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UNDERSTANDING MACROS: BEGINNERS GUIDE




I believe in a healthy lifestyle. I believe that you can incorporate your favorite foods into your "diet" and still lose fat. 

Tracking your Macros is a great way to see exactly what you are intaking. It's a great method to observe the portions on your plate. It allows us to live a flexible lifestyle with our favorite dishes.

First and foremost, What are Macros?

Macros are Macronutrients. It’s nutrients that provide our body energy and calories. A calorie is energy our bodies run on. Without enough food, you don’t have enough energy.  Breaking down the word MACRO= LARGE. So these are nutrients that we need in large amounts. 

The 3 major Macronutrients are:

  •  CARBOHYDRATES (NOT THE ENEMY)

  • PROTEINS

  • FATS

Each macronutrient provide calories, but they all provide in different amount. Here is the breakdown of where the calories come from:

  • Carbs provide 4 calories/ gram

  • Proteins provide 4 calories/ gram

  • Fats provide 9 calories/ gram

EXAMPLE: When a nutrition label says it provides 10 grams of carbs, you know that 40 calories are from carbs. 

 Equation: 10 grams of carbs x 4 calories = 40 calories

First up, Carbohydrates.

Carbs are used for fuel and energy and mainly found in fruits, vegetables, grains, starches ( grains, potatoes, beans) and those are the “healthier” types of Carbs. We can all say that Carbs get a bad reputation. We live in a world where people think we should cut out carbs, and that is not the case. Carbs are broken down into glucose and used as the body’s primary energy source. Glucose is used to power your muscles, brain and essential organs. They are critical to our brain function and also influence our mood and memory. 

There are two different types of Carbohydrates:

  • Simple- made up of 1 or 2 sugar molecules. They are the quickest source of energy and easy to digest. Some examples are table sugar, honey, syrup, honey and fruit. Simple carbs are not something we want to eat in bulks, expect for fruit. That’s where people get things confused with the sugar in fruit. 

  • Complex- made up of a string of sugar molecules. They take more time to digest because of fiber. They also provide vitamins and minerals like greens, whole grains, oats, and starchy veggies. 

We want to make sure we are getting the most food for fuel types of carbs.

On a nutrition label, you will see under Carbohydrates:

  • Fiber and Sugar because they both are carbs. Not everyone realizes this. We need a large amount of fiber to function properly and have good bowel movement.

Remember, carbs provide 4 calories per gram

What are Proteins?

Protein helps with growth, immune function and preserving muscle mass. Its found in meats, poultry, fish, cheese, milk and less amounts in fruits and veggies. 

 When we consume protein,  our bodies break the protein into amino acids. It makes up our muscles, skin, bones, hair, skin etc. If we didn’t have protein, our organs wouldn’t exist. Protein is essentially the building blocks of protein. It’s where we build and repair our muscles. 

Some are essential which we need from our diet and non-essential which means we can make it on our own.

There are 20 different amino acids, 9 of which are considered the essential that I mentioned because our bodies cannot produce them naturally. Therefore, they must be obtained through our diet.

Remember, protein provides 4 calories per gram 

What are Fats?

Fat is used for growth, energy,  brain development, maintaining cell membrane, protecting the body’s organs and even helping you absorb vitamins found in foods. Fats is also the most concentrated energy so we get a lot of micronutrients in this. Fat is what is used to keep us full. Our body will store up fat and use it as energy once the carbs reserves have been depleted. 

We get fats from meat, poultry, nuts, milk, oils, fish, and grains.

Breaking down the different types of fats:

  • Saturated- These are fats that are tightly packed and we want to make sure we don’t eat too much of these because it can raise our LDL ( low density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels. This can raise the risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes. 

FACT: Research shows that grass-fed beef may elevate cholesterol less than grain-fed beef.

  • Unsaturated- Fats that are loosely packed. They are found in olive oil, avocado, nuts and these types of fats are known for decreasing heart disease unlike the other two, if we consume too much it increases it. Again, this is finding the balance of everything.

Increasing levels of the essential fatty acids, such as omega 3 and omega 6 can be good for our body. 

  • Trans Fat- This is what all our treats, processed foods and sweets are filled with.

