“Macros” is a term that has been used frequently and increasingly in the health and fitness world. Most commonly, people talk about “tracking macros”—or maybe you’ve heard the phrase “IIFYM” (“If It Fits Your Macros”), which I honestly thought was another Drake song at first glance.
This past summer, when I became dedicated to bettering my health and fitness, I conducted much research on the web and on Instagram, keeping me motivated and informed. On IG, I personally followed a lot of popular fitness and healthy-eating accounts, trainers, and even athletes/bodybuilders I stumbled upon. Content I saw referenced macros all.the.time. Shout out to @sweat.love.and.macros for the inspo. My research also brought VSHRED to my attention, which has a quiz on their website to help you learn more about your tailored goals, in addition to macro talk in their resources. VSHRED was also attractive to me for denouncing endless cardio sessions and starving yourself to attain fitness goals (#tbt guilty re: both).
What are macros?
Simply put, “macros” is an abbreviation for the word macronutrients. When you think of the root “macro-” you should think large or big—macronutrients are the nutrients we eat and need the most of.
There are three primary macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. We also consume micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, to complement macronutrients and complete our essential nutrient intake.
Each macro is associated with a certain number of calories. Each gram of fat yields 9 calories, and each gram of carbohydrates and protein yields 4 calories.
Why are macros being talked about now?
Macros are typically discussed regarding fitness and/or weight loss goals. Essentially, macros are so buzz-worthy because they’re like the puzzle piece that completes the fitness + nutrition picture. Paired with training—or not, again depending on your specific goals—tracking macros produces results, arguably better than simply tracking calories.
How do macros help achieve goals?
All fads, tips, tricks, diets, etc. aside, what it [simply AF] boils down to is that weight loss occurs as a result of being in a calorie deficit—meaning your calorie intake is less than your calorie expenditure.
Generally, people who are looking to lose weight track calories. But recently—usually among people with fitness goals—more people are calculating their specific macro needs. Because each person’s needs are different, and instead of keeping track of specific calorie intake, they will track how much of each macro they are eating. This practice is called flexible dieting.
If you are just eating to be in a calorie deficit and not paying attention to macros, you’ll usually end up feeling unsatisfied. When you track macros, you can eat anything, as long as you’re hitting those numbers (IIFYM), and when you’re eating the right amount of nutrients to fuel your body, you feel satisfied. Hence, flexible dieting. Pretty amazing, right!?
When you track macros, you’ll still end up eating/involuntarily tracking a specific number of calories, because math (see calorie yield per macro described above). However, it’s the distribution of the calories, by macro, that is the focus and results-producer, not the amount of calories themselves.
Think of it this way: if you’re just tracking calories, you could eat all your calories in Skittles, and still lose weight, as long as you’re in a calorie deficit. Tracking macros takes things one step further regarding efficiency—our bodies need certain amounts of each macro, and by hitting those amounts, you can achieve performance and physique goals in a more efficient and effective way than just counting calories. If you’re eating all Skittles, you might still be losing weight, but you’re eating mostly carbs. Calculating your specific macro needs and then meeting each need, sets you up for enhanced success. To get that body you want, you need more than just carbs, or more than just proteins or fats. It’s about creating that perfect, unique-to-you balance of the three.
How do you know your macro needs?
You can use macros to maintain, gain, or lose weight. Just like each person has a recommended number of calories to consume each day, based on their energy expenditure and goals (maintain, gain, or lose weight), macros can be individually calculated, based on factors such as height, weight, age, gender, body fat, activity level, etc. There are many macro calculators in existence, and one of my favorites can be found here.
“I’m not eating carbs right now…”
I am not currently actively tracking macros, but I did this past summer. It is crazy to me that I did not know this before, but fruits and vegetables are mostly carbs. I guess I was so influenced by society/peers constantly (and only) talking about bread and pasta as carbs, and carbs being “bad”, that those seemed like the only obvious carbs to me.
- Bananas: 93% carbs
- Cucumbers: 86% carbs
- Oranges: 90% carbs
- Broccoli: 67% carbs
This list could go on and on! WE NEED carbs!! Carbs give us energy. Not all carbs will give you the overall same nutritional value (think back to the Skittles example), but when people say they’re trying to lose weight, so they’re “not eating carbs”… wrong!!
*Is butter a carb?*
Macros + Me
Tracking macros can be tedious, but I was a big fan. To be successful, you really just need the basic knowledge and time for planning. Tracking macros also made me embrace “food freedom”, because since you can eat anything, there are no “off-limits” foods. Food is just food. Not good or bad. When I was tracking macros, I was consciously fueling my body in a way that did not feel depriving at all. I was satisfied and I was not binging as I had in the past, as a result of harsh restriction I inflicted on myself.
Now that you know what macros are, check out these macro-packed recipes that can help you hit your goals: Chocolate Spice Macro Bites and Salmon, Sweet Potato + Maple Soy Brussels Sprouts Power Bowls.
*DISCLAIMER*: Once again, we are just speaking from our own experiences and research. We are not experts, nor are we suggesting tracking. Our purpose here is to bring light to the topic. Tracking is not for everyone, but understanding what macros are and how they’re used in the health and fitness world can be helpful in making your own decisions.
This post is part of our WTF series—where we’ll break down some of the latest food, fitness, and health + wellness trends blowing up your Instagram feed.