This article originally appeared in Shape.
The 2020s might as well be considered the golden age of health tracking. Your phone can tell you how many hours you've spent staring at its screen throughout the week. Your watch can log how many steps you've taken and floors you've climbed throughout the day. And after downloading an app or two, you can even start tallying the grams of carbohydrates, fat, and protein (aka macronutrients) you're eating down daily.
But do you really need to keep track of your intake of these nutrients? Here, registered dietitians break down how to calculate macros based on your health and goals, as well as the pros and cons of using them to guide your food choices. Spoiler: It's not the best idea for everyone.
What Are Macros?
Macronutrients, or "macros" for short, are the nutrients that your body uses to carry out everyday activities and functions, says Jennifer McDaniel, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.S.D., L.D., owner of McDaniel Nutrition Therapy. The three essentials macros are carbohydrates, fat, and protein, and each plays a unique role in your body. "Everything the body does, from exercise to breathing, requires carbohydrates," says McDaniel. "Fats make up the body's cells, help absorb vitamins, play a role in heart health, and help us feel full longer, while protein helps maintain muscle and bone health, helps control diabetes, and repair cells" — and those are just a few of the many potential perks of eating the right amount of protein, fats, and carbs. (Related: Are Saturated Fats Actually the Secret to a Longer Life?)