You just started working out to lose weight, but then you realize that in order to shed those pounds you actually need to focus on nutrition i.e. what you eat. So then you start Googling or following people on Instagram and you come across this term “macros.” What are macros and should you be counting them? Here’s our take:
WHAT ARE MACROS
“Macros” is short for Macronutrients. Carbohydrates, Fats, and Proteins are all macronutrients. Alcohol is actually another macronutrient, but we’re going to focus on the first three since we’re talking about health and wellness 😉
When people talk about “carbs” they are usually referring to bread and pasta, but technically carbohydrates are also vegetables and fruits. In simple terms, carbohydrates are broken down to sugars used by your muscles and also your brain. One gram of carbohydrate provides 4 calories.
Fats have gotten a bad rap over the last 40 or so years. It was thought that fat made you fat and also clogged your arteries. We know this is not true, but public conventional wisdom is still catching up. Fat is needed for joints, healthy brain function, hormones, and much much more. Examples of fat can include things like animal fat, but also nuts and seeds, eggs, and oils. One gram of fat provides 9 calories.
Proteins are the building blocks (amino acids) for many systems and processes in the body. Primary examples of protein are meat and fish, but those on a vegetarian or vegan diet can also combine different lentils, beans, and rice for all essential amino acids. One gram of protein provides 4 calories.
SHOULD YOU COUNT MACROS?
Counting macros means weighing and measuring your food and keeping track to know how many proteins, fats, carbs, and total calories you’re consuming in a day, week, month, etc.
In general, counting macros a great way to become aware of what your diet is like (maybe you’re actually eating way more carbs and fat than you thought!) and it’s also great for the person looking for more flexibility than a strict Paleo diet that primarily focuses on quality rather than quantity.
Counting macros is not recommended for those who have had a history of eating disorders or compulsive behavior. If you’re the type to be worried about eating an extra almond or two, then this isn’t for you! It’s also not for people who tend to travel a lot or would be inconvenienced by weighing and measuring at least for a week or two.
The goal of counting macros is to become more aware about what you’re putting in your body. Once you become aware of the relationship of quality and quantity, then the hope is that you move to a more intuitive way of eating which focuses on quality.
When people start nutrition coaching with us, we usually recommend macro ratios that are 40% carb, 30% protein, and 30% fat and then adjust from there. Of course this depends person to person and why working with someone 1:1 is recommended especially if you have any unique challenges or conditions.
Later, I’ll go over each macronutrient in detail so you can understand how food affects your body and performance.