No matter who you are, you’ve probably heard of calories. And if you’re like most Americans, you’ve likely grown up thinking of them in one way: calories burned > calories eaten = weight loss. Certainly, counting calories can be beneficial and effective for a short amount of time, but it isn’t the whole picture.
For example: if your target is 2,000 calories per day, you could hit it by eating 13 hot dogs or 4 pieces of cake. Technically, you’d be adhering to a calorie-restricted diet, but it isn’t the healthiest or most balanced approach. One of the best ways to create a sustainable, lifelong change is to consider WHERE your calories come from. Enter: macronutrients.
Macronutrients, or “macros” for short, are the three categories of calories you need in your diet: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Each plays a vital role in your body, which will function at its best when you consume the right amount of each. The “right amount” varies widely from person to person, but you may find that once you figure out what’s right for your body, you may not even have to restrict calories to hit your goals (win-win!).
The Three Macros and What They Do
- Carbohydrates: Carbs are your body’s easiest source of fuel, and they’re your friend. When consumed, carbs are stored in the muscles as glycogen, then used to fuel both work and recovery. Carbs are your body’s first choice for energy, so you’ll burn them the quickest of all the macros.
- Protein: Protein helps your body build and maintain muscles, developing and preserving lean muscle mass to support the work your body does. Converting protein into energy takes longer than with carbs, so you’ll feel fuller for longer.
- Fat: The world is at war with fat, but fats are vital for proper hormone function (which can make a big difference with recovery). Fats also assist with vitamin absorption and brain function. They’re the most energy-dense of the macros, and they keep you full for the longest time.
What’s The Calorie Content of Each Macro?
- 1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories
- 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
Finding the right macronutrient balance for your body will allow it to function properly and for you to feel your best. Each macronutrient plays a vital role in your body, and if you’re doing it right, they’ll help you get all the micronutrients you need, too. Good luck!