Short for macronutrients, these are the building blocks of calories. Every calorie that you eat is not created equal. Each calorie belongs to a type of macronutrient (macro). Each of these macros are used for a different purpose in your body, therefore, knowing how and when to use each one is of vital importance for getting into shape.
What are they?
Every calorie you consume will fall into one of the following fundamental macronutrient categories. These are:
Interestingly enough, if you look at how many calories are in each gram of a macro, things will start to make a little more sense. For instance;
- 1 gram fat = 9 calories
- 1 gram Carbohydrates = 4 calories
- 1 gram Protein = 4 grams
How do they work?
You are made up of proteins, and they are used in your body to repair damaged tissue. Protein is found in fish, meat, beans etc. It is used to rebuild the muscles after they are damaged through exercise. Out of all the macronutrients that you will to keep an eye on in your fitness journey, protein is unarguably the most important.
Carbs are found in foods such as pasta, potatoes, rice, bread, grains. Basically in all the stuff that people eat almost all the time. Carbs are burnt for fuel in your body. If you are taking in more carbs that your body needs for energy, they get stored in your body as fat. However, don’t be a carb-o-phobe. If used correctly, they are a powerful tool in your arsenal.
Not to be confused with the fat found on our bodies, this is found in oils, nuts, diary etc. This is also a vital ingredient for the functioning of your body. Having a good amount of fat in your diet can ensure that the production of hormones in your body is regulated properly. Don’t fall for the lie of “low fat” products being healthy. Generally they aren’t.
How can you use them?
It is important to start being a little scientific about what you eat. You have (for instance) 2000 calories in a day that you have to eat to maintain your weight. The next question you should ask yourself, what should these calories be divided up into? Should they be 30% protein, 40% carbs 30% fats? The truth is that at different times different percentages will be useful. That is why it is important to start experimenting now, so you can understand how your body works, and how it responds to various percentages. However, let’s go through some general rules that will serve you well.
Most of the population eat too many carbs and not enough protein. The exact opposite of what is best for getting into shape. In fact, just getting your macros in better order can lead to you looking better already.
If you are following a heavy weightlifting routine (which we will come on to later) you should be aiming to eat around 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. It seems like a lot, but if you are looking to create a big change on your body, it helps enormously.
The rest of your macros can then just fit in to how many calories you have left in the day. However, try to strike a balance. On days where you are exercising, eat more carbs, and on days where you are resting, lower the carbs and increase the fats. Carbs are better used around periods of hard exercise, so prioritise them above fats around exercise.
As you progress, you will find that different percentages of your fats and carbs will suit you better. These percentages are not set in stone, and require you to feel what is happening in your body, and to track it diligently. Learning how to do this on a daily basis is a hugely important skill for you moving forward.
So to summarize:
- All Macros are important. Protein is importanter.
- Split up your daily calories into macros. Adjust as you learn
- Rule of thumb. Eat 1 gram of protein per lb of bodyweight, then worry about the rest of your macros.
- More carbs on day when you train, fewer on your rest days.