What Are Macros and Why Are They Important?
What are macros
‘Macros’ is short for ‘Macronutrients’, and they are the nutrients that you need to consume in large quantities in order to survive. They consist of protein, carbohydrates, and fat (you may have heard of them before!).
Now, we could end this article right there and leave things as they are, but this would neglect a lot of important information that could be the tipping point to you reaching your goals.
And we all love reaching our goals, don’t we?
Fat loss, muscle gain, immune function, hormonal regulation, digestion, blood circulation, and staying alive in general are only possible with macros.
However, the word ‘macros’ itself is commonly thrown around the realm of health and wellness like a barbell in a Crossfit gym, despite a lot of people not really understanding their true importance.
In this short article, not only will we provide a solid framework of macronutrients and what they do, but also describe how you can use them as your tools in crafting that healthy, fit, carved-out-of-marble body that you deserve.
As mentioned, the three macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
What is Protein?
Structured by the chemical building blocks called amino acids, protein actively repairs and constructs tissues within the body (which includes new muscle growth). Protein is also responsible for regular hormonal and immune function as well as more external benefits such as healthy hair and skin.
A diet containing adequate amounts of protein has also been shown to aid fat loss.
Do you need to consume protein?
Yes. Without protein, you can expect a decrease in muscle tissue, a weakening immune system, a slowing metabolism, and a sad sad existence altogether.
You literally cannot live without it.
What are Carbohydrates?
Built-up of sugar molecules, carbohydrates (or ‘carbs’ if you’re one of the cool kids) are the preferred source of energy for the body. Consider them your optimum fuel for activity.
They are rapidly broken down into glucose and pumped through your blood to create bursts of energy. However, if not used immediately, they chill in ‘the waiting room’ of your muscle tissue and liver for the right moment to ‘burst upon the scene’ and provide you with the energy you need.
They’re amazing and taste like heaven.
Do you need to consume carbohydrates?
No. With the absence of dietary carbs, energy is instead produced internally from protein and fat through processes called gluconeogenesis and ketosis. However, carbs often come with a multitude of other nutritional benefits and are certainly not the enemy.
You can live without them, but why would you want to?
What is Fat?
Made up of an ester of compounds called fatty acids, fat is a trusted source of long-lasting energy for the body. Additionally, critical bodily functions such as nutrient absorption, hormone production, and body temperature maintenance are only possible with the presence of dietary fat.
Fat does not make you fat. In fact, a diet rich in healthy fats has been shown to extend longevity and prevent all kinds of nasty illnesses.
Do you need to consume fat?
Yes. Without fat, you’ll definitely suffer from vitamin deficiency, reduced fatigue, and ultimately, heart complications; as well as an array of other dreadful issues that we feel unnecessary to list here (it would be a very long list).
You cannot live without fat, just like we cannot live without avocados.
What are the benefits of counting macros
Now that you have a basic, yet sufficient understanding of the macronutrients and their primary roles in your body, how can counting them benefit you, your fitness performance, and ultimately, your overall goals?
We know that carbohydrates are the body’s preferred choice of fuel, so by ensuring enough healthy carb sources are being consumed, you can prevent potentially sluggish and low-energy workouts. This will increase your overall calorie burn, as well as your training performance in general.
That famous afternoon slump can also be avoided by ensuring that lunch contains a well-rounded mix of energy-boosting carbs. That vicious slump has been linked to unwanted weight gain, so best to do everything in your power to avoid it!
Protein, although being the best macro for muscle gain, is also the most filling of the three macronutrients. A meal higher in protein will make sure you feel fuller for longer.
Rid the urge for that unnecessary snack in a moment of ‘hanger’ by keeping your meals complete with a higher protein option.
Body composition is also greatly affected by macro tracking. By simply having more muscle mass, you’ll require more calories to maintain that muscle mass.
Take a look at two similarly-aged adults who show the exact same number on a weighing scale; the one with a more muscular body composition will certainly require more calories to maintain a healthy weight than the one with more body fat.
To simplify, we’ve included the three equations below to highlight the massive importance of hitting your macros.
Progressive Carb-Fueled Resistance Workouts + An Adequate Amount of Protein = Increased Overall Muscle Mass
Increased Overall Muscle Mass = More Calories Required to Maintain Body Weight
More Calories Required to Maintain Body Weight = A More Liberal Dieting Lifestyle (which includes extra occasional cheeky treats)
Macros vs Calories
Well, when it comes to purely weight loss or weight gain, of course, calorie counting and tracking should sit right at the top of your priority list.
The rule is very simple:
-If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight
-If you consume less calories than you burn, you will lose weight
However, macro counting and tracking should never fall far behind. As previously discussed, improved body composition relies heavily on macro counting.
Further benefits of macro counting also include an improved overall diet quality, prevention of various health conditions, better mental health, and more restful sleep.
Macronutrients vs Micronutrients
We’ve now covered macronutrients and their value when it comes to your health and fitness-related goals, but we simply cannot fail to leave out something very small, yet very crucial to survival.
Can you guess what they are?
If macronutrients are the nutrients that you need to consume in large quantities in order to survive, you’ve guessed it!
Micronutrients (micros) are the nutrients that you need to consume in small quantities in order to survive.
These include all essential vitamins and minerals that you need in order to ‘keep on keeping on’. Vitamin C, potassium, thiamin, and sodium are just a handful of the plethora of micros out needed on a daily basis.
Your macro targets can be reached by consuming purely unhealthy foods, your micro targets cannot. This highlights the importance of choosing higher-quality, healthier foods to reach your macronutrient targets.
You’ll hit both your macro and micro targets at once.
