What Are Macros?

Macros is a term you hear bandied around on the internet, in gyms, on nutrition forums and websites but What Are Macros?

If you are unsure what macros are or where they fit into body recomposition, then this article will demystify it for you.

what are macros

Whilst Energy Balance is king (Calories in versus Calories Out) and dictates whether your body will lose, maintain or gain weight, the make up of those calories is also very important.

But before we get into that, let's cover what Macros or Macronutrients to give them their full name are.


​What Are Macros

The term Macronutrient is used to describe the nutritional components of the diet that are required in large quantities.

Conversely, Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that are required in small quantities.

There are  3 Categories Of Macronutrients:

  • ​Protein
  • Fats
  • Carbohydrates
  • And whilst not strictly a Macro, we'll also consider where alcohol fits in.

Typically, the meals that we eat, contain a combination of each of the different types of macros.

Let's look at each category of macronutrient in turn.


What Are Macros - Protein

high protein food sources

Protein, ​which interestingly, comes from the Greek word "proteos" meaning "of primary importance" is the most important macronutrient.

Protein is essential to the body and is needed for almost every function that the body performs.

Whilst there are trace amounts of protein in almost all foods, to get a good serving of protein, you should look to high quality sources such as:

What Are Macros - Protein

Tip: 1g of protein equals 4 calories.


What Are Macros - Fats

Healthy FATS lesson

Fats are a very important component of a healthy diet. Unfortunately, too many people avoid them for fear of gaining body fat. This hasn't been helped by the poor advice from Food Agencies to go low fat in order to lose weight. 

Fat is necessary for normal hormonal functions, cellular repair and overall good health.

Going too low in fat will have an impact to hormone production and can have consequences to the healthy functioning of your body.

However, as with any of the macronutrients, consuming too much can lead to a positive Energy Balance and therefore weight gain. You need to be especially mindful of your fat intake as it's the most calorically dense of the macronutrients. There is very little work required by the body to store dietary fat as body fat.

Energy Balance is key

Eating less calories than your body needs on a daily basis creates a calorie deficit.

A calorie deficit is what forces weight loss.

Fats are slightly more complicated than the other 2 Macros as they are split into 3 different categories:

  • Polyunsaturated
  • Monounsaturated and
  • Saturated.

Ideally, you should look to incorporate a mixture of each type of fat in your diet rather than just favouring one.

You can obtain healthy fats from sources such as:

  • Red meat
  • Oily fish
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Full fat dairy
  • Avocados and
  • Oils.

Man made fats such as Trans Fats should be avoided due to their negative health implications.

What Are Macros - Fats

Tip: 1g of dietary fat equals 9 calories.


What Are Macros - Carbohydrates

compex-carbs-sweet-potatoes

Carbohydrates are found in both simple and complex forms:

  • Complex being from starch (such as potato or grains)
  • Simple being from sugars (such as fructose in fruit).

All forms of carbohydrates are metabolised into glucose or if fibre, then they are left undigested. Adequate fibre intake is important to ensure good digestive health. 

Carbohydrates are stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. Glycogen is the primary energy source used by the brain and is also utilised for highly intensive sports such as weight training, sprinting etc.

Carbohydrates are a useful energy source for performance exercises due to being easily metabolised by the body. However, it's worth pointing out that they aren't essential and the body can and does run on fat for energy as well. 

Carbs are the macronutrient that causes the biggest impact to insulin levels in the bloodstream. This makes them ideal for refuelling after intensive exercise.

Your body composition and tolerance of carbohydrates will dictate whether you would be best to choose natural, unprocessed complex carb sources or simple (higher sugar) carbs.

If your goal is fat loss, then it's advisable to focus on getting your carbs from sources such as vegetables and low calorie fruits.

What Are Macros - Carbs

Tip: 1g of carbohydrate equals 4 calories.


What Are Macros - Alcohol

what are macros alcohol

So whilst not strictly a macronutrient, alcohol certainly has an impact on Energy Balance. Typically though, it's not the alcohol itself that has the biggest impact, it's the 'wrapping' around it. 

Alcohol comes with 7 calories per gram, ​so after Fat, it's the next most calorie dense macro!

When alcohol is part of a high calorie drink or you combine alcohol with a calorific mixer then it's easy to see how quickly the calories can rack up.

If you enjoy alcohol, then you'll want to review our article How To Make Alcohol Work With Your Diet​ to avoid undoing the effort you put into the other areas of your diet & nutrition.

What Are Macros - Alcohol

Tip: 1g of alcohol equals 7 calories.


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What Are Macros - Why Should We Care?

Full-English-Breakfast-Macros

Achieving a good ratio of each of the three macros: Protein, Fats & Carbs will have a direct effect on your body's function and composition.

Remember

    • Protein will build or preserve lean muscle mass (whilst dieting).
    • Carbs provide the fuel for your workouts and
    • Fats are for your bodies essential functions.

Additionally, if your aim is to lose weight by implementing a calorie deficit, having the correct macro ratios set, will make adherence much easier.

If the ratios are set incorrectly, sticking to a deficit can be a miserable, 'white knuckle ride' which tests endurance and stamina.

If the amount of protein is insufficient, then as well as losing weight from body fat you will also burn muscle. In most instances this is not a desirable outcome.

Setting a target calorie and macronutrient ratio needs to be done carefully and take into consideration:

  • The individual
  • Their body type
  • Their activity levels and
  • Their goals.​

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