Did you read my post about Calories yet? If not, give it a go. I’ll wait here.
If you already did, then I need to ask you … Are you just getting started with your weight loss/gain goals? If so, I’ll say that you can (and should) read this post, but do so with the knowledge that this will get pretty geeky pretty quickly and that breaking down your nutrition into exact macros isn’t really necessary at this point in your journey.
If you’re ready to take on a more in-depth look at nutrition or you feel like you’re ready to progress your program, then hold on to your butts because we’re doing this!
If you’ve made it this far into the post I’ll assume you have your calorie requirement calculated and know how much you weigh. Good. Hang on to those numbers because you’re going to need them.
Later. You’ll need them later.
Macronutrients (or simply macros) are nutrients that our body needs in large amounts because they are our primary sources of energy. Macros consist of proteins, fats (lipids) and carbohydrates. Let’s talk about ’em all.
Proteins are amino acids linked together by peptide bonds. At the molecular level, these amino acids are made of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen.
Their primary job is to build and repair muscle tissues. Once they’re in the bloodstream, they can do one of three things:
- Primarily they’re used to build and repair muscle tissue through a process called Protein Synthesis. Essentially, what this means is they’re vital to getting those gainz.
- When the body runs out of carbs and lipids (in that order), the body will convert proteins to a usable source of energy (glucose) to be burned in times of need. This process is called gluconeogenesis.
- When consumed in excess of what the body requires, the remainder is stored as potential energy in the form of fat.
Not only are they great for our gains but they’re also great for the body in general. Hemoglobin is a protein in our blood that not only makes our blood red but it also carries oxygen to our cells. Collagen is a protein found most abundantly in mammals that promotes skin and bone strength. Keratin is a protein also primarily found in mammals that promotes strong hair, nails, claws and hooves.
Protein is also responsible for leveling out our blood PH levels. If our PH is too high (alkaline) we are prone to hyperventilation, pneumonia, congestion and liver failure. When the PH gets too low (acidic) you have a good shot at lung disease, kidney failure and a whole lot of diarrhea.
Proteins are commonly found in dairy and meat products but are also found (in limited amounts) in grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and some vegetables.
Each gram of protein carries 4 Calories.
Feeling good so far? Let’s continue.
Fats are super important for the body. They are the most concentrated source of energy in the body and carry fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K throughout our system. Lipids are made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.
Among other things, fats are involved in insulating the body, making us feel fuller longer and surrounding our precious organs for protection.
Triglycerides are the most common lipids and are created by your body when it has consumed fats it doesn’t need to use right away. These stored triglycerides are then released by a variety of hormones to give us energy between meals.
Phospholipids are made by the body when fatty acids are attached to a glycerol molecule and are used to create cell membranes — a critical aspect of a cell’s functionality.
Sterols are lipids that play a vital role in our sex hormones and can take a really well-known form called cholesterol.
All this to say: lipids are hella important regardless of the stigma we have with the word fat.
Fats are found in a variety of sources including dairy products, animal meat, butters, oils, seafood, nuts and more.
Due to how concentrated they are, each gram of fat carries 9 Calories.
Had enough? There’s still more.
Oh, NO!! Carbs!? Not Carbs!!
I hear you. And let me reply by saying again, carbs are not your enemy and I don’t give a rat’s ass about what Dr. Atkins says. Not only are carbs delicious but they’re our body’s primary source of energy! Carbs are made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.
Primarily there are two kinds of carbs:
- Simple Carbs are made of a single sugar molecule or simply two joined together. There are two types of Simple Carbs:
- Monosaccharides including glucose, fructose and galactose
- Disaccharides including sucrose (table sugar), lactose (milk sugar) and maltose (found in saliva)
- Complex Carbs are compounds made of three or more monosaccharides and consist of oligosaccharides (made of 3-10 sugar molecules, cannot be broken down by the body naturally and usually make you fart) and polysaccharides (made of >10 sugar molecules and include both starch and fiber).
