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Understanding Macronutrients (Macros) for Beginners

Understanding Macronutrients (Macros) for Beginners
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Understanding Macronutrients (Macros) for Beginners

By Christine Hronec


Unless you've been living under a rock, if you have had any sort of interest in fat loss weight loss, nutrition, fitness, you've been anywhere on social media, you have probably heard the term macros before. It's really interesting because the go-to system for dieting has been calorie counting. It's an easy one-step system, but the problem is with a lot of diets is that they tend to take a one size fits most approach to nutrition. There can be a lot of problems with that. The belief is that in order to lose weight you need to reduce your daily number of calories; in order to gain weight, you need to eat more; and in order to maintain weight, you need to keep your calories constant. Unfortunately, that can be misleading.

The reality is that counting calories can only take you so far if you are not eating the right type of calories. So, what does that mean? Let's say you want to drop some weight, you want to get in shape for summer, and you decide you want to eat less. You're in a caloric deficit, great. The problem is, even though you may be losing weight, you may not be losing true body fat. Instead, you may only be losing water weight, you may be losing muscle mass, and in addition to a little bit of body fat.

Take a look at this graphic right here:



You can see that weight loss can consist of muscle loss, water loss, and fat loss. That's going to drastically change how you appear as opposed to if you are losing only true body fat. I wanted to walk you guys through a few of these photos of some clients showing that fat loss is so much more substantial than weight loss. You can see in this photo right here:



This person has only lost a total of 5 lbs., but you can see that there is a substantial amount of difference in the way that this person looks in the torso, the underarm area, the arms, the legs, all over. While this person may not have lost a lot of pounds on the scale, if you are losing true body fat, it's going to drastically change the way your body looks, Likewise, this is another person who is a Gauge Girl Training client:



They actually only lost a total of two pounds. However, because those pounds were from body fat and that person was able to regain some muscle mass - you can see a complete transformation in the body composition of this person. You can be losing weight and seeing the number go smaller on the scale, but it's not going to necessarily improve your physique. Your waist is not necessarily going to get tighter. The texture of your skin isn't necessarily going to change. You're not going to have curvier arms, curvier glutes, a smaller midsection, because it can be harmful to your body despite any associated weight loss you have with just going on a strict caloric deficit. It's not about how many calories are in your food, but it's the breakdown of those calories that ultimately impacts what you look like.

In order to make sense of this, it all starts with an awareness of what you are eating. Knowing what your food is made of and using that information to eat better, that is the basis of the macros approach to nutrition. I see so much stuff online where everybody's hashtag macros, hashtag this, hashtag that, but here's the thing, if you boil it down, it's knowing what your food is made of and using that information to guide your eating choices. Even if you haven't heard of the term macronutrients before, you eat them every single day.



Macronutrients are what make up the caloric content of food and sometimes are technically referred to as macros. There are four main categories of macronutrients. All food is made up of these four things. You typically only hear three, but I'm going to talk about the fourth. All food is either made up of protein, carbs, or fat. Technically, alcohol is a stand-in fourth category. These things protein, carbs, and fat, they are found in all foods in varying amounts. They are measured and reported on nutrition facts labels in grams. Any food at all, anything, if you look at it, it's almost like you need to look at food through a filtered lens of, what is this food made up of?

The reality is, all of those foods are made up of protein, carbs, or fat, so remember that. Okay, so knowing what macronutrients are and the roles that they play in your body will tremendously help you when it comes to reaching your physique goals. It'll teach you how to properly fuel your body. Whether your goal is weight loss, fat loss, weight gain, lean muscle gain, or maintenance. It's so important for every person to assume the responsibility to educate themselves to understand what these foods are made of and how that impacts your body. It's going to vary person to person, and you have to assume and take the responsibility to understand your body better. The best way to do that is to, number one, understand what you're putting into your body.

This approach to nutrition has origins in the bodybuilding era from when it started getting big in the late 1970s, early 80s. People were getting used to weighing, portioning, and prepping their foods to support their physique goals, but unlike other sports, bodybuilding demands a lot when it comes to physique presentation. If you're a distance runner, if you're a swimmer, if you're an NFL football player, if you're a basketball player, or if you're a cross fitter. All of those things are very performance oriented, but it doesn't necessarily matter what you look like to perform well at those sports.

