‘Macros’ seem to be the ‘in thing’ in the fitness industry at the moment. But what the hell are they and why does everyone keep trying to fit everything into them!?
Macros Made Simple
‘Macros’ are short for ‘macronutrients’ and are essentially a type of food.
There are three main macronutrients: Protein, Fat and Carbohydrate
Protein is perhaps the most essential macronutrient and is vital in helping to build and preserve muscle mass. No wonder you keep hearing people incessantly bang on about protein.
Due to its slower digestive rate than other macronutrients, protein can also help to control appetite, curb cravings and will probably burn more calories through the digestion process than any of the other macronutrients.
Meat, fish, eggs, dairy and some protein shakes are examples of good sources of protein.
It is advisable to aim for a minimum of 0.8 grams per pound of bodyweight of protein in your daily nutritional consumption. Consuming more (within reason) will not be inherently harmful.
Fats, albeit recently much maligned, can assist in vitamin absorption, hormone regulation, brain function, a stronger immune system, stronger bones and many more.
They’re far more important than given credit for and should certainly not be shunned from your diet.
Unrefined animal fats, fatty fish, nuts and oils are examples of good sources of fats.
Carbohydrates are the body’s main energy source and serve as a direct fuel supply during daily activities that require energy. They are essential for the body and brain to function at optimal capacity.
Carbohydrates seem to be the first thing people cut out when looking to lose body fat, but this central macronutrient can play just as an important role in fat loss as all the others.
Fruit, vegetables, grains, sweet potato, rice, quinoa are examples of good sources of carbohydrates.
*There is generally no real reason, when concerned at a very low level, to fret over micronutrients and things like saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and sugar.*
Macros = Calories
Each macronutrient will yield a certain number of calories upon consumption:
Protein: 4 calories per gram
Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram
Fats: 9 calories per gram
So for example, if someone was to consume 150 grams of protein, 150 grams of carbohydrates and 50 grams of fats on a given day, they would have consumed –
Protein = 150 grams x 4 = 600
Carbohydrates = 150 grams x 4 = 600
Fat = 150 grams x 9 = 450
600 + 600 + 450 = 1650 calories
Why Do People Count Them?
‘Counting your macros’ indicates that an individual will be tracking the total number of grams of proteins, carbohydrates and fats consumed over the course of an entire day.
Counting macros is typically associated with not only simply tracking your intake, but tracking them with the intention of meeting pre-calculated figures that have the intention of attaining prescribed goals e.g. fat loss, muscle mass.
While the overall number of calories you should be aiming for every day is vastly important, the quality of your nutritional goals can largely be influenced by the manipulation of macronutrient ratios.
IIFYM (Commonly Known As #IIFYM)
You may have seen this abbreviation floating around social media, usually in hashtag form, but what does it stand for!?
IIFYM stands for ‘If It Fits Your Macros’. The basic premise being that, as long as you reach your allotted protein, carbohydrate and fat figures throughout the day, you can (within reason) eat what you please.
The idea of ‘fitting your macros’ allows a more flexible approach to dieting, utilising a no-foods-off-limit approach and avoids the rigidness of following strict meal plans.
Should I Be Counting My Macros?
Macronutrient counting can provide many benefits to achieving nutritional and body composition goals.
It will allow a more ‘flexible’ approach to eating (not restricting yourself to certain food or food groups like many newfound diets promote) and will give you a better understanding of the so called better foods to be eating, as well as your relationship with specific food groups.
It will also keep you accountable due to the continuous requirement to log your food consumption throughout the day.
With every dieting method comes its disadvantages, and this is no different with the macro counting approach. Many people assume they can devour as many processed, ‘junk-like’ foods as they can fit into their prescribed figures, just because ‘it fits their macros’, causing them to eventually lose all semblance of common sense.
Whilst it is never a good idea to completely restrict yourself from any type of food, the majority of your consumption should come from a quality, nutritionally rich diet.
It’s important to not forget that counting your macros will also take a great deal of preparation, tracking and practice to turn it into a life-changing habit.
Practice, Practice, Practice
As macro counting at a high level takes plenty of practice and mastery, it is probably a better idea to work up to the ideal goal of hitting your nutritional targets to the exact gram. Start off with step 1, and gradually work your way up as you master each stage.
1. Start by aiming for your overall calorie intake – Work out your required overall calorie goal for each day and work on reaching that number, without worrying about your macronutrient ratios
2. Introduce aiming your overall protein intake – Once reaching your overall calorie intake every day has been mastered, calculate your required grams of protein for each day and endeavour to hit that number, within a range of 20 grams
3. Start to introduce fat and carbohydrate intake – Determine your required grams for fat and carbohydrate intake and attempt to hit those figures, within a range of 20 grams
4. Look to reduce the ranges – As you grow accustomed to hitting your macronutrient targets within the aforementioned ranges, look to reduce the wider limits you’ve been allowing yourself
5. Aim for specific targets – Mastery has been achieved and you can plan, prepare and consume foods that hit the required prescribed macronutrient targets. You’re so IIFYM.
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