When people, or the internet, talk about counting macros it may seem like a foreign language. Well, let me translate for you. Macronutrients, macros for short, are nutrients that living organisms like us humans require in large proportions from our diets. Macronutrients can be broken down into three major types of food; fat, protein and carbohydrates. Each of these macronutrients provide energy in the form of calories.
In this post I will explain each of the 3 types of food and break some food myths along the way. Keep reading to get the easy to understand, framework of the nutrition basics.
Since macronutrients main purpose is to provide the body with energy in the form of calories, let me start off with a definition of calories. As the Webster dictionary defines the word, it is a measure of heat energy. This may seem basic but my point is calories are not the villain they sometimes get labelled as. Moving forward, when we talk about calories think energy!
The Macronutrient Family
While calories aren’t the bad guy, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Example: 100 calories is 100 calories, right? Unfortunately, not. Those calories from a doughnut are empty and void of other nutrients very different than the same number of calories from some vegetables. This is why looking at fat, protein and carbohydrates separately can be helpful.
Fat is the backup energy source (after carbohydrates) for your body and brain’s functions. It also insulates and protect your bones. There are healthy fats found in fish, avocado, and nuts. Sources of less helpful fat include sweets and other processed foods. Both helpful and harmful fats have 9 calories per gram.
Protein works hard in your body to repair skin, organs and muscles. It can also help build muscle and maintain chemicals such as hormones. There are 4 calories per gram of protein in foods like beans, red meat, tofu and poultry.
Carbohydrates provide your body and brain with the energy it needs to conquer your day. Sources of carbs include grains, fruit and vegetables. There are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates in food.
As recommended by Health Canada, the accepted range of macronutrients for adults are:
Fat = 20 – 35%
Protein = 10 – 35%
Carbohydrates = 45 – 65%
Why Do People Count Macros?
Counting macros can help to get a fuller picture of the nutritional value of the food you eat. It’s about to get personal folks but let me use myself as an example!
Yesterday I ate 1,389 calories. That number alone is a bit arbitrary. Is this healthy or unhealthy? Considering I am sedentary for most of the day and enjoy staying active but do not train like a bodybuilder, it is a pretty standard number. However, my macronutrient breakdown can be even more of an insight! My macros looked like this for the same day, keep in mind no one is perfect.
These numbers are close to the guidelines and my body felt great with the food I fueled it with. This last point is just as important as any number.
Now that we are familiar with counting macronutrients, stay tuned for another blog post talking about different macronutrient proportions to achieve your specific goals!
Shelby Lang-Perry is an AURA Team member with a passion for health and wellness. She is armed with a B.Sc. in Nutrition and Food Science to get you the real story on all your nutrition questions.