WHAT ARE MACROS?
These are the types of food that your body requires in large amounts in the diet. They are broken down into carbohydrates, protein and fats, and each group provides different nutritional components and calories to the body.
Protein provides amino acids used for building muscle, recovery and many other functions. Found in foods such as lean meats, eggs, fish, dairy, legumes, soy products, nuts and seeds.
Fat is used for joint health, cellular transport, hormone regulation, cell support and brain function. Found in avocados, oils, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, eggs and meat.
Carbohydrates provide the body and brain with energy to use and store. Found in foods such as fruit, vegetables, grains and legumes.
The key with counting your macros is the ratio you consume of each. As a guide you should aim to have the most carbohydrates, followed by protein and fat, however the ratio can be tweaked depending on what your health and fitness goals may be.
Your body needs different amounts of each of the macronutrients depending on physical activity levels, age, gender, health status, etc, so there is no one size fits all approach to determining how much you need. Most people use an app or website, enter their age, height, sex and physical activity level, and an approximate guide to daily calorie intake is provided.
If you wish to maintain the same weight, the calories consumed should be equal to the number provided. If weight gain or loss is the goal then you simply add or subtract 10-20% of your daily calorie allowance. It is accepted that for the average individual 45-65% of your daily calories should come from carbs, 20-35% from fat and 10-35% from protein. However, as previously mentioned, studies have shown that altering these ratios appropriately may give you an extra edge in reaching your goals.
CHECK OUT THIS MACRO FRIENDLY RECIPE
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WHERE DO I START?
Calories Per Gram
We need to first consider how many calories each of the macronutrients contribute per gram; protein and carbs provide 4 calories per gram, fat provides 9 calories per gram (and don’t forget that alcohol is the only other food to provide calories at 7 per gram).
You’ll next need to jump on your trusty nutrition calculator app or website and find out approximately how many calories you should be consuming a day. Here you enter your age, gender, height, and physical activity levels - the number of calories provided by the calculator will be what you need to maintain your current weight.
As mentioned, this number is an estimate, so some trial and error may be needed. A good way to see if the number provided works for you is by consuming the number of calories provided to maintain weight for two weeks and weigh yourself a minimum of 3 times per week (beginning, middle and end of the week). If after the two weeks, your body weight has not changed by more than 2lbs, you will know if the number is a close reflection of your energy needs and if you have to adjust accordingly.
Decide what your goals are
Weight loss, maintenance or gain, lean down, build up? Because at this point we start to work out our macro ratios in order to reach that daily calorie goal, and you can tweak your macros in order to give you a boost in achieving your specific goal.
Goal = Building = 40-60% Carbs, 25-35% Protein, 15-25% Fat
Goal = Maintenance = 30-50% Carbs, 25-35% Protein, 25-35% Fat
Goal = Fat Loss = 10-30% Carbs, 30-40% Fat, 40-50% Protein
Calculate Each Macro Group
Based on your goals and the macro ratio that supports them, work out how many calories from each food group you will be aiming for.
Measure Your Food
Here is the challenging part – once you know the amounts you’re aiming for, it’s time to measure the protein, fat and carbs in what you consume. This can be quite easy if you’re consuming packaged food – you just read the nutrition label and subtract from your daily macro allowance (e.g. a food containing 20g of protein and your goal is 100g of protein. This would mean that you would have 80g of protein left for the day).
The challenge comes when you are consuming whole foods which should make up the majority of your diet. This is when using a food scale takes the guesswork out of measuring food and makes it unbelievably easier!
Then you will need to research each food’s macro content and weigh your food and work out how much to include. Remember to count all of the macros in a food you are consuming, not just the main one. For example chicken breast is considered a great source of lean protein but it does still contain some fat, so it is important not to neglect this in your calculations.
Carbohydrates and fat are often easy to consume due to the ubiquity, cheap price and make up of the human diet being carbohydrate dominant. However, protein can often be a difficult macronutrient to consume in high amounts as it can be expensive, it may be too filling or people simply don’t have the time to eat the required amounts to meet their macros. This is where a macro friendly protein supplement like EHPLabs’ Oxywhey, Isopept Zero and Blessed Protein range can be very helpful to reach protein needs.
All 3 product lines are high in protein and are low in carbohydrates and fat, making it a perfect addition to a macro split. Whether it be Oxywhey - a versatile protein supplement that complements a macro split designed to drop body weight, Isopept Zero - a higher protein supplement concocted for maximizing muscle growth or Blessed - a high protein vegan friendly supplement which can often be lacking in a vegetarian/vegan diet.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
This is a practice makes perfect endeavor; initially it will be time consuming, challenging and a bit frustrating, but the longer you are on the wagon the more streamlined the process becomes. It’s actually a fantastic way to learn more about exactly what makes up the food we eat every day.
The most important factor to remember is that while you’re monitoring your macro intake, the key is to nourish your body from high quality sources; think fruits, vegetables, legumes, healthy fats, wholegrains and lean protein.