Macros – What are they, Why they are important
You may have heard someone refer to hitting their macros or the “diet” If it Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) but what is a macro? What does it mean?
Macros is short for macronutrient. Macro means large as opposed to micro or small.
MacroNutrients are Carbohydrates, Protein, Fat and Alcohol.
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals.
Macros have specific amounts of calories: Carbs have 4 cals per gram, Protein also has 4 cals/gm, Fat is 9 cals/gm and alcohol is 7 cals/1gm. 100 cals of carbs or protein is 25gms of food while 100cals of fat is 11.11 grams. That means that it take a lot less fat to equal the number of calories (energy) in proteins or carbs
When someone refers to hitting their macros they are usually referring to how their daily caloric intake is broken down. I f you are familiar with the Zone Diet, it prescribed a 30:40:30 macro breakdown. 30% Protein, 40% carbs, 30% Fats. Other ways of eating may have 20-25% carbs, 30-35% protein and 40% fat (Low Carb) others might be the opposite 50% carbs, 30% protein and 20% fats.
The main thing to remember is that these are just proportions and based on the style of eating you prefer. As long as the calories are the same the fat/carb percentages don’t really matter as long as the protein is kept the same. Several studies have shown that low carb and low fat diets yield the same results after a year.
There has been a lot of demonizing of carbs, carbs make you fat, carbs are bad. Sorry, no they are not. Eating too many of some specific types of carbs will make you fat if you eat too much of them, but so will eating too much fat. “Bad” carbs are things like grains, cereals pasta, etc. In excess (which is what most Americans do) they will make you fat. But in and of themselves these carbs are not bad for you unless you have a gluten sensitivity, are already overweight or have an auto-immune disease. It’s ok to have a donut once a week, or a piece of pie. If you are eating these types of food multiple days per week you will gain weight.
On the other hand you can eat a ton of protein and not gain weight at all. Recent studies show that even when protein intake increases daily total calories by 800 or 1000 cals you will not gain weight or put on fat. The protein is used by the body to repair tissue and build muscle. It is not stored as fat.
If you are using an app like MyFitnessPal you can track your macros but otherwise its not that big a deal unless you are following a specific plan. Overall, it’s the total number of cals you eat daily that matter. Too much over maintenance level (the cals required to keep your weight the same) and you will gain weight, too little under maintenance and you will lose weight. However, eating too few cals will also cause your metabolism to slow down. There is a fine line between just right for losing weight (fat) and having your metabolism slow down. If you are trying to lose weight and are stalling you may need to start tracking your meals in MyFitnesPal or other app. It’s also a good idea to take a picture, as it sit on your plate, of everything you eat.