Updated: Oct 5, 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
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.
Protein will make me bulky or big –
Balance is the key to reaching your nutritional goals. While yes, protein does play a major role in building muscle, consuming it will not immediately make you “bulky” or cause you to gain weight. Protein, eaten in appropriate amounts, will help you reach your performance, health and aesthetic goals.
Fat – While all three macronutrients lead to arguments about how much one should be eating and what diet is best, fat seems to be the one both lauded and vilified the most. While it is seen as amazing and a huge part of success for some diets like keto, it has also been demonized as being the reason for every heart attack that happens. The truth, of course, lies in the middle. There are good sources of fat and other sources that aren’t as good for health, performance and aesthetics. The good fats play major roles in things like cell signaling, tissue health, immunity, hormone balance and production, and the absorption of Vitamins, A & D specifically. Some research has even shown some benefit for memory improvement and even reducing ADHD.
The bad fats, saturated and trans, can have negative effects on heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and other chronic diseases. A very quick and easy way to avoid these bad fats is to limit processed, manmade foods and to eat as many natural food sources as possible.
9 calories per gram
Structure, storage, hormone production and absorption
Fuel source at low intensities and when there is no CHO stored
Myths / misconceptions –
Fat is bad for me –
As stated above, there are healthy fats that can have huge positive impacts on a person’s health, performance and aesthetics. In order to minimize negative effects from fats, make sure to consume the healthy kinds.
Low fat diets are the heart healthiest –
Limiting all fat can actually have a negative effect on a person’s heart health. If you are able to increase certain foods, specifically those high in Omega-3’s, you should be able to actually increase heart health while decreasing your chances of a heart injury or damage.
Fat free products are always better for me –
Have you ever had a favorite food or product you like to eat and then all of sudden they come out with a fat free version? How did the food scientists, producers, company, etc. make them fat free? Often times they are able to do this by adding more preservatives, spices, sugar or sugar additives and alcohols and then to help with the mouth feel or texture they add binders like gums and starches. All of these being used to create the same food is not really a better option for your long-term health and is why we recommend so strongly that people work on the basics of eating natural food.
Our goal is to educate and empower you as much as possible. The point of this article is to start imparting some knowledge about what you are eating and why it is so important to always learn more and grow. We want you to have a good nutrition base and then we can help you more in depth with specific questions and concerns as they come up.
Want to expand your knowledge and grow even more? Click Here to reach out to our coaching staff and to expand your knowledge while being guided by someone who has been there before!
Antonio J, Ellerbroek A, Silver T, Vargas L, Tamayo A, Buehn R, Peacock CA. A High Protein Diet Has No Harmful Effects: A One-Year Crossover Study in Resistance-Trained Males. J Nutr Metab. 2016;2016:9104792. doi: 10.1155/2016/9104792. Epub 2016 Oct 11. PMID: 27807480; PMCID: PMC5078648.
Martin WF, Armstrong LE, Rodriguez NR. Dietary protein intake and renal function. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2005 Sep 20;2:25. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-2-25. PMID: 16174292; PMCID: PMC1262767.