If you’re even remotely immersed in fitness, you’ve heard this curious little word repeated obsessively by the huge dudes in the gym.
You’ve also probably heard that “if it fits your macros” you can eat foods that hit your numbers and meet your fitness goals.
This is partially true....
But what are macros?
Some of you are probably already well aware and wondering why you’re here, but for the gym brand-newbies that might be reading this (and I hope you are!) I’m going to break it down for you.
Knowing what macros are is the first crucial step in mastering your food intake to get the body and health that you want. It’s the most basic component of fitness and sports nutrition.
In food, there are two types of nutrients: macronutrients and micronutrients. Micronutrients are your vitamins and minerals like Vitamin D, Calcium, Biotin, etc.
You absolutely need both of them to stay alive and healthy. And some specific micronutrients you may need more of if you want an extra edge in your fitness and performance goals.
BUT! You need these in much smaller amounts than macronutrients. Hence the “micro.”
The difference is, micronutrients do not have calories. Those come from your good ol’ macros: carbs, protein and fat.
Let's get started.
The name alone strikes fear into the hearts of fad-dieters everywhere.
But carbs are probably the most important macronutrient for our everyday body functions. Why? Carbs provide glucose which is not only our body’s fuel source for energy, but is the brain’s preferred fuel source.
This is why when people start low-carb diets, they experience brain fog and fatigue.
Carbohydrates contain 4 calories for every one gram. They also go through the digestive tract very quickly, depending on the source, so they can be easy to overeat.
Except if the carb is high fiber. Fiber is also technically a carbohydrate, but does not have calories and digests slowly.
You ready for this?
Fruits and vegetables are carbs too.
High-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains are recommended for weight loss.
You can only find carbohydrates in plant sources which is why many athletes experience a nice little surge in performance when they switch over to eating more plants.
For those who follow me on Instagram, you know Protein Queen is a name I’ve well earned.
That’s because I appreciate the truly massive importance protein does for the human body...in all of its processes. Because it does much more than just help you get swole.
Protein also plays an important role in a successful cutting season, general weight loss, recovering from injury and illness, creating hormones and antibodies for our immune system and so much more.
I COULDN’T WRITE IN ONE ARTICLE HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO GET ENOUGH PROTEIN.
Functions aside, when it comes to food, protein contributes about 4 calories per gram. It also has a chemical structure that I like to compare to old school iPhone headphones.
Out of all of the macronutrients, protein keeps you feeling fuller and more satisfied for longer. That’s because their headphone-like structure takes the stomach a long time to untangle before they can be digested.
Anyone who has ever had to untangle iPhone headphones knows (painfully) exactly what I’m talking about.
The longer food hangs out in the stomach, the longer you go without the sensation to eat again. This is why I always recommend including protein in every meal and snack to prevent overeating. This is particularly important during a cut.
You can find protein in both animal and plant foods including meat, fish, dairy, eggs, beans, tofu and grains like bread, rice and quinoa.
When it comes to fitness and sports nutrition, fat is the macro that’s the least talked about.
Or at least it should be...I’m talking to you, keto!
But that doesn’t mean that it’s any less important to strength, muscle building and health.
You see, when you eat too much fat, you displace protein and carbs in your diet. This means you’ll get less of key nutrients such as B vitamins, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. High-fat diets also cause dehydration and muscle cramps which is just bad news for people who exercise often.
Here’s something to perk your ears, though. When you don’t eat enough fat, your hormones suffer. And when I say hormones, I mean the big ones: estrogen and testosterone.
This is because fat plays a role in regulating these hormones. When people don’t eat enough, you see a drop in testosterone (which means less gains) and a drop in estrogen.
For the ladies, this estrogen drop can cause missed periods which is disastrous for your bone health and overall health in general.
Fat does contain 9 calories per gram which is more than twice the number of calories per gram than carbs and protein. This is why some people are so afraid of it.
BUT. If you are having fats from healthy sources and in moderation from less-than-healthy sources, you should be a-okay as long as you watch your portions.
The bottom line?
You should care about macros because you can’t live without them! We need them for energy to survive and many other body functions.
And when eaten in the correct amounts at the correct times, they can do wonders for your athletic performance and completely change your physique. But that's another article.
If you want to learn how to calculate your own macros plus much more education to meet your goals, check out my program The Athlete's Method.