If you’re new to understanding macros, check out the answers to common questions like what macros are, why people count them, and the basics of how to get started.

Macro is short for macronutrients. Macronutrients make up the caloric content of food and fall into one of three categories: protein, fat, or carbohydrate.

Each macro provides a specific number of calories per gram:

Protein: 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
Fat: 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
Carbohydrate: 1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
(Side note: Alcohol is also a macronutrient with seven calories per gram. However, alcohol doesn’t contribute any nutritional value to your body, so it’s not used in most macro calculations.)

Now that you understand what a macro is, you might be wondering why people are so into counting them. Isn’t it way more simple just to count calories?

Simple, yes. However, when you only count your daily calories, you’re missing out on where those calories are coming from. And to reach your personal performance, fitness, and/or health goals, where your calories come from (protein, fat, or carbohydrate) really does matter.

The first step in counting macros is to determine your daily caloric needs. This number is based on your activity level, as well as your personal goals.

Once you have your total calories, the next step is to determine your daily percentage of each macronutrient. The percentages of protein, fat, and carbohydrate you’ll consume each day will vary based on your goals.

After you’ve determined your ideal macro percentages, you can figure out how many grams of each macronutrient that you’ll need to consume each day. You can then plan your daily food intake around foods that will get you to your macro targets.

You’ll need to pay attention to food labels, and use food apps that provide macronutrient information. When you’re first getting started, it helps to plan out your meals in advance. It’s normal to feel a little lost and overwhelmed at first. But give it time, and you’ll figure out the numbers, serving sizes, and how to adjust when needed.

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