Macros: What They Are And Why You Need To Watch Them

by Olivia Cox April 30
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Macros. Heard of them? I’ll be honest, I only heard the word around this time last year when my PT bullied me into logging my foods via myfitnesspal in an effort to figure out where I was going so wrong. And I only actually understood what it meant on day two of no. 1 Fitness Education’s nutrition course.

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Macro = Macro-nutrient = type of food required in large quantities in the diet = FAT / PROTEIN / CARBOHYDRATE

Conversely, a micro-nutrient is a substance required in only trace amounts in the body, e.g. vitamins and minerals.

Watching your macros is a great way to reach your next weight loss / muscle growth / basically any aesthetically driven goal, especially if what you’ve been doing up until now has yielded results which have plateaued.

The over-riding principle of weight loss is that energy expended must exceed energy input in order to create a calorie deficit. But where these calories come from is also important. Why? Well, mainly because what happens to a unit of energy (AKA a calorie) once you’ve eaten it is pretty much dictated by the type of food it’s coming from. So whilst protein is used to re-generate all cells (including but NOT limited to muscles), glucose has little role in the body beyond immediate exercise, and is therefore likely to be stored as fat. It is also much, MUCH easier to over-eat foods with poor macro content, since calorie dense foods are not always all that filling. To put this in perspective, it’s not too difficult to imagine eating an entire bag of Haribo in one sitting. But to get that amount of sugar (i.e. potential fat stores) from something more macro-rich like fruit, you’d have to eat a far greater amount, with limiting factors like fibre that increase feelings of fullness.

For years, we’ve been taught that when we eat is just as important as what we eat. This is true to a certain extent, but probably not in the way many of us assume. You see, your net calorie and macro consumption in any 24-hour / week / year etc period is what matters. So whether you eat more in the morning or the evening really doesn’t matter. Which kind of poo-poos the whole breakfast like a kind, dinner like a pauper theory. If you’re not a breakfast person, don’t force yourself. If all your life you’ve skipped breakfast, and you suddenly start, that won’t automatically stop you from feeling hungry in the evenings. The body is a creature of habit, and by forcing-in another meal you are likely to be exceeding your calorie intake and throwing-off your macros. Listen to your body, it’ll tell you when it’s hungry.

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What is true in regards to timing is in relating to the time of your training. The two hours post-workout is often referred to as the “window of opportunity”. During this time, it’s important to consume complex carbohydrates (carbs that are  higher in fibre, digest more slowly, are more filling, and manage post-meal blood sugar spikes, AKA tiredness) and complete proteins (containing all nine of the essential amino acids, e.g. meat or eggs. For vegans this gets more tricky – you may need two or more food sources to achieve the AAs goal, e.g. rice with peas. I’ll do a separate blog on this to explain)From what you’ve eaten, the carbs are used to replenish muscle glycogen fuel stores, and the protein is used for muscle and other damaged tissue repair.

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For a while it was considered that this had to be within 30 minutes of training, but there’s actually no solid evidence to support this theory. So calm down, Barry – you got two hours to chug that shake. On which note, I love a good protein shake. Tastes great, fills you up, and is a cheap way to re-fuel after a workout if you’re on the go.

S H O P   M Y   P R O T E I N S

 

Also consider how soon before training you eat, too. Digesting food is a more vital process than working out, so the energy required will be diverted from the muscles you are trying to train, which is likely to prevent you from training as hard as if you’ve left a good gap (1-2 hours) since your last meal.

Day-to-day needs a look, too. As a general rule, it is a good idea to drop the percentage of calories you’re getting from carbs on non-training days, since your body needs less energy than a high-workload day.

If you’re up for tracking your macros, myfitnesspal is a great app that has just about every food imaginable listed with a breakdown of the macronutrients available. It’s also a great way of just making sure you’re not cheating with the occasional tub of peanut butter or other “but it’s healthy!” snack that could be throwing your macros off. Basically, it makes you accountable. Worth noting, though, that many of the foods are user-generated, so it’s always worth applying a bit of common sense in case of occasional input errors. In order to successfully monitor your macros, you need first to establish what macros you need. There’s gazillions of calculators out there (IIFYM is a great one – stands for If It Fits Your Macros, btw) that’ll calculate your ratios for you, but if you want to DIY, here’s the formula:

Men: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5

Women: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161

And incase you were wondering, there are 4 calories in a gram of protein, 4 in a gram of carbohydrates, and 9 in a gram of fat.

Alcohol? There are 7 calories in a gram of pure alcohol. And then there’ll be all the sugar content on top, too. Plus the lack of fibre, which is why you’re likely to over-eat when your drinking and the next day because you’re experiencing crashes in blood sugar level. JUST SAYING (sorry)…..

 Olivia x

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