What are Macros?

Macros are macronutrients. There are four macronutrients:

  1. Protein
  2. Fat
  3. Carbohydrates

There’s also alcohol.

Protein

We need dietary protein to replace the constant tearing down of dietary protein that happens in our bodies. There’s a lower limit on the amount of protein that we should eat every day. There’s probably not an upper limit since protein tends to self limit.

For some reason, women seem to have a more difficult time consuming adequate amounts of protein than men.

There are:

nine amino acids that your body cannot create on its own, and that you must obtain by eating various foods. (Link).

Complete proteins are food which have all all of the essential amino acids present. Meat is a source of complete protein. Vegetarians often have to combine vegetable proteins (such as hispanics with beans and rise) to get a complete protein source from vegetables. (Link).

Fat

Although we are accustomed to thinking of fat as bad it does serve important functions in our bodies and in our diets. Our body will consume it’s own fat in the absence of enough calories from our diets. That’s what any diet is based on.

There are essential fats:

The body can synthesize most of the fats it needs from the diet. However, two essential fatty acids, linoleic and alpha-linolenic, cannot be synthesized in the body and must be obtained from food. (Link).

Sources of the essential fats can be certain types of plant oil and meat. (Link).

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide energy but it may surprise you that there are no essential carbohydrates. Here’s some of the reasons that we don’t need carbohydrates:

PROTEIN AND FAT CAN PROVIDE GLUCOSE
CARBOHYDRATE DEFICIENCY DOESN’T RESULT IN ILLNESS
IT’S POSSIBLE TO SURVIVE ON VERY LITTLE CARBOHYDRATES (Link).

Carbohydrates drive blood sugar levels and controlling blood sugar requires controlling carbohydrate consumption. Type 2 Diabetics, like myself, when eating very low carbohydrate diets can experience a total remission of their diabetes. As long as they don’t return to carbohydrate eating patterns that got them sick they can stay non-diabetic indefinitely (This BLOG has many posts about Type 2 Diabetes and Carbohydrates).

Carbohydrates can range from complex carbohydrates (typically found along with fiber) and simple carbohydrates (such as sugars).

Fiber

Fiber is considered indigestible although the microbiome (the little bugs that fill us up) can digest fiber and we can digest the result of their digestion.

MacroNutrients and Calorie Counting

Macronutrients are measured in grams. There’s a simple conversion from grams of a macronutrient to calories.

  • Fat has 9 calories per gram
  • Protein has 4 calories per gram
  • Carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram

And for the sake of this discussion fiber can be considered to have around 1.5 calories per gram.

Macronutrient Mixes

There are few foods found in nature which are purely one thing or the other. Most unprocessed meat has nearly zero carbohydrates although fresh (meat that has not undergone rigormortis may have glycogen (form of carbs) in it.

Very lean meats, like lean turkey breasts, have almost no fat as well and are widely available sources of protein. Another source of “concentrated” proteins are Protein Powders.

Dietary Approaches

Every diet out there has a specific mix of macronutrients.

In this chart they are represented as the percent of calories of each macronutrient.

I’d like to contrast two of these diets. One is to eat whatever you want (ad lib dieting), but with restricted food groups. The other involves monitoring consumption and limiting food based on tracking (not ad lib).

Ad Lib Keto, AKA Lazy Keto

For most people cutting out carbohydrates, particularly simple sugars and reducing the amount of starches will result in a lot of weight loss. I went from 285 to about 225 that way and I could have stayed at 225 forever using Lazy Keto. All I had to do was keep my carbohydrate intake to less than 20 or 30 grams a day. Combined with Intermittent Fasting (eating in the evening only in my case) made this easy to comply.

For most people keto means Very Low Carbohydrates, Moderate Protein and very high fat.

The problem is that I didn’t want to be 225 and found that I needed to adjust my strategies.

Tracking Macros

This leads to the idea of Tracking Macros.

I use a phone/computer app called cronometer to track my macros. (My review of Cronometer). Another popular app is MyFitnessPal (MFP). The free version of MFP doesn’t allow as direct control of macros as the free version of Cronometer which is why Cronometer seems to have more of a market hold on low-carb dieters.

My Particular Goals

I have goals for my macros and adjust the macros as needed to match those goals. My goals are very particular to my situation. As a former diabetic I don’t want to do anything that might lead me to becoming a diabetic again. For me this means:

  • Carbohydrates low (less than 20 or 30 grams a day)
  • Protein at a higher level to support exercising and my age (1 gram per pound of lean body mass) or about 145 grams a day.
  • Fat at the right level to gain, lose or maintain weight

Your Goals

 

Your macros should be set to meet your own goals. If are one of the 40% of the population who has the symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome (if you are reading this BLOG you probably fit this) then Ketogenic Macros might make the most sense. I know it did for me. Although it helped, Low Carb levels of carbohydrates weren’t low enough for me to not be a diabetic.

If you are an athlete who works out 6 hours a day you may be able to tolerate a lot more carbohydrates. Or, like Stephen Phinney who was an endurance runner, those years of eating too many carbs may result in you becoming a diabetic. You can only do so much damage to your body before it will fight back.

“CrossFit Macros”

If you are at a Crossfit box (gym) they may recommend you eat Zone macros which is a significant improvement over the standard American diet (Here are my thoughts on the Zone Diet versus the Standard American Diet). The Zone macros (as a percentage of total calories) are:

 

 

Author: Doug

I'm an Engineer who is also a science geek. I was pre-diabetic in 1996 and became a diabetic in 2003. I decided to figure out how to hack my diabetes and in 2016 found the ketogetic diet which reversed my diabetes.

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