“Macro” is short for “macronutrient,” which is a type of food that’s required in large amounts in one’s diet… so what is a macro? Carbs, fat, and protein.
- These are the nutrients we need in larger quantities that provide us with energy. Micronutrients are mostly vitamins and minerals, and are equally important but consumed in very small amounts.
These three nutrients are in basically everything you eat, and you definitely need them if you’re planning on burning calories at the studio or gym every day. When it comes to figuring out how to structure your diet, you really need to take into account how these three things will play into how you feel before, during, and after your workouts.
- One important thing to keep in mind is that macros ARE calories. It’s as simple as that. Your macros add up in total calories in your day to day. It took me a long time to understand that part of it. I feel like saying that off that bat is important and understanding it from the get go makes it less complicated.
- We’re going to dig into a lot of information today, so maybe make a sticky note or something reminding yourself that your macros are your calories.
- We also recommend weighing everything as grams. This is the most accurate way to weigh your food.
Carbs will cost you 4 calories per gram. They’re all eventually broken down into glucose which is the main energy source for your body… so when you hear people talk about low-carb and no-carb diets as weight loss, that’s a big red flag cuz if you plan on making progress in the gym, you’re not gonna do that on poverty calories.
- This is the reason that most coaches will suggest that you eat some form of carbs before a workout: you need fuel if you’re going to put strain on yourself. This is one of the main reasons we at MTK are against low carb and/or keto diets for weight loss. If you’re going to add any form of exercise in, your body needs carbs in order to properly support what you’re going to be doing.
There’s two kinds of carbs – simple and complex, and how they work is just about how you’d imagine… simple carbs are easy for your body to break down into energy.
- Simple carbs can be found in fruit, milk/yogurt, agave nectar, honey, cane sugar, and maple syrup. These are great options for pre/intra training because they’re available quicker than a complex carb.
- Complex carbs take more time for your body to break down… they come in the form of starches and grains like pasta, rice, bread, and starchy veggies like potatoes and corn. These are best for the night before, as your body can break them down to have ready for the following day’s work.
Some quick and easy carb options to have around the house: fruit, Honey Stinger waffles, fruit snacks, granola bars, pop tarts, rice cakes, potatoes of fresh and frozen varieties, beans, oats, dates, and pizza… yes, pizza. Get that crust fam!
- Those are all great options. If you have them around the house, you force your options open and they’re quick things to grab if you’re in a hurry or even if you’re just wanting something convenient.
You’ll never really have to TRY to fill your carbs, they are usually the easiest category to fill every day, cuz they’re the tastiest. When you look at your macro calculator for the first time, remember that often times, your carb percentage will be somewhere around 50% or more.
- If you’re just starting out and have had the mindset that carbs are bad, it can be difficult to fill your carbs. Balance is the key here. Try to have a good balance of carbs, fats and protein with every meal or snack to make sure you’re not scrambling at the end of your day and trying to tetris shit together. It makes it more complicated than it has to be, and much easier to fall off the consistency wagon.
- FIBER: This isn’t a macro, but it is important to mention again. As described by the mayo clinic: Dietary fiber, includes the parts of plant foods your body can’t digest or absorb. Unlike other food components, such as fats, proteins or carbohydrates — which your body breaks down and absorbs — fiber isn’t digested by your body. Instead, it passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine and colon and out of your body. Fiber is commonly classified as soluble, which dissolves in water, or insoluble, which doesn’t dissolve.
- Soluble fiber: This type of fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, and barley
- Insoluble fiber: This type of fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, so it can be of benefit to those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools. Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes, are good sources of insoluble fiber.
The amount of soluble and insoluble fiber varies in different plant foods. To receive the greatest health benefit, eat a wide variety of high-fiber foods.
Oftentimes, these days, when reading your food labels, grams of fiber are subtracted from the carbs (thanks keto), but they should be counted! The total grams of carbs INCLUDE the fiber on a nutrition label, and this nutrient is not tracked. I wanted to point out fiber mostly because this comes into play when speaking on the TYPES of carbs you put into your body. You could eat an entire pizza and hit your carbs, but it doesn’t yield much fiber. Because I like to stay on brand, I should mention again, that fiber is important for your poops.
Fat will cost you the most per gram with 9 calories. Fats help you store energy, cushion your organs, help your body make certain hormones, absorb vitamins, and help support your cellular integrity. There are three types of fat: trans fat, saturated fat, and unsaturated fat.
Trans fat is what you want to try to limit the most. They come in the forms of margarine, shortening, baked goods, doughs, and fried foods… use these with extreme moderation and you’ll be just fine. Margarine is acceptable as a substitute for butter, you just need to be reading your labels to make sure you get one that fits your needs.
Saturated fat can increase your cholesterol which can raise your risk for heart disease… so trying to limist this in your diet can help. You can find saturated fats in fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, lard, cream, butter, full fat cheese, and dairy.
