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What Are Macros?

Updated: Oct 4, 2021

You hear about Macro’s all the time, you constantly hear people talking about all sorts of acronyms too for how to implement them (IIFYM, etc…) and often times people know what they are, but a lot of our athletes are young high school and aspiring athletes, so let’s go ahead and go through exactly what a macro is and how tracking them may, or may not, be a great idea.

So, what exactly is a macro? It’s short for macronutrient and it is the way we measure food, specifically in grams for each of the three major food energy sources: Protein, Carbohydrates (CHO), and Fat.

CHO – primary fuel for most processes in the body, the brain specifically uses it as its primary fuel source unless there are high levels of stress. CHO plays a major role in the central nervous system, muscles and major organs.

4 calories per every gram

Water / hydration – each gram of stored glycogen comes with 3-4 grams of water attached, this can help people, specifically athletes, to hydrate properly

Used for high intensity & short duration work, it is also the brain’s main fuel source

Myths / misconceptions –

Carbs are always the enemy – This has become a big stigma and is simply not true. It is all about balance and understanding how to take in good nutrient dense foods in the proper amounts. Carbs can be a great ally, specifically for athletes who play high intensity or high-power output sports as they will allow them to reach their potential and fuel those movements and events. Having, good, high quality carbohydrate sources will play a huge role in overall health and performance when eaten in the correct portions.

Keto is the only way to be skinny or lose weight immediately – workouts, diets and fashion are all cyclical. Right now, the Ketogenic (keto) diet is incredibly popular. There is some great research to show that, if done properly and with a good dietitian or coach’s guiding hand, keto can work very well. Here at PP we have had many clients who we have helped navigate this diet and seen succeed. The issue becomes the vilification of carbohydrates because people think that keto is the only way to succeed in weight loss and other goals. This is simply not the case, and we prove it daily with athletes who increase their carbohydrate intake, while improving their body composition, weight and performance. Check out our, “Is One Diet the Best?” article.

Pro – everyone associates protein with muscle. We see the ads showing people with sculpted physiques in bathing suits drinking the product or holding a tub of it. What people don’t know is that protein has other important structural roles in the body, specifically helping with skin, cell membranes, hair and nails. It also plays a major role in the metabolic, hormonal and acid-base balance in the blood and other parts of our body.

4 calories per every gram

Rebuilding, structure

Used as a fuel source only out of need in specific situations

Myths / misconceptions –

  • Too much protein will destroy your kidneys – This became a myth when it was found that people with kidney injuries and disease were found to have high pressure and high filtration rates when they consumed high protein diets. Because of this information, they assumed that people with healthy kidneys would have the same problems, but research has shown that this is not the case.

We are all about balance and eating for a person’s specific needs, but research is constantly showing that most people under eat protein. We often look to help add whole food sources of protein for our athlete’s and clients so that they can reach their goals.

Researchers have done studies with participants taking in up to 3g/kg for an entire year. For perspective, we usually have athletes at 1.5-2g/kg. In this study, there were no negative effects on the kidneys, or the blood fat levels and even with the excess calories. These resistance trained men had no increase in fat and most saw an increase in lean body mass.

  • Protein drinks are bad for you –

It may be helpful to start with Supplements & How to Choose, since we’ve talked about them before. At PP we believe that if properly researched and used, they can be a big ally for our athletes and clients. This stigma goes back to the negative stereotypes about the horror stories that have come from the poor actions and decisions made by other nutrition companies over the years. Another reason for it goes back to the above myth about kidney health in people with healthy kidneys. Make sure you do your homework, pick NSF or other 3rd party tested products and only use them as supplemental to whole foods, and they can be a great help.