What are macros and how does our body use them?
If you’ve ever googled weight loss or diet, then chances are you have heard of counting macros. Seriously, talk of macro counting is all over social media, pinterest, and probably your gym. But what really does it mean to count macros and what’s the point? Don’t worry, I got you!
Macro is short for macronutrients, which are the nutrients that our body needs in the largest amounts. Meaning, we need to eat greater amounts of macronutrients than micronutrients – but we’ll talk about that later on the blog. The macronutrients include carbohydrates, protein, and fat, and it just so happens that these are the only nutrients (other than alcohol) that add calories to our diet. But don’t let the word calorie scare you. Calories are what provide our body with energy. If we don’t eat the proper amount of carbohydrates, protein, or fat then we wouldn’t have the energy to play with our kids, perform at work, or meet our fitness goals. While each individual macronutrient offers energy to the body, they do so a bit differently. Here’s the calorie breakdown:
Carbohydrates: 1 gram of carbohydrates provides 4 calories
Protein: 1 gram of protein provides 4 calories
Fat: 1 gram of fat provides 9 calories
So, really, when you hear someone tell you that they are counting macros, what they’re actually doing is controlling the amount of calories they’re eating from carbohydrates, protein, and fat.The percentage of calories from the macronutrients should be different for everyone. That’s because we all have different genes, body types, and goals. Maybe you want to gain muscle and lose body fat but your friend is training for a marathon. If that’s the case, your macros should look totally different – you might be prioritizing protein while your friend needs all the carbohydrates for long runs. This individualization is important because carbohydrates, protein, and fat each have different jobs in the body.
Carbohydrates are the brain’s favorite source of energy, the brain’s bestie you could say. So if we don’t eat enough carbs – bring on the fatigue, hunger, and irritability. There’s a reason you get hangry, your body is literally begging for carbs. Our muscles also need plenty of carbs so that they don’t fatigue during exercise, especially exercises that are either high intensity or long lasting. Hitting the wall too soon? You might not be eating enough carbs. A little known fact is that carbohydrates actually help protein do its own job of restoring our muscles after exercise. Protein repairs the tiny tears in muscles post-workout, but research shows that protein actually does the job better when carbohydrate is also eaten. Fat and protein both help our body stabilize how quickly it uses carbohydrates for energy, and because of that, eating fat and protein helps us to feel fuller, longer. That’s why you often see recommendations for combining carbohydrate-dense foods with either protein or fat containing foods. An example of this would be peanut butter with banana or cottage cheese with berries. Fats are also necessary for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D, and they provide lots of energy to our muscles during exercise.
Each macronutrient has its own role to play but what’s important is that they’re all necessary for you to meet your fitness goals. Creating balanced meals by including the correct amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates will help you stabilize your energy levels, feel fuller longer, and (the best part!) not feel like you’re never satisfied with what you’ve eaten. Because when we include all macronutrients, we aren’t restricting ourselves to foods we don’t enjoy and that’s when a diet truly becomes a pattern of sustainable eating and results.