What are Macros?
Most people have a good grasp of what calories are. Calories are a measure of the energy contained in food. In the simplest terms we need calories to run our bodies and if we take in more than what we need to run our body we put on weight and if we eat less than what we need we lose weight. How much we need is dependent on metabolism, how much we weigh, our body composition (fat to muscle ratio) and other factors like genetics. Macronutrients or ‘Macros’ further categorise where we get the energy from in our food. The three most important macros are protein, carbohydrates and fat. Below is a breakdown of how much energy is released per gram of each macro consumed.
Fat: 9 kcal per gram
Carbohydrates: 4 kcal per gram
Protein: 4 kcal per gram
Why Track Macros as Opposed to Calories?
Tracking your calories is great way to ensure you’re eating enough to either maintain your current weight, put on muscle, or lose body fat. However, tracking your macros and therefore your calories is a better method to ensure your body is getting what it needs from what you’re eating in line with your goals.
For example, tracking 2,000 kcals for a 10 stone (63kg/ 140lbs) female could be 25g of protein, 250g of carbohydrate and 100g of fat daily if we were looking at calories alone and this isn’t a healthy ratio of macronutrients as the fat is way too high and the protein too low even though the caloric intake is sufficient. A better ratio for this person in would be closer to 225g of carbohydrate, 140g of protein and 60g of fat. This ratio has the same calories as the previous one, but the macronutrients are very different and would produce a more balanced food intake.
Having a sufficient protein intake is very important. During a fat loss period adequate protein consumption will reduce the amount of muscle lost as you drop body fat. Protein will also help in managing your appetite and reducing cravings. Protein is also needed to help your body recover from training sessions and of course if your recovery is better then you can train harder and more frequently, allowing you to achieve your goals at a faster rate.
Managing your fat consumption is also beneficial. Fat is satiating so having a moderate amount aids with appetite management, and consuming fat doesn’t make you fat. In fact, fat helps many insoluble molecules such Vitamin A, D, E, K get absorbed by our body. Omega 3 and 6 are two important fats that we can only obtain through dietary sources like flax seeds and salmon, and these are vital for your heart, eyes, brain and growth and development.
Carbs! Carbohydrates are the bodies main source of energy in exercise; your body can use the other two macronutrients as an energy source for lifting and high intensity work; but not as efficiently. Complex carbs like wholegrain food sources and vegetables are slow digesting, so having enough of these in your body can help with giving you enough energy throughout the day and keeping your appetite at bay. More refined carbs like white bread and pasta, deserts and confectionary digest a lot faster, and have a more immediate impact on your blood sugar. These are good before you train if strength or muscle gain is the goal as they will fuel a training session and even a bag of sweets during will help prevent your blood sugar levels dipping and can help to keep you going for the duration of your training session and hit all your reps. For fat loss, an extended period before the session of around 2 hours without sugary carbs is best. After your training session carbs are good to replenish any stored carbs (glycogen) your body may have lost and also involved in activating proteins which act like messengers and are involved in the build of new muscle.
Having the right balance of macronutrients can lead to better adherence as they all have different roles and managing them can help you feel better while striving towards your goals.
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