MACROS 101: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
What are Macronutrients? “Macros” is short for macronutrients, meaning the major parts of calories. Not to go off the deep end, but to help you understand macros more, lets quickly discuss calories. Calories are the amount of energy you consume. Think of your body as a vehicle (like a Lamborghini), the fuel for your vehicle are the calories you eat and/or drink. Now that we have an idea of what calories are (fuel), and what they do (provide your body with energy) we can dive further into what macros are.
There are three different macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Each macronutrient plays a very important role in your body. Each macronutrient also contains a certain amount of energy per gram of food.
1g protein= 4 calories/ 1g carbs= 4 calories/ 1g fat= 9 calories
ALL ABOUT PROTEIN
Protein is the bodies building blocks for muscle. Consuming protein allows your body to utilize it for building lean muscle that we all so very much desire. Without adequate protein, it is hard to build muscle. Imagine going to the gym daily, working hard putting your body through the wringer and not eating protein. All your hard work goes to waste. Protein is also the macro that keeps you feeling full. Adding protein to your meals allows you to reduce overeating.
A good rule of thumb is to consume about 1g of protein per pound of body weight. The RDA says to eat at least 0.4g per pound of body weight. Honestly that is not sufficient for someone who is weight training and doing other intense exercises. So, for a 150lb woman, you should consume as close to 150g of protein as you can. To break it down further, if you’re consuming 5 meals per day you could do 30g of protein per meal.
When thinking of protein, some of the main sources are from:
- Eggs (both whole and whites)
- Lean meats (chicken, turkey, beef)
- Protein shakes (whey, egg, or plant based)
Protein also is found in lentils, soy, and other vegan friendly foods. Whatever diet you choose to follow, keep the same goal in mind, to consume close to 1g per pound of body weight in protein.
CARBOHYDRATES AND WHY THEY ARE IMPORTANT
Carbs DON’T make you fat. Overeating does. Carbs are actually the bodies main energy source. This means that your body (the Lamborghini we talked about) utilizes the fuel from carbohydrates first when exercising. Though carbs are not 100% necessary, they definitely taste good! I say they are not necessary because your body can utilize energy from fats (we will discuss next) and from muscle. That being said, your body prefers to use carbs for energy and that’s why you feel more energized when having some carbs to start your day or before your workout.
There is no set standard for how many carbs to consume daily. It all depends on your goal, your body, and how you set your other macronutrients for your caloric intake. Another rule of thumb is to set your protein goal first, your fat goal second, and whatever remains will come from carbs (this is for the advanced class). Many people who are on or start low or no carb diets lose weight extremely fast. This is because your body initially loses a lot of water weight (water follows carbs). The less carbs you eat, typically the less water you retain as well. The bad thing about no or low carb diets is that your body can start to utilize muscle for energy when the glycogen and fat stores are depleted (used). NO ONE GOES TO THE GYM TO LOSE MUSCLE. So again, be wise about what your goal(s) are when setting your daily intake for carbs.
When asking yourself what carbs you should eat, keep in mind that carbs are not bad. You can still consume bread, rice, potatoes, and pasta without getting fat. Eat a variety of complex carbs, add some simple carbs (fruit for example), and fibrous vegetables (these are carbs too). All of these things should be counted towards your goal.
WHY YOUR BODY NEEDS FAT
Fats are your bodies secondary energy source, when carbohydrates (glycogen) are not readily available for use. Fats are also not bad, they are your friend. The thing that gets people in trouble with fats is that they are more calorically dense (1g of fat is 9 calories) compared to proteins and carbs so its easy to consume too many calories from fat. Good fats contain essential fatty acids (the body cannot produce these on its own so we get them from food/supplements). Fats help the body absorb important vitamins A, D, and E which are fat soluble. Fats also make foods smell, and taste better as well as satisfying to your appetite.
When setting your fat goal in your caloric intake you want to stay around .3 to .5 grams per pound of body weight. Using the 150lb woman as an example, the math says she would need between 45g to 75g of fat per day. My recommendation is to keep it Ion the lower end since fats are so calorically dense.
Good fat sources are avocado, nuts and nut butters (peanut, cashew, almond, pecans), oils (coconut, macadamia) and also fatty meats (beef), and eggs. Getting some of these options into your diet are very important, but again be careful on the consumption. It’s very easy to eat 500 calories worth of peanuts or almonds!
When you, or your coach/trainer/nutritionist write your daily meal plan it is imperative that a good understanding of what macros are and how to calculate them in your daily intake is present. Individuals respond to different macronutrient profiles uniquely. The main thing is to be consistent and get data on what is or isn’t working for you. Tools that I recommend you use are a food scale to measure out your food and a macro calculator such as MyFitnessPal so that you can get a grasp on tracking what you eat. As your body changes through fat loss and/or muscle gain your macros may change too. Once you understand the basics it will be a lot less difficult to make the appropriate adjustments. Remember change does not happen overnight. Stay diligent with your nutrition and workouts and you will surely reach your goals.
For specific questions on macros you can contact me on Instagram @the_templebuilder.