Macros, short for macronutrients, are sub groups of the calories (energy) that we consume each day.
There are three macronutrients:
- Carbohydrate (provides 4 calories of energy per 1g)
- Protein (provides 4 calories of energy per 1g)
- Fat (provides 9 calories of energy per 1g)
All three of these are required for bodily functions such as growth and our metabolism, and we need them in large amounts, hence “macro”, meaning “large”.
Macros contain micronutrients that our bodies need in smaller amounts, such as vitamins and minerals. Which is why diet fads that vilify particular food groups are notorious culprits for creating nutrient deficiencies. It is vital to include a variety of balanced foods in order to obtain your micronutrients.
Carbohydrates are our our bodies preferred energy source because it is the most easily accessed nutrient. All our cells and tissue can use glucose for energy. Fruits and vegetables have endless health benefits for us, and they are carbs. Our central nervous system, the kidneys, brain, the muscles (including heart) and our intestines, all require carbohydrates to function properly. True, not all carbs are created equal, but that is another topic for another day. In short, don’t cut out your carbs!
Carbohydrates include; vegetables, fruit, legumes and grains (including their refined products such as bread and pasta).
Every cell in the human body contains protein. It is a major part of the skin, organs and muscles. So as we move and burn energy, it is essential we replace what we use to promote growth, tissue repair, immune function, and of course preserve lean muscle mass (which is no big news to anybody in the sport forum).
Protein can be consumed from legumes, dairy, fish and meat.
Fats have also garnered a bad reputation over the years, often first to be given the chop when it comes to fad diets. True, fat provides just over double the amount of energy per 1g than its counterparts, but eating fat does NOT make you fat. Some fats play a vital role in our overall health and you have to consume them from your diet as your body can’t make them. These EFAs (essential fatty acids) include Omega-3 and Omega-6. Fats also help us to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, that we get from other food sources.
Fat sources include oils, nuts and seeds, olives, avocados, fatty cuts of meat and fatty fish such as salmon.
What Macro Split Should I Be Aiming For?
Once you understand what macros are, the natural progression is to question how much you should be consuming of each. There is no “one size fits all” prescription. Macronutrient levels must be adjusted to suit the individual based on energy expenditure, sporting activities, sex, age, height, current body weight and goal objective. Health conditions and dietary preferences individualise the requirements even more so. Which is why you really shouldn't be relying on an online calculator to answer this question. Seek the guidance of a qualified nutrition professional, and stay tuned for forthcoming articles on nutrition.
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