What are macros and what do I need to know about them?

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What are macros and what do I need to know about them?

In dieting circles, the word ‘macros’ comes up reasonably frequently. So what on earth are macros and what do you need to know about them?

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The word macronutrients refers to the 4 energy giving nutrients, carbs, proteins, fats and alcohol – each of these macronutrients combine to give us the profile of our overall calorie intake. Most foods are a mixture of macros, for example bread contains most carbs but also a small amount of protein and fat, which is why all of these are listed on the nutritional panel. Other foods may contain just one nutrient, for example fruit which only contains carbohydrate. Each of these nutrients contains a different amount of calories per gram. Carbohydrate contain 4 calories per gram, protein also 4 calories per gram while alcohol contains 7 calories per gram and fat 9 calories per gram. 

The different proportion of macros in your diet determines your overall macronutrient profile. A typical diet that contains a few serves of breads, cereals and fruit will contain 50-60% carbohydrates while a low carb or ketogenic diet can contain as little as 10% carbohydrates as protein and fat rich foods take up most of the diet. The different proportions of macronutrients will also largely determine if you are likely to burn extra body fat. Diets that are relatively high in carbohydrates or 50-60% of overall intake are unlikely to see fat stores being burnt unless coupled with a number of hours of physical activity each day. On the other hand, a moderate carbohydrate diet or 30-40% of total energy coming from carbohydrates will generally see a 1-2kg loss of fat each month. On the other hand extremely low carb diets where 10-20% of calories are coming from fat are likely to induce ketosis, in which fat stores are preferentially burnt. While these diets are an effective way to drop kilos quickly they can be difficult to sustain. 

So if you are unsure of your macros, all you need to do is to enter a day or two worth of food into a calorie monitoring package such as ‘myfitnesspal’. Often we are consuming far more carbohydrate then we realise and this is the reason we are not getting the weight loss results we are expecting.