What’s a macro?
Macro is short for macronutrient: a substance required in relatively large amounts, by living organisms in particular. Counting macros doesn’t have to be complicated.
Macronutrients are molecules that our bodies use to create energy for themselves – primarily fat, protein and carbohydrates. They are found in all foods in varying amounts, measured in grams (g) on the nutrition labels.
- Fat provides 9 calories per gram
- Protein provides 4 calories per gram
- Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram
Basically, they are WHERE your calories are coming from. So yes, calories can be important if you’re getting too many or too few, but where those calories are coming from are also important. If all your calories are coming from fat, or you’re only getting a few calories from protein, that’s going to result in an imbalance and not provide you with the best possible combination. The amount of each kind of macros you’re getting are determining whether you’re gaining or losing both fat and muscle. This is where counting macros comes in.
Ok. So what’s the point of these so-called macros?
Protein: Helps you build muscle. Think eggs, meat, fish.
Carbs: Give you energy. Simple carbs are easily digested – these will give you a burst or spike of energy, and then leave you with a crash (ie, sugar high). Think candy, soda, or other sugary based snacks. Complex carbs are ones that take a bit longer to digest, and are slower on your system, resulting in more sustained energy. Think sweet potatoes, leafy greens or other vegetables, oats, etc.
Fats: Fats help you feel full, and help keep your hormones in balance. We always want to stay away from trans fats and stick to good, natural sources of fats. To know the difference, think about fats that are highly processed (vegetable oil, canola oil, etc) versus fats that exist in their natural element (avocados, olive oil, coconut milk, nuts, etc).
So when you’re counting macros, you are counting calories – you’re just digging a bit further below the surface to determine the sources of those calories. Remember, the calories are important, but what’s more important is where those calories are coming from – the macros. For example, if you had:
15g protein * 4 = 60 calories
20 g carbs * 4 = 80 calories
1 g fat *9 = 9 calories
This would result in a total of 149 calories, well divided between your protein, carbs, and fat.
How do you determine how many of each you should be having at each meal?
That’s going to depend largely on your goals. To learn the balance, you may want to start with a 40/30/30 template – 40% of your calories from carbs, and 30% of calories from both fat and protein. Once you’ve tried that out, you can adjust things depending on how you’re feeling!
There’s a lot of calculators and different ways for counting macros. One of the easiest ways is through My Fitness Pal. You can select “Macros” in the app as the way you want to track your nutrition, and then you simply enter what you eat and it does the math for you!
Do I have to worry about counting macros for the rest of my life?
Absolutely not. This is simply a tool to help you learn where your body is getting your calories, how it affects you, and what makes YOU feel your best! And if you ever feel like you’re getting off track, or your body is reacting unfavorably to something, you can re-visit your macros and see if there’s an imbalance that might be causing it.
Not sure where to start or how to get on track? We have multiple nutrition programs and can help you get started on the right path. Contact us and schedule your No-Snack Intro with our Nutrition Coach!