WHAT ARE MACROS & WHAT SHOULD MINE BE?
Macros aka Macronutrients.
A macronutrient is a nutrient that the body requires in large (macro) amounts. For us humans there are 3 macronutrients that we require & consume. Protein, Carbohydrates & Fats.
Along with alcohol, these macros provide our body with calories. Protein, Carbs and Fat serve many important roles in our body.
Let’s dive in and look at each macronutrient individually.
“Protein to grow”
Protein is a large molecule made up of smaller molecules called amino acids.There are 20 amino acids of which our body can produce 11, the other 9 must come from food we eat.
Why is protein important?
Protein is important for a number of bodily functions. Some functions & benefits of protein include…
- Immune, hormone & enzyme function
- Healthy hair & skin
- Helps to maintain muscle while in a calorie deficit or as a result of ageing
- Important for muscle growth (stimulates muscle protein synthesis)
- Aids recovery from training & maximises adaptations from training
- Increases satiety (feeling of fullness). Important if trying to lose weight
- Higher thermic effect / TEF. Important if trying to lose weight
- Important for sports performance (the most important macro in terms of needs analysis for someone in a deficit/athlete)
How many calories are in protein?
1 gram of protein contains 4 calories
How Much Do I need?
Currently the recommended intake of protein is around 0.8g/kg of bodyweight. However, this is the minimum you need to avoid deficiency, it is not the amount for optimal health. You should aim to consume more than this. Below I have summarised protein recommendations based on a few common goals.
|GOAL||IMPORTANT FOR||HOW MUCH PER DAY||DOSAGE / FREQUENCY|
|Fat Loss. Maximise muscle retention while in a Calorie deficit||People trying to lose fat / weight||1.5-2.2g/kg or 2.3- 3.1g/kg of fat free mass||Whatever your preference|
|Muscle Gain. Maximise resistance training adaptations||Bodybuilders, people wanting to build muscle||1.6-2.7g/kg||Distributed evenly throughout the day. 0.4-0.55g/kg/meal over 4 meals or every 3-4hrs. Bolus before bed|
|Endurance Performance||Endurance Athletes||1.2-1.7g/kg||Distribute evenly throughout the day|
|Maintaining muscle mass / prevention of Sarcopenia||>40yo||1.2-1.6g/kg||At least 1 serving per day that is ~30g or 0.4-0.6g/kg + include protein source at breakfast|
|General recommendation for optimising health||General Population||1.2-1.6g/kg||Whatever your preference|
e.g. If I was 80kg, wanted to lose fat and was trying to eat 1.6g/kg of protein that would be 1.6 x 80 = 128g of protein. This would be 512 calories (128g x 4)
Foods high in protein
- Protein Powder
- NOT nuts
“Carbs to go”
Carbohydrates are made up of the molecules carbon, hydrogen and oxygen (CHO).
They are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, vegetables and grain etc.
Contrary to what some geezers say, carbs do NOT make you fat. Too many calories (more than you burn) over time make you fat.
There are several types of carbohydrates
- Monosaccharides = single units. Glucose, Galacrose & Fructose
- Disaccharides = two monosaccharides
- Maltose = Glucose + Glucose
- Lactose = Glucose + Galactose
- Sucrose = Glucose + Fructose (this is table sugar)
- Polysaccharides = Linked monosaccharides
Why Are Carbohydrates Important
1. Carbs are delicious
2. They are the main and preferred source of energy for humans. Something interesting to know is that carbohydrates are not essential. However, they are the primary fuel source for the brain and central nervous system so they are kind of very important. Carbohydrates are also where we get our fibre from so are important for digestive health. The bottom line is that we need some carbohydrate in our diet for optimal health.
3. Carbs are also important for fuelling exercise for optimal performance (especially high intensity exercise) and helping to maximise muscle retention during training. The amount of carbs you require will depend on things like body weight, training, training volume, environmental factors and your goals.
As carbs are not essential, reducing them (not eliminating them) while trying to lose fat is a common approach to reduce calorie intake to create a calorie deficit. However, a zero carb diet would NOT be optimal health or performance.
