What are my MACROS? There's all this talk about them and I don't know what the heck everyone is talking about. Do I count my macros? Are they a weight loss tool? Will monitoring them help me in the gym? I get counting calories, but what does it mean to count marcros?
Macronutrients, macros for short, are simply protein, carbohydrates, and fat. That's it. If you ask the general population, they are far more likely to tell you they count calories but not macros. Some may count carbohydrates along with calories (think Atkins Diet), and many people try to avoid fat and shoot for 1g/lb of protein. But does that qualify as counting macros? In a weak sense, yes, but this is not what it truly means in a professional sense-utilizing macros to truly do their magic on you.
So the real question is...should I be counting my macros? Well, it depends. Are you doing this on your own? Does your nutrition guru do that for you? Is it even talked about in a nutrition counseling session? Are you “ballpark” counting? In short, yes, macros should be counted. There should be a though process of :
Total Calories in a day: 2000
How are you going to achieve those calories by divvying up your macros?
If this idea hasn't even crossed your mind, it's time to start! Whether you're doing it on your own, or having a professional helping you, your total calories should assigned to macro groups based on your nutritional needs.
Isn't just calorie counting easier? Simple answer, NO. Why not? All I do is let my calorie counter do the work. Okay, well maybe on paper it's easier. But I think the bigger question is, “Am I getting the results I want from counting calories?” The resounding answer is a big, ol' NO. So why not take a different approach? Why not spend a little time to look at what this macro counting program is all about? Would it be worth the time if it yielded weight loss and long term maintenance? Indeed, it would. No question. So let's take a closer look:
Let's start by looking at what macros counting entails.
Carbohydrates: How can I count exact carbs without knowing the grams? Well you need a precise number on paper. (ex: 150 grams per day of carbs). What does that look like? It typically looks something like this:
1 small fruit=15g
½ c. cooked rice=15g
1 piece of bread=15g
Click HERE for a list of most foods and how they are counted.
If you can understand what 15 grams of carbs looks like in food, you can get a good idea of how many carbs you are at for the day. Soon, you will be able to look at food and know immediately the carb load, as easily as you can now estimate how many calories are in it.
Protein: How can I count exact grams of protein? Let's take a look:
4 oz.=20g of protein=size of your fist in diameter, 1 in thick.
Fat: This might be the toughest, because fat is disguised in everything. My way of thinking is either high fat or low fat. High fat >5g fat/serving. Low fat is <5g fat/serving. Does this leave a lot of room for calorie counting? Yes, but it's a place to start, and everyone has to start somewhere.
Prime rib-high fat or low fat? …......HIGH FAT. Boneless chicken breast-high fat or low fat?.........LOW FAT. 1 serving of almonds-high fat or low fat?......HIGH FAT.
Once you have a knowledge base on your macros, food will be become your friend, not your foe, and you'll start feeling better than you've ever felt before.
Thank you for investing in your health.
Joseph Champa, RD, CSCS