“Counting Macros” is growing in popularity in the fitness world for a reason- it works. There are tons of personal success stories, including mine and my mom’s. Counting macros allows an individual to make dietary adjustments that suit any goal they have- whether it is losing weight, gaining muscle, or maintaining their current physique. The best part about it (in my opinion) is that counting macros doesn’t eliminate any particular foods as “off-limits”. Theoretically, you could eat foods you love (hellooooooo ice cream!), while still attaining your fitness goals.
Interested? I thought so 😉
What are macronutrients?
All foods are made up of macronutrients and micronutrients. Micronutrients are the things we think of as vitamins and minerals. We need micronutrients in very tiny amounts, and they don’t have any caloric value. Macronutrients are the three major components of our food that have a caloric value. The three macronutrients are Protein, Carbs and Fats.
Our bodies require all of the macronutrients to function properly.
Protein is composed of amino acids, which are required by your body to synthesize and repair body tissues. This is especially critical to those that are physically active/exercising, as your body requires protein to build and repair muscle. Body enzymes and hormones are also proteins.
Carbohydrates are typically thought of as the body’s energy source. Carbohydrates are composed of chains of sugar molecules that are broken down by the body and used for energy. One sugar our body needs is glucose, which is preferred by the brain and heart.
The last macronutrient is Fat. Historically, Fat has been considered the “bad guy” of the three main macronutrients by most people. However, Fat is required by the body for insulation of organs, and cushioning of the body. Fat is also important for the storage of vitamins, as some vitamins are only fat soluble.
Calories and Macros:
Each macronutrient has a corresponding caloric value.
1 gram of protein is 4 calories.
1 gram of carbohydrates is 4 calories.
1 gram of fat is 9 calories.
But, the whole point of counting macronutrients, is NOT to keep track of your calories. The idea of “tracking you macros” is composing your diet of a certain percentage of each of the macronutrients.
There are tons of ways people go about calculating your macros. To be honest, there is quite a bit of trial and error involved in the process. Some people’s bodies do better with slightly higher carbohydrates, while other people find that their body responds better to slightly higher fats. What is most important is staying consistent, even if you feel like it’s not working. Sometimes, it may take a few weeks for your body to start showing changes. For other people, it’s a bit quicker. The most important thing is staying consistent!
I have personally had great success tracking macros at different points in my life. I was a college athlete with a fascination for nutrition and fitness, which also gave me a practical application for testing out what counting macros could do for me. After my junior year, I decided I wanted to be in the best absolute shape possible for my senior soccer season. I did my homework, and I calculated the macros that I thought would be the best fit for me. As I mentioned before, there is some trial and error involved, but it was well worth the result.
The proof is in the pictures:
The top right photo is the “before” picture. I was in pretty good shape, but I had no clue what to do with my nutrition. I had some definition in my stomach, but nothing compared to my “after” pictures (left, bottom right).
Although I am pretty dang proud of my own personal transition, I am WAY more proud of my mom’s. In December of 2015, my mom went for her yearly physical. She had the regular bloodwork and other lab tests done, as always.
I got a phone call soon after.
My mom was diagnosed as “pre-diabetic”, meaning if she didn’t make some serious lifestyle changes, she would have to start taking medication. For some people, this might be fine. To my mom, it was a wake-up call. Shortly after leaving the doctor’s office, she called me. She was absolutely distraught- she thought that she prepared fairly healthy meals, and she didn’t indulge in sweet treats on a regular basis. What was she supposed to do?
She had an appointment with a nutritionist (who I won’t name here) that was utterly useless. She advised my mom to eat more fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains. When my mom tried to explain that this is what she did eat, the nutritionist merely shrugged and told her she should start working out.
I was FUMING after I heard my mom’s story. My mom is in her fifties- it’s not realistic that she will be at the gym every single day, lifting weight, running, and taking fitness classes. My mom hadn’t done these things for most of her adult life, and she was left on her own to figure it out.
So, I did the only reasonable thing I could think to do. I wrote my mom a workout plan, and I taught her how to count macros.
The results were astounding. She lost ten pounds in the first month alone. It wasn’t easy, but after a few months, she had lost enough weight to require a whole new wardrobe (sorry dad!), and the doctor told her she was no longer “at risk” for developing diabetes.
Counting Macros is so much more than a diet- it’s a lifestyle change that forces people to become educated about what they put in their body on a daily basis. Although you may not count macros forever, you cannot “unlearn” what works for you, and what doesn’t. Counting macros has done wonderful things for my athletic career in college, and for my family members who just want to make healthier choices. In my opinion, its the most sustainable, educational option out there for someone looking to change their appearance, or get healthier.
Until next time,