Two birds with one avocado stone*
*Please do not try to eat the avocado stone…
What should my macros be
This can be a little confusing, especially with the current waves of new and experimental diets flooding the feeds of our social media platforms.
But, like with most things, it’s best to stick with what the scientifically accredited professionals say.
Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR)
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that of your caloric intake, 45 – 65% comes from carbohydrates, 20 – 35% comes from fats, and 10 – 35% comes from protein.
These percentages are based on a daily caloric intake. Therefore, if your calorie requirements are 2000kcal per day, the recommended macronutrients, according to the IOM, are:
Protein: 50-175 grams
Carbohydrates: 225-325 grams
Fats: 44-78 grams
For the vast majority of people, aiming to stick with this rough range will ensure a lifestyle that is more than good enough for both general health and aesthetics.
Fat loss and muscle gain
If you’re aiming for more specific health-related goals, such as improving your overall body composition, it may be more useful to set your protein target gram range based on your body weight rather than a percentage of your total daily caloric intake.
Recommended optimal ranges tend to fall between 1.6 and 2 grams of protein per 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of body weight.
68 kgs (150 lbs) x 1.6 – 2 = A daily target protein range of 109 – 136 grams
However, it’s important to keep in mind that you can still make excellent progress on a lower amount of protein. The above recommendation is merely a guideline that doesn’t take into account your body fat percentage.
Nor does it factor in what you actually enjoy eating.
Many people are able to comfortably attain their higher-protein targets by drinking protein shakes. Though, they’re not for everyone!
What’s most important is to establish a sustainable, consistent protein intake that helps you in reaching your goals.
Macronutrients, although excellent for fat loss and muscle gain, are just part of the solution.
It’s important to remember that if you intend to lose weight and body fat, you must prioritize reducing your overall calorie intake to ensure you reach a calorie deficit.
If you wish to gain muscle, you must challenge your body with regular, progressive muscle-building exercises.
Example macronutrient targets
For a quick reference point on your daily macronutrient split, take a look at the following table below:
The following table provides macronutrients that fit within the macronutrient distribution range recommended by the IOM.
|Calorie Target||Protein (grams)||Carbs (grams)||Fat (grams)|
The above examples are based on a macronutrient split consisting of 25% Protein, 50% Carbohydrates, and 25% Fat.
Please remember that this is just a guideline and you shouldn’t worry about hitting your macros to the exact gram.
Calculate your macros and calories
If you’d like to calculate your own specific macronutrient distribution, taking into account your body fat percentage, activity level, goals, height, weight, age, and other personal statistics, head over to this awesome free Macro Calculator (released shortly).
The first steps to reaching your fitness goals are only a few clicks away!
I already know my macros, what should I eat?
Once you have an understanding of your macronutrient distribution, the fun can really start.
It’s time to fuel your body.
Our meal planner is loaded with thousands of delicious recipes that will help you reach your daily macronutrient targets, and ultimately, your long-term fitness goals.
Our meals are predominantly based on the Mediterranean diet, loaded with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats ensuring you also cover your daily micronutrient targets too.
How do you count macros
If you’d prefer to track your own macros and calories without the help of a personal meal planner, it really couldn’t be much simpler!
There is a whole realm of calorie and macro-tracking websites and apps available for you to begin inputting details. The free app version of MyFitnessPal has a vast ingredient database – along with a handy barcode scanner, which can make food and beverage tracking much easier.
My Diet Meal Plan is also a great tool for macro and calorie tracking – containing plenty of healthy recipes to choose from too!
Tracking macros in food
Alternatively, you may feel the need to track your own macros and calories without the aid of a website or app. Or, you may just be curious about the general nutrition of a particular product.
Dive into our Macros in Food database.
Search through thousands of individual ingredients for the details you need to either fully understand a consumable, or log it into your own tracking method.
Remember, should you feel the need to have your calories and macros calculated, totaled automatically, and built into your own personalized meal plan, complete with swappable recipes, grocery lists, workout routines, and plans, progress tracking and one-to-one contact with a personal coach, our Meal Planner is where to go!
Lastly, before we sign off and send you out into the glorious, proactive world of macro tracking; check out some final, quick information on macronutrients below!
Calories in macros
When tracking calories and macronutrients, you’re going to want to know the calorie breakdown of each macronutrient:
- Every gram of protein contains roughly 4 calories (kcal)
- Every gram of carbohydrate contains roughly 4 calories (kcal)
- Every gram of fat contains roughly 9 calories (kcal)
Where are macronutrients located on a nutrition label
When browsing the aisles of your local supermarket, you’ll notice that you have the eyes of macronutrients on you from left, right, and center.
Next time you pick up a food or drink item, take a quick look at the nutrition label. Below the Total Calories, you’ll see the macronutrient breakdown of the product as clear as day, generally written as follows:
Total Fat – g
Total Carbohydrate – g
Protein – g
The label may even include a small breakdown of the types of fats (saturated and unsaturated) and carbohydrates (fiber and sugar) contained within that particular product.
More about macronutrients
Is alcohol a macronutrient?
Have you ever heard of alcohol?
Is it Friday yet?
Technically, alcohol is a macronutrient as it provides your body with calories (roughly 7 calories for every gram of alcohol), however, it is not an essential nutrient and is therefore rarely included in general healthy meal or diet plans.
That being said, we feel the need to mention that alcohol, in moderation, can be included in a healthy meal plan, which is why we’ve included the ability to take it into account when generating your own personalized meal plan.
Is water a macronutrient?
In the sense that your body requires large quantities of this to survive, yes, water is a macronutrient. However, unlike the other macronutrients, it does not yield energy in the form of calories.