Remember, fats provide 9 calories per gram

LET'S CALCULATE YOUR MACROS

Calculating macros will vary from person to person. This will depend on a person’s height, age, weight, gender, activity level and goal. There are plenty of macro calculators online that you can use to track or use a basic math equation. 

I personally use Healthy Eater Calculator to calculate macros. Using a calculator is much easier. The calculator puts into play your activity level with all the other information, which will determine what your maintenance calories are per day. This is just your day by day calories on waking up, your work. Then depending on your goal ( weight loss, muscle gain, maintain or both) it will figure out what your calorie intake per day should be, protein, fats, and carbs. 

Let's go over the simple equation and understanding on how to calculate your macros.

 First, we are going to over calculating macros for fat loss.

There will be calories coming in aka consuming food and there will be calories going out aka burning energy. 

Calories PER 1LB OF FAT = 3500CAL ( this is based on many science research)

Taking in less calories than we burn * = losing fat/ weight, decreasing body composition AKA being in a caloric deficit

First, we need to find out our calorie needs AKA Maintenance Calories. This is just your day by day calories on waking up, your work.

Equation: 

14-16CAL x PER lb of your BODYWEIGHT. 

  • The 14-16CAL is based on a generic range of your level of activity. If you are more active go towards the higher end. 

EXAMPLE: Susan weighs 200lbs and is somewhat active. Susan is going to be my example. We are now going to take her body weight and multiply by 15.

 200 x 15CAL = 3000 calories is her maintenance calories. The calories she needs everyday. 

Now, we are going to figure out for FAT LOSS. You probably have heard of being in a CALORIC DEFICIT. This means you are burning more calories than you are consuming. 

  • 3000CAL (maintenance calories ) - 500CAL ( generic number of calories used to be in a deficit and SUBTRACT) = 2500CALORIES .

  • 2500 calories per day will bring Susan in a deficit so she can lose fat. 

  • 500CAL X 7DAYS = 3500CALORIE BURNED PER WEEK

See how the numbers fall into place. Now you will be using your weight instead of Susan's.

Going back to what I stated that 1LB of FAT= 3500 calories. So, Susan is burning 1lb of fat per week. 

DISCLAIMER: Of course, our bodies are always changing, especially with water weight, bloating, our monthly visits, hormones this will vary. You won't always see a perfect 1lb every single week. 

It's good to track your weight on a bigger scale aka a bigger picture to see your overall process. 

Bringing it back to calculating your overall macros. 

Remember,

  •  FAT: 9CALS/GRAM

  • PROTEIN: 4CALS/ GRAM

  • CARBS: 4CALS/GRAM

We are going to use Susan’s calories per day she needs to lose weight to factor in the rest of her macros. 

2500calories per day

EQUATION to find each macronutrient:

  • FAT: .2-.5 gram/ lb 

  • PROTEIN: 1g/lb 

  • CARBS: rest of calories

Determining the fat is essentially up to you. I’m going to use .3g per bodyweight. Remember, Susan weighs 200lbs. 

  • FATS: .3g x 200 = 60grams 

  • PROTEIN: 1g x 200= 200grams

 Now we are going to take the 60 grams of fat and multiply by its calories, remember Fats have 9cal/ gram

  • 60 x 9 = 540 calories will be coming from FATS

Now, let's do the same for protein. Protein has 4 calories/ gram

  • 200 x 4 = 800 calories will be coming from protein

We now add the fats and protein calories

  • 800 +540= 1340 calories coming from fats and protein

Our total calories for fat loss goal was 2500. We now subtract 1340 from 2500 and that will equal the calories for carbs

  • 2500-1340=1,160 calories will come from carbs

We know carbs have 4 calories/gram. So we now divide to figure out the grams because we know the calories.

  •  1,160/4= 290grams is coming from carbs

So our Macros for fat loss for Susan:

  • 2500 calories per day

  • 60 grams of fats

  • 200 grams of protein

  • 290 grams of Carbs

There is a simple equation if you like equations. Using “Healthy Eater” Macro Calculator does all the math for you. This is just so you understand WHERE and how the numbers come up. 

You can do the same thing for muscle gain instead of -500 calories to figure out your calorie deficit ( aka burning more calories than you consume). For muscle gain you +500 calories so you are now consuming more calories than you burn. This will bring you into a caloric surplus.