Time to talk macros. As mentioned in a previous post, these are comprised of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Each of these are processed by the body at different rates and in different ways, and each contributes to weight gain/loss differently. Understanding how they work, especially in the context of your fitness goal, can be enormously helpful in determining what and how much you should be eating.
- Protein! Think of protein as the muscle macro in many ways. The amino acids that make up protein form the building blocks of our bodies, from individual cells to major organs. Protein helps people recover from exercise and repair damaged tissue, helps preserve lean muscle even when in calorie deficits, helps build muscle in calorie excess, and also helps us feel more satiated in meals. Protein can serve as an energy source, but the body taps into it last, when carbohydrates and fats aren’t as readily available. Protein holds 4 calories per gram.
- Carbs! When ingested, carbohydrates quickly break down into glucose, which is absorbed into the bloodstream and used as the body’s primary energy source. That’s pretty much what you should think of carbs as. Quick, easy energy. Their main other purpose is found in the non-digestible carbohydrate form known as fiber, which aids in digestion. But yeah. There’s a reason why so many “energy bars” on the shelves are pretty much concentrated carbs. A gram of carbs holds 4 calories.
- Fat! Fat is what your body turns to when carb calories aren’t available. Fat is your emergency energy storage and more concentrated than carbs, with one gram of fat holding 9 calories. Fat also absorbs and stores various vitamins for your body to process and helps balance your core body temperature.
So that’s the simplest way of looking at these three. Proteins are for muscle maintenance/growth and rebuilding of the body. Carbs are your primary energy source. Fats are a backup energy source, excess energy storage, and system maintenance. All of them are essential to your daily functioning, physically and mentally (the brain requires plenty of glucose too!). Of course, a lot of the diet/fitness debate comes from determining the proper intake ratios of these macros.
We’ve already looked at how you can figure out your daily caloric needs and also calculate a general surplus or deficit. But how should those calories be broken down into protein/carbs/fats? Does it matter? We’ll cover that in the next post!