What are Macronutrients?
Macronutrients are the essential energy sources the body needs to burn fat and build muscle. The macros refer to protein, fat and carbohydrates. You need all three to provide the body with the right fuel to function in a healthy manner. While many diets focus on fat burning, bodybuilders know that the best way to burn fat is to also build muscle because it engages the natural cycle of fuel intake, energy consumption, repair and growth that is necessary to a lean, strong and healthy body. Each of the macronutrients provides a specific set of nutrients needed for different aspects of the process. Fat is as important as carbohydrates but protein is most important of all in the world of bodybuilding.
How much should you have each day?
Here are some general guidelines. Remember, none of these ratios are set in stone. These are just general suggestions. You’ll have to figure out what works for your metabolism, you level of exercise, etc:
The basic macronutrient diet is calculated in percent of total calories taken in per day. If you are looking for bodybuilding results you want to make sure that 40 to 60 percent of your calories are carbs, 30-50 percent is protein and 15 to 30 percent is fat. For weight loss, the ratios might be different. You want 40 to 50 percent of your calories to be from protein, 30 to 40 percent from fat and 20 to 40 percent from carbohydrates. There is a lot of guidance online to help you figure out the right ratios for you. There is a well known site that has a detailed calculator, If It Fits You Macros (iifym.com). You can also track macros with My Fitness Pal.
There are 9 calories in each gram of fat. There are 4 calories in each gram of protein or carbs.
Example: You are eating 1500 calories per day and you want to eat 40% protein, 35% carbs and 25% fat.
- 1500 x .40 = 600 calories = 150 grams of protein
- 1500 x. 35 = 525 calories = 131.5 grams of carbohydrates
- 1500 x .25 = 375 calories = 41.66 grams of fat
When you are in the lower range in terms of carbs, you could cycle the amounts you eat. With cycling, you would be strict about it for two or three weeks and then change your macros to add more carbs for a few days to prevent your body from getting used to the pattern. There are a couple of ways you can carb cycle (more info on that).
How do you keep track of them?
Macronutrient diets use the weight of specific food with known fat, carbohydrate and protein content to make sure that your body is getting what it needs to maximize the fat burning and muscle building process. It can take some time to learn and you have to use a food scale and food journal to do it correctly. You also have to have a list of the macronutrient content of foods in grams that you can consult as you build your meals.
What does a macro based diet do for you?
Bodybuilders know that the problem with food is that we rarely understand what it is we are eating. Learning how to provide yourself with a macro based diet means you are learning the reality of what you eat. People on the Paleo Diet may consume to much fat, Atkins follower may lose all the carbohydrates – by following a macro diet bodybuilders bring their food intake into balance with what their bodies needs to maximize fat loss while building healthy muscle. Macro dieting doesn’t have to make you big. It is usually done as a part of the cutting cycle for bodybuilders and weightlifters use it to increase strength and resiliency. Macros focus on the energy calories of foods, not necessarily the nutrition content so you have to keep a close eye on your diet to make sure you are getting in the right amounts of vitamins and minerals to support healthy functioning. It requires a lot of research and tracking, so it’s not for everyone. You have to constantly monitor your results and change your food intake to find the right percentages for you. There is no one size fits all plan.
Who shouldn’t bother with macros?
Macro dieting is not for everyone and in certain instance, it can be negative. If you have a history of extreme dieting or have battled an eating disorder then this is not the plan of action for you. Macro tracking require a close focus to be kept on food amounts that can trigger prior restrictive behaviors. Also, if you are just starting out on a weight loss and an exercise program then following a macro diet may not make sense or could be too hard to follow. For many people, the main benefit of macro diets are that they can get you past plateaus once you are close enough to your goal you can taste it.
You should ask your doctor before starting any type of diet plan and get guidance on what would work best for you.