Carbs are converted to glucose then circulated to the cardiovascular and lymphatic systems.
Just like proteins and lipids, excess carbs are stored as fat because the body thinks it may need to use them later.
Carbs are not as robust as fats and come in, like protein, at 4 Calories per gram.
That Sucked. Make It Interesting, Will Ya?!
Okay, so now we know a thing or two about macros — let’s make use of that information!
There are many schools of thought regarding what percentage of our diets should belong to each of the macros. Popular protein/carbs/fat splits include 40/40/20 and 50/30/20. While this may be a good starting poing for someone just getting started with macro tracking, there’s a better way to do it and I’m here to show you.
Just as a reminder, my weight at the time of this writing is 220 pounds and my calorie requirement for this cut is 3,000 calories per day.
Let’s Figure Out the Protein
Protein is arguably the most important macro to hit during the day. If you’re getting in enough protein (eating wisely), I’ve found that the carbs and fats work themselves out. This is to say, when you’re starting with macro-tracking, let’s start by hitting that protein requirement.
Ideally, we should shoot for 1 gram of protein per pound of our body weight. In my example, that means I should be getting 220 grams of protein per day (or 220 pounds multiplied by 1 gram).
If you didn’t fall asleep while reading the above, you’ll remember each gram of protein = 4 calories, so 220 grams of protein = 880 calories. Subtract this from my 3,000 calorie bank and we still have 2,120 calories to hit for the day.
That Was Easy. Let’s Do Lipids!
We’ll do this the same way. Generally speaking, one should aim to get 0.4 grams of fat per pound of bodyweight. In my example, this means 220 pounds multiplied by 0.4 grams for a total of 88 grams of fat.
With each gram of fat equaling 9 calories, we can calculate 88 grams of fat as equaling 792 calories. Subtract this from our remaining 2,120 calories and we’re left with 1,328 calories.
Now For The Carbs; Those Sweet, Sweet Carbs
Protein is super important; Fats are super important; and while carbs are also super important, they’re kinda going to just get “what’s left.” We’re going to calculate these a little differently — backwards, in fact.
At this point, we already know that we can afford 1,328 calories worth of carbs but what does this mean in terms of grams? My studious followers will remember each gram of carbs = 4 calories so we can divide our remaining 1,328 calories by 4 to get 332 grams.
After we’ve calculated this, we’re left with a macro table that looks like this:
Daily Calories from Macro
Grams of Macro Required
Total Calories = 3,000
That’s a 29/44/26 split. See how the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in this case?
These are Merely Guidlines, Y’all
For real. Unless you’re doing a hard cut or a hard gain, don’t stress about hitting these numbers exactly. Nobody wants to be THAT GUY that does everything precisely. That ain’t no kind of life. If you’re above or below a little, so be it, but this is a good place to start; a good target to shoot for.
In an oddly shaped nutshell, that’s macros.
What I’d Like You To Take Away From This:
- Calories are not the devil. Embrace them, just use your brain.
- Nobody expects you to keep all of this on paper. If you have an app, use it, but also use these figures to determine how accurate your app is and adjust accordingly.
- If you read something that conflicts with my information, it’s neither correct nor incorrect. There are various philosophies when it comes to these calculations.
- If you’re just getting started tracking, F the macros. Spend time focusing on your caloric intake and over time start concerning yourself with macros.
- Your macros are not set in stone and will need to be re-evaluated regularly.
- If you go over or under on anything, make a note, address it, then move on. You’re a person with a life and you shouldn’t lose sleep over not hitting your protein macro for the day.
Seem like a bit much? You’re not alone. Counting macros can be downright delphic. But don’t let it scare you. As I often tell my classes — I won’t leave you hanging. I’ll tell you what to do, show you what it looks like, then jump in there and do it with you.
And that’s for real. It’s what JTF’s Mount Crushmore is all about.
Enjoy your week, freaks!