The body is extremely complex and requires various nutrients to perform at its best. I'd like to start by saying you do not need to be "a macro counter" to live a healthy lifestyle nor to achieve your fitness goals. However, it is important to know what you're feeding your body. Learning and manipulating macros simply helped me be identify ways to achieve different physical results.
So, what are macros?
Macros is a big buzz word in health and dieting; short for "macronutrients". They are the nutrients our bodies need most - proteins, fats and carbs.
Macros are measured in calories, or kcals, and are required to function properly and provide our bodies with the energy needed to crush life.
Carbohydrates = 4 kcal/ gram
Proteins = 4 kcal/ gram
Fats = 9 kcal/ gram
We love carbs, right? Great news! Carbohydrates are essential for creating glucose, the main energy source for our body. All of our major organs including the brain need glucose to function.
Carbs synthesis amino acids, and assist with 💩 - fiber is also a carbohydrate that doesn't create energy, but does help you get rid of waste. Greens are a great source of fiber!
There are simple and complex carbohydrates defined by the ease with which the body is able to break them down.
Simple Carbohydrates are typically your sweeter foods like honey, milk, yogurt, and fruit - all easier for the body to break down for energy.
Complex Carbohydrates take the body more time to break down because their molecules are more 'complex.' They're found in starches and grains like rice, pasta, starchy veggies like potatoes, nuts and beans.
Both simple and complex carbs are valuable for the body.
Now on to proteins - these in particular are extremely important, because they protect lean muscle mass, and help build and repair muscle tissue.
Some great sources of proteins are meat, poultry, fish and eggs. You can also find solid sources of protein from plants like beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and soy. You don't have to be a carnivore to obtain your appropriate protein intake!
Believe it or not fat is also a necessity! The body uses fat for storing energy, creating a cushion around organs, and absorbing vitamins.
There are three types of fat - some 'good fats' and some 'bad fats'. Keep this in mind when you plan your meals.
The three different fats are trans fat, saturated fat, and unsaturated fat.
Trans fat should be avoided if at all possible. These are found in margarine, and baked or fried foods. Of course, the goodies we crave and love.
Practice balance by feeding your body these fats in moderation but remember this: the less you consume it, the less you crave it!
Saturated fats get their name because they are "saturated" in hydrogen molecules. They are proven to increase blood pressure and heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends, "5-6% of your daily kcals come from saturated fat; meaning if your kcal needs are 2,000 per day, only 120 kcals should come from saturated fat. 120 kcals/9 kcals/g = ~13 grams of saturated fat per day."
Lean toward more healthy fats known as unsaturated fats.
Unsaturated fats are found in plant based sources such as avocado, nuts, seeds, vegetable oil and fatty fish like salmon. FYI - these fats are cool and all, but they do add up quick for your fat macro count. They're more than double the amount of kcals/ gram compared to proteins and carbs.
Now that you've what macros are, what's the right intake for you?
Everyone's dietary needs are different, and no one single individual will realize the same results from the same diet plan.
Start here - based on a percentage of daily intake the USDA recommended macro split is:
An individual's macro split should be determined by their goals. Ask yourself, do you want to gain weight? Gain muscle? Lose weight? Maintain?
Everyone thrives on different macro percentages so there is no one right answer. Eat clean, and learn what's in the food you eat by educating yourself, reading labels, and being cognizant about what you choose to put into your body.
Fitness apps like MyFitnessPal track your progress and calorie intake. They're a great way to measure how your body responds to various dietary choices.
My personal preference is a macro split consuming high protein, moderate carbs and low fat. However, as I mentioned, no one single individual will realize the same results from the same diet plan.
This is a high level view of the science behind macros - find out what works best for you.
I'm happy to offer more guidance in the kitchen, and provide personalized membership plans at alygrayfitness.com.