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An Intro to Macros: What Are They?

WRITTEN BY: Silas Harper Bray Macros have gotten a LOT of attention in the last few years. This last year seems to be the year that this hashtag has reached trending proportions. Nutritionists, athletes, and the rest of us alike seem to be heavily focused on counting them. But what are they?


Put simply: macros are a reference point of nutritional intake. They help us to monitor major TYPES of nutritional input as opposed to raw calorie counting. There are some positives and negatives for counting calories.




  • Some pros:

  • macros aren’t as restrictive as calorie counting and give people more freedom with eating.

  • It reframes food in a more nutritional perspective rather than simply counting the units of energy that they provide.

  • Its adjustable to any body and fitness type and has been studied for people from athletes to the every day office worker.


  • Some cons:

  • Not all macros are created equal. While some foods may be good sources of protein they can also carry very little in other nutrients such as minerals and micro-nutrients. This makes eating processed foods more justifiable and can actually prevent certain nutrients from being consumed.

  • It’s VERY time consuming to look at macros and consider them for dietary choices. Especially in the beginning of a macro based diet its hard to know which foods will fit and suit our macros well. This can be annoying and fatiguing for many.

  • People have been known to occasionally fixate on their macros which can cause stress.

  • Being too low in one nutrient area or too high in another can cause feelings of anxiousness and stress in some people.

  • Many foods have hidden nutrients that don’t seem readily apparent, like the oils hidden in baked goods or the carbs hidden in coffees.

As a preface although the writers of this site are a physical therapist and a personal trainer, we are not registered dietitians or nutritionists. None of the information on this site is medical advisement but general information to help expats make more informed dietary and lifestyle choices.



So in general, macros have a lot of positive elements that can help people to make positive and nutritious food choices, but can also be too restrictive for some or may limit the intake of certain micro nutrients.


That being said, let’s take a look. What ARE the macros? How do we count the ways?



Protein


For weightlifters, fit fiends, and people in physical training this word gets a lot of attention. Yet protein is often misunderstood. Everyone needs protein, and protein is far from the only important component to building muscle.


The body needs proteins. It uses it for proper cell function, the immune system function, repairing cells and tissues in the body, and more.


Proteins come from a wide variety of sources and are composed of amino acids. These acids when combined together form whole proteins. Many sources of proteins such as meats, eggs, nuts, and so on are complete proteins. Plants generally contain some form of amino acids but lack the completed protein structure we typically think of when we say ‘protein’.



Most people need about 10-35% of their diet in protein depending on what your goals are, your activity level, and your overall general health.




List of protein sources


whole proteins: meat, fish, eggs, beans, tofu, nuts


partial proteins: plants such as fruits and veggies


A quick note for plant based, veggie, or vegan readers: protein definitely isn’t impossible to get in these diets. It is harder but not impossible. It will be duly important to partner partial proteins together in order to synthesize complete proteins. These combinations are beyond the scope of this article but recommend looking at common partial protein parings such as beans and rice.


Carbs


Carbs are comprised of fiber, sugars, and starch. This is also the largest intake of all the macros. Carbohydrates are hugely important to proper function of the nervous system. The nervous system can not actually function without the presence of carbohydrates as it is the only source of energy the nerves accept. Hence the dangerous nature of carb restricted diets.


Some sources of carbs: sweet potatoes, beets, corn, oats, brown rice, grains, quinoa, mangoes, bananas, apples, berries, dates, and raisins.



Non-processed or whole foods sources:


Processed or non-whole food sources: bread, pasta, ice cream, processed juices, rice, sodas, cookies, baked goods, breakfast cereal, and other processed baked or boxed options



So are candy and fruit the same? They both have the same sugar building blocks, so both should be fine? Well, not exactly.


Don’t get me wrong I am pro occasional candy, but I am anti getting all carbs from it. Here’s why: The carbs in candy are processed and broken into tiny units. It is easy and fast for the body to digest. The issue with this is the guaranteed, near-immediate hunger that follows the intake of processed sugars.


Although fruits have the same fructose and glucose components as candy and other processed sugars fruits have a key nutritional component that makes them a great choice for consumption: fiber. Fiber is more difficult for the body to break into smaller bits. This prevents the immediate release of sugars into the blood system and instead slows the process giving the body more consistent energy over a longer period of time. A further benefit being that the body won’t become immediately famished and in search of more to eat.



No, we aren’t anti-candy, but we are pro-effective nutrition. Not all carbs are created equal.



Most people need about 45-65% of their daily intake from carbohydrates. The more cardio you do the more carbs you will need.


Fats


People tend to think of fats as our enemy but really they aren’t. Fats are necessary for optimal organ function, proper functioning of the brain, and for general energy. Our bodies love to eat fat because it is so very vital to our survival. Beyond the proper function of our organs our body requires them to produce hormones (making it a very important group for women). We want to reframe our thinking of fats as forbidden and instead think of them as something delicious we can slide into our food DM’s a little bit each meal.



Fats are SO necessary to the human body that if we don’t eat them we will feel hungry despite eating 75 kilos of veggies or other fat-free foods. Just like carbs and proteins there are some critical differences in sources of fat. Fats can come from natural sources or animal sources alike. Even among these there are variants in how the body processes these fats.



At WeBloom, we prefer lean fats with a deep flavor and for this reason tend to opt for olive or coconut oil, or butter on adventurous days.




Processed sources of fat: many many but generally: butter, oil of various persuasion, milk and other dairy products




Non-processed sources of fat: avocado, nuts, fatty fish, meats,




Most people require about 20-35% of their daily calories from fat.

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