What are Macros?
Let’s start by answering the question “What are Macros?”. Macros is short for Macronutrients…
Wow. I know right? How informative!
Haha sorry, but anyway Macronutrients are units of energy that come in the form of Protein, Carbs, and Fats. Each plays slightly different side roles in our bodies including distribution and regulation of vitamins, minerals, and hormones. Calculating what yours should be will take a bit of effort, but once you get it down you will have the recipe to obtain the body shape that you want and desire (or keep it if you already have it).
There are general guidelines to which, if we abide, will help the majority of us be able to achieve our goals. So when looking into research we should remember just that, they are GENERAL guidelines. They don’t need to be followed to the “T” and we should always find the method that suits us the most. This includes nutrition and exercise alike. There is no one size fits all approach, we live different lives, work different jobs, and have different goals. Our nutrition and exercise habits should relate to our lifestyle, not the lifestyle of our favorite celebrity.
I guess what I’m really trying to drive home is that there is no magic number, no magic macronutrient that defies the laws of thermodynamics. At the end of the day it’s calories in versus calories out. I recommend getting yourself a food tracking app such as MyFitnessPal, or Cronometer and getting a recommended starting point for your calorie intake. If after a week or two of logging in your meals you fall within the following recommended general guidelines consider yourself a winner!
General guidelines for Macros:
Carbs – 30%-65%
Fat – 20%-35%
When tracking calories, it is also important to note that 1 gram of fat is 9-10 calories, 1 gram of protein is 4 calories and 1 gram of carbs is 4 calories as well.
So what do each of these look like and where should we get them? First off, when it comes to protein, an emphasis on plant-based sources is healthiest (i.e. beans, tofu, peas, spinach, quinoa). Animal sources of protein (meat) are higher in calories, fat, cholesterol and inflammatory properties, so be aware of this if you do partake.
Carbs have become deeply misunderstood. The ones most people think of are bread, cookies, cakes, and pasta. In other words, high calorie, low nutritional value. Many forget that ALL fruits and vegetables are carbs, and are full of vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. Carbs are also the form of energy most easily accessible to your body, so don’t skimp on them.
Finally, there’s fat. Like carbs, there are healthy fats that your body needs, and ones you can happily live without. The good ones to look out for are: nuts, seeds, and oils like flax.
How To Use Macros…
I believe what you can do is play with your macros and help yourself stay on track with your diet, whatever your goals may be.
Let’s say for example, you’re trying to gain weight but you’re always full. You may want to consider eating less protein, because protein is known to be more satiating. If, however, you do cut protein and you’re getting close to that 0.4 grams per pound of body weight and you’re still full, a bit less fiber may do the trick (although most people don’t eat enough as it is, so I HIGHLY RECOMMEND CUTTING PROTEIN FIRST.)
On the other hand if you are attempting to lose weight and seem to always be hungry, odds are you may not be eating enough Fiber rich foods (the best source of fiber is carbs from whole plants). So try getting some more fruits and veggies in, hence up your carb intake. Or you may want to add some more protein if the fiber wasn’t enough. A great way to knock out both with one stone is eating things like leafy greens, beans, and lentils that are packed full of both protein and fiber! Having a diet higher in protein while losing weight will also help retain and, in some cases, even BUILD muscle as you lose unwanted weight. Giving you an arguably more aesthetically pleasing physique when you reach your desired weight.
Then, you have Carbs and Fats. These macros have been unfairly vilified by the media, and fitness industry in general. Odds are if you followed a fad diet one of these were considered to be almost the sole reason why you aren’t reaching your goals. Don’t fall victim to people trying to sell you a “book of secrets”. The actual key to weight management comes in the form of calories in vs calories out. In other words how much of the fuel that you put into your system is actually being used to carry out the tasks of your day to day life. If you want to lose, gain, or remain the same weight it will always come down to knowing when to pick up and put down the fork.
So in conclusion unless you start having some kind of issue like heartburn (that can be caused by an excess of fat in your diet.), hunger, or even over satiation, RELAX and eat comfortably while remaining within your caloric needs.
Authors: Carla and Armando Castro trainers at Bare Health Napa Valley