“Macros” is the abbreviated term for macro-nutrients. They are the main nutrients that we need the most in order to survive. Despite what certain diets may suggest, you do need all three; cutting out any one macro-nutrient may put you at risk for nutrient deficiencies and illness.
While it may be common knowledge that the three macro-nutrient categories include proteins, carbs, and fats, it may be less obvious how much you should consume as an individual and how to calculate those numbers. Keep reading to find out!
In general the macro ratio break down goes like this:
- 10-35% of calories from protein
- 20-35% of calories from fats
- 45-60% of calories from carbs
Protein in made up of amino acids, the building blocks for many functions within the body. They help you grow, recover, and build muscle. Typically when you think about protein your first thought probably wonder to meats and perhaps a whey protein powder. However, you can get protein from a wide variety of surprising sources such as nuts, dairy products, certain vegetables, starches, grains, hemp, beans, and oats. Certain foods contain more protein than others. For example, 100 grams of chicken breast will give you about 30 grams of protein whereas the same amount of egg whites will give you only about 11 grams of protein. It is important to note that 1 gram of protein is equivalent to 4 calories.
So if an individual wanted to consume 2,000 calories per day with 35% of those calories being protein, 700 of those calories should come from protein (2,000 x .35). This is equivalent to 175 grams of protein (700/4).
Protein is difficult for the body to digest and metabolize, so when we eat large amounts of it, our bodies will in turn “burn hotter” and speed up our metabolism, essentially burning the carbs and fats we eat as well so that we can use them as energy instead of storing it for later.
Dietary fat is required for your body to do its many jobs. You need fat to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), to insulate your body during cold weather and to go long periods of time without eating. Dietary fat also protects your organs, supports cell growth and induces hormone production. Fats are found in foods like oils, butter, avocado, nuts, meat and fatty fish.
Fats have the most calories out of all the macro-nutrients with 9 calories per gram. If an individual wanted to consume 2,000 calories per day with 35% of those calories being fat, 700 of those calories should come from fat (2,000 x .35). This is equivalent to about 78 grams of fat (700/9).
The primary function of carbohydrates is to provide the body with energy. We can get carbs from many sources but there are 2 different types of carbs that you should pay attention to: Simple and Complex. We tend to consume more simple carbs than complex because they are in nearly everything we eat or drink. We tend to associate simple carbs with sugary candies, drinks, and processed food. Yet many vegetables, dairy products, and fruits contain simple carbs. The simple carbs that we should stay away from or limit our consumption of are those with added sugars and syrups (candy, pastries, sugary drinks, table sugar, and fruit juice concentrates). Good places to find healthy simple and complex carbs are in vegetables, fruits, starches, whole grains, and dairy products. One gram of carbohydrates is equal to 4 calories.
If an individual wanted to consume 2,000 calories per day with 60% of those calories being protein, 1,200 of those calories should come from carbs (2,000 x .60). This is equivalent to 300 grams of carbs (1200/4).
For most of us, when we see the word “carbs” we automatically associate it with negativity, and gaining fat. The reason that is, is because we crave “sugary carbs” (sodas, candy, baked goods, juices, etc.) and all of those things get processed as sugar in our body, and they are very easy to digest which gives us that “sugar high” feeling and 30 minutes later we are hungry again. A great way to combat this is with “complex carbs”. Complex carbs have a longer chain and in turn are harder for the body to digest and metabolize so they keep us fuller, longer as well as give us increased energy for longer periods of time.
In order to know how much of each macro you should be consuming, you must first calculate your basal metabolic rate. Basal metabolic rate is how many calories you body naturally burns by doing nothing other than simply functioning. This number is based on gender, age, weight, and height. One way to calculate it is by using our in-store Inbody analysis machine. Not only does it tell you your basal metabolic rate, but it breaks down how much muscle mass, body fat, and water are in your body to help you reach your goals. If you don’t live near one of our stores, local gyms could have a similar machine you can use.
When you consistently and drastically eat below your basal caloric rate your body can go into starvation mode and start storing calories as fat for later use. If you consistently eat above your basal caloric rate then you will gain weight. In general I recommend a slow and consistent daily surplus or deficit to reach your goal. Once you determine basal metabolic rate and your caloric goal, and which ratio of macro-nutrient fits your lifestyle, then you can figure out how many grams of each macro you need by dividing the daily calorie goal of each macro by calories per gram.
You can make this process it a little easier by using a macro calculator like the one from freedieting.com. Once you have all of that squared away you will need to keep track daily of what you are eating. The easiest and most productive way to do this is by using an app on your smartphone. The ones I have found to work best are Lifesum, and My Fitness Pal. Both are available on Apple and Android phones and are very simple to use.
CALORIES AND MACRO-NUTRIENTS
So why does counting macro-nutrients even matter? If you don’t get enough protein in your diet, you could lose muscle instead of losing fat, which leads to a lower metabolism. Likewise, not enough carbs can make you feel sluggish, while a diet too low in fats can lead to imbalances in your hormone levels. If you take in too many fats or carbs, you may not lose enough fat from your body composition.
Calories in and calories out is the most important factor in losing or gaining weight. Again, don’t drastically over or under eat your calories. It is very important that when you start counting your macros, that you talk to a professional. That could be a nutritionist at your gym, an expert at your local supplement store, or your personal trainer to guide you in the right direction. Going to either extreme could cause major health issues and prevent you from reaching your goals.