To ensure the body is in a positive energy balance, the amount of energy taken in each day will need to exceed the amount of energy exerted in a given day. The number for total daily expenditure will be multiplied by a specific percentage, and the result found will be added back into the TDEE in order to determine the appropriate caloric surplus.
- Least aggressive approach- multiplier .10 (10% caloric surplus)
- Moderately aggressive approach- multiplier .15 (15% caloric surplus)
- Most aggressive approach- multiplier .20 (20% caloric surplus)
Depending on the chosen approach, the multiplier will be used to compute the individual’s total daily expenditure. For example, the approach I would choose would be the more aggressive approach, from here I would multiply 2,790 (TDEE) x .20, then the result of this equation will be added back into the TDEE in order to determine my goal caloric surplus.
Goal caloric surplus: 2,790 x .20 = 2,232 (a decrease of 558 calories due to the .20 multiplier)
2,790 + 558 = 3,350 calories = Goal caloric surplus
We must add the percentage of calories to the total daily expenditure in order to be in a caloric surplus.
Step 3: Determining Macronutrient Breakdown:
Once a caloric goal has been determined, the next step is to figure out the appropriate macronutrient components in order to produce this caloric goal. There are many ways of going about this step, but what I have found to be most successful is running a high protein diet. Using a high protein approach allows the body to preserve lean mass and helps curb appetite. Depending on the primary fitness goal, we will use two different multipliers. The multiplier for losing weight will be less than the multiplier used for gaining weight.
When the primary fitness goal is to lose weight, we will use bodyweight times a set multiplier in order to provide the gram goal for protein.
- Losing weight protein multiplier - 1 (1 gram of protein per lb bodyweight)
- 155 pounds x 1 = 155 grams of protein
My goal number for grams of protein when wanting to lose weight would be 155 grams. Using current bodyweight for total grams of protein is the simplest way to determine the initial protein macronutrient goal.
When the primary fitness goal is to gain weight, we will use bodyweight times a set multiplier in order to provide the gram goal for protein.
- Gaining weight protein multiplier – 1.2 (1.2 grams of protein per lb bodyweight)
- 155 pounds x 1.2 = 186 grams of protein
My goal macronutrient number for grams of protein when wanting to gain weight would be 186 grams. We use a higher multiplier for gaining weight due to the body being in a caloric surplus.
After the goal number for grams of protein has been found, we can move on to finding the goal number for grams of fat. Determining the goal number for fats can be constant for either a caloric deficit or caloric surplus. The goal number for fats can vary due to personal preference as well. If an individual prefers more fats over carbs, then we will use a larger multiplier. If an individual prefers more carbs over fats, then we will use a smaller multiplier. My personal preference is to use the larger multiplier, as I prefer more fats versus more carbs. I use the larger multiplier approach regardless of my personal fitness goal at the time.
- Smaller multiplier- .3 (.3 grams of fat per lb of bodyweight)
- Larger multiplier- .4 (.4 grams of fat per lb of bodyweight)
155 pounds x .4 = 62 grams of fat
My goal macronutrient goal for grams of fat would be 62 grams, due to my personal preference of using the larger multiplier.
Finding our goal number of carbs is a different process than that of finding our goal protein and fat numbers. In order to determine our macronutrient goal for carbs, we will have to add up the caloric totals for fats and protein. Regardless of the fitness goal, this approach will be utilized in order to determine the goal gram amount of carbs.
Losing Weight (caloric deficit):
- 155 grams of protein x 4 (calories per gram) = 620 calories
- 62 grams of fat x 9 (calories per gram) = 558 calories
- 620 calories + 558 calories = 1,178 calories (calories accounted for when losing weight)
Once the number for calories accounted for to this point has been found, we will need to subtract that number from our goal caloric totals.
- Weight loss caloric total = 2,092 calories
- 2,092 calories – 1,178 calories = 914 leftover calories
After the number for leftover calories has been found, we will now divide that number by the caloric amount of each gram of carbs.
- 914 leftover calories / 4 (calories per gram) = 228 grams of carbs
My goal gram amount for carbs when wanting to lose weight would come out to be 228 grams. This process will be used when wanting to gain and lose weight.
Final Macronutrient Totals: Losing Weight
- Goal calories: 2,092 calories
- Protein: 155 grams (620 calories)
- Fats: 62 grams (558 calories)
- Carbs: 228 grams (914 calories)
How to track goal macronutrients:
Once the target caloric and macronutrient goals have been found, the next step is to put these numbers to use and begin tracking daily food intake. The goal behind finding these target numbers is to provide a baseline estimation of how much and what to consume on a daily basis. I suggest downloading the app Myfitnesspal, as this app allows the individual to plug in specific foods and provides a running total of calories and macronutrients. The most important thing to remember is to stay within the targeted caloric goal, because hitting the specific macronutrient numbers can be very difficult. Understanding portion size is also extremely crucial when wanting to track food intake accurately. Tracking calories and macronutrients can be a tedious task but is the underlying determinant when wanting to achieve certain fitness goals. This process is difficult to understand in the beginning but over time will become easier.
The method provided for tracking and calculating macronutrients is not the only way to go about this process, but this method has been the most accurate and effective method in my personal fitness journey and has worked for many of my clients. The key to dieting is to figure out what works best for your own body, but this requires time and patience. I hope this blog post will help clear up some questions regarding calculating and tracking macronutrients. Understanding that nutrition plays the largest role in achieving a fitness goal is the first step in taking one’s fitness to the next level.