Macros, short for macronutrients, play a pivotal role in shaping our nutrition and overall well-being. Macronutrients are a category of nutrients that include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, that are present in foods in large amounts.
Whether you are trying to lose weight, gain muscle, or optimize performance, maintaining appropriate nutrition practices is key for long-term success. You could have the best workout routine, assigning the most effective exercises with your goal in mind, but having unhealthy eating habits will completely derail you from ever accomplishing your goals. Knowing the right types of foods to eat can help you achieve that goal faster and feel better while doing so.
Carbohydrates: This is the body’s (and brain’s) main fuel source. Refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, cookies, pastries, etc.) have less fiber and affect blood sugar differently than minimally processed carbohydrates. If you want energy, without the crash, carbohydrates rich in fiber will help with satiety and hunger control. One gram of carbohydrate is equal to 4 calories.
Protein: Protein is made up of amino acids, which all have different roles in the body. Some amino acids are nonessential and can be created from the body, while others are essential, and have to come from our diet. Protein helps us build and maintain muscle mass, and also hormone, enzyme, and immune chemical production. One gram of protein is equal to 4 calories.
Fats: Fat is needed for many things in the body, including balancing hormones, cell membrane formation, transporting fat-soluble vitamins, and providing omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acid (which cannot be produced from the body). One gram of fat is equal to 9 calories.
Now that you know what macros are, how do we go about tracking them?
First, you need to know what your calorie goal is. If your goal is weight loss, take your body weight and multiply it by 10-12. If your goal is to maintain your weight, take your body weight and multiply it by 14-16. If your goal is weight gain, take your body weight and multiply it by 18-22. For example, a 100 pound individual whose goal is to put on weight while gaining muscle, they would take their weight, 100lbs, and multiply it by 20 to get a daily calorie intake of 2000 calories.
Once the calorie goal is established, we can then break down how much protein, fat, and carbs we should be consuming.
A general recommendation is to follow this daily nutrition guideline: Eating your goal body weight in grams of protein (4 calories per gram), 30% of your daily calorie intake coming from fats and the remaining calories coming from carbohydrates.
If your daily calories are broken down around these numbers, then you are hitting a healthy amount of each macronutrient. Using the 2000 calorie goal I mentioned earlier, your macro nutrients will be broken down like this:
-Carbohydrates: 1,000 calories per day= 250 grams per day
-Fat: 600 calories per day= 66 grams per day
-Protein: 400 calories per day= 100 grams per day
If you are someone who is more than fairly active or is even an athlete, you may want to adjust your carbs and protein. These people will require more energy, which means that carbohydrates could make up closer to 55% of the diet instead of 50%. If building muscle is really important, protein intake could be closer to 25% of total calories consumed. Just be sure that there aren’t drastic decreases in any one of the macronutrients. If this is the case, you will likely notice changes in energy levels, which can set you back from your goals.
Customizing Your Macros: One Size Doesn't Fit All. Understanding the role of each macro is crucial in crafting a balanced and effective nutrition plan. Every individual is unique, and so are their nutritional needs. Customizing your macro ratios based on factors like age, weight, activity level, and fitness goals is key. Some may thrive on a higher protein intake for muscle building, while others might find success with a balanced mix for overall well-being. This is why tracking your macros along with how you feel can be beneficial to your overall fitness journey.