Level – Beginner
Words – ~1400
Reading Time – 5-7 minutes
What are “Macros” and why should you care?
It’s no use knowing how to work out your macros if you don’t know what the hell they are, which is exactly what we’re going to teach you.
For those of you that already do know, it’s never a bad thing to remind yourself of the roles each macronutrient play, as knowing what each macro does plays a huge part in the decisions you make when it comes to changing them. So without further ado lets begin…..
Macros are the shortened termed for macronutrients which are nutrients we need in large amounts compared to micronutrients which are needed in much smaller amounts such as vitamins and minerals. All macronutrients contain calories and are comprised of:
- Protein (4 calories per gram)
- Carbohydrates (4 calories per gram)
- Fats (9 calories per gram)
- Fibre (2 calories per gram)
We need a balance of all of these to obtain optimal health and performance. Cutting any macronutrient completely i.e low carb, low fat can cause unhealthy relationships with food as well as potentially increasing the risk of further health issues.
Go low carb for too long and watch your performance (and friends list) decrease.
Go low fat for too long and your hormones will be all over the place.
Understand that you need ALL the macronutrients in some quantity and that it’s the quantities of each that matter.
This will be dependant on your goal, age, gender, level of activity amongst many other things. There are no set numbers for losing or gaining weight, it all depends, but hopefully throughout this series we can give you some pointers on how to work out yours and what you can do if you hit a plateau.
What is Protein?
Protein is often referred to as the bodies “building blocks” as it helps to facilitate the growth and repair of tissue in the body.
If you’re in the gym busting out the bicep curls or participating in regular resistance exercise then it pays to have a sufficient protein intake. You’re putting your body under constant strain and breaking down muscle tissue, it’s the protein you get from your diet that will help to rebuild this tissue to come back bigger and stronger.
Protein also has the highest satiety rating of all the macronutrients meaning it fills you up for longer. You may have noticed the increased inclusion of protein in everyday foods such as cereals and breads to help improve satiety. Great for those looking to lose weight but not always good if you’re looking to gain weight and get full easily.
If fat loss is your goal, another benefit of protein is it’s thermogenic effect. In simple terms, your body burns calories digesting protein. This combined with higher satiety could help you to consume less calories throughout the day.
|Sources of Protein|
|Eggs||Dairy (Yogurt, Milk, Cheese)|
- Helps facilitate the growth of new muscle
- Helps maintain muscle during a fat loss phase
- Highest satiety rating of all the macronutrients
- Increased thermogenesis = less net calories
- High satiety rating may affect those looking to gain muscle and struggle eating enough
If you want to learn a bit more about the benefits of protein then you can check out some more benefits of protein HERE.
What are Carbohydrates?
First of all, they are not the devil. Despite what the media will make you think.
Fruits and vegetables contain carbohydrates, do you think it’s sensible to take them out of your diet?
Nope, but we’re amazed that so many people still do.
Carbohydrates often make up the bulk of people’s diets and are the bodies preferred source of energy for the brain, heart and central nervous system.
They’re found in many of the foods we eat on a daily basis from fruits and vegetables to sweets and confectionery; however it is important to distinguish the difference between each.
Fruits and vegetables contain relatively low carbohydrates per gram whilst offering plenty of nutrients and fibre whilst sugary foods such as sweets, biscuits and chocolate offer very little nutrition and aren’t beneficial for overall health which can negatively affect body composition if consumed in large amounts. We need to make sure we are fueling our bodies with the right nutrients to maintain consist energy levels throughout the day.
|Sources of Carbohydrates|
- Fruits and Vegetables contain lots of essential vitamins and minerals
- Low carb vegetables offer a lot of volume for calories which can help with satiety
- Easy to overeat
- Moreish (which leads to the above)
What is Fat?
Contrary to popular belief fat doesn’t necessarily make you fat, in fact we need dietary fat to maintain vital bodily functions such as the regulation of hormones and the transport of fat soluble vitamins.
However, we do need to consider portion control as fats are the most calorie dense at 9 calories per gram.
An insignificant tablespoon of olive oil? 135 calories…
Not a problem if you are looking to add weight but can be detrimental if you are looking to lose fat.
Similarly to carbohydrates, fat can be both good and bad, it all depends on the type in question. Fats can be broken down into 3 main categories; saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated and it is advisable to get a combination of all 3 in your diet to reap the benefits of each.
The fats that we do want to be limiting are trans fats or hydrogenated fats. These fats have been highly processed taking them far from their original state, often to give them a longer shelf life.
Trans fats offer no benefit to the body whatsoever and have been linked to potential health risks including heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. Fats such as soybean oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, safflower oil and other processed vegetable oils are all highly processed and contain unhealthy balances of fat.
|Sources of Fats|
|Animal Fats||Olive Oil||Oily Fish|
|Coconut Oil||Avocado||Fish Oil|
What are Essential Fatty Acids?
Essential Fatty Acids or EFA’s (Omega 3 and Omega 6) must be obtained through diet as our bodies are unable to synthesise them.
Unfortunately, due to changes in food production and habits, this ratio has been skewed in favour of Omega 6, creating a deficiency in Omega 3 for most adults.
Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to have many health benefits such as reduced inflammation, reduced triglycerides and blood pressure. Some good sources of Omega 3 to help increase your daily intake are oily fish such as salmon, Omega 3 enriched eggs and fish oil supplements.
- Support hormone regulation
- Transport fat soluble vitamins A, D, E & K
- Extremely calorie dense and easy to overeat (great for hardgainers, not so much for fat loss)
If you want to read more about the benefits of fat then you can read more on our blog HERE.
What is Fibre?
Technically speaking fibre is a carbohydrate but as it serves slightly different functions to what you would consider traditional carbohydrates it definitely deserves its own section.
Due to the way fibre is bonded, our bodies are unable to break them down in the digestive tract as we don’t possess the enzymes to do this. However, fibre plays an important role in digestive health by regulating bowel movements and maintaining a steady flow of nutrients through the digestive tract.
Fibre can be broken down into 2 main categories of which we want a good balance of both.
Insoluble fibre makes stools heavier and speeds their passage through the intestines, maintaining regular bowel movements.
Soluble fibre attracts water to form a gel to slow digestion and delay gastric emptying, This can help you to feel fuller for longer whilst and allow your body to absorb nutrients before they are passed.
|Sources of Fibre|
|Oats||Dark Leafy Vegetables|
|Psyllium Husks||Root Vegetable Skins|
- Can regulate bowel movements
- Help with satiety due to the slowing down of digestion and increased water retention
- Excessive fibre intake can cause constipation, bloating or diarrhea
Now you should have a decent idea of the roles each macronutrient plays and why we would never recommend cutting a whole food group completely. For long term, sustainable results, you need to know how to include all of them but change the amounts to suit you.
Make sure to stay up to date and keep checking back for the next part in our series where we’re going to take you through how you can work out yours for any goal.
Want to save the hassle and have one of the team work out your macros for you? Contact Us
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