What are macros? Macros are short for macronutrients. Macronutrients include protein, fat, and carbohydrates. These are three nutrients your body needs to produce, and store, energy to survive, function… and exercise! Each one has a different role in our bodies.
But, with all the conflicting information on what you should and shouldn’t be eating, it can be difficult to navigate.
We’ve dished up an overview of macros and why you need to find a balance.
A Quick Overview of Macronutrients aka Macros
There are three essential macronutrients every human needs: carbohydrates, protein and fat.
Each macronutrient contains energy, measured in calories:
- Carbohydrate: 4 calories per gram
- Protein: 4 calories per gram
- Fat: 9 calories per gram
Over the years, they’ve all fallen victim to fad diets. Fat, in particular, was shunned for many years. And now, it seems carb has become the new four-letter word. But, they are all critical components for exercise, recovery and to function in everyday life.
Carbs tend to cause a lot of controversy, confusing a lot of people. They just don’t know why they need them or the best places to find them.
Carbohydrates fuel the body. Our brain, muscles and body’s cells all need carbs to function. Carbohydrates are broken down into sugar (glucose) in our body which is either used for immediate energy or stored for later use.
Research has shown that high-fat, very low-carb diets can elevate levels of cortisol which in turn can increase catabolism and harm protein synthesis…in other words, you’re kind of eating away at your muscles and not making more (which is obv. bad for performance).
Carbs can be simple or complex.
Simple carbs are broken down (digested) quickly by the body and typically spike (and then dump) blood sugar levels. This would be what you might refer to as the notorious sugar high children experience after eating candy.
Examples found naturally in foods include:
- white rice
Simple carbs are commonly found in processed foods such as:
- table sugar & candy
- sauces & dressings
- bread & baked goods
- cereal & crackers
- juice & soda
Complex carbs are slower to digest (helping us control blood sugar and provide a sustainable source of energy), higher in fiber (helping us maintain a healthy GI tract and control appetite), and have vitamins and minerals (making them a nutrient dense choice).
Some nutrient-dense choices of complex carbs include:
- brown & wild rice
- ancient grains
What About Fruit?
Keep in mind that simple carbs (in their natural state) aren’t always the bad guy. Fresh fruit, such as watermelon and berries, are considered simple carbs. The optimal time to enjoy these foods is pre-, intra- and post workout.
Protein seems to take the stage as the dietary superstary. If you are active, want to maintain muscle and lean up, protein is a must. Why? Protein is made up of amino acids which are the building blocks for must stuff in our body. It is involved in repair and rebuilding of tissues, hormones and our immune system.
It’s so important to include in your diet that if we don’t get enough protein, our body will start to take it from our muscles. We need protein to survive and thrive.
You can get protein from sources such as:
- protein powder (useful for those who want fast-digesting proteins or need a quick replenishment)
How Much Protein Do You Need?
For sedentary adults who are otherwise healthy, 0.8g of protein per kg of body mass is generally enough to cover basic daily requirements.
Protein needs increase if:
- You are training frequently or have a physically demanding job
- You are injured, sick or recovering from surgery
- You are losing protein for any other reason (poor digestion, stress)
- You are trying to lose weight and in a negative energy balance
Generally, most individuals do not need more than 2.2g of protein per kg of body mass per day.
Macro: Healthy Fat
Repeat after me: Fat from food does not equal body fat.
That horrible fat restriction provided only to be a disaster. So many products that ditched the fat, only replaced it with sugar and starch (hello nasty low-fat Snackwell cookies). All those “fat-free” salad dressing, baked good and margarine ironically didn’t get us any healthier. Or fitter. It only made things worse.
Fat is an essential macronutrient that protects our organs and allows hormones to function properly. It also helps to preserve our bones and aid in immune and nerve cell function. Because fat takes a long time to break down and transport, it enters the blood several hours after we’ve eaten it.
A little fat makes everything better: flavor, nutritional value, satiety.
Health fats include:
- olive oil
- coconut oil
- avocado and avocado oil
- nuts & seeds
- fish (like salmon)
Fat to Stay Away From
Trans fat, often disguised as partially hydrogenated oils, comes from industrial fat processing to give the product a longer shelf life. Good for commercialized food production. Bad for our bodies.
Finding Balance with Your Macros
It is important to include each macronutrient in your daily diet. Finding the exact balance can be tricky – everybody has unique needs. But a good rule of thumb is to use your hand as your guide.
- Portion out a serving of protein equivalent to your palm (men use two palms).
- Portion out a serving of carbs about the size of your cupped hand (men, use two hands).
- Portion out a serving of fat the size of your thumb (men use two thumbs).
- Portion out a serving of vegetables equivalent to your fist (men, use two fists). Dark leafy greens…go nuts!
Contact Coach Angela or Coach Camilla at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about macronutrients and finding the right balance for you.