Macros: What are they?

What are Macros? As a personal trainer, I get asked all the time “What are macros?” so I thought a perfect blog post on the basics to help you understand what macros are, why they’re important and what foods are what.

Macronutrients, or "macros" are:

  • Nutrients that provide calories/ energy.

  • They are needed for muscle growth, metabolism & for other bodily functions.

  • Since “macro” means large, macronutrients are nutrients needed in large amounts.

What are the different types of Macros?

  • Protein (the King Macronutrient)

  • Carbohydrate

  • Fat

How much energy is in each Macro?

  • Protein has 4 calories per gram.

  • Carbohydrate has 4 calories per gram.

  • Fat has 9 calories per gram.

  • Alcohol has 7 calories and is the only other substance that contains calories. However, alcohol is not a macronutrient because we do not need it for survival.

About Protein

Protein is the King macronutrient and is often the macro that is neglected, particularly by women and especially when they are dieting. The big misconception that eating too much protein is bad for you and that when dieting you should just stick to leafy salads. This is so far from the truth and you will actually end up snacking more and probably consuming more carbohydrates if you don't consume enough protein. Aim for roughly 2.2g of protein per kg of body weight. The leaner you are and more muscle mass you have, the more important protein becomes.

Why do we need it?

  • Muscle growth & repair of muscles, tissues & cells

  • Immune function

  • Making essential hormones & enzymes

  • Preserving lean muscle mass

Where can we find it?

  • Lean meats & fish such as chicken, turkey, beef, kangaroo, ham, lean pork, tuna & salmon

  • Lean/ pre-packaged lunch meats such as shaved turkey breast/ ham/ shaved chicken breast

  • Eggs & egg whites

  • Dairy products such as milk, yoghurt, cheese & cottage cheese

  • Plant based protein such as chick peas, lentils, black beans, quinoa

  • Supplements such as protein shakes, protein bars.

About Fat

You should aim for a minimum 0.35-0.4g of fat per pound of body weight or about 30% of you total calorie intake.

What do we need fat for?

  • Muscle growth, development and cell function

  • Energy (fat is the most concentrated source of energy)

  • Absorbing certain vitamins

  • Providing cushioning for the organs

  • Maintaining healthy skin and other cell membranes

  • Balance hormones

In which foods can we find fats?

  • Nut butters, nuts, avocado & fattier cuts of meat,

  • MCT oil, coconut & coconut oil, canola oil, flax oil, fish oil & olive oil

  • Full fat milk & cheese

There are three main types of fat:

  • Saturated fat

  • Unsaturated fat

  • Trans fat.

Saturated fat (found in foods like meat, butter & cream) & trans fat (found in baked goods, snack foods & fried foods) have been shown to increase your risk for heart disease. Replacing saturated & trans fat in your diet with unsaturated fat (found in foods like olive oil, avocados & nuts) has been shown decrease the risk of developing heart disease.

About Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are another macro that has bad press. Carbs are not the evil and should not be avoided. With a proper diet plan, carbs won’t make you fat or gain weight. With a good diet plan you will be tracking your macros and know exactly how many carbs you can eat without resulting in a calorie surplus and weight gain.

Why do we need carbohydrates?

  • They are the body’s main source of fuel.

  • Easily used by the body for energy & stored in muscles/ liver to be later used as energy.

  • All of the tissues & cells in our body can use glucose for energy.

  • Needed for the central nervous system, kidneys, brain & muscles (including the heart) to function properly.

  • Important in intestinal health and waste elimination.

In which foods can we find carbohydrates?

  • Rices, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pasta, oatmeal & anything from oats

  • Baked chips, low fat popcorn, whole wheat bread or other breads, bran cereal, whole wheat tortillas

  • Fruits, beans, sauces, veggies.

About Fibre

Fibre refers to certain types of carbohydrates that our body cannot digest. These carbohydrates pass through the intestinal tract intact & help to move waste out of the body. Diets that are low in fibre have been shown to cause problems such as constipation & haemorrhoids & to increase the risk of cancers such as colon cancer. Diets high in fibre have been shown to decrease risks for heart disease, obesity & help to lower cholesterol.

Foods high in fiber include: Beans, whole grains, brown rice, berries, some fruits, bran cereal, oatmeal, vegetables (the crunchier the better), avocado.

I am a firm believer in "If It’s In Your Macros" (IIFYM) and track my macros every day. This allows me a flexible diet plan where I can eat things I like without feeling guilty. That being said, my diet does not consist of highly processed foods all the time. You need to ensure you are also eating in a way that you are hitting your macros but also your micronutrients. Which you can't do if your diet consists of highly processed foods.

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