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What are macronutrients and can counting them get you shredded?

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Wesley Lo

Wesley Lo

Wesley is a health and fitness coach in Hong Kong, with a passion for finding ways to improve health, longevity and athletic performances.

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Macronutrients, or macros, are proteins, fats and carbohydrates. These are where we get most of our calories from. Each macro has a different impact on your body, which is why all calories aren’t created equal.

So, let’s take a step back. What exactly are proteins, fats, and carbohydrates?

Protein: This is the leading champ of the macros. Protein helps you build and/or maintain muscle, stay full and keeps you lean.

Fats: This macro is essential to live. Fats store energy, insulate you, protect your vital organs, assist with brain functionality, hormone and more.

Carbs: Carbs are a great energy source. They help fuel your body and keep your brain and muscles fresh.

Now that we know what they are, why is there a need to “count” them?

Counting macros

Counting macros ensures you are getting the right amount of each macronutrient to maximise all areas of your life. It’s an excellent way to shed body fat, while maintaining or gaining strength. Plus, you’ll learn a whole lot about the food you eat along the way.

Counting may sound restricting, but it’s actually quite the opposite.

Although your goal is to eat a fixed amount of carbs, protein and fat each day, it’s up to you to decide how you fill those. In my opinion, it’s like an investment.

Firstly you have to know what your capital is (energy expenditure) and what is the outcome you are looking for (calories intake). Then you decide how you want to put it to a different ratio and area to create a different investment portfolio for optimal outcome (protein, carbs and fats).  

Real food will fit your macros 

There are no rules to counting macros that say “no bread” or “no ice cream.” If it fits in your macros for the day, then you can feel guilt-free about having your treat.

However, we should not prioritise eating junk food and disregard food quality. Use the flexibility of counting macros to help you stay consistent in the long term, satisfy cravings and then move on. Optimally, you should choose nutrient-dense food (85-90% of your diet) to fulfill your nutrition requirements. Then save the rest (10-15%) for something to satisfy a craving if you like.

How to count it?

For people who want to be more precise, they can use a food scale to measure the weight of food and log that information into mobile apps like myfitnesspal, myplate or Macros etc.

This is especially helpful for people who have specific goals, like sport competition, to shred body fat or gain muscle mass. Otherwise, a palm or thumb size estimate is also an option.

We have to understand that counting macros isn’t the same as accounting; one plus one is not always equal to two. The process of food digestion and absorption in the human body is more complicated than we understand. Digestive enzymes, cell metabolism, inflammation, sleep, hormone and gut health are all factors that can affect our bodies.

Final thoughts

I would say that counting macros is not the only way to be healthy. A consistent, healthy eating habit is the way. To eat mindfully,  smell the food, enjoy the real taste of each bite and understand what our bodies really need, because nutrients are most important. 

Counting macros can make it easier for us to combine and reach different diet patterns, like carbs cycling , keto diets, zone diets and low-carb diets, etc. It is a good way to learn about food and understand how our bodies react to different diet patterns.

Everyone has different reactions to different kinds of food and the ratio of macros in their bodies. Understanding yourself and your body more will never be a waste of time.

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