What are MACROS and why the hell is everyone trying to track them down? “Macros” have been the buzzword of recent years thanks to If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM). “Macro” is short for Macronutrient, the primary nutrients found in food that provide the body with energy. Macro means large, which qualifies macronutrients as the nutrients your body needs in large quantities. Although macronutrients are one group of nutrients there are actually three different types of nutrients that make up the macronutrient umbrella: Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat. Each macronutrient holds a different caloric value:
Protein – 4 calories per gram
Carbohydrates – 4 calories per gram
Fat – 9 calories per gram
Why we count with macros instead of calories?
There will always be the battle of “calories in vs calories out”. When we talk about calories in vs calories out we are only counting calories consumed and not worrying about the macronutrient ratio that makes up total calories. While I will agree that you can lose or gain weight with this approach, I can confidently say if your goal has anything to do with improved body composition and increased performance, only measuring calories in vs calories out will not get the job done. Anyone on a caloric deficit will lose a good amount of weight; the keyword being weight. We are not trying to lose as much weight as possible. More specifically, we want to shed fat while maintaining, or better yet, increasing functional mass; a.k.a. muscle.
Without diving too deep down the wormhole, we know that certain macronutrients are utilized during specific phases of training. We also know that macronutrients have a hormonal effect on the body, so eating your “calories” worth of carbohydrates will not give you the same results as having a specific macronutrient ratio based on your goals and progress.
The single most beneficial aspect of following macronutrient splits rather than calories is the immediate feedback we are able to get. I adjust my clients’ splits on average once a week. If I only had my clients following a certain amount of calories, I would have no idea which macronutrient split was working best for that individual. More fats for the less carb tolerant or more carbs for those that metabolize carbs quickly. From my experience some people do not respond well to carbs while others can reach upwards of 45% carbs while eating a low percentage of fat. These adjustments would not be possible if I was just saying, “go crush 2200 calories in 4 meals”!
You’re probably saying, “Great, I know what macros are, but now what do I do?” At Power Athlete we believe starting all clients on the Isocaloric approach. Isocaloric refers to an equal ratio of calories from protein, carbs, and fat. 33.33% of each to be exact. The Isocaloric approach helps clients “ease” into a nutrition protocol. For many, tracking macros and eating meals more often is something new. That being said, too much at once will lead to being overwhelmed and makes for a higher potential to fail. Outside of the environmental factors, the Isocaloric approach gives us the ability to build a “baseline”.
Just like we build a “base level of strength”, we need to build a base level of macronutrients! The ideal result from the Isocaloric split would be marginal weight gain or weight loss. From there, when you talk to your nutrition coach during your weekly check in we are able to start adjusting the macronutrient split. Often just by changing the split, we start see clients shed weight, without even reducing total calories.
The power of macronutrients is amazing. A baseline gives us the ability to always go back to that ratio of macronutrients. For example, a client gets derailed during a big life event, like their honeymoon, when they jump back on the nutrition protocol, I will have them back on the Isocaloric split for at least one week before we start making adjustments again.
Whether you diet on your own, or you decide you want to take your nutrition to the next level and jump on board with a nutrition coach, you need to be tracking macronutrients and not just counting calories. To reach and surpass our goals we need as much data as possible. While training we log every weight, rep, set, and even force metrics now thanks to the form collar. If we dig that deep into our training we NEED to do the same with nutrition. Macronutrient splits will make or break you every time you start a nutrition quest, we want as much data as possible to get you shredded!
John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.
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