The term “macros” has become in vogue in the fitness and nutrition world over the last five years. “Macros” stands for “macronutrients,” and they represent the three primary components of food that provide calories, or energy. The three main macronutrients people track are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. The important thing when counting your macros is understanding that the ratio of the three categories in your food consumption will have a comprehensive effect on your body composition. Here’s how each one of them functions:
Protein: You may have heard the term “the building blocks of life” — these blocks are literally the amino acids that form to make proteins. This macro is the most influential in building muscle, but is also critical for many other things like brain function. As a minimum, you should obtain 0.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight each day (lb/bw/d). If you’re moderately active, a good rule of thumb is 1.0 to 1.5 grams per lb/bw/d. If you work out intensely, perform physical labour and then work out, or are looking to gain substantial muscle, you can go as high as 2.0 grams per lb/bw/d. There are four calories in one gram of protein.
Carbohydrates: The macro most responsible for providing you with energy. Carbs are a very good thing for muscle-building, performance, and strength, but they are generally lowered or manipulated if you’re looking to lose weight and/or fat. You want to have somewhere in the range of 40 to 65 per cent of your daily calories from carbs — the high end of the range if you’re adding to your size; the low end if you’re decreasing your size. There are four calories in one gram of carbohydrates.
Fats: This is a “big” one. Lately, fat has been regarded as evil, which is unfair because it has such a large role to play in the healthy functioning of our bodies. We’ve known for years that it’s actually sugar, not fat (or rather, not just fat), that makes you fat, but unfortunately people still think it’s better to eat 0% fat yogurt with hundreds of calories of sugary jam crammed inside, rather than a 2%-5% fat naturally flavored yogurt (FYI, the vitamins in milk products are in the fat). The fact is that fat is a very necessary macronutrient, which provides energy, as well as fat-soluble vitamins, to help your body function optimally.
We use fat to build hormones (like testosterone), and regulate our inflammatory response system (through the omega 3,6,9, and 12 fatty acids). Also, for the record, cholesterol is so vital to the human health that we have the capacity to make it ourselves, probably because it makes up 50% of almost every human cell in our bodies, so try not to be too hard on it. Ultimately, too much of anything is never good, so by keeping a variety of saturated fats (animal fats, coconut oil, etc.) and unsaturated fats (vegetable oils, seed and nut oils, etc.), and by cutting out the trans fats altogether, you can reap the rewards of a well-rounded diet. Look to have about 25-30 percent of your calories from fats if you’re in a deliberate homeostasis (maintaining your current weight), but reduce down to 10-15 per cent of all your energy if you’re tapering down or leaning out. There are nine calories to one gram of fat.