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Understanding Your Macros: Increasing Your Protein Intake

Jason Hughes
Published by Jason Hughes
Fact checked by Markus Oliver, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: June 28, 2022

You may have heard many gym enthusiasts and fitness aficionados use the term "Macros" used interchangeably with a good and healthy diet, but what exactly does it mean? Although it has become synonymous with a picture of good health, macronutrients aren't the only thing necessary for a good diet. While this is true, understanding how many grams of these essential nutrients you must add to your diet is paramount to maximizing your muscle development, as well as making you much more productive as a person - both in the gym and outside of it.

In this article, we will solve the mystery that is macronutrients, what they are, what they do, how to best combine them, and ultimately, a great way to track your macronutrient intake.

What are Macronutrients?

Nutrient is a term that is used to describe the "good" things that are inside the food you eat, which help to develop certain functions. Macronutrients are so named because they are the most important substances that help your body regulate itself.

Macronutrients are key in maintaining structure, function, and mental health, and are needed in much larger quantities than other substances that you intake into your body (such as vitamins and minerals).

Although the intake of these precious macronutrients varies by person, they are extremely important in large quantities, and should always be maximized even before thinking about cutting food out of your diet. The three main macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. These are considered essential nutrients, meaning that your body cannot create enough of them by itself to sustain your current state. Macronutrients also directly affect calorie intake, as each one of these nutrients can be burned when needed for energy. In order they are:

Carbohydrates

You may have heard the adage, "carbs are the enemy" but they are extremely essential to your diet. Carbohydrates are your body's main source of energy, and they are burned first in the selection process. There are two types of carbs, simple and complex. Simple carbs are found directly in sweet substances that provide your body with access to immediate energy.

Things such as honey, sugar, and other processed sweets contain simple carbs. These are often called "the enemy" as they provide large amounts of accessible energy right away, much more than we can use in today's society. After all, we are not hunting or running from predators for the lion's share of the day anymore. Complex carbs come from "healthier" sources, such as apples, fruit, whole grains, and oats. Complex carbs are so named because they are more difficult to break down. They provide the body with more slow-release energy, giving you more throughout the day in different spurts. One gram of carbohydrates produces 4 calories of energy when burned.

Fats

Being overweight has fallen out of favor in recent years. Up until modern times, being "fat" was a luxury and a desire. It meant that you had more than enough food and that you could survive if you fell through temporary periods of rough times. Fats are not any worse or better than the other macronutrients, just that they serve different functions. Fat is created from fatty acids, which are either directly eaten from food that has saturated/unsaturated fat contents such as oil, butter, or vegetable/animal fat. Fatty acids are also created from leftover carbohydrate energy which was not used up when ingested. This is why eating a lot of sweets can make you overweight.

Fats are the best macronutrient to burn for the body, at a whopping 9 calories per gram of fat, more than double the same gram of protein or carbs. This is why the ketogenic diet has stood the test of time, as it eliminates carbohydrates and goes directly to fat-burning - increasing metabolic burn and weight loss.

Proteins: Proteins are either directly ingested from food, or are created by amino acids, which are also found in protein-laden foods. This includes meat, beans, legumes, lentils, oats, dairy and dairy substitutes, and fish. Some fish, such as tuna, has almost 100% of its content in protein, making it one of the most protein-heavy foods. A great vegan alternative is lentils, as they contain high amounts of plant protein, which is a whole protein (all 9 essential amino acids). Protein is the last to burn, and will only be used for energy if your fat stores are depleted. Proteins are extremely important because they build, repair, and maintain your muscles, tissues, joints, organs, and ligaments.

What Is The Best Combination of Macronutrients?

Depending on your body type, we have fully detailed the 5 step process of calculating your macronutrients. Find it here. To summarize, maximize your protein intake, and minimize your carbohydrate intake.

How Do I Track My Macros?

Fitbit macros tracking system is one of the best ways to enter and keep a record of your macronutrient intake. You will be prompted to enter all foods you have consumed for the day, and it will calculate your optimal nutrient intake as well as where you are relative to the day. The Fitbit also includes a daily stress management score, sleep score, and tracking of your activity and exercise.

FAQs

Are macronutrients organic?

Carbs, fats, and proteins are all organic substances. They are found within the food you eat and created through different building blocks. Proteins are made from amino acids and fats from fatty acids. Carbs are only found in organic food that you consume.

Where are macronutrients found?

Macronutrients are found in every meal, some richer than others. Macronutrients can also be found in certain supplements. For example, the most popular supplement that contains macronutrients is a protein powder, as most of us are lacking enough of that in our daily intake for proper muscle development.

How are macronutrients used during a workout?

Macronutrients are burned for fuel or used to repair and create new muscles and tissues. Carbs are burned first in order of efficiency, and then fats thereafter. Protein is the body's last resort as it is not intended to be used for fuel, but rather to build the systems within your body.


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