What are macronutrients?
Macros are the nutrients our body needs in large amounts to support normal functioning and health. These include carbohydrates, fats and protein.
Carbohydrates: Carbs are the preferred energy source for the body. Our red blood cells can only use glucose and our brain and other nervous tissues primarily rely on glucose (a form of carb). This is why we do not cut out carbs from our diets. If you ever tried a low or no-carb diet you probably felt tired, irritable, and unfocused. This is because you need carbs to function. Carbs fuel exercise. When we are exercising at max-effort carbohydrates are providing almost ALL of the energy. When people do not eat enough carbohydrates, the body starts to rely fat and protein for energy and therefore these nutrients are not being used to help repair and maintain important bodily processes. Also, Ketoacidosis occurs. This means that when carb intake is too low, something called ketones are present in the blood. Ketones are produced during the breakdown of fat when carb intake is low. This causes the blood to be VERY acidic and alters the bodies basic functions and damages tissues. This can also cause the loss of lean body mass, muscle. Most people’s fitness goals are to be “lean” and have muscle. Well, if you aren’t eating enough carbs, your body uses protein for energy, and then there is nothing left to support the muscle you want!
So many people think carbs will make them gain weight. In all reality, eating more calories than your body needs will make you gain weight, no matter where they come from. If you eat 3000cals/day full of protein and fat, when your body only needs 25000cals/day, then you’ll gain weight. Carbs, especially nutrient-dense ones that are high in fibre actually reduce the risk for obesity and other chronic diseases.
Most health experts agree that most carbohydrate intake should be from complex-carbs. These include whole-grain, unprocessed foods, fruits, and vegetables. The problem with simple-carbs is that they generally contain a lot of added sugars from processing. For example one can of pop contains about 38.5 grams of sugar or 10tsp! Eating too much of these can cause weight gain, diabetes, and other chronic diseases, and not to mention are terrible for your skin.
Fat: Fats are another primary source of fuel because they have the most energy (9cal/per gram) compared to carbs and protein. Think about it, 1tbsp of peanut butter isn’t that much, but it’s about 80-110 calories depending on the type. Fats are a major energy source when we are at rest. Fats also provide energy for activity. The body has a limited supply of carbohydrate, so you can exercise longer when you have stored fat. It’s easy to eat a high fat diet, because we don’t recognize how much fats are in butters, sauces, dips and dressings. I have read a lot about different types of fat in the body and their relation to health. Recent research suggests to limit saturated and trans fats. These foods include highly processed junk food and fast-food. These fats are known to raise LDL cholesterol which is referred to “bad” cholesterol because it raises the risk of cardiovascular diseases. We want to consume “happy” cholesterol also known as HDL. These include foods such as salmon, avocado, nuts, and flaxeed oils. Again, there is constant research and debate about fats and different types of fats. Studies and research change and that’s why it’s important to keep yourself informed and open-minded about the topic.
Protein: The main energy sources for our body are carbohydrates and fat. In healthy people, little protein is used for energy. When the body uses protein for an energy source, it means that it is taken away from the blood and body tissues. Proteins in our body are dynamic, which means they are constantly being broken down, repaired and replaced. Protein is important for cell growth, repair and maintenance, they act as enzymes and hormones, they help maintain fluid and electrolyte balance, help maintain a strong immune system. Therefore, it is important to get adequate protein needs so they are being used for our bodily functions, while allowing our energy to come from carbohydrates and fat. The recommended Dietary Intake (DRI) for protein is 10% to 35% of our total calories/day. Most adults need 0.8 grams per kg of body weight/day. For endurance athletes this may increase to 1.2 to 1.4 grams per kg of body weight and for strength athletes about 1.2 to 1.7 grams.
Common Question: Do athletes need more protein than inactive people? Not necessarily. Studies do not support that eating more than 2x the recommendation for protein helps increase strength, build muscle, or improve athletic performance. Eating more protein in terms of food or supplements does not cause muscles to become bigger or stronger. Only regular strength training can achieve these goals.
In other words, only appropriate training can stimulate our muscles to grow. Even though we need enough protein to support activity and recovery, consuming very high amounts does not provide an extra benefit. Protein needs of athletes are only slightly higher than non-athletes
What does it all mean?
When it comes to nutrition, health and living a balanced lifestyle, it’s important to consume adequate amounts of macro-nutrients with a balanced calorie intake. Eating too much above your needs leads to weight gain, and eating too low will cause you to lose weight and lose the support your body needs. Eating smart choices of foods helps to ensure that your body gets enough of the right nutrients it needs to survive and grow
If It Fits Your Macros is simply another way to calculate how much fuel your body needs according to your goals. The logic behind the IIFYM approach is that you can eat any food your heart desires, and as long as it fits your macros, then your body composition goals will be obtained. For example, eating 1 donut which has X amount of calories, fats, carbs and proteins, can equal the equivalent of eating a chicken breast, rice, and broccoli. You may be gaining more for your buck if you eat the latter example, but all-in-all it’s the same amount of calories and macro-nutrients. This doesn’t mean that eating a donut is as healthy as eating chicken, rice and veggies, but it helps people realize that eating 1 donut may not kill their progress if it fits their needs.
In my words, the IIFYM approach is a way for people to realize how much they should be eating in general, along with the amount of macronutrients needed. This approach has also helped a lot of people who have always focused on “eating clean” and didn’t see any fitness progress. Perhaps they were trying too hard to “eat clean” that they were not consuming enough protein to support their muscles. Or perhaps they were eating too low of carbohydrates that their body was using energy from protein and fats.
For more info go to: IIFYM (which can help you calculate what macro split is best for you)
I would highly suggest researching this topic to not only broaden your perception on health, nutrition and body composition, but also because it is highly individualized. So many people ask me what my “macros” are. Well it doesn’t matter because I’m not the same height or weight as you, we don’t have the same activity level, we don’t train the same, and we have different goals. Also, yes I know what my “macros” are, but they are also just a number. I do not decide whether I eat something based on how many calories it has. I don’t live my life with a calculator at my side as I eat. Through this, I have learned to better judge food and how it accounts for my lifestyle. In all reality, you cannot be controlled by a number, but this approach can help you realize what your body may need, compared to what you are giving it. It may help you understand why you aren't reaching your fitness/body composition goals.