Getting in shape is tough, there’s no getting around that. Sure, on the TV you’ll see celebrities go from fat to thin, or from scrawny to hench, in a matter of months, but rest assured, it isn’t anywhere near as easy as they make it out to be. These individuals work with the best trainers in the world, they have access to as much of the best foods and supplements as they like, they can train as and when they like, and of course, they MAY have access to other *ahem, artificial supplements in the process, though that is certainly not the case for them all, and that doesn’t mean that they have spent the last few weeks just sitting around doing nothing. As we’re just into the New Year, it seems as if we’re surrounded by faddy diets and so-called “miracle” supplements, at every turn, and whilst some of these products and diets may actually work, for the most part, sadly you are going to have to be willing to really put in the hard work for yourself. One thing that you’ve probably heard people talking about, time and time again on various fitness boards, or social media pages, is macros and macro counting and calculating. If done correctly, macro calculating can yield extremely impressive health and fitness results, with many people crediting it as being their secret weapon for turning a decent physique, into a truly amazing physique. There are actually now personal trainers and coaches that are dedicated solely to counting and calculating macro ratios for their clients, depending on their client’s own special goals and requirements. But do macro ratios really make sense, and is there any way of making things even clearer and easier for us to understand? Well, let’s take a more detailed look, shall we?
What are macros?
Macros, or Macronutrients, if you want to get all scientific and technical, are comprised of: fat, protein, and carbohydrates, and they basically refer to the amount of calories that each of these food stuffs are able to provide our bodies with at a time. Macronutrients are the key to health and fitness success, IF, you can dial them in and work out the perfect ratio depending on your goals and targets. Basically, think of macros as molecules used by the body in order to generate energy for itself. Macros are measured in grams, are found in all forms of food and drink, and, if you know what you’re doing, can really help you to reach your ideal goal physique or fitness objectives.
Why do people calculate macro ratios?
In the past, if you wanted to lose weight and get in shape, most people would simply have tried counting calories. As you know, weight loss is indeed basically a case of Calories In VS Calories Out, which basically means that, if you needed, say, 2000 calories for maintenance, if you consumed 1800 calories, and created a 200 calorie deficit a day, the body would have to make up for that deficit somehow, and would burn body fat for energy instead, meaning that, day by day, you would lose more and more weight. The problem with counting calories however, is that, as long as they were hitting their goals, people couldn’t care less where their calories came from. That means that, out of those 1800 calories, 1600 could have perhaps come from carbs, with the remaining 200 coming from fat and protein. Different macros affect the body in different ways, and as protein is so essential for building muscle, if you’re getting the majority of your calories from carbs, that lack of protein could lead to muscle wastage and could make it difficult to build muscle. Yes, calorie deficits to lead to WEIGHT loss, but that weight isn’t all going to be from fat, and the last thing many of you will want, will be for your bodies to have burnt off lean muscle mass instead. Macro ratios however, can be customized to help you with your own specific goals, and are designed to ensure that you are getting the correct combination of macronutrients.
Different macro ratios for different goals
The great thing about macros, is the fact that you can calculate different macro ratios for different goals, and indeed for different circumstances as well. For example, if you’re trying to burn fat by following a low carb, high fat, moderate protein diet, you can actually calculate the perfect macro ratio combination based upon the diet you are following. On top of that, as different macros affect the body in different ways, you can use this to structure your macro ratio plan accordingly. If for example, you are a long distance runner, you will need to ensure that your muscle glycogen levels are fully stocked up, which will mean that your diet will need to consist of more carbohydrates than the average person simply looking to tone up and lose a bit of weight. There is no tried and tested formula from one person to the next, as there are many different factors to consider, including goals and targets.
Factors to consider
As well as personal goals and targets, when calculating your ideal macro ratio split, it is also recommended that you familiarize yourself with a few other factors that influence what kind of ratio split you should be following. These include:
First and foremost, one of the biggest factors to consider when working out a macro ratio split is to determine your overall body type. There are three main body types, which are:
Ectomorph – Naturally thin with long limbs, narrow shoulders, who find it difficult to gain weight, and easy to lose it. As ectomorphs have fast metabolisms, generally they can get away with consuming more carbs than average, typically their macros may look something like: 55% carbs, 20% fat, 25% protein.
Endomorph – Typically broad and stocky, with higher body fat percentages than average. Endomorphs find it relatively easy to build muscle, unfortunately they also find it easy to gain fat as well. Endomorphs are generally less tolerant to carbs, meaning that they should aim for a lower carb consumption. Their macros may look something like: 30% carbs, 25% fat, and 55% protein.
Mesomorphs – Mesomorphs are generally muscular, athletic, and lean. They find it easy to build muscle, and easy to burn fat as well. As mesomorphs are genetically able to deal with all forms of macros, a typical ratio split to those, would look something like: 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat.
Without sounding sexist, generally, women do find it tougher to lose fat than men, and that isn’t a generalisation, it is a fact that has been backed up by science. Because of this, their macro ratios will need to be adjusted accordingly. Surprisingly, women burn fat for fuel, far more efficiently than men, it is the glycogen stored in their muscles that causes them issues with weight gain, especially when it comes to carbohydrates. Because of this, women can generally function on macro ratios that are higher in fat, and lower in carbohydrates, than most men. Put simply, men tend to rely more on stored glycogen carbohydrates for energy, as opposed to women, who tend to rely more on fat for energy instead.
Goals and personal circumstances
Finally, the last thing to consider is the fact that different people will have different goals in mind. For example, somebody trying to build muscle mass and bulk up, is not going to want to be following the same macronutrient split as somebody trying to burn fat and tone up slightly. Some people are more resistant to carbohydrates than others, so they may be better off with a low-carb macro ratio split. Other people however, simply may enjoy eating carbs and so will construct plans that allow them to consume relatively high amounts of carbs, and to still hit their target levels in order for them to see the results they have been hoping for.
Hitting your targets
Finally, before we wrap things up, we’ll finish off by taking a look at a few ways in which you are able to easily hit your various macro goals and targets to yield the results you may have been hoping for:
Read nutritional labels – Take the time to read the labels of everything you consume, as that will tell you all you need to know. You will know how much fat, carbs, and protein is in the product, and much more besides.
Know your macros – Next up, you need to know your macros, and by that, we mean, you need to know which food and drink falls under which category. Find a list of as many fats, proteins, and carbs as you possibly can, and familiarize yourself with them.
Weigh and track – Weigh your food and use apps and online technology to make things easier. Once you know how, and have the right tools, hitting your targets will be simple.