Mastering Your Macros: Part 1
This article is not written to be taken as the one and only true path to perfect nutrition and fitness. It will not be 100% effective to 100% of the population. It is not a magic diet. It is simply a path that can lead a person who follows it consistently to a greater understanding of how to manipulate calories and macros (macronutrients) to gain or lose weight and recomposition their bodies.
The truth is this, ANY diet when followed correctly and consistently, will produce results. Eating less calories and burning more calories results in a deficit of your body’s maintenance caloric needs and as a result, you will burn body fat and/or muscle to fuel your body’s needs. Eating above your body’s maintenance caloric needs and you will gain muscle/fat. The Calories in, calories out equation is not new. Even some of the newer “fad” diets all come down to intake and output.
So what are your goals? Lose weight? Maintain weight? Or gain weight? What’s a macro? How do they factor in to the calories in/calories out equation?
Macros or more formally Macronutrients are the categories of nutritional compounds that your body breaks down for fuel. The 3 main Macros that we will focus on are: PROTEIN, CARBOHYDRATES, AND FATS. Most if not all of your caloric intake comes from these three sources. Each provide the body with energy in the form of calories.
The estimated energy output for each is as follows:
1 Gram of Protein = 4 Calories per Gram
1 Gram of Carbohydrates = 4 Calories per Gram
1 Gram of Fat = 9 Calories per Gram
Now that you know how many calories each one provides, what else do they do for the body?
Proteins; which is a term used to describe amino acids, are the building blocks of the body. They are used to build and repair muscle that has been broker down from exercise, or to grow muscle through hypertrophy. Above all, protein is the number one macro that we should be concerned with hitting the most consistently.
Carbohydrates; these little devils have been getting a bad reputation in the fitness world for a while now. I will spare you the rhetoric and say this: For the purpose of fueling your body, carbohydrates are essential for most people’s optimal performance. They are the main fuel for our body, and are essential for delivering glucose for energy to every system in our body. Brain, central nervous, system, organs, muscles, Etc. The carbs cause the pancreas to secrete insulin, and insulin stimulates tissue growth, both fatty tissue and muscular tissue. What our body does not immediately use gets stored in the liver as glycogen, and when we over consume what is needed, weight gain occurs.
Fats; fats are also traditionally viewed as “the bad guy” when it comes to intake. In reality, they are the heavyweights when it comes to fulfilling caloric needs, and act as a secondary fuel source to carbs. They are essential to absorbing vitamins, growth, and hormonal balance. They can keep you satiated, meaning you will be less hungry when you maintain an adequate intake of healthy fats. The reason they are referred to as “essential fatty acids” is the fact that they cannot be created in the body and need to be ingested through what we eat.
So now that you have an idea of what macros give us, how much of each should we be consuming to reach our goals? The answer to this is the single most feared answer in the fitness and athletic world:
It is subjective to each person. Beyond gaining, maintaining, or losing weight, each person’s lifestyle, training choices, not to mention genetic makeup, can change which amounts of each macro is optimal for them to reach their goals.
We will cover how to find your maintenance calories, and give the equations and targets for the aforementioned goals in Part 2 of this article.
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