What are macros?

Macronutrients known as macros are by definition a substance required in relatively large amounts by living organisms. In the human diet this refers to types of food (e.g., fat, protein, carbohydrate). Micronutrients are what we know as vitamins and minerals and are needed for the body to function properly, just in a much smaller amount then macros. Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fats all play apart in the growth, development, and functionality of the body and none of them can be removed from consumption permanently or long term without side effects. To help better understand the role each of these play in the function of the body we will spend some time to briefly define them and what they do in the body.

Protein

Proteins, termed the building blocks of the body, are large molecules composed of amino acids. Proteins are responsible for many functions of the body some of these are; acting as enzymes, hormones and antibodies in the body along with building, maintaining, and repairing cells, tissues and organs of the body. The body needs twenty amino acids and can create eleven of these by itself. The nine that the body cannot create are what are called “essential amino acids” and must be acquired through food. These essential amino acids are: Tryptophan, Threonine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Valine, and Histidine. Meat and eggs contain all 9 essential amino acids but those following a plant based diet still have plenty of options to get all of their essential amino acids in. This can be most easily done through the pairing of legumes and grains like rice and beans or peanut butter and whole wheat bread.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates can be classified as any of a large group of organic compounds occurring in foods and living tissue including sugars, starch, and cellulose. They contain hydrogen and oxygen and can be broken down to release energy(glucose) in the Human body. Glucose is used as the primary source of energy for the brain, muscles and other parts of the body.

There are two types of Carbohydrates, Simple and Complex. Simple carbohydrates are sugars with a molecular construction of one or two parts. Simple carbs are digested in the body quickly and are a quick source of energy for the body. Complex carbohydrates are sugars with a molecular structure of three or more parts. The process to digest these carbohydrates takes longer and are usually more apt to satiate hunger than simple carbs. Complex carbohydrates also contain necessary vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Fats

Fats are organic compounds that are made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen and they are a source of energy for the body. Fats are essential to the diet just like protein and carbs as they help you absorb the micronutrients vitamins A, D, E, K otherwise known as the fat-soluble vitamins. The fats we get from food also give our body the essential fatty acids called linoleic and linolenic acid. Fats also play a vital role in body functions like blood clotting (vitamin K) and developing of the brain (vitamin D) just to name a few. Similar to essential amino acids these fats are essential because the body cannot produce them. The three main types of fats in relation to nutrition are Unsaturated fats, Saturated fats, and Trans fats. There are two types of fats most would consider good/healthy one is Monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. The other is Polyunsaturated fats found in sunflower oil, walnuts, flax seeds/flaxseed oil, and fish to name a few. Saturated fats while found mostly in animal products and byproducts can also be found from natural sources like coconut and coconut oil. Trans fat occur naturally in some meat and dairy products but most of the trans fats that the general population consumes are created by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil (hydrogenation) making it take a more solid form. Trans fats should be avoided as much as possible as currently there is little research out here to list any positive health benefits from them unlike the other two fat types listed.

How to calculate macros?

To calculate macros you have to understand how to break them down. This is done by a simple equation of energy(calories) per gram. Protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram. Fat contains 9 calories per gram. So 10 grams of protein and carbs equals 40 calories, but 10 grams of fat equals 90 calories.

Example:

10(grams of carbs/protein) multiplied by 4(calories) = 40 calories

10(grams of fat) multiplied by 9(calories) = 90 calories

Being able to calculate macronutrients is essential when using a meal plan that breaks down your calories into macro percentages. For example, if you have person who consumes 1800 calories and has their macros broken into a 35/35/30 or 35% carbohydrates, 35% Protein, and 30% fat plan then the grams required of each macronutrient would be as follows:

1800 x .35(35%) = 630 calories   630/ 4 = 157.5g protein & carbohydrates

1800 x .30(30%) = 540 calories   540/ 9 = 60g fats

If you would like to skip doing the math on your own then you can use a macronutrient calculator like here.