Macros, protein, carbs, IIFYM blah blah blah!! We hear it everywhere these days. Every other comment on a ‘fitspo’s’ instagram page is “What’s your macro split?”, “How do I calculate my macros?” or “What are macros?”. People are obsessing over them! We thought we’d share with you what we know about macros and give you our thoughts and advice on macros and tracking vs. not tracking.
What are macros?
In short, macronutrients or ‘macros’ are what make up our food. They’re split into proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Your calories
are made up of these sources, alongside micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals.
- 1 gram protein = 4cals
- 1 gram carbohydrates = 4cals
- 1 gram fat = 9 cals
Example sources of each macro nutrient:
- Cous Cous/quinoa
- Sweet potato
- White potato
- Peanut butter
- Nuts and seeds
- Ice cream
Should I count them?
So many people ask “Why do you count macros?” and very often people assume that it’s another way after post anorexia of controlling what you put into your body. In our case, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Some weeks we track, some weeks we don’t, but it definitely is not a long term lifestyle! Do you really think that we would go on holiday and meticulously count every macro nutrient that goes into our mouths? Absolutely not! But if we are looking to drop a few pounds or get into slightly better condition for an upcoming holiday for example, then yes, maybe for the 4-6 weeks prior to that tracking macros is a good way to ensure that we’re on track to our goals. Counting macros should not produce a strict and regimental lifestyle. We considercounting macros as a way of achieving short term goals that we set for ourselves.
There are of course advantages and disadvantages for counting macros. The whole idea has become so out of hand and there’s now the common misconception that macros are linked with losing weight. What about those who are putting on weight, and therefore need to ensure that they’re hitting their calorific goal each day? Or what about professional runners, who will need to be making sure that they’re eating enough energy to fuel their long cardio training?
We personally don’t believe that people whohave just started recovering from anorexia should get into the habit of counting macros, because it may be a bit too soon and could rekindle obsessive behaviour with food.
When Laura started training and lifting weights, she first started tracking what she was eating to prove to herself that what she was eating wasn’t sufficient. She thought 900 calories a day was enough. Oh how wrong she was! By gradually increasing her calorific intake it helped get her metabolism to where it is today. So actually, by tracking calories, Laura managed to more than double her calorific intake. In this case, tracking macros isn’t such a bad thing after all! However, she can honestly say that before last summer, she did find that tracking was all getting a bit much for her and she found myself becoming a bit obsessive about it. So she took a step back and just focused on herself and eating healthily. By doing this and not tracking and only focusing on putting nutritious food into her body, she actually got into the best shape she had ever been in, purely because she wasn’t overthinking food and was just focusing on health. She is now tracking again as she’s thinking of potentially competing in a bikini competition and therefore will need to start hitting targets, in the hope of gaining muscle and losing fat. A short term goal of hers.
Ella never tracked macros or calorie counted when recovering. She just focused on gradually increasing her portion sizes and including new foods in order to learn what a balanced diet was. Once Ella had reached her goal weight, she then suffered from post anorexic binging for over a year (she has blogged about this before and we will cover this topic again soon!). When Ella started counting macros it helped her to get out of the binging cycle by teaching her how to include all macronutrients in her diet and being aware of how many calories she was consuming. For example, whereas eating a simple chocolate bar could lead to full on binge because of feelings of guilt and failure, she learnt that she could include such foods into her everyday diet and still have a healthy calorific intake. Macro counting helped reteach her how to have a truly balanced diet post anorexia- for exampls allowing herself to have a whole bar of chocolate, not just one teeny piece and saying “look I can eat chocolate, I’m recovered”.Now, Ella occasionally tracks macros to ensure that she’s eating enough in order to support her gym training, keep her concentration levels up at university and to keep her tummy happy!
Since we have both recovered and are now focusing on certain fitness goals, we do use macro counting for short periods of time. As already mentioned, it definitely is not a long term lifestyle choice, nor is is something to live by. We see these numbers as guidelines and as general outline of what we should be getting into our bodies each day to make sure we’re functioning properly and to make sure we have energy to shift some big weights in the gym!
Take a step back and think…
Everyone is different so asking someone what their macro split is because you like the way they look and want to look like them is pretty pointless. There’s so much to take into account, for example speed of metabolism, activity level, muscle mass, goals, the list goes on. We all have different calorie intakes and macro splits but that doesn’t mean that anyone is right or wrong. It just proves that we all have different requirements and therefore shouldn’t be concerned with anyone else’s needs, other than our own.
Think about YOUR goal, whatever it may be. Maybe you want to lose a bit of weight, so therefore need to be in a calorie deficit. Maybe you want to gain weight, so therefore need to be in a calorie surplus. Maybe you’re simply looking to improve the quality of your diet for general health, so focus on putting wholesome food into your body. There’s no need to overcomplicate it.
Protein, fats and carbs are essential to everyone. No, fats don’t make you fat. Same goes for carbs. So eat them. A healthy, balanced split consists of all of these macro nutrients. Enjoy your food and nourish your body.
Being healthy is wicked. Food is awesome.
Train hard, eat well, ENJOY life.