Macros. What they are & how to use them.
Eating is one of the biggest dysfunctions in western society. Most of the time life seems to be a struggle of the waistline. The reasons are fairly simple. We are not educated about food, and food companies fill the things we buy with so much garbage it is staggering.
It makes sense from the food companies’ perspective, as they are concerned primarily with monetary profit, not our health and love handles. However, there are several movements to changes these, the recent sugar tax, the organic movement worldwide, these are heightening people’s awareness to what we put in our mouths. As Fitness Guru Elliot Hulse says about food: “What you eat becomes you…becomes the cells that make up your body”.
Fear not if you are clueless about nutrition, your education begins today. And for the purposes of this article, we will be talking about nutrition for your physique. Your overall health and wellbeing will be affected also by these principles, but the first step is to get educated about the basics!
What are they?
‘Macros’ is short for MacroNutrient. The dictionary definitions is: “a type of food (e.g. fat, protein, carbohydrate) required in large amounts in the diet.” So essentially, these are the general food groups that you need to eat in your diet. They consist of
It really is that simple. There are also the unsung heroes of nutrition, these are the ‘micronutrients’ and we can define these as something you need trace amounts of to be healthy. Vitamins, minerals etc, more on these later. To get a handle on how these work, look on the back of food labels in stores. They will give you the breakdown of the macro and micronutrients contained in the food. It is a great habit to develop, as often we can have no idea what is going into our bodies. To shape your body to what you desire, or to make sure your insides are healthy, being mindful of your macros is important.
Should you track them?
Tracking Macros is an important step in your health and fitness journey. To make a log of the foods you normally eat, and to work out the macros will often leave you with a shock. Another important point to make is the needs that your body has when you have an active lifestyle. If you are looking build muscle (everybody is) then your needs for protein increase. Protein synthesis is the process by which the body uses ingested protein to repair the damage caused to your muscles. This is a very important process in your physique goals.
Also it is generally recommended that you keep fat levels a little lower, there is some research out there that suggests a high fat diet, if maintained for a long period can have damaging health effects. So in short, yes track your macros, it will give you some needed clarity on your diet.
How to Track Them & How do You Calculate Macros?
So you are committed to eating healthily, and you’d like to know how to use all this macro wisdom you have been gifted to calculate macros. So how do we do this?
What about the C word? Calories. This is the word thrown around by everyone as a magic fix word. It isn’t. And to focus entirely on your calories is not a smart idea. You could only eat 1500 calories per day that consisted entirely of Oreo cookies. This is obviously a disaster as you would be horribly malnourishing yourself. So it is clear that calories alone to not hold the key to a great physique alone. In one day, you are going to need a certain amount of calories. So they way to split these calories up, is between your macros. Depending on your goals, you can use a different percentage of the macros for the day. Bear this in mind:
- 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
Use the website below here: http://macronutrientcalculator.com/ this will let you adjust your macros, and fulfil that calorie goal you are trying to hit. A very useful tool that is always being referenced on this site is MyFitnessPal. You can log your calories and macros, pre-set goals, and scan barcodes to add in everything you are eating.
What about Micros?
In all this, we haven’t truly mentioned micronutrients. And as mentioned, these guys are the unsung heroes of your dieting. The focus is always on macros because these make up the bulk of your diet, and they make sense to our brains. With micronutrients, it is harder for us to quantify individually, so they can be relegated to the background. However, we need to be careful that we keep the know the importance of these!
To be deficient in your micronutrients can cause you a world of problems. Your metabolism, bone density, heart rate, brain functionality, and many other things can be affected. Malnutrition statistics across the globe prove this unequivocally.
How can you make sure you get your nutrients?
Don’t go into a panic and buy thousands of dollars’ worth of supplement pills from your local health store. There are two easier ways:
- Eat vegetables with every meal
- Eat whole foods
Vegetables are filled with micronutrients, and having them every meal will mean that you are getting your share. Be diverse also, try different colours of veg to get a spectrum of nutrients, it will also avoid broccoli burnout (a term we have just invented to describe the effects of only eating broccoli).
Whole foods and generally non processed foods will have naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. Oats, Rice, healthy cuts of meat, beans, lentils, all of these are whole foods, and are packed with micronutrients to ensure you are nourished. To sum up. Track your macros, track your calories, and eat veg and wholefoods over any other processed garbage you are tempted to partake of.