One of the best things you can do for your success in fitness and bodybuilding is to count your macros and calories. Knowing where you really stand with your diet is key to having full control over achieving your goals. You can only manage what you measure and just like tracking the weights, sets and reps that you do in every workout, it’s wise to track the amount of protein, carbs and fats that you eat.
Why? It’s very simple.
Muscle Building vs. Fat Loss
If you want to build muscle you need to train hard, eat enough protein and consume more calories than your body needs. After all, the energy to build new muscle tissue has to come from somewhere – and that is going to be additional energy from food. There is no other way. But if you consume way too many calories you will also build a lot of fat.
On the other hand, if you want to lose fat you still need to train hard and eat enough protein – to make sure that you don’t lose muscle mass while dieting.
But the most important factor for getting lean is to get your body into a caloric deficit. In other words, you must consume less calories than what your body expends every day. Only then will your body burn up its fat storages to provide for the energy it needs. Again, there is no other way.
However, if you restrict your calories too much, you will still lose fat but you will also lose a lot of muscle. We don’t want to lose muscle mass for two reasons. The first one is obvious – why would you want to a sacrifice your hard-earned muscles? The second reason has to do with your metabolism. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn while resting.
So the key to building muscle without getting fat and the key to burning fat without losing muscle is to track you daily calories and macros. This really is the best way. And it may sound complicated at first, but it’s not. Once you’ve done it a few times and made it a habit, it’s really not that hard anymore.
What Is A Calorie?
A calorie is the measurable unit of heat energy provided by food. Your body breaks the food you eat down and converts it into energy for muscle contraction (movement) and metabolic processes. Excess calories that the body doesn’t use get stored as bodyfat.
What Are Macros?
Macro is the abbreviation for macronutrient. There are three basic macronutrients:
- PROTEIN- 1 gram of protein yields 4 calories.
- CARBOHYDRATES -1 gram of carbohydrates yields 4 calories.
- FAT -1 gram of fat yields 9 calories.
Water can also be considered a macronutrient because it’s essential for your health, performance and well-being. But water doesn’t provide caloric energy. Alcohol is another important substance to watch because 1 gram of alcohol yields 7 calories of energy. The problem with alcohol calories is that they are not efficiently used by the body and end up getting stored as fat.
So, if you want to get lean and stay lean, then alcohol is not your friend.
What Are Micronutrients?
Then there are the micronutrients. These are vitamins and minerals. They are not calorically
relevant but they are important for a healthy body and a well-functioning metabolism.
So What Do I Have To Track?
There are two numbers you have to track.
1. Your overall daily calorie consumption
For example, you want to bulk up and build muscle and you have calculated that you need to consume 3,200 calories every day to do so.
2. Your macronutrient consumption
If you break your 3,200 daily calories down into macronutrient numbers you may find that you need to consume 180 gms of protein (720 kcal), 400 gms of carbs (1600 kcal) and 98 gms of fat (880 kcal).
The exact amounts of macronutrients will vary, according to your goals. If you lift weights you will always need to eat a serious amount of protein, no matter whether your goal is to build muscle or lose fat.
But if you want to lose fat specifically, it’s always better to reduce the amount of carbs you eat and balance the target caloric goal out with protein and fats. Note that fats in and of itself will not make you fat. An excessive amount of calories is what will make you fat.