WTF Are Macros?
When people begin a new “diet”, they often feel like they have to put everything else on hold or on the back burner. They feel like they have to miss out on social events and sacrifice relationships because they’re worried about food temptations being present. While the short term reward might seem worth it, how long do you think you’d be able to keep it up? If you can’t see yourself doing something five years from now, it’s likely not a maintainable lifestyle change.
The word “diet” usually has a negative connotation associated with it, but in this case, it shouldn’t. Flexible dieting/If it fits your macros (IIFYM) focuses on tracking macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates) - the basic nutrients that make up all food. While you’re able to indulge in some treats (aka, the flexible part) your intake will typically include mostly nutrient dense foods while still allowing you to have your favorite foods from time to time. Flexible dieting/IIFYM allows you to be free of restrictions without having to sacrifice your fitness goals, relationships, social life, and mental well-being.
So what are macros exactly? The word “macro(s)” is short for macronutrients. Macronutrients are the three nutrients our bodies need in larger amounts in order to operate efficiently and optimally. As mentioned above, macros include protein, fat, and carbohydrates. They make up the calories in the food we eat and provide our bodies with the energy it needs to properly function. The caloric breakdown for each macro is as follows:
1 gram of protein = 4 calories
1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories
1 gram of fat = 9 calories
All other nutrients are known as micronutrients, or micros, which are vitamins and minerals. They don’t have any caloric value. Everyone’s body is different and requires a unique ratio and specific amount of each macro. This is determined by various factors such as age, sex, height, weight or body composition, activity level, and body type. Fitness goals also directly affect the nutritional needs for each individual. By understanding nutrition on a macronutrient level, eating becomes much simpler and you don’t have to label foods as “bad” or “off limits” in order to achieve your goals.
There are no miracle foods, or supplements for that matter, that will magically give you the results you want. All foods contain macros and it’s not so much what you eat, but the amount you eat. Whether it’s 10 grams of carbs from a donut or green veggies, our bodies digest and break down carbs the same way. In other words, our body doesn’t see a donut or vegetables, it just sees carbs.
Different types of carbs do serve different purposes though. Simple carbs such as sugars can quickly supply energy during exercise, whereas complex carbs such as sweet potatoes provide more nutritional value. So, keep in mind - THE NUTRIENT CONTENT AND QUALITY OF THE FOOD YOU EAT IS VERY IMPORTANT and the majority of your foods should be nutrient dense, whole foods. ;)