If you’re just starting out on your health and fitness journey, you might want to start with looking at how any calories you need a day. However, if you want to know more I’ve created this post so you can learn about basic nutrition, and specifically macros.
Before diving into macros, you might be best making sure your meals are made up from nutrient-dense foods.
I think the 80/20 rule is a good one to go by. This means 80% of your foods should be nutrient dense, and the rest can be a bit ‘naughty’ 😉
Depending on your goals it’s also good to start thinking about getting your calories in check, and this post will help you with this.
Once you’re feeling more confident you might want to move onto macros, so you’re in the right place here!
The first thing to be aware of when we want to learn about basic nutrition is that food is made up of three macros. These are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
Each macro has its own caloric (or energy) value per gram. The calorie content for protein is 4kcal per gram.
It comes from sources such as meat, fish, milk, cheese, beans and pulses. It helps to maintain muscle mass.
This is why it’s useful to keep protein high when you’re trying to lose fat, just like I did.
Protein is the macro the body uses the most energy during digestion. The energy used to digest food is called the Thermic Effect of Food.
Because protein takes more time and energy to digest, people generally find that it’s the most satiating of the macros.
The general consensus seems to be that an appropriate amount of daily protein intake is roughly 0.7g to 1g per lb of body weight.
So, if I weighed 100lbs I would aim for 70g to 100g protein per day.
There’s nothing wrong with eating more protein than this, but these numbers are given as a minimum.
In terms of calorie content, carbohydrates are 4kcal per gram.
Carbohydrates can be found in foods such as cereal, rice, bread, oats, pasta, chips, and crisps (also known as starchy carbohydrates).
They’re also found in vegetables such as green beans and broccoli, but the carbohydrate content isn’t as high as with starchy carbohydrates.
It’s worth noting that carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for high intensity exercise.
Carbohydrates have had a bad press over the years. A lot of the myths surrounding carbohydrates can still be found on the internet and social media.
Contrary to what you might have heard, you cannot get fat from eating carbohydrates.
The way you put on weight is by eating too many calories each day over an extended period of time.
Equally the ‘no carbs after 6pm otherwise you’ll get fat’ rule isn’t true.
I lost weight during my fat loss phase even though my last meal was around 7pm-8pm each evening. I achieved this by making sure I was in a calorie deficit!
Simple versus complex carbohydrates
Simple carbohydrates are found in foods such as cakes, biscuits, and chocolate. Complex carbohydrates are found in foods such as oats, rice, and vegetables.
Some people suggest that we need to avoid simple carbohydrates due to the insulin spike they cause.
They say that insulin spikes can interfere with fat loss. However, other people say this isn’t true!
I ate simple carbohydrates during my far loss phase and it didn’t interfere with my goals, but that’s just my experience.
There may be certain conditions such as diabetes where it’s beneficial for your physical health to avoid simple carbohydrates as much as possible.
Again, it’s worth keeping the 80/20 rule in mind, so that the majority of your carbohydrates come from nutrient-dense sources.
It can get a bit complicated because the absorption of some simple carbohydrates can be slowed down depending on the other foods they’re eaten with. However, I want to keep it straight forward for this post!
Fats are the most calorie dense of the macros, with 1g being equal to 9kcal.
Fats can be found in oils (e.g., vegetable oil, olive oil), nut butters, egg yolks, and butters.
Again, fats have had a lot of stick in the media, but they’re essential to our wellbeing.
They’re an energy source, help in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, and they help with hormone production.
There are some fats you’re better off avoiding such as trans fats. These can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Also, if you’re trying to lose weight you might want to be mindful of how much fat you’re getting in your diet.
This isn’t because fats make you fat. However, their higher calorie content might make it harder for you to stay within your daily calorie allowance.
Just remember that fats don’t make people fat; it comes down to calories in versus calories out!
I wouldn’t call this a macro because it has no nutrient value, but it’s 7kcal per 1g.
Alcohol isn’t needed by the body, and it’s treated by the body like a toxin. This means that when we consume alcohol the body directs its attention to processing the alcohol before food.
I don’t tend to drink alcohol as it doesn’t agree with me. However, when I’ve had it in the past I’ve tended to get the ‘alcohol munchies’.
This has ended with me throwing caution to the wind and scoffing down copious amounts of crisps and sweets!
So, alcohol isn’t great nutrient-wise. Plus, it can also lead to a loss of inhibitions which might lead to you raiding the kitchen cupboards!
If you know that alcohol might play a part in you over-eating then it might be something to avoid, or at least limit the amount you drink.
I hope this has been a useful introduction to macros and has helped you learn about basic nutrition.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them!
Welcome! I’m a Psychologist and fitness enthusiast. My passion is supporting people with their health and wellbeing, and inspiring them to pursue the things they love doing. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or want to collaborate!