Understanding Macros in a Snap
Macro is short for macronutrient. Which leads to the question, “What are macronutrients?”
The simple answer:
a group of nutrients that your body needs in larger amounts to live, grow, and function properly. They also provide your energy, which is measured in the form of Calories or kcals.
Micronutrients is another article. But, they are nutrients, like minerals we need in smaller amounts to survive.
There are three main macronutrients:
- Protein, 4 kcal per gram
- Carbohydrates (Carbs), 4 kcal per gram
- Fat, 9 kcal per gram
Technically, there is a 4th macronutrient. Alcohol. But, because it doesn’t offer much in terms of health benefits, and isn’t necessary, diet and nutrition plans don’t include it as a macro.
3 Main Macronutrients
Contrary to what you hear and read, each macro plays a specific roles in your body and is necessary to function properly. Seriously restricting, or totally exclude any of the three main macros isn’t healthy and will eventually lead to issues.
Especially if you’re looking to burn fat and build lean muscle to transform your body.
So, make sure you get your minimum of each macro everyday.
It’s rare that a food consists of entirely one macro. Most are a combination of the three main macronutrients. But many have one dominant macronutrient that yields the majority of the calories. Just look at the macros for bananas.
Where to start
When determine your macronutrient split take a look at the USDA recommendations. They provide a good start and you can tweak them to fit your needs and lifestyle form there.
USDA recommended macronutrient split.
- Carbohydrates: 45-65%
- Protein: 10-35%
- Fat: 20-35%
Carbohydrates are a great source for fuel.
Research shows you’ll likely have better workouts and better recovery if you eat more carbs. Not less. Which means you gain muscle, strength, and improve fitness levels faster.
- 4 Calories per gram
- 45 – 65% of daily calories
- set fat and protein first, then the rest of diet is carbs
All carbohydrates are eventually broken down into glucose, which is the main energy source for your body. Organs like the brain, require glucose to function properly.
The body is adaptable. Trough a process called gluconeogenesis, protein are broken down and turned into glucose. While it’s possible, it’s slow and not very efficient. Not a process you’d want to rely on for a workout or competition.
Carbs come in different forms.
Fiber keeps you regular. It doesn’t get broken down so it helps rid your body of waste and keeps your intestinal tract healthy. Since it passes through you, you don’t absorb many calories. This makes it perfect for filling up your belly so you’re not hungry and lose weight.
It’s a good idea for guys to consume about 38g of fiber a day. Generally women don’t need as much. About 25g per day is enough.
Simple carbohydrates are easy for your body to breakdown for energy or glucose. They are most common in sweet foods like honey, table sugar, syrup, milk/yogurt, and fruit.
Complex carbohydrates take longer to process. They typically have a savory taste and are common in starchy foods and grains like rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, peas, and corn.
Unprocessed complex carbs normally contain fiber and that’s why they are slower to digest. However, when this fiber is stripped like it is in white bread, white pasta, white rice, etc. they release glucose quickly. Just like a sweet simple carbohydrate.
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Proteins are the most important macronutrient. They help build and repair tissues. They help fill you up and keep you full. And when dieting they help maintain muscle mass to keep you metabolism up.
- 4 Calories per gram
- 30 to 40% of your diet
Protein is composed of amino acids of which there are two types: non-essential and essential.
Non-essential amino acids can be made. You don’t have to include them in your diet.
Essential amino acids can’t be made, thus a necessary part of your diet.
Protein rich include:
- seaweed spirulina
Research shows you should get about 30 to 40% of your daily calories from protein. For most this works out to around 0.8 to 1.2 gram per pound of body weight.
Like carbs, there’s a fear around fats as well. But they’re an important macronutrient.
Everyone knows that fat is an energy store. But, it also cushions organs, makes hormones, helps absorb certain vitamins, and helps with cell membrane integrity.
- 9 Calories per gram
- 20 to 40% of calories per day
Fat comes in 3 forms:
- trans fat
- saturated fat
- unsaturated fat
Limit trans fats. Most trans fat comes from adding hydrogen molecules to unsaturated fats. Think hydrogenated oil found in foods like margarine, shortening, doughs, and fried foods.
Saturated fat is found mostly in animal sources. Well marbled meats from beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, lard, cream, butter, full fat dairy products are all sources.
The American Heart Association recommends you limit your saturated fat to 5 – 6% of your daily kcals.
Unsaturated fats are known as healthy fats because they can decrease your risk for heart disease. They are usually liquid at room temperature and originate from plant sources. Think olive oil, avocados, and nuts.
Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, and herring are good animal based sources.
Here are a few examples of different foods and their macros.
Should I track macros?
It’s not necessary but it will help you reach your physique goals faster.
Guide To Macronutrients and Counting Macros
how to count macros for weight loss
how to calculate macros for building lean muscle
Counting Calories vs. Counting Macros
Counting macros is a way to track food intake using grams instead of calories.
One advantage of macronutrient tracking over calorie counting is that it tells you a bit more about the quality of your food.
The disadvantage of macro tracking, it requires more planning and math.
How to figure out your macros
Easy Macros Math
Macro calculators are handy but, you don’t need one. Try this simple equation: