WHAT IS A MACRONUTRIENT, AND SHOULD I CARE?
The whose, whats, whys, and hows of Macros.
I want to start with a disclaimer on this subject.
This post is going to talk about food intake and calories, specifically-MACROS or macronutrients-including what they are made up of, what it means to count them, weigh them, etc. This is meant to be educational and informational only, and I would like to think I do a good job of letting you all know that there are a million ways to skin a cat-although some ways get the job done a little better than others.
This is one of those.
By no means do you HAVE TO count your macronutrients, calories, etc., and this newsletter is not meant to be a trigger for unhealthy eating habits and behaviors.
I think it is important to understand how the things we put into our bodies, and the amounts of those things, affects our physical performance and help us achieve our goals. And I think it is equally as important to understand that different methods work for different people.
Please read on with the understanding that gaining, losing, cutting, bulking, etc., is not always the name of the game, but that it indeed might be for others or for yourself-and that is OKAY and GREAT.
Being strong, feeling good, and having a better understanding of your options under your belt is and always should be a priority.
What is a Macronutrient?
So we have all heard of nutrients. Nutrients are found in all foods-some with more density of these nutrients than others. Broccoli, organic eggs, kale,legumes-are all nutrient rich foods. Boxed cereals, candy, white bread, etc. contain little to no nutrients.
Nutrients are what the body needs for growth, energy, and all brain and body functions.
MACRONUTRIENTS are the most necessary of the nutrients-needed in larger amounts. Macronutrients are the ones we are most familiar with by name: Protein, carbs, and fats, and are found most prominently in any food label.
Each macronutrient has a function and serves our bodies differently.
Proteins supply energy, but their primary function is for recovery. Proteins are absorbed and broken down into amino acids for healing, developing, and growing muscle tissue. Supplying your body with enough protein will prevent it from turning to already existing muscle for the support that it needs, eating away at it, and stopping you from putting on any sort of muscle mass. A sufficient amount of protein will also leave you feeling more satiated for longer.
Our bodies use carbohydrates as its main energy supply. Once eaten, the body turns carbs into sugar called glucose. Carbs get a bad rap because when eaten in excess, or when not USED as an energy source, the glucose produced will get stored as fat. Carb intake is all about finding the balance. Carbs should never be avoided, due to the fact that you will lack crucial energy for bodily and brain function. However, if you eat too many carbs or don’t use the ones you have put into your body to some amount, the excess is stored.
Carbs are good. Repeat after me. Carbs are good. But just like anything else, excess should be avoided for a healthy diet.
Fat promotes growth and development of cellular health and helps regulate your body temperature. Many vitamins and minerals need fat for the body to even be able to absorb them and make them readily available for use. Fats are also necessary for hormone production. Directly related to hormone production, if consumption of healthy fats is off your metabolism will also suffer. A diet with a proper amount of healthy fats will keep you feeling fuller, longer.
Why would you pay attention to and calculate these things?
By counting and tracing your macros, you are automatically also counting your calories.
One might count their calories and macros for a couple reasons.
When it comes down to it-if you want to lose weight & fat you need to eat in a caloric deficit. And if you want to gain, either in strength, body weight, or muscle mass, you need to eat in surplus.
Caloric deficit means you are expending more energy (calories) than you consume. Surplus means you consume more than you expend.
This does not mean that your goal is to lose weight you need to burn 4000 calories during your workout in order to eat 2000. That would be miserable, evil, and torturous.
If you think back to your first Level 1 Ladies who Lift class, we discussed how things like muscle mass, and in some cases HIIT workouts can act as your bodies natural "caloric burner," even when your body is at rest.
How many calories you burn during your workout is only a small part of the picture. The energy you expend every day is also going to be determined by your unique age, height, weight, gender, activity level, muscle mass, sleep patterns, etc.
My point being a lot more goes into it than just the number you see on your fitbit.
There is a fancy formula I could share with you to see what your macros might be, but to save you from overcomplicating this-I will instead share with you this online calculator, and leave you to contact me directly if you want to explore this more.
This is a good beginning calculator-as it gives you options if you are trying to be in “maintenance”, “cutting", or “bulking.”
It also provides multiple ways to breakdown your macros, depending on if you like to eat fewer, or more carbs.
For me personally, I like to keep my carbs as high as possible. So I would choose that option!
How do I track?
If you decide tracking your macros is for you you will need a digital scale. I recommend using this over traditional cups, or measuring spoons. These can be inaccurate.
I use the app myplate to track my food-but there are plenty others if you don't enjoy this platform.
In any tracker it allows you to also count the amount of calories burned in your workout-and if you do so it will add those calories back into your "daily allowance." DO NOT do this.
Personally, I count green vegetables as "free food" and do not track them as carbs. You can eat all the broccoli in the world, and while you might get bloated, it won't cause weight gain.
So should you be counting?
I can't answer this for you. There are good things and bad things about counting your calories and macronutrients and I feel like I have experience them both. I will be totally honest in saying that my first experience doing so was an experiment gone bad. It made me obsessive and miserable. Years later (now) I have gone back to this method and experienced the exact opposite. I feel in control and like the guess work is taken out of if I am getting "too much" or "too little."
More educated about what you’re eating. You learn what true portion sizes look like, and can be smarter about your portion control both in your own home, and when you are out dining.
learning and adjusting as you build more muscle and your activity level rises-allowing you to eat more food, maintain the same weight, and gain more muscle.
Get you to your goals faster. Takes the guess work out of “if” you’re getting enough protein to build muscle, "if" you are eating too many or too few carbs & fats.
Flexibility in what you eat. Stop seeing food as "good" and "bad." Potential to be able to eat your favorite "Treats" without feeling like you fell off the wagon.
Has the potential to stop you from prioritizing nutrient rich foods. Just because you can fit a snickers bar into your macros every day doesn't mean you should. You can hit your calories and macros and still be eating junk.
Counting can be distracting and obsessive if you let it be.
Requires weighing your food-takes a little work
It is a sad moment when you learn what a true serving of peanut butter looks like.
Remember-this is just one way of reaching your goals. You may hate it, you may love it, but there is no denying that if taken in stride it can be a valuable way to pay attention to what you consume and possibly help you reach your goals much faster.