What Are Macros?
Macros are all the rage right now, and I’m sure that you’ve been noticing an even greater Instagram presence relating to how people are choosing to consumer their calories; hence counting your macros. People are realizing that the types of calories you consume actually do matter, and when I say they matter, they really do matter. Imagine choosing to eat 300 calories of eggs, ghee, spinach, and a little cheese thrown into an omelette vs eating 300 calories of m&m’s. The way your body will utilize, process, and store the nutrients of the omelette vs the candy is the exact reason why fitness pros and regular gals/guys are learning more about how to balance out their macros and not to just count their calories.
Let’s start with the basics here; your macros are your macronutrients and they are called that, because they make up the three large nutrients that your body needs to function. These three nutrients must be consumed since our bodies cannot create them, and the three categories/macros are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. There are also micronutrients that are your vitamins, and minerals, but we will stick with your macros for this post.
- 1 gram of carbohydrates is equal to 4 calories
Carbohydrates are quick energy for your body and brain. They’re the sugar, starches, and fiber in plant based foods and dairy, that are responsible for your mood, memory, and overall energy levels. Eating enough carbs is what prevents your body from breaking down protein and burning it’s own hard earned muscle.
Personal Story: I went to several holistic doctors trying to understand why I was in such a brain fog and lacking energy for the past 2 ish years and aside from finding out that I was vitamin D deficient, which was huge btw, I was told to consume more fat. I was already eating Whole30 or Paleo most of the time and was getting plenty of healthy fats, but I continued to just eat more hoping that it would help me. There were even days where I could be found with a tsp. of straight coconut oil in my mouth, hoping that it would give me that zap of energy that my body so desperately needed. Long story short I love healthy fats and my body does well eating more fat than some other people, but what I needed was slightly more carbs. I needed someone to remind me that carbs aren’t the enemy that they’ve been made out to be, and that the hours I spend at various gyms and clubs, working out, and teaching requires me to consume more of these fast energy, mood boosting, fog clearing macronutrients. Luckily I went vegan for over a month and my body was thrilled…but that’s for another post.
- 1 gram of protein is equal to 4 calories
Proteins are the building blocks of your body, also called amino acids. They are what make up your hormones, what help to repair and build your organs, muscles, enzymatic reactions and blood. These macros are needed to carry out thousands of crucial chemical reactions in the body that allow you to be you. Protein is found in meat, fish, dairy, legumes and poultry. There are also incomplete amino acid chains found in grains, nuts and seeds, that when combined can make a complete protein.
- 1 gram of fat is equal to 9 calories
Fat is what your brain is primarily made of, it insulates the body, is needed to allow fat-soluble vitamins to be absorbed, is vital to the health of your eyes/skin/hair, and is used as a backup source of energy. Your brain definitely needs healthy fats and fats are one of the easiest ways to help maintain your blood sugar levels when you are detoxing from sugar…which applies to basically everyone since we all tend to eat too much sugar. Fat does not make you fat, sugar does that. The healthy fats are what you want to stick with like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, and fatty fish.
Counting your macros allows you to stick to a certain calorie count that is determined by your age, gender, current weight, physical activity level, ideal weight, etc. The days of overly restricting yourself from fat, or carbohydrates are on the way out. You should be eating a well balanced diet with foods that are in season, while listening to your body cues, and sticking within a macro range that allows you to maintain your ideal weight, with energy, and a brain that is fully functioning. When clients tell me that they love carbs I congratulate them for listening to their bodies, and for already understanding that ditching a huge part of their diet would do more harm than good. So go ahead and eat the occasional waffle, toast, bagel, or pasta; just consume those nutrients with an understanding of what the actual portion size is and in relation to what your other macronutrient goals are for that day.
Determining what macro range is best for you, can take a little time, and a bit of a trial period to see if what is recommended actually works with your unique system. The USDA suggests that these are the healthy ranges for your macros:
Carbohydrates 40-65% of your diet
These ranges can be put into a number of different apps that can help you to keep track of your calories and macros per day. As of now, my favorite app is My Fitness Pal. I was able to easily determine a starting point for my daily macros/calories, and since then have played with switching the percentages of each macro, so that I’m getting more protein to help me build more muscle for an upcoming fitness competition. It’s a fine balance with your body being the biggest factor into what percentages will be the most successful for your body, and your goals.
Generally more protein and less carbs will help you to lose weight, which I’m sure most of us can relate to having done before a vacation, or major celebration (is summer time a major celebration…sure!). More carbohydrates will give you more energy and balance out your mood; some of you may be familiar with carb loading if you’re an athlete, or if you’ve competed in a marathon/triathlon. More fat will help you to lose fat, kick your sugar cravings, and as of late most people have tried the Whole30, or adopted a Paleo lifestyle, so most people will understand how adjusting your fat macros can be super beneficial. Your body is different from my body, and what your body requires now will be different than what your body requires 10 years from now. That’s where macros allows you the freedom to eat balanced meals with a focus on your quality of nutrients, with a few smaller treats thrown in there, so that it’s a maintainable way of feeding yourself physically and mentally for the long term.