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What Are Macros? A Nutritionist’s Guide

If you have spent any time on the internet, it’s likely that you’ve read the word “macro.” 

In the nutrition world tracking macros are one of the main pillars of losing weight and staying healthy. Short for Macronutrients, macros are the main nutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) that provide the body with the energy needed to think, move, and re-build muscle. 

Tracking the quantity of each macros you eat can help you make smart, healthy food choices. It’s essentially counting calories in a more specific way.

We can break macros into 3 main categories, with the first the being the most important. More on what they are and how to effectively work them into your diet, below. 

Macro 1: Carbohydrates 

Caloric weight: 4 calories per gram 

Contrary to popular diet advice, carbs are not the bad guys. In fact, carbs are the body’s favorite macro for energy. 

When we eat carbs, the body breaks them down to form glycogen. These glycogen molecules are then stored in the brain, liver, and muscles, to be used later as fuel. Having adequate carbohydrates ensures that our mind and body is functioning at optimal levels. 

During weight loss, it’s integral to get the right number of carbs in order to support our energy levels and promote health. While the range of how many carbs you need varies, I recommend .5-2 grams per pound of your target body weight depending on your activity level, weight, lean body mass, and goals.

When tracking this macro, try to aim for naturally occurring sources of carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables as opposed to processed foods. Not only will this offer you better fiber and nutrition, you can eat larger quantities of food to help curb hunger and boost satiety. 

Macro 2: Protein 

Caloric weight: 4 calories per gram 

Protein is a complex macro that serves many functions in the course of losing weight and maintaining a healthy diet. Part of this originates from how protein is used in the body, the other part originates from how protein is digested. 

See, compared to other macros, protein comes with a unique feature called a thermogenic effect. This effect means that when your body is digesting protein, it’s burning more calories than when digesting other nutrients. Over time, eating a protein rich diet taps into this effect and helps you burn more calories without doing more work. 

The other way in which protein supports our health goals is through maintaining muscle mass. By maintaining a protein rich diet, our body is able to regenerate muscle tissue in time with our diet and exercise. This helps us gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously, keeping our bodies lean and healthy throughout weight loss. 

An added bonus? High protein diets keep us full for longer. This increases satiety and reduces unnecessary snacking and overeating. 

Adequate protein intake will maintain muscle mass and help you to build muscle.  Protein is our best weapon for controlling appetite. It staves off hunger better than fats or carbs as it causes you to feel full longer.

How much protein is adequate? Shoot for is .8 – 1.0 times your target body weight in pounds. The most condensed sources of protein include meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and protein shakes. 

Macro 3: Fat

Caloric weight: 9 calories per gram 

While we need to be cautious of unknowingly overeating this high-calorie nutrient, fat is an essential part of a healthy diet. Among other functions, fat helps stabilize the hormonal system, support nutrient absorption, and even fosters brain function. 

To figure an appropriate amount of fat to eat each day, calculate your target body weight in pounds, then multiply by 0.35-0.7. This is the total number of fat grams you should eat per day. 

Meat, fatty fish, nuts, nut butters, avocados and cooking oils are great sources of fat. However, steer clear of saturated fats such as those found in processed foods, as they lack the nutrients needed to keep you healthy. 

The Bonus Macro: Alcohol

Caloric weight: 7 calories per gram 

Since alcohol is not essential to our health, you might be wondering why I included it on a list of macronutrients. The reality is, even though alcohol has little nutritional value, it is high in calories and a common addition to a person’s daily diet. 

As such, it’s important to mind your alcohol intake when beginning on a weight loss journey, as the added sugars and calories, especially those found in mixed drinks and wine coolers, can inadvertently derail your diet for the day. 

When drinking, always be sure to know what’s in your drink and how many calories it contains. This will help you better stay within your calorie limit for the day. 

Demystifying Nutrition 

Now you that you know macros are the main nutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) that provide the body with the energy needed to think, move, and re-build muscle, you might wonder why and how to track them. Be sure to stop back next week for a Part 2 blog article addressing this question!

The internet is filled with information, suggestions, explainer videos, and social media pages. When starting on a personal health journey, this can quickly become confusing and overwhelming. For those with special dietary needs or those short on time, working with a professional is often a faster and safer path to overall health. 

As a nutrition coach and a mom, I understand from experience how challenging it is to put ourselves first and change our lifestyle to promote our wellbeing. This is why I made it my life’s work to help other working women get back on track and realize that the best health of their life is well within reach. 

Have a question? Feel free to reach out or join the community by signing up.  

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