If you have ever braved the chaos of a “How to lose weight” Google search, you may have stumbled upon several pages discussing macro counting (assuming you made it past the first few pages of dieting bullshit…). Now, you may stare at this word “Macro” and think to yourself, Macro? Wha’s a Macro? Do they mean Macrons? Do I have to count how many Macrons I fit in my mouth? Honestly, if you jumped from Macros to Macrons, that might be why you felt compelled to research weight loss in the first place, but honestly no judgement because I just ate a bag of M&Ms for breakfast (balance is key right?).
Anyways, if you have never delved into the world of counting macros, you may be very confused by the verbiage and also the math that follows. So I’m hear to break it down for you and shed some light on what in the heck macros are and why they are important for weight loss!
Firstly, as a disclaimer, I want to say that I believe that not all diets or people are created equal. When I was going through my bikini competition prep, my boyfriend was also competing in men’s physique. Through the whole process, we learned that our bodies respond very differently to food and we had to have completely separate diet plans (and I’m not just talking about how many calories we ate…even the food was different). Therefore, it’s important to remember that counting macros may not be your cup of tea, but irregardless I want to explain it so you can at least decide for yourself. Now class, if you please, on with the lesson!
There are two types of nutrients your body needs – macronutrients and micronutrients. According to the USDA the macronutrients your body needs are: Protein, Carbohydrates, Fats, Water and Fiber. However, when most athletes reference macros they are typically only counting Protein, Carbs, and Fats. And for quick reference because I am sure inquiring minds want to know, micronutrients are things like minerals and vitamins that your body needs. At this point I am sure you may want to stop reading because you’re like Duh, Brittany, I already know what Proteins, Carbs and Fats are so why are there more words on this page? You have a fair point, my friend, but we’re going to dive a little deeper and I’m going to explain why your body needs these things.
I’m starting with carbs because I love carbs. Me and carbs, we get along (until I eat too many and get fat). The primary role of carbs is to provide energy to the cells in the body, most importantly the brain which is apparently the only carb-dependent organ in the body (WHO KNEW?!). Carbs can be both starches or sugars and are found in most foods. Obviously, there are good and bad carbs and when creating a healthy meal plan, it’s important to select good carbs such as sweet potato, brown rice, oatmeal and quinoa.
Protein is essentially everywhere in your body. It’s an incredibly significant structural component of all cells in the body. For example, all enzymes, blood transport molecules, hairs, fingernails, keratin and collagen are proteins. Protein is also very important for muscle growth and repair. Therefore, it’s important that your body consumes the adequate amount of protein in order to keep your body strong and healthy.
I feel like, for a very long time, there was this notion that fats were bad. Fats are, in fact, not bad for you at all and essentially pretty vital to many functions within our body. Now, obviously consuming a lot of unhealthy fats like french fries and cookies, is bad. Glad we got that cleared up. Fat gives your body energy and can also help your body absorb vitamins as well as play a major role in balancing cholesterol levels. There are three different groups of fatty acids (the basic unit of fats): Saturated Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated Fatty Acids, and Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids. All you need to know with this info is that unsaturated fats are good and saturated fats should be eaten in moderation (and trans fats are bad!).
Now that you understand the importance of these macronutrients, you are probably wondering how you ensure that you are eating the proper amount in relation to your dieting goals. Depending on whether you are trying to gain weight, lose weight or maintain your macro goals are going to be different (including your caloric intake for the day). No fear, I have written a post about counting macros as well as some of my favorite macro calculators (yes, there’s math involved) to spare you from manually doing the calculations yourself. If you’d like to check out that article, click here!
I hope you found this article helpful and at least have a better understanding of why our bodies need these macros. If you have any questions on macros or any other health related content please leave a comment below!
National Academy of Sciences. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board.
DHHS. NIH. National Library of Medicine.
Oklahoma State University. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.