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Macros 101: The basics to a healthier, restrictive-free lifestyle

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

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Have you ever heard the phrase you are what you eat? Well I hate to break it to you, but this indeed is true. Your eating habits have a direct impact on your weight and most importantly your health. If you are feeding your body foods that are fried, fast, and processed you will begin to negatively affect your energy, health, and weight overtime. But, if you are eating whole, well-balanced foods then you are nourishing your body with what it needs to function and reducing your risk for many chronic diseases.

So, before I teach you the basics of Macros, I want you to take this FREE quiz to see if you are under or over eating. It will only take 1 minute of your time and I promise you, it will help you shed more light on your eating habits.

What are Macronutrients?

Macronutrients (“Macros”) are the basic building blocks of nutrition and are made up of three primary sources: Carbohydrates (“Carbs”), Fats, and Protein. Calories (kcal) are units of energy and each macronutrient provides a certain number of calories per gram consumed:

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Each macro group is essential to the body and should not be excessively restricted.

Carbs are the primary source of energy for the body. Many people feel that slashing carbs is the key to weight loss, but as the primary source of energy it can leave you tired and drained if it is cut too low.

The real problem with carbs is that people fail to eat the right quality and quantity of carbs. Failure to do this will likely result in weight gain or chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

All About Carbs

There are two types of carbs: simple sugars and complex carbs. Simple sugars are quickly broken down by the body after they are eaten. This causes a rapid increase in your blood glucose and persistent glucose spikes can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes over time.

Examples of simple sugars include white rice/bread/potatoes, sugar, candy, juices, sodas, cookies, and fries. Complex carbs are made with a longer carbohydrate chain and therefore it is not easily broken down like simple sugars.

After eating complex carbs, your body will slowly break it down over time which causes a slow release of glucose into the bloodstream. As a result, complex carbs help control blood glucose and eliminate glucose spikes.

Examples of complex carbs include brown rice, lentils, beans, sweet potato, whole wheat bread, and quinoa. The name of the game is to replace simple sugars with complex carbs to improve your health and manage your weight.

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The quantity of carbs are just as important as the quality. When carbs are eaten in excess they are stored as glycogen so that they can be used later as glucose.

For every gram of carb that is stored as glycogen, 3-4 molecules of water are also stored with it. If your goal is weight loss, the amount of carbs that you eat within a meal is important because eating too much will not only lead to weight gain over time, but can cause bloating from the water that is stored with each gram of carb.

The other part about carb storage is that once the liver has reached its maximum storage capacity for carbs, all excess carbs are then stored as fat. So if your diet is high in fat and carbs, you have a double whammy of processes that are increasing your body fat percentage. Quantity is just as important as quality for weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.

Let’s Talk About Fats and Proteins

Fats get a bad name as well, but are essential to the body. Fat helps protect organs, absorb vitamins, and provide fatty acids that are not found within the body. In the absence of ketosis, an excess number of calories from fat will be stored as fat and will increase your body fat percentage.

So again, the quantity of fat that you’re eating is important. The quality is also important because a diet that is high in trans- or saturated fats are linked to cardiovascular disease. Therefore, you should replace saturated fats (I.e. butter, fried foods, fast/processed foods) with unsaturated fats (I.e. nuts, avocado, chia seeds, salmon, oils) to have a diet with better quality fats.

But you should also weight and track the amount of unsaturated fat foods you are eating as well, because unsaturated fat is still fat and when eaten in excess it will be stored as body fat. So watch those almonds, nut butters, and avocado 🙂

Protein is very important for muscle and bone growth, hormones, and metabolism. Protein helps people feel full between meals and has been associated with weight loss. Therefore maintaining a well balanced diet with lean protein can improve your health and help you reach your weight loss goals.

Understanding the Nutrition Facts on Food Labels

Okay, so now that we understand macros and what they are, let’s talk a little bit about food labels and the story they tell.

Food labels are very important and should be used to guide your decision on foods.

Whether choosing between take out food or a food on a grocery shelf, using a food label can help you determine the percentage of each macros within that food and whether that food is too concentrated in a macro or micro-nutrient.

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Breaking Down The Anatomy Of Food Labels

The most important parts of a food label are: serving size, fat, protein, sugar, and sodium. The serving size gives you incite on how many servings are within that one container of food. This is important because marketing is savvy enough to state that a food has only a small number of calories, but either the serving size is so small it will require multiple servings or it is mostly composed of one macro group (i.e. fat/carbs).

Fat is important because ALOT of food is super high in fat OR they contain dangerous fats (i.e. trans- and saturated fat). So I also look to be sure that a product is not eating up my entire days worth of fat before I make a decision to eat it. When it comes to protein, protein is KING! I always recommend that my clients eat foods that have some component of protein in it.

Protein helps with satiety and with metabolism, so it is a win-win when eating it. Sugar and sodium are what I like to call, “the hidden evils”. Both are linked to chronic disease and adversely affect weight. Therefore, I always take a look to be sure that foods are not too high in either sugar or salt.

In order to make an informed decision about your food, you must know how to read a food label. Food labels list each macro group in grams which means that in order to determine how many calories come from a particular macro group, you must convert grams to calories.

