Whether you’re a fitness newbie, a gym enthusiast or you are simply a lover of food, one thing you’ll definitely have heard about is macros.
Whether it’s through Instagram hashtags, your trainer has asked you about them, or you’re just wondering what on earth IIFYM actually means (if it fits your macros) then look no further – we’re about to break it down for you.
All foods fit into three main categories – carbohydrates, fats and proteins. There are of course further breakdowns of each such as fibre and sugars, but those three are our primary focus; these are your macronutrients.
When we talk about macros, we’re talking about what kind of balance or ratio of each of the three groups we are getting from our foods. Calculating macronutrients is a brilliant way of getting specific with your nutrition to fine tune your goals and understand where you need to make changes.
For instance, if you’ve ever used a food tracking app to record what you’ve eaten for the day you may have focused on calorie intake. Your macro intake can also be viewed and tracked on these apps, and you can check the breakdown of each you’re getting.
A common starting point when people are looking to lose body fat is to reduce the number of carbohydrates consumed. This isn’t because carbohydrates are bad but it is most common to be consuming a diet that is too high in carbohydrates and too low in protein – especially with the rise of fast food outlets and ever-growing confectionery aisles!
There is no magic formula for the balance of each – it is personal and dependent on your goals – however reducing your carbohydrate intake is a good place to start if you’re looking to get leaner and lose body fat.
So let’s consider carbohydrates in a bit more detail to understand which foods we can easily eliminate but also why we shouldn’t rule carbs out entirely.
Carbohydrates are essential to our survival; they provide our bodies with glucose which is then converted into the energy we need for day to day living. Your brain consumes more glucose than any other organ in your body, so it is really important to get a good amount of carbohydrates in your diet – but from the right foods.
There are different kinds of carbohydrates, and this distinction is the key to making wise food choices. There are starches, sugars and fibres – but we can simplify this further and look at the following two categories:
Flours, white breads, sugars, pastries, etc. – think about foods that have gone through a refining process and don’t look like their natural state.
These foods release energy very quickly and cause a fast increase in blood sugar levels. This put simply will lead to excess fat storage and an array of health issues like fatigue, irritability, poor concentration, etc. – so avoid these types of carbs!
Vegetables, fruits, pulses, whole grains, etc. – natural foods from the earth that you can easily recognise.
These foods release energy much slower, taking longer to digest and with more fibre than refined carbohydrates. These foods keep you feeling full, light and full of energy so get a good variety in your diet!
- Vegetables + Legumes – leafy greens, root vegetables, sweet potatoes, etc.
- Pulses – beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
- Berries – blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc.
- Wholegrains (in moderation) – oats, quinoa, brown rice, rye, etc…
There are lots of conflicting and confusing information when it comes to fats, so we’re going to break it down for you.
Fats are a great source of energy but they are also higher in calories per gram than carbohydrates and proteins so it is important to not consume too much if you are looking to reduce body fat.
Fats are formed with fatty acids – saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated:
These are the fats that get a bad press – too much of these will increase the amount of bad cholesterol (LDL) in our blood which can lead to heart problems.
Good cholesterol (HDL) helps to keep the balance by moving bad cholesterol to the liver and out of the bloodstream. You can increase your good cholesterol can by consuming unsaturated fats.
Unsaturated (poly and mono)
Unsaturated fats are found in foods such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds and oily fish and help to keep your cholesterol levels in check.
They also give us essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 that are essential for hormone production, cell health and production and nervous system functions.
- Oily Fish
- Eggs (yolks)
- Nuts + Seeds
- Grass Fed Butter
Protein seems to be the most talked about macronutrient in the fitness industry.
It is vital for muscle growth and development as well as being a source of energy – hence the obsession. More than just that, protein is required for almost every cell function, so it is really important to consume enough from a variety of food sources.
(with macro content per 100g*)
- Chicken Breast (31g)
- Turkey Breast (30g)
- Steak (29g)
- Peanut Butter (27g) **
- Salmon (20g)
- Tofu (16g)
- Eggs (13g)
- Lentils (9g – cooked)
- Whey Protein – Whey protein can be used as a supplement to boost your protein intake – particularly useful when building muscle as your protein requirements will be quite high. It can be difficult to consume enough protein through food without increasing all of your macronutrients and calories so you can try a whey protein shake (post workout ideally!)
- Reflex Instant Whey (80g per 100g)
*Sourced from www.nutritiondata.self.com
**Note – Peanut Butter is also very high in calories and fat so we wouldn’t recommend chowing down 100g portions!
Hopefully, this has helped to simplify what macronutrients are and why we need a good balance for optimum health and nutrition.