First, what is a ‘macro’?
‘Macros’ is short for ‘macronutrients’. They are the basic nutritional components of a diet and consist of:
Eating the right ratio of macros is important for optimal health and body composition. The right ratio helps you achieve your specific physical, performance and aesthetic goals. Your best ratio depends on your individual body type, body fat %, weight, height, and goals.
There’s not a magic number or ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to macro percentages in the diet.
1 g of protein = 4 calories
It is important for energy and is the building block of the body’s tissues. The correct amount of protein in your nutrition plan can help you lose body fat & gain (or maintain) lean muscle. On average, 1g of protein per pound of body weight or 2g per kg is a decent starting point.
1 g of ‘carbs’= 4 calories
It is the largest energy source for body and is essential for brain function – which is why low carb diets can be detrimental to overall body function if followed for too long. They aid digestion and provide fuel for your training.
1 g of fat = 9 calories
They provide a slow and steady supply of energy and allows proper hormone production and function. They feed the brain and help you grow and maintain lean body mass (muscles!)
Why do people count their macros?
Currently, there is a lot of controversy surrounding “counting macros.” This dieting method is commonly called “If It Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM) and flexible dieting. The basic concept behind IIFYM is “Eat what you want and still lose fat.” As long as you adhere to your personalized macros (ex: 30% carb, 40% protein, 30% fat) you will reach your goals.
Does it work?
The science behind macros and calorie counting is concrete and really nothing new. Nutritionists, diet coaches and savvy physique-conscious people alike have been counting their macros since forever. It’s only recently become a huge topic of discussion on many social networks and gyms. It’s supported by the FACT that you MUST burn more calories than you consume in order to lose weight. It’s that simple. As long as you are nailing your macros and not going over, you are going to lose weight.
From an internal health perspective, it couldn’t be further from the truth. While many macro-counters consume healthy and nutritious foods, many interpret the method as they can eat processed items that lack MICRO-nutrients (vitamins & minerals). For example, a giant meat lovers pizza, Poptarts or chemical-laden carb/fat/cal-free foods because it “hits their macros” for the day.
Are they losing weight?
Are they healthy?
What does this all mean for YOU?
If you’re going to count macros, focus on hitting your macro ratios with MICRO nutrient (vitamins & minerals) rich foods. An active lifestyle, combined with macro counting, can be a powerful tool in weight loss and lean muscle building. It also offers flexibility in meal planning and an understanding of your state of health and body composition.
When reaching your macro numbers with fresh, healthy, wholesome foods you will lose weight, build lean muscle mass, and keep the INSIDE of your body healthy and happy too.
Does that mean I can’t EVER have the ‘junk’ foods I enjoy?
Responsibly having a treat once in a while should be built-in to any good nutrition plan, iifym or not. When you gain a better understanding of your own personal nutritional daily needs, incorporating a treat here or there will not prevent you from reaching your goals. Instead, those foods you consider naughty or banned will fit into your life in a positive way.
Where do I start?
There are many free calorie counting apps available that allow you to track your macro intake. I suggest tracking your daily food intake as accurately and honestly as possible for three days to see what your current nutrition really looks like. Once you know what your macros look like you can make small adjustments depending on your goals (more protein, more fiber rich carbs, less fat, etc)