Macros are macronutrients: a lot easier to spell and to say, but still as complicated to understand. With a macro diet, you aren’t necessarily dieting but assessing what should be on your plate based on what you want to achieve: maintenance, weight loss, or weight gain.

It is all about the quality of what you eat, how nutritious it is, not entirely your calorie count. When you start looking at macros as part of a fitness formula, there is a lot of math whizzing around, so prepare to feel smarter (or hire a nutritionist). Also, prepare to be realistic about your body fat.

Eating for Fitness

It’s likely you will want to tweak a few of your eating habits after reading the following quick article. Few people eat healthily anyway, but fitness experts aren’t necessarily on track either. They think they know about protein and carbs but there’s usually something missing and they can’t nail it.

Why can’t they enhance performance with the diet they are consuming? Calories are high enough; they load up on protein. If there is a secret weight lifters haven’t been told, it’s this: don’t base your macro calculations on body weight but lean mass.

Macronutrients are the categories of food the body absorbs for nutrition: fat, protein, and carbs. You need them all, but how much of each one? What are the best sources? Here are some tips for readers with fitness in mind, not fat or weight loss. If you are not going overboard and thinking about macros every minute of the day, it’s possible this can be one of the best things to enhance your workout or even competition.

Tracking Macros

Count protein in “macros” by determining how much of a food is made up of protein, preferably lean sources like fish, chicken, or whey which help you lay down and repair muscle tissue. Calculate your body fat and lean mass then a number of grams per lean pound you carry around (the latter will always be at least a little lower than your current weight).

The same goes for fats, necessary for a healthy brain and nervous function, balanced hormones, and nice skin. Get as much as you can from the above sources plus natural oils drizzled onto salads and nuts. You actually need more than you think, again based on your body fat. Most people carry over 20% body fat, but as a bodybuilder or athlete your body fat is likely under 15%. A fit, 180-lb adult male might need somewhere in the region of 50g to 100g of fat per day.

Where carbs are concerned, don’t go carb-free. You need that energy to keep moving, but find it in grains and produce. You need loads of them from these superior sources; many times as much as the other stuff. You can still calculate on the same basis but expect to reach much higher figures like several hundred grams per lean pound.

One easy way to calculate macros is with the MyFitnessPal Smartphone App.