Let’s Do The Math: How To Calculate Macros

Not the best at math? Let me break it down for you. This just means that for every gram of food you eat, your body is going to receive xyz number of kcal (calories) per gram. A serving size of chips will give you 14 grams of carbs per serving. This means that from one serving of chips 56 of the total number of calories are from carbs. (Need more help, click here)

The reason this is important is because if you should only be eating 150 g of carbs a day to lose weight, one serving of 15 chips leaves you with 94 g of carbs remaining for the rest of the day. Now, let me say this, I teach my clients to enjoy their flexible delights like chips, cookies, etc. here and there.

However, these items must be tracked and must fit within their daily allowance of macros for the day to stay on track with their goal. Where many people go wrong is they overindulge in these items, and worse they don’t track them.

Chips are just a snack, and because it is a simple sugar it will be easily broken down leaving you hungry shortly after. So chances are you’re going to be hungry AGAIN, and if your reach is for more chips instead of foods that hold a little more nutritional value then this becomes a problem.

Now let’s put this into perspective, chips are simply a high carb snack and at 56 grams per serving this eats up a huge chunk of your carbs if your allowance is only 150 g a day. Let’s say that you ate a bagel for breakfast (45 g) and 2 oz. brown rice (40 g) for lunch and dinner.

This would mean that you would have eaten 125 grams of your 150 gram allowance. Eating a handful of chips would actually put you over your allocation of carbs by 31 gram. And everything else that you eat in addition to the chips will continue to put you over on your allocated carbs for the day. Knowing your daily allowance and tracking your foods is the best way to manage your weight.

Macro tracking essentially means that you are logging all of your meals and tracking the number of grams you’re eating per macro group for each food. You then tally the total number of grams per macro group to see exactly how much you’ve eaten within that day to be sure that you are on track with your daily goal. This can be tedious if done manually, but apps like MyFitnessPal make this seamless. I use it daily to keep track of my macros.

I bet you’re wondering how your macros are calculated, aren’t you? Well your macros are calculated using your age, height, weight, lifestyle, and current physical activity level. Unfortunately when you use generic macro calculators they generally don’t factor in your personal lifestyle and goals, and your calories are based on the general population instead of your individual needs.

Calculating Your BMR

As a macro coach, I use your basal metabolic rate (BMR), level of activity, lifestyle, and goals to calculate a daily allowance of macros that is right for you. Your basal metabolic rate is the number of calories your body needs to maintain normal body function such as breathing, thinking, and blood circulation.

This is important because if your calories are drastically cut under or right above your BMR, your body can interpret your diet as a state of starvation since the body isn’t getting enough energy to maintain its basic body function. Initially you will lose weight, but over time your body will begin to hold on to calories, slow down your metabolism, and stop weight loss. So this is why using a generic calculation versus a customized calculation can be dangerous to your long term weight loss goals.

Calculating Your TDEE

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Once your BMR is calculated then the total number of calories to maintain your current weight is calculated. This is called total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), which is the total number of calories required to maintain your current weight when your level of physical activity is taken into account.

This is important in weight loss because you will be working out to lose excess weight and therefore you will use energy (calories) to power those workouts.

An inadequate amount of calories to properly fuel your body will put you in a caloric deficit, yes, but it can also affect your energy levels.

Therefore a proper balance between cutting calories too low and the amount of calories required to maintain your weight is very important.

Once your TDEE is calculated, your current lifestyle and weight loss goals are taken into account to put you in a caloric deficit. Weight loss theory states that in order to lose weight you must burn more than you eat or eat less than what you burn.

This creates a caloric deficit. Let’s look at an example. 2400 calories burned – 1800 calories eaten = – 600 calories (caloric deficit). Research has shown that a caloric deficit of at least 500 kcal a day can lead to weight loss. So your goal is to create a daily caloric deficit to lose weight.

Now, if you want to maintain weight, you would need to eat around the same number of calories that you’re burning a day to prevent a caloric deficit or surplus. Most people gain weight because they are eating more than they are burning.

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Whatever your goal is, weight loss or maintenance, your deficit or maintenance calories are used to set your macro goals.

The daily acceptable macronutrient range are: 45-65% carbs, 20-35% fats, 10-35% protein. Macro goals are set based on your personal lifestyle, health, current diet, and overall weight goals and will differ between individuals.

Bottom line: To lose weight you should eat a well balanced diet, ensure that you are eating the right quality and quantity of foods, burn more than you eat, and use customized macros to guide your nutrition.

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Want A Free Nutrition Audit?

If you want a free nutrition audit click here to book a 15 minute diet audit. I will take a look at where you are and give you feedback on your current nutrition and give you suggestions on what can help you reach your goals. Do you need a little bit more?

I offer 1:1 coaching where I will create a customized macro plan and weight loss plan that is tailored to your goals, lifestyle, and taste buds. Click here to schedule a consultation with me so I can help you achieve your goals with confidence!

Want Me To Do The Meal Planning and Macro Counting For You? Join Planned Eats!

Planned Eats is a monthly meal planning membership where you get done for you meal planning that will keep you on track with your goals and help you provide consistent well balanced meals for your family.

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Learn how to use nutrition, macro-friendly recipes, and movement to optimize your health and weight loss.


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