The term ‘macros’ is thrown around a lot in the fitness community.
Short for macronutrients, they are the nutrients that your body needs in large amounts to function. The three main macronutrients are carbohydrates, protein and fats. These nutrients determine your energy levels and output, and an imbalance of them (such as a protein deficiency) can cause major health problems.
‘Why should I take notice of macros? I don’t follow diets,’ you may say...
Well my friend, counting your macros is an easy way to take change of your energy levels, and you will know the correct amount of each nutrient that your body needs to perform and feel it’s best. This will help you to reach your fitness goals much faster, and it’s actually a lot more simple than it sounds.
Protein is responsible for the growth and repair of your muscles, as well as your organs, skin and blood. Protein makes up a large proportion of our cells, muscles, and tissue. Essential amino acids (the important nutrients found in protein) are not produced naturally by the body, so they have to be obtained from the foods we eat. Good sources of protein include lean meat, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts and seeds.
A major source of energy, carbohydrates are your body’s go-to source of fuel. Carbohydrates are present in most of the foods we eat, such as grains, bread, pasta, vegetables, fruits and nuts. Some carbs provide slow-burning energy, while others give you quick burst of energy that can quickly deplete your energy levels. Sugar is also a form of carbohydrate.
Also a main source of energy, and is essential for general health and wellbeing. Fats help with brain development, as well as insulating and protecting your bones and organs. If weight loss is your goal, then contrary to popular belief, you need to be eating fat. It will help to balance your hormones, which is integral to managing weight. Good sources of fats include olive oil, fish, nuts, avocados and coconut.
Every food that you eat will contain a varying mix of all three macronutrients. Overconsumption of any one of these macronutrients should be avoided.
Side note: alcohol is also a macronutrient, but large amounts of this can hinder your fitness progress, so we don’t condone this one.
Micronutrients are only needed in tiny amounts by your body. Micronutrients enable your body to produce enzymes, hormones, and other essential bodily function. Micronutrients include vitamins such as vitamin C, A, D, E and K, and B Complex vitamins, as well as minerals such as magnesium, sodium, manganese, iron and more. Even though they’re only needed in small amounts, a deficiency in these nutrients can cause serious health problems.
The amount of each macronutrient that you need will vary depending on your goals.
When tailored correctly, the nutrients you provide your body with will help you to nail your goals efficiently and with enough energy to keep your body happy. In short, it informs what you need to eat to effectively reach your goals.
If you’re not gaining muscle, it may be because you need to increase your protein intake. If you don’t have enough energy to work out, you could need to eat more carbs, and if you’re not losing fat or seeing results, it could be because you’re eating too much of one macro, and not enough of the others.
How To Count Macros
There are a few ways to measure macros. The first is by calculating your calorie intake. This is dependant on your age, gender, weight, daily exercise, and other factors.
According to recommended figures, women should be consuming 2000 calories per day, and men should be consuming around 2500 calories per day, however, these figures are rough estimates - they don’t take into account your energy expenditure or specific activities.
You could also track what you eat for a week to find your calorie requirements. Once you have an understanding of your calorie intake, you can then allocate calories to each macronutrient depending on your goals.
A common percentage of macros is 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 20% fats. If 40% of your calorie intake is protein, for example, 40% of your 2000 calorie intake equals 800 calories. There is 4 calories per gram of protein, so the total amount of protein you need is 200 grams.
You can do the math similarly for fats and carbohydrates, keeping in mind the following:
- Protein: 4 calories per gram
- Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram
- Fats: 9 calories per gram
Adjust Your Macros Accordingly
If you’re not seeing results, you may need to adjust your macro percentages to better suit your needs. For example, if you’re not able to lose weight, you may need to decrease your carbohydrate intake and increase your protein and fats. If you need more energy, or are training heavily, you may need more carbs and less of the others.
If you need advice on your macro ratio, it may be a good idea to consult a nutritionist or dietician, or ask your personal trainer.
It’s nice to know that we don’t have to deprive ourselves of certain foods if we want to reach our fitness goals. Rather, a balanced approach will keep your body happy and you will start to see the results you’re after. Our bodies are natural fat burning and muscle building machines, and when provided with the right nutrients, will happily help us perform at our best.
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