Unsaturated fats are known as “healthy fats” and they can decrease your risk for heart disease… most these fats originate from plant sources like avocados, nuts and nut butters, seeds, olives, and oils… you can also find them in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and herring. These are the foods you’ll want to turn to most often when you need to have more fat in your diet.
Fats get a bad rep cuz they’re the highest in calories but you definitely need to have them in your diet… your joints will thank you. When you start macro hacking recipes, lower fat versions of dairy are going to be lifesavers. When calculating your macros, your fat intake will generally be between 20-35% of your intake.
- It may be hard, depending on what your diet history is to incorporate more fat into your diet. If it helps, start out by adding a handful of almonds or a tablespoon of natural peanut butter to a snack. I know that, for me, fat was one of the more difficult things to increase because I had lived a lot of my life not eating much of it because I thought it was bad. I would get fat free everything and I think that really had an impact on everything I was doing because I was constantly low energy, I think my hormones got out of whack, things just weren’t “right”
- Again, the type of fat matters probably more than your carb choices in terms of long term health. Just make sure you’re reading your nutrition labels and weighing what goes in, and you’ll get there!
Protein comes in at 4 calories per gram, and once you get into more advanced macro counting… you can swap protein and carbs around interchangeably every now and then to fit some snacks into your day.
Protein is what will ultimately help you build the muscles of your wildest dreams. It allows your body to grow, build, and repair tissue and protects lean body mass. Protein is made up of amino acids and there are two types: essential and non-essential… like carbs, these are just what you think they are.
Essential amino acids are needed in your diet… they can either be used by your body on their own or converted into non-essential aminos… speaking of those, non-essential amino acids aren’t required to be consumed through food intake because your body can make them on its own.
You’re going to want to center your meals around lean proteins because that will allow you to eat the most volume. Start making friends with stuff like lean beef, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, and cheese… and for our vegan friends you’ll want to hang out with tempeh, quinoa, chia seeds, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, soy, and spinach.
- In the beginning, for everyone, across the board, it’s most important macro to try to hit every day. If you’re finding it difficult to hit your protein number for the day, the best suggestion we can give is to increase your protein portions with each meal. Try to have Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, egg whites, and lunch meat on hand at all times for a quick snack that ups your protein in between meals. Things like almonds and beef jerky also can help in this category.
- If you’re focusing each meal around your portion of protein, the pieces really start falling together. The first few weeks might be rough, because most people are not used to eating the amount of protein their body requires, especially when you add any kind of training into the mix. Don’t force yourself, just gradually increase your portions and you’ll get there and then it won’t feel like a task. In the beginning, this ALL seems like a task. But, it’s worth it.
When you’re looking at that macro calculator, expect 10-35% of your intake to be protein… this will be your hardest macro to fill.
HOW DO I FIND MY NUMBERS?
Your macro ratio is going to depend on a few factors – your personal stats (height, age, gender, weight), physical activity levels, dietary preference (omnivore or vegan), and your goal (fat loss, maintenance, bulking).
- Fat loss, maintenance (maintaining current weight, no gain or loss), bulk (slowly gaining over a period of time)
Your macro ratio doesn’t directly influence weight loss… to lose weight, find a ratio you can live with, and focus on healthy foods and eat fewer calories than you burn.
- Remember that the ONLY way weight loss occurs is if you’re in a deficit. A deficit is eating less overall calories in a day than your body requires to function doing what you do in a day.
- You first have to calculate your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). Find your TDEE here.
- Once you find your TDEE, hit up the macro calculator here.
Tweak your ratio slowly – if you’re trying to lose weight, start with your recommended ratio; if it isn’t working after 3-4 weeks, adjust it and try again… repeat until you reach desired results. Don’t give your body nutrition whiplash… ease yourself into changes, because that makes them more likely to stick.
- Keep in mind, if your goal is weight loss, a healthy and acceptable parameter is between .5 and 2 lbs a week. Rapid weight loss isn’t healthy, can fuck your metabolism completely, and isn’t sustainable
- One other thing to remember is that any calculation is a general estimate. Staying consistent for at least 3 weeks and paying attention to how you FEEL, how your clothes FIT and taking progress pictures are going to be your best indicators of change, not what the lying bitch scale tries to tell you.
- Use the scale if it works for you to collect data, beyond that, go with the previously mentioned indicators.
There you go – carbs, fat, and protein. They are in everything you eat, and hopefully now you’re a little less intimidated by the concept of figuring out your numbers and eating to reach your health and fitness goals.
- Remember that no one is perfect. The aim here at your start is to be within +/-5 of each macro. There is an adjustment for a lot of us, just because this isn’t “normal” for most of us. The end goal is what you want to keep your eye on. Some days it may be frustrating, and overwhelming, but if you stick with this, you WILL see results. Consistency and sustainability over time are going to be your keys to success.