Originally published February 19, 2015
If you’ve checked out fitness posts on Facebook or Instagram, you may have seen the term “macro” mentioned within the post. Everyone is talking about their macros and you may be wondering, whatsa macro? Macro is short for macronutrients. Let’s break it down. Macro means large. Nutrients are substances needed for growth and metabolism in the body. Therefore, macronutrients are substances needed in large amounts for growth and metabolism in the body. There are three macronutrients: Protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
Importance of Protein
Protein can help you lose fat, build muscle, and improve your overall general appearance. It aids in growth, tissue repair, helps with your immune health, makes essential hormones and enzymes, provides energy when carbohydrates are not available, and preserves lean muscle mass. The daily recommended protein intake is 0.8-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Currently I’m taking in 1 gram per pound of body weight, putting me at 140 grams of protein per day.
Importance of Carbohydrates
Generally speaking, the majority of your caloric intake should come from carbohydrates (may vary depending on your specific goals). Carbs are the body’s main source for fuel and energy. They provide glucose to all of our tissues and cells in the body. Carbohydrates are needed for the central nervous system and other main organs such as our brain, heart and kidneys to function properly. Carbohydrates can be stored and later used for energy. Carbohydrates also play a role in our intestinal health. Your carbohydrate intake is your total daily calories less your protein and fat calories. My total carb intake per day is 160 grams or 640 calories. Again, the amount of carbohydrates you take in will depend on your current goals.
Importance of Fats
Contrary to popular belief, consuming fats do not make you fat. Consuming an excess of calories, whether it comes from fat, protein, or carbs, makes you fat, not the intake of fat alone. Now that we have that settled, let’s continue. Fats help with normal growth and development, gives you energy, helps with the absorption of some vitamins, gives cushion to your organs, maintains your cells, and gives taste, stability, and consistency to foods. There are three main types of fats: trans, saturated, unsaturated. Trans fat is the unhealthiest of all the fats. It has been shown to lead to an increase in your bad (LDL) cholesterol and increase the risks of heart disease, diabetes, and strokes. They should be avoided. Trans fat is typically found in fried foods, fast foods, chips, cookies, etc. For the most part it is found in all the foods we know we shouldn’t be eating anyway. Saturated fat is not as unhealthy as trans fat, but it’s still not good for you either, especially in large amounts. Saturated fat has been known to cause high cholesterol. Saturated fats can be found in beef, veal, lamb, pork, butter, lard, and cream just to name a few. Intake of saturated fats should be limited. Unsaturated fat has been shown to decrease the risks of heart disease as well as lower your bad (LDL) cholesterol. Unsaturated fats are most commonly found in fish, nuts, nut butters, avocados, olive oil, and seeds. The majority of our fat intake should come from unsaturated fats. Fat should be 20-30% of your diet. Personally, I choose 25%. My daily fat intake is 44g. Calculate your macros here.
For myself, this is the
diet that I am currently following. If I were competing, I would follow a stricter plan or incorporate some form of carb cycling to get my desired results. At times, people take the IIFYM approach to the extremes. Some will consume a lot of unhealthy foods and then give the excuse that it fits their macros. Yes, at times I will have Oreos, skittles, or peanut M & M’s and yes, it does fit into my macros but there’s a downfall. Per example, 1/4 cup of skittles is 37g of carbohydrates with no nutritional value. They’re 160 calories, contain 1.5g of fat and 30g of sugar. 1/4 cup of fresh pineapple is only about 5-6g carbs and provides vitamin C. The pineapple is only about 20 calories and only has about 4g of sugar. It’s obvious which snack would be more beneficial to you but if you just have to have the skittles or your favorite snack, have them; just know that you are giving up a lot of calories for non-nutritional foods and will need to adjust your macros accordingly. Many people feel less restricted when following the IIFYM method. Which method of eating works best for you?