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What the heck is a macro and why should I care about it?

Have you heard the term ‘macros’ being thrown around when people talk about food, meals, and working out? If you’re new to the workout scene or you’ve been in this space forever, it’s time to make sense of these macros and get into why, and how, they can be essential to helping you reach your fitness, health and physique goals. 

“Macros” is a short term for macronutrients. Macronutrients are the nutrients that our bodies use and need in large amounts in our diet. Macros include proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Each person needs to consume a good balance of macros based on their health and fitness goals. 

Proteins – the muscle building macro

Proteins are broken down to aid in repairing and building tissue in your body. Think: building muscle. Proteins are made up of amino acids; non essential amino acids are those that are made from your body and essential amino acids in which we need to consume through our food intake. Protein is going to be found in the highest amounts in meats, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, soy, lentils, etc.

Fats – the filling macro

Fats help your body absorb vitamins, store energy, balance hormones, and stay full. Fats are broken down into three types; trans fat, saturated fat, and unsaturated fat. Healthy fats include fatty fish, nuts, seeds, oils, avocados and dairy products. 

Carbohydrates – the energy macro

Also known as carbs, carbohydrates give us energy as they are broken down and turned into glucose, the main source of energy your body has. Carbohydrates also contain fiber, vitamins and minerals. Carbs are made up of simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. The best sources of carbohydrates are whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans. 
macronutrient (macro) breakdown triple venn diagram showing carbs proteins and fats

Along with macronutrients, our bodies also need many “micros”, or micronutrients, which include vitamins and minerals. We need small amounts of these in our diets. Micronutrients aid in things such as digestion, brain function and hormone production. 

Each individual food has its own make up of nutrients. The 3 macronutrients can be found in many foods, processed and unprocessed (whole.) The best quality macros for your body in terms of digestion and benefits will come from whole foods. Looking at food labels will help you determine what macro and micronutrients are in each food you consume, as well as what other added ingredients make up the food as well. Here is a food label for salted butter, you can see that this butter has 11 grams of fat, 7 grams of that being saturated fat. There are 0g carbohydrates and 0g protein on this butter. 

salted butter nutrition label showing breakdown of macro nutrients

If you shop in the produce section of your store you might notice that not all of the foods have food labels. This is because these foods are whole foods, containing only one ingredient. Getting your nutrients from whole foods is always recommended. Here are some common macronutrient dense whole foods: 

Chicken contains protein and fat, and has no carbohydrates. Broccoli contains carbohydrates, a small amount of protein, no fat and lots of vitamins and minerals (micronutrients.) Wild caught salmon is very high in protein, vitamins and minerals while it contains low amounts of fats and no carbohydrates. Blueberries have very trace amounts of proteins and fats while being higher in the carbohydrate amount and containing lots of vitamins and minerals. 

If you are interested in learning more about certain foods you are buying or consuming, consider using this geat search engine from the USDA. 

The National Library of Medicine through NIH recommends a percentage split of the following in an average person’s diet:

      • Carbohydrates: 45-65%

      • Protein: 10-35%

      • Fat: 20-35%

    Source: LINK

    Depending on your goals (lose weight, gain weight, build muscle, etc.) you can change the amount of each of these macronutrients in your diet to help you attain the physique you’re looking for. Working with a personal trainer will allow you to better understand the amount of each category of micronutrients you should be consuming daily to help you reach your goals. Personal trainers also provide assistance with meal planning around your macros to help you find filling and fueling meals that will help you create a balanced style of eating, check out this blog that gives some delicious well balanced breakfast ideas focused on macros.

    What the heck is a macro and why should I care about it? | Habib
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