Macros… you may have heard this word floating around lately. People are counting their macros, using macro ratios, fitting all sorts of fun food into their macros. But I know some of you are asking, what are macros in the first place? And why do I need to count them?
Well, let me break it down for you simply so you can understand what all the fuss is about.
Macros - 101 what are macros anyway?
What are macros?
“Macros” or better known as macronutrients are talking about protein, fats, and carbohydrates. They are called macronutrients because they are large molecules that your body needs to use as fuel on a daily basis. Eating specific macros are important for you to reach your body composition goals and maintain optimal health. Your body needs these in a large amount each day, they are what your body needs in order to survive and function at an optimal level.
Macronutrients provide the body with calories that are burned off as energy and contain different amounts of calories per macronutrient (calories are how much energy it takes for your body to burn off the fuel from that particular macro). Basically, the food you eat every day contains these 3 macronutrients, protein, carbs and fats, and they all contain calories that fuel our bodies with energy. If we eat too many calories we gain fat if we eat a moderate amount of calories we maintain weight and if you consume less than your body is burning then essentially in a perfect world you will lose weight.
So let's take a closer look at how many calories each macronutrient contains.
- Protein : 1gram of protein = 4 calories
- Carbohydrates : 1 gram of carbs = 4 calories
- Fats: 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
- ALCOHOL 1 gram of alcohol = 7 calories
Although alcohol yields calories it is not a macronutrient needed for survival. However, it is still something that needs to be counted if consumed and monitored in order to ensure you achieve optimal body composition and health goals.
WHY DO WE NEED PROTEIN?
Something I hear very often from people on a daily basis is “I eat enough protein”. I then follow up by asking “how many meals are you eating per day” which sometimes ends in 2-3. Now unless you are eating half a cow per meal (slightly exaggerating but you get my point) then you probably are not consuming an adequate amount of protein in your day to not only reach your composition goals but for your body to merely function at an optimal level.
- Protein is the building block of our entire body from your hair, skin nails, to of course muscle tissue.
- Proteins are the essential part of growth and development of new tissue
- Helps support immune function
- Is necessary for processes of making essential hormones and enzymes
- Is essential for preserving lean muscle mass
- Is used as energy when carbohydrates not available
As you can see protein is a very important macronutrient and is usually underestimated when in comes to adequate intake.
Common PROTEIN SOURCES
Now these are some of my favourite or “go to” protein sources but the choices are really endless depending on your personal preference.
- Poultry (chicken, turkey)
- Seafood (prawns, squid)
- Protein powder
- Dairy (yogurt, cheese, milk)
- Temphe/tofu (vegetarians/vegans)
- Legumes (also contain carbs)
- Nuts (also contain fats)
WHY DO WE NEED CARBOHYDRATES?
Carbs are something that so many people are afraid of. And I don’t blame you, with all the negative wrap carbs get in the media it's no wonder everyone seems to shy away from them. But your body absolutely needs carbs not only to function but they actually help you to achieve body composition goals.
- They are you body’s primary fuel source
- Easily used by the body as energy
- Important for organ function and CNS (heart, brain, kidneys, muscles)
- Need to make essential hormones and enzymes
- Important for Intestinal health and waste elimination 9especially fiber)
- Carbohydrates are stored in the muscle and liver and used later for energy
Common CARBOHYDRATE SOURCES
- Sweet potato, potato
- Rice (any kind)
- Low-fat muesli
- Bread, wraps
- Any fruits or berries
- Bananas, blueberries, strawberries, mango
- Vegetables (low carbs high in fibre)
DON’T FORGET FIBRE
Fibre is a carb found mainly in fruits and vegetables and it refers to certain types of carbohydrates that our body cannot digest. These carbohydrates pass through the intestinal tract intact and help to move waste out of the body. Diets that are low in fibre have been shown to cause problems such as constipation and haemorrhoids and to increase the risk for certain types of cancers such as colon cancer. So it's important to hit an adequate amount of fibre daily to ensure our insides stay happy and healthy.
WHY DO WE NEED FATS?
Fats have definitely gained a bad wrap over the years especially when it comes to fat loss. I all sure you have all heard about “low-fat diets” being the way to go for fat loss. But your body actually needs fat for so many important processes and fat will actually help you lose more body fat in the long run.
- Some fat in your diet is essential for survival
- Needed for growth and development
- Aids in metabolism
- Most concentrated energy source (most calories per gram)
- Provides cushioning for organs
- Needed for optimal hormone function and production
- Reduces inflammation
- Used for the absorption of nutrients and minerals
Optimal FAT SOURCES
- Any nuts – almonds, brazil nuts, peanuts, macadamia
- All nut butter – peanut butter, almond butter
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Nut oils
- Butter (organic and grass-fed optimal)
When looking to lose body fat it is important to think about your overall health rather than just a quick fix. Eating a range of fats is needed to support brain function, reduce inflammation, cell signalling, and other metabolic functions which all contribute to overall fat loss and muscle gain.
However, fats can get a little more complicated because there a few types of fats floating around that affect our bodies in different ways. Let's take a closer look.
Unsaturated fats – THE GOOD FATS
These are liquid at room temperature. Most of your daily fat intake should come from unsaturated fats. Foods containing unsaturated fats include:
- Plant oils – such as canola, vegetable, or plant oil
- Certain fish – such as salmon, tuna, and anchovy, which contain omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids
Incorporating these into your diet can actually help you lose weight. These are essential for the body to absorb certain vitamins and minerals that are fat soluble such as vitamins A, D, E and K. Without fat, you will not be getting any of these essential vitamins
These fats are solid at room temperature. Saturated fats have a mixed reputation stating they can be harmful to you in the long run or when consumed in large amounts. However multiple recent studies that counter the detrimental effects of saturated fat. Saturated fat does have some great health benefits and it's important to note that overconsumption of anything can be harmful in the long run. So keep your saturated fat in moderation.
Foods containing saturated fats include:
Animal meat , coconut oil, Dairy products, Processed meats , Pre-packaged snacks
These are the fats you want to keep on the lower side of your overall fat intake. Consing some Trans fats here or there is not going to kill you so you can still enjoy some of the processed foods you love, but just be mindful of them and don’t over do it.
- Trans fat has been shown to raise bad (LDL) cholesterol and lower good (HDL) cholesterol.
- They have been chemically altered through a process called hydrogenation
- Some packaged cookies contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats to make them last longer on store shelves
Make sure you consume your fat sources in moderation!
So now you are up to speed with what macros actually are! You have always been consuming them and you probably didn’t even know it. But now you do. So be mindful of your intake and ensure that you are getting an adequate amount of each macro source into your overall daily intake.