How Many Calories Are in Carbs?
1 gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories
How much do I need?
|Goal||Amount per day|
|Muscle Gain / Strength Athlete||2-6g/kg|
|Health (General Population)||1-4g/kg|
Examples of Sources of Carbohydrate
- Fruit & Vegetables
- Oats & Cereals
- Energy gels
“Fat for mojo”
Most (95%) of dietary fats are in the form of triglycerides. Triglycerides are made of glycerol and fatty acids.
There are 3 types of fatty acids:
- Saturated: e.g. found in cheese, milk, red meat, coconut oil, butter
- Monounsaturated: e.g. found in olive oil, almonds, avocado
- Polyunsaturated: e.g. found in salmon, sunflower oil
Essential fatty acids include Omega 3 fatty acids (alpha-Linolenic acid) & Omega 6 fatty acid (Linoleic acid). These are polyunsaturated fatty acids.
There are also Trans Fats. Also called partially hydrogenated vegetable oil which is found in margine, fried food, parstried and highly processed snack foods.Trans fats have been shown to increase risk of cardiovascular disease so best to minimise these for health.
Why Are Fats Important?
- Cell signalling
- Electron carriers
- Components of cell membranes
- Immune function/maintain a healthy immune system
- Help with production of sex steroid hormone
- Production of recovery hormones
- Help absorption of fat-soluble vitamins
- Improve blood lipid profiles
- Large energy source
- Fuel for low intensity exercise thus preserving carbohydrate stores
How Many Calories Are in Fats?
1g of Fat contains 9 calories. Fat is the most calorie dense of the macronutrients.
How Much Do I Need?
For fats we still use a % of total calories. However, usually for health we want between 0.5-1.2g/kg with the lower range being people in a calorie deficit depending on their preference of food choice.
A general guide is ~25% of total calories but more specifically,
- Gen pop = 15-80% of total calories
- Endurance athlete = 22% of total calories
- Strength athlete / bodybuilder = 25-45% of total calories
It’s a good idea not going below 15%, try and consume a moderate amount between 20-40% of total calories
Example Sources of Fat
- Oils e.g. olive oil, coconut oil
- Deep fried food
- Fatty cuts of meat and mince
- Oily fish
- Dark chocolate
- Full fat yoghurt
“Protein to grow, Carbs to go, Fats for mojo”
What is the magical macro split?
Many a guru will tell you that you need a certain macro split for your goal or body type 😂 They will swear you need a specific ratio of carbs to protein to fats as a percentage of your total calories. Should it be 40,20,40 or maybe 50,30,20?? I’ll tell it to you straight.
THERE ARE NO MAGICAL MACRO SPLITS
Say it with me again “There are no magical macro splits”
The amount of protein you require is based on your goal and body weight.
For example as we saw above, for maximising muscle gain 1.6-2.7g/kg is recommended and for health 1.2-1.6g/kg.
We know that the amount of carbs and fats can change on a daily basis & vary however you prefer with no real impact on fat loss or health, unless it tips you into a surplus which will cause weight gain.
Said another way, if fat loss is your goal focus on hitting your protein target, then make up the rest of your calorie allowance from fats and carbs however you prefer. It won’t make any difference to your fat loss goals.
Here’s the nail in the coffin for macro splits
Say you eat 1.8g/kg of protein for the day but then you eat less carbs and fats. Your ratio of protein will change and now be larger, making your ratio / macro split completely useless.
This is why macro splits are incredibly impractical and pointless.
Rather than bang on here, Uncle Martin provided 2 very timely posts on this matter read them below for a great summary.
International society of sports nutrition position stand: diets and body composition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5470183/
Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health. https://nrc-prod.literatumonline.com/doi/10.1139/apnm-2015-0550?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dwww.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov&#.XsCnUxMzbxs
Dietary protein for athletes: From requirements to optimum adaptation https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02640414.2011.619204
High-Quality Carbohydrates and Physical Performance https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5794245/
Carbohydrate Availability and Physical Performance: Physiological Overview and Practical Recommendations https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6566225/