Read this guide to understand what macronutrients are, and how to count them.
Macronutrients are protein, fat, and carbohydrates and understanding them is important because they’re the sole focus of your metabolism. Your body breaks down the food you eat into macronutrients to use as energy as it requires energy for all functions like breathing, eating and walking. If it helps, tryto conceptualize macronutrients like this:
MACRONUTRIENTS > CALORIES > ENERGY
Calories are how we measure bodily energy. For example, if you work out and burn 400 calories, you burned 400 units of energy. Or, If you eat a slice of 45 calorie bread, you consume 45 units of energy for your body to use. When you consume more calories (energy) than your body uses the excess calories are stored as body fat. Think of body fat as a storage bin of energy, waiting to be used.
Calculate Your Macros: Macronutrient Calculator
Calories Per Gram
As you can see, protein and carbs produce the same four calories program while fat produces a whopping 9 grams. The higher calorie content is why you can eat more protein and carbs than fat for the same amount of calories. A candy bar, high in fat, can be over 200 calories. Therefore, you will have to consume more food and more calories than your body needs to feel full, which is why high fat foods don't keep you full for long. On the other hand, a chicken breast for the same calories is high in protein and low in fat. Both foods are technically providing your body with the same amount of energy to function. However, a chicken breast is larger and will keep you fuller longer which prevents you from consuming more calories than your body needs to feel full.
I sigh every time I hear someone say they need to "cut out carbs" and here's why: Your body's primary sources of energy are the foods it converts into carbohydrates and then into energy. Bread, rice, pasta, they are all converted into carbohydrates when digested, and therefore are a crucial energy supply for your body. Some carbohydrates provide more benefits than just energy, and they are complex carbs. These carbs are slow digesting which assists with regularity, and they retain their nutrients. So when you say "cut out carbs" you're saying "cut out my body's main energy supply." When re-worded that way it sounds silly, which is why you've come to the right place. Macro counting is all about moderation and understanding why you're eating certain foods. Eat your carbs, but make sure they follow your macronutrient goals and you'll be just fine.
The amino acids which make up protein are the source of all muscle gains. You cannot reshape your body without protein because you would not have the primary component for building or retaining muscle. But more than that, it's a fundamental element of your hair, nails, bones and organs. Protein is incredibly important, and people do not eat enough of it to aid in muscle retention, maintaining a healthy weight and aging. On average only 15% of the calories that Americans consume are protein.
Next to carbs, fats also get a bad reputation, yet are highly important for your body. Fats are calorie dense with only 1g of fat containing 9 calories, while carbs and protein both only account for 4 calories per gram. Trans fats are problematic in general and contribute to the risk of heart disease. However, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats benefit digestion, hair, and skin but I must stress again that moderation and eating for your goals are key. Your body doesn't produce either naturally so you must consume them. Omega-3's are found in fish, which is why you'll see many fit people take fish oil supplements. Omega-6's are found in poultry, nuts, and oils.
What Should My Macros Be?
Frequently I am asked, "what are your macros?" I usually hesitate to share, because proper macros are determined by your fitness goals, your training regimen, body type, and often timing. In short, it doesn't benefit you at all to compare your macros to others. I know it's hard when you're trying to ensure you're on the right track but resist the temptation. It will leave you confused and questioning yourself. Instead, focus on the best macros for you. I have created pie charts below that show the best macros for burning fat, maintaining weight, or bulking.
Best Macros for Burning Fat
Best Macros for Maintaining
Best Macros for Bulking
To burn body fat 40-50% of your calories should come from protein. No more than 30% of your calories should come from carbs, and no more than 40% from fat. My macronutrient calculator will help you determine your macros and calculate percentages for you. Please note that these are guidelines and estimates. Ultimately the best way for you to find your optimal macros are by starting your diet and tweaking them until you see results.