What Are Macros?
This is a common question with a simple answer that not everyone “gets”. IIFYM has been a phenomenon for ages however, until recently, it was typically only bodybuilders making the most of their macros. I wrote this post to help the beginner derive an understanding of what macros are, which should make choosing the right foods for your body a whole lot easier.
There are four macro nutrients.
Here they are in the same order you will find them on all packaged food nutrition labels.
These 4 macros are the sole origin of calories.
A calorie is a measurement for a unit of energy. That is the simple way to put it. Calories are not something you can touch or see or feel. In order to measure a calorie you literally have to burn it or set it on fire in a lab. As they relate to macro nutrients, calories from the four above each have a specific value. Carbs and Protein each have 4 calories per gram, Fat has 9 calories per gram and Alcohol has 7 calories per gram. These numbers are what we pay attention to when calculating macros.
What is the argument for counting macros versus calories?
Calories dictate fat loss or gain. If you eat too many calories you store they are stored as fat at the body will use them later on to burn as fuel. Weight loss measurement = calories. Fat loss, hormone balance, muscle preservation = macros.
Focusing on macros as opposed to calories ensures that we can put a target on what the body needs to preserve muscle, burn fat, recover, maintain a healthy metabolism etc…calories can come from anything, say, bread for instance. So, 1200 calories from bread are entirely devoid of actual nutrients. This means that your body is not running optimally and you cannot manipulate it’s response to burning fat and storing muscle. This could add up to “skinny fat” syndrome aka “the kids who look thin but not so hot naked”. Conversely, a macro nutrient ratio of 150g Protein, 100g Carbs and 45g Fats will limit the speed at which we burn fat far less.
Finding out your macro target is my job, or you can choose to go it alone. You can find places online to help you out in this and they are generally free. If you’re looking for a bit more precision with items like carb cycling, refeeds, cardio & weight training etc…that will compliment your macros. Find a coach who’s good with this style of nutrition and get help.
In the grand scheme of things, a food scale is the way to go in terms of accuracy. If you measure out a TBSP of nut butter with a regular spoon you can be far too generous with yourself. This could only be a few negligible calories however, over the span of a day, it could add up to a lot with all your other less accurate measurements. Over time, this will take away from your efforts. Accuracy is key. Intuitive eating can be great for some however, my intuition says “eat all the pizza all day”…..not what’s going to get me stage or beach ready.
There is no room for error with a digital scale and they are as cheap as $20 online. Invest in yourself and your goals and avoid “food failure”.
Staying on track
In order to maintain your goals you need to record your nutrition. Yes, it’s a lot of work at first however, once you become a pro you might actually be able to eyeball what 3 oz of tofu looks like. Programs like MyfitnessPal and Chronometer have free options and will help immensely. I recommend them to all my clients. If you’re recording 100% of the time you should have a high success rate. Less commitment, less success.
Water is key to our survival and is key to keeping our systems running well. I cannot stress enough how important taking in the right amount of water is. Women should strive for 3 litres of water per day, Men 4. Thirst can feel like hunger and this is an area where a lot of people will choose to get snacky instead of slamming a glass of H20. Choose wisely.
You have to know that after a period of eating a certain way you will no longer benefit from the effects of the diet that you so loved. Totally normal. If a plateau has been reached, track your macros for another week and see if you haven’t had some water retention or stress create a bump in the road. If you have in fact reached your maintenance calorie level, you will need to weigh in and readjust. Should progress still not move along, you need to consider if you’re putting in the work 100% or not or that your metabolism might need a reboot. I prefer to leave this tinkering to my coach!
Getting past the basics and moving on.
Now that you’ve got a grasp on macros you only need to remember a few things:
1 – Meal prep like a boss
2 – Eat out healthfully
3 – Move your body every day
4 – Sleep more
5 – Stress less
6 – Download my free macro cheat sheet HERE
The rest of these items will hinder your goals if you let them. If you have more questions or want your own customized plan, contact me.
To your health!