However, bodybuilding, unlike any other sports, it's the whole art of manipulating your training and your food intake to manipulate and change how your physique looks. It's quite interesting because while other athletes will look strong, will look fit, bodybuilding has a very strict, unique set of parameters because you're being judged on your body presentation. It's interesting because there is no other athletic endeavor that requires such high levels of regimentation for muscle development and for body fat reduction. Before all of the developments that came out in the last 20 to 30 years like protein powders, pre-workouts, designer steroids, and intra workouts. Old school bodybuilders, they relied on nothing more than eating real food to reach their physique goals. There weren't creatine supplements, there weren't intra workouts, there weren't BCAA powders, there weren't creatine ethyl ester pills, there weren't Andro pills, there wasn't Clen, there wasn't any of that craziness. They had to rely on manipulating their food intake based off of real foods and weighing and portioning them accordingly to do so.

For those of you who are my clients, either current or previous clients, you guys always say, "Oh it's so hard to get my protein,” but during the Golden Age of Bodybuilding, you know late 70s, early 80s, the hunt for protein was a huge task. They used to consume things like cottage cheese, dry milk powders, fish, chicken, and even soy protein back then just to meet their daily protein needs. While shakes are now so widely accepted, almost everybody has a protein powder in their house. Almost everyone has their own protein brand. It's just so prevalent, but back then during the Arnold Schwarzenegger glory days, it was all about eating real foods to reach these types of goals.

Just to put this into perspective for you guys, I don't think you guys realize how much technology has really helped advanced nutrition science. As a food scientist and chemical engineer by training, I truly appreciate all the advancements in the unit operations and the way we manufacture, prepare, and formulate foods that are on the market. For instance, we now have the technology to separate the fats and milk sugars from these proteins such as unit operations called low temperature ultra-filtration. There's micro filtration, there's reverse osmosis. We have the technology to instantly disperse a protein powder in a liquid at room temperature. These things needed to be spray dried.

There needed to be a lot of formulation development in the emulsifiers that those protein powders are even coated with to begin with, so when they hit the water, they mix well to begin. You can now go out and get a protein powder that tastes like cake batter. You can get a Quest Bar that tastes like s'mores, chocolate chip cookies, or raspberry cheesecake. That's because of the advancements in FTIR technology that allows you to study the flavor profile of a liquid extract, allowing you to match the peaks and bonds by putting together naturally derived food extracts to mimic these flavor profiles because we have so many more tools based on science to allow us to see inside of those things.

Advances in science, they have led to more protein sources available than ever before on the market. You can get whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, pea protein concentrate, milk protein concentrate. You can get egg whites, peptides, peas, soy, hemp, collagen, the types of protein and powders and technology that are available to us are so amazing. Not only can we utilize varied protein sources, but now there's a technology that you can understand what an entire protein molecule is made up of. You can see all the different amino acids. Those amino acids can even be extracted out, concentrated, and used for their benefits and certain purposes like glutamine for post-workout recovery, like BCAAs or some intra workout performance. You could separate these things out in a way that never has been able to be done before and I really want to highlight the advancements in the science as we talk about the macros approach to nutrition.

With the scientific breakthroughs in Sports Nutrition, we are seeing elite athletes run faster and faster setting World Records. We are seeing people lift heavier and heavier weights than ever before. We are seeing humans run farther and farther distances. We are seeing endurance athletes do ultramarathons like Iron Man. I think the thing that I want you guys to realize is that we understand a lot more about nutrition composition of foods and how that affects human performance better than ever before in the history of the world.

Think about that for a second guys. While you, yourself personally, while you may never attempt to do these epic athletic feats, it doesn't mean that you can't personally benefit from the research, the science, the learnings, and the uncovering of applying these nutrition parameters to your personal physique goals. The macros-based approach to nutrition is extremely powerful. It is something that everybody needs to perk up, open their ears and really begin to look into.

Watch the entire video here:

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