Calorie counts are probably the first thing you look at when you look at a nutrition facts label. However, to get a better understanding of a product or meal, it’s helpful to look at macro-nutrients.
Food provides energy in the form of calories (which are called kilo calories). All foods provide calories, whether they have a nutrition label or not—and all foods have macros, too.
Macro-nutrients are defined as foods containing nutrients that your diet requires in large amounts. (Micro-nutrients, by contrast, are substances required in much smaller amounts such as vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes.) The three macro-nutrients that humans need to survive and thrive are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats —you need all three, at least in some capacity.
Carbohydrates provide us with quick energy, especially during exercise and if we get hungry in between meals. When we eat carbs, they are converted to glucose (sugar) in our body and are either used immediately or stored as glycogen for later use.
Carbs also promote digestive health because carb-heavy foods are often packed with fiber. Some examples of foods high in carbohydrates include grains, potatoes, fruits, milk, and yogurt. Other foods like vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds also contain carbohydrates, but not as many as starchy foods do.
Proteins are the building blocks of many structures in our body. The protein we consume in our diet helps us grow, build muscle, repair injuries, produce hormones and enzymes, and fight illnesses, among other functions. Protein-packed foods include poultry, beef, fish, cheese, soy products, and some starches and vegetables.
Finally, fats are essential to almost all our bodily processes. Dietary fat is required for our body to absorb any of the fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) we consume. Fat is also essential for insulation during cold weather and for allowing us to go long periods of time without eating. Plus, a certain level of body fat serves as a helpful energy reserve for endurance athletes.
The Best Macro Ratio
The federal dietary recommendations suggest that 45 to 60 percent of daily calories come from carbohydrates, 20 to 35 percent of daily calories come from healthy fats, and that the remainder come from proteins.
These recommendations are because carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel and the easiest way for the body to convert food into energy (as compared to protein and fats). The fat recommendation stems from the essential regulation properties of dietary fat.
However, every person is different. Many people thrive on a low-crab diet, while others feel like they need more carbs to function. Similarly, some people may do well on a high-protein diet, and others might get an upset stomach from too much protein.
Calories in Macros
Each macro-nutrient provides a number of calories per gram.
Calories in Macro-nutrients
Please note that the following ranges are generalisations. Specific macro trackers will vary in the proportion of macros they recommend depending on the certain diet being followed.
Macros for Weight Loss
A good daily macro-nutrient ratio for weight loss or fat loss is:
A good daily macro-nutrient ratio for building muscle or gaining weight is:
To maintain your current weight and body composition, a good macro-nutrient ratio to follow is:
The information above gives us macro ratios in percentages of total calories. However, nutrition information is given to us in grams, so we’ll want to figure out how many grams of each macro-nutrient to eat in a day.
There are two ways to calculate your macro ratio. One way that may be more difficult is by using an equation.
Since you now have the calorie amount, all you have to do is divide the calorie number by each macro’s respective gram number.
Based on the example above, this means 250 grams of carbs (1,000 divided by 4), 125 grams of protein (500 divided by 4), and 56 grams of fat (500 divided by 9).
Luckily, you don’t have to do that all by yourself. The web is home to many macro calculators that will do this for you.
This blog is updated by Tranquillity 360 fitness personal trainers, as well as other guest bloggers.