What the heck are macros? Is it a diet plan? And what do they have to do with making me look better naked? As some of the questions we get at the gym indicate, macros tend to cause a lot of unnecessary confusion.
Here’s the simple answer: “macros” is short for “macronutrients.” Macronutrients is an umbrella term for protein, carbs, and fats, i.e., the three nutritional components that make up everything we eat.
Now, let’s break down what macronutrients do for your body and why eating the right kinds of each is so beneficial to strength and health.
Protein is the building block of your body — the foundation from which all good things grow, from muscle and tissue to bones. This is why it’s so important to ensure you consume adequate amounts of protein in your diet. But not all proteins are equal; animal proteins, in particular, comprise many essential amino acids that you just don’t get from whey protein. So don’t just think you’ve got your protein needs covered by relying on a protein shake as you’ll miss out on getting the essential amino acids found in other sources of protein such as animal proteins and various plants and pulses.
Most people think a carb is just a piece of bread, but carbohydrates make up more foods than you think. In fact, many fruits contain more carbohydrates than bread. This is because carbs are made up of a combination of sugar, fibre, and starch. This is not meant to scare you; carbs are important and provide the energy you need to perform day-to-day tasks. But it is important to ensure that you’re eating “good” or complex carbs, ie, a nutrient-dense carb that takes longer to digest. Examples of nutrient-dense carbs include sweet potatoes and oatmeal. In addition to being better for you, they also provide you with a fuller feeling for longer than simple carbs like white bread or french fries.
First off, fats are good things —essential things, really — so don’t get the wrong idea. They are a solid source of energy — each gram of fat is equal to nine calories. Fats also help carry certain vitamins to our body, such as Vitamin A, D, E and K. They contribute to making our hair and skin healthy, and most importantly help our vital organs function properly. Fat is something that people should not shy away from in their cooking. Just make sure you are getting good fats, such as those found in avocados. dairy products, nuts, seeds, and fish, grass-fed butter and olive oil.
A piece of general macro/diet advice: no matter what you’re eating, whether it’s a protein, carb or fat, remember to seek out nutrient-dense, relatively unprocessed foods.
If you’re interested in learning how much protein, carbs and fat you should be eating yourself — i.e. what your ideal macro ratio is— you can find many sources online or you can talk to a coach about nutritional counselling.
Broder McNeill is a coach and co-owner at Alchemy CrossFit.