These days the way you train and eat largely depends on what trend you follow or how cool your friends are. There’s a ton of ways to eat: counting calories, eating clean, being vegan, avoiding anything that’s “processed”, etc.
If you haven’t heard the word ‘macros’ lately, you probably don’t have a Facebook or Instagram account. Assuming you are not 84 years old and do have one of those, you might be wondering what macros (short for macronutrients, by the way) are and how these macros-thingies can help you achieve your goals.
What are macronutrients, or macros?
Macronutrients are best defined as chemical compounds humans consume and which provide the most energy. Whenever you consume food or drinks, you consume calories. In turn, calories consist of protein, carbohydrates or fat. Alcohol (ethanol) can be classified as a macronutrient, as it provides energy, but it’s not essential for the body to function. So whenever someone discusses macronutrients, it’s safe to assume alcohol isn’t considered one.
In short: macros/macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates and fat. Nothing more, nothing less. Kind of a boring bummer, isn’t it?
It’s somewhat important to note there are people who say counting calories is useless, but counting macros is not. That’s somewhat strange, since calories consist of macros. Protein and carbs contain 4 kcal/g and fat contains 9 kcal/g. So if you’re counting macros, you’re one small step away from counting calories as well. It’s just not your main focus.
What the *bleep* are macros?
How do macros help you achieve your goals?
That, of course, depends on your goals. Contrary to popular belief, you really don’t need any magical ratios or formulas for your macros to lose weight. Calories are king when it comes to losing weight. Yes, even if you eat only carbs, only fat or only protein, you will lose fat/weight if your calorie intake is low enough.
There are advantages to increasing certain macros. For instance, protein and fat are considered much more satiating than carbs. Meaning you can easily consume more calories from carbs than from protein or fat. It’s easier to eat a big bag of candy and down a liter of Cola, than to eat too much steak.
Whenever a person increases their protein intake, they usually end up consuming fewer calories automatically.
Protein is an essential nutrient, meaning it can’t be formed by the body without being consumed through food. Your body needs protein to build and maintain cells and tissues and to synthesize new proteins. Your hair, nails and skin need protein to stay healthy. Your bones need protein to stay strong and if building or maintaining muscle mass is part of your goals, you’re definitely going to need enough protein.
How much is enough? 1.5g to 1.8g per kilogram of bodyweight will do. No, more is not better.
Read this sentence ten times before moving on: you must eat fat.
Not only is fat a major fuel source for your body, it’s essential to help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins, produce hormones and regulate inflammation. A low-fat diet is really unhealthy. That doesn’t mean drinking fat out of the fryer is good for you, though. Try getting most of your fat from fatty animal products like meats, fish, cheese and eggs. Avocado and nuts are also very good options.
How much do you need? There isn’t a golden rule for fat intake. It is generally recommended to consume 25-35% of your total calories from fat.
Although not essential, meaning your body doesn’t need carbs to function, they’re the most efficient way to provide the body with enough glucose. Your brain loves glucose, which is one reason why you can end up feeling like crap after not eating the whole day. Your mind starts to get foggy and your ability to focus disappears. Glucose can also be converted to glycogen, which is energy stored in the liver and the muscles.
Carbs are far from bad for you and if you want your body to function optimally, eating carbs is recommended. Since carbs end up filling the rest of your daily energy needs, the amount you should eat every day depends on a variety of factors, but mostly on how much protein and fat you consume.
What this looks like in real life
Let’s say you need 2000 calories a day for you goals and you weigh 55 kilograms.
Protein: 1.8g per kilogram of bodyweight = 99g of protein, or 396 calories (multiply by 4)
Fat: 35% of 2000 calories = 700 calories. Divide 700 calories by 9 (1g fat = 9 kcal) = 78g of fat.
Carbs: You now have 2000 calories – 396 – 700 = 904 calories left. Divide that by 4 = 226g of carbs.
And that’s usually what a close to optimal diet ends up looking like.
I hope that kind of explains what macros do and why you need them. If you have any questions, feel free to drop them below!