What are macros? A foolproof beginner’s guide!
Macros (or macronutrients) are three major sources of energy for your body. The three food components are:
The word “macro“(definition: prefix from the Greek “makros” meaning large or long) already indicates, that your body needs these components in large amounts.
Nutrients, in general, are substances your body needs for growth, energy provision or other essential body functions.
No matter what your goal looks like, the correct amount of macronutrients impact your fat loss, muscle gain or weight maintenance success.
Should you track macros?
To be healthy, lose fat or build muscle it is not necessary to count macros. In fact, tracking everything you eat can be annoying.
A benefit of tracking macros, on the other hand, is that you get a good understanding of which foods are good and nutritious and beneficial to your health.
In my opinion, it doesn’t hurt to count your macros from time to time to understand where you can optimize your nutrition.
How can macros impact your health?
Each macronutrient provides the much-needed energy you need to live a healthy and active lifestyle.
To get the most benefits out of your macros you have to consume the right balance of macronutrients. That way you can ensure to reach your desired goal no matter if it is weight loss, muscle gain or weight maintenance.
Let’s take a closer look at what carbs, fat, and protein do for your body.
When you eat carbs, they are broken down into glucose, which is the first energy source your body goes to.
Carbs serve as your body’s main fuel source. They are the easiest macronutrient to convert from food into energy. The metabolic processes for fat and protein are more complex and take much more time which wouldn’t serve you as well when you need quick energy.
They fuel your brain, energize your muscles and play important roles in other essential cells.
Carbs have a bad reputation and if you think carbs make you fat, you are not the only who believes this. They don’t make you fat in general. As long as you eat carbs in moderation and don’t eat more than you burn with your activities throughout the day, you are fine. No weight gain!
Here is where the bad reputation comes from and once you understand the connection between carbs and fat storage you will no longer fear to eat carbs.
When your blood glucose levels rise the hormone insulin comes to the rescue and regulates the levels by removing glucose from the bloodstream. Insulin stores the removed glucose now in the fat cells.
Don’t worry, you can minimize the risk of getting fat from carbs.
Complex carbs are larger molecules than simple carbs. This means it takes our bodies longer to digest and absorb them. The big benefit is complex carbs keep you full for longer and they don’t cause the same blood sugar swings as simple carbs do.
When carbs are broken down slowly, it enables the body to utilize glucose as energy rather than storing it as fat.
Carb foods are always a mix of complex and simple carbs. Take fruits for example. They contain natural fruit sugars (fructose = simple carb) as well as dietary fiber (also a type of carb).
You will find complex carbs in unrefined plant foods that are low in sugars and high in fiber.
That being said, try to include foods like grains, beans, fruits, vegetables daily in your meal plan.
Fat might be the one macronutrient you fear the most when you are watching your weight. There is no need to ban fat from your meals. Instead, you can enjoy adding fat to your meals daily. Not every fat is equal, so only healthy fats will benefit your health.
Fat is essential to your health and it is necessary for many bodily functions. Vitamins like Vitamin A, D, E, K are fat-soluble vitamins. They can only be made accessible for our bodies in the presence of fat. If there is no fat, you will be deficient of these 4 vitamins.
Fat is the second-best energy provider after glucose. Once the glucose stores are empty, the body chooses fat as an energy source.
Focus on eating healthy, unsaturated fats. Good sources are fatty fish, avocados, nuts, olive oil, flaxseeds.
The unhealthy fats you want to avoid are saturated fats. You find them in deep-fried foods, baked goods, processed meats, whole-fat dairy products (butter, ice cream, pudding, etc.).
You should limit saturated fat to less than 10% of your daily calorie intake.
As opposed to protein and carbs (each is 4 kcal), fat has 9 kcal per gram. That makes it a high-density energy source but it is accepted when you consume it in healthy fats.
When we talk about protein there is one important fact to know. The macronutrient protein is made up of 22 amino acids. 9 of them are essential and can’t be made by our body. As a result, they must come from food.
The 9 essential amino acids are:
Our cells, muscles, and tissues can not exist without protein. The most important functions are:
- builds, strengthens and repairs muscle tissue
- supports the immune system
- hormone production
- transports oxygen to all places where it’s needed
You can get your protein from plant sources but animal sources are considered better sources for essential amino acids. Animal-based aminos are similar to our aminos and therefore they are better absorbable.
How to calculate your macros?
Every body is different and that being said every person has their own personal macro intake that will work for them.
So, there are no fixed numbers of macros I can tell you for your success. You have to give yourself some time and try which macro balance works best for you.
The recommended daily macro intake looks like this:
- 55 – 60% carbs
- 25 – 30% fats
- 10 – 15% protein
Based on your activity level and your goals your macros can vary a lot.
Now here is the part how you can actually calculate your macros. As an example let’s assume you are eating 2.200 calories per day. (You can use My Fitness Pal to identify your daily calorie intake. Download the app. to your phone and put in the foods you eat and you will get your daily calorie intake.)
Your daily calorie intake:
- take the calories you eat per day (2.200 kcal)
- determine your ideal macro ratio for you (for example 50% carbs, 25% fat, 25% protein)
- multiply your daily calories (2.200 kcal) by your percentages
- divide your calorie amounts by its calorie per gram number (carbs = 4 kcal, protein = 4 kcal, fat = 9 kcal)
The next step is to calculate the calories for each macro:
- carbs: 2.200 x 0,5 = 1.100
- protein: 2.200 x 0,25 = 550
- fat: 2.200 x 0,25 = 550
The last step, calculate the actual gram amount:
- carbs: 1.100 : 4 = 275 gr.
- protein: 550 : 4 = 137,5 gr.
- fat: 550 : 9 = 61 gr.
What is a good macro ratio for fat loss for females?
For women, the metabolic rate is about 9% lower as opposed to men.
Men tend to have more muscle mass which is more metabolic active. That means women have to work a little bit harder to keep the unwanted pounds under control.
Everybody has to take a different journey to get to their ideal body. That being said, building muscle, shredding fat, maintaining weight is not easy.
You have to find out what your individual ratio of macros is. It’s a period of trial and error to find out on which ratio your body performs best.
And if you ever wondered “How many carbs should I eat to lose weight?” the answer is still the same. You have to find out for yourself.
According to an article from healthline.com you don’t have to stress too much about the right macronutrient ratio for weight loss. It is more important to be in a caloric deficit in general.
“Different macronutrient ratios do not significantly affect how much total fat you lose in the long run.”