Complete Guide to Macro Counting Part 1

jodi@crossfita…
Wednesday, August 4, 2021 - 13:30
Image
woman abs

By Coach Eric R. Palmer

CF-L2

Editor's note: Macronutrient counting can be a game-changer for your body composition. In this three-series, Coach Eric will detail the theory and practice you need to reach the lean body goals you've always wanted. For more information, or to get a copy of his exclusive Macro Counting Calculator, contact us at crossfitalgiers.com.

PRIMER ON NUTRITION

There are many determinants of health, ranging from social factors such as availability to meet daily needs, such as educational and job opportunities, physical factors like exposure to pollutants and one’s work setting, biological factors like inherited diseases and family medical histories, and the influence of individual behaviors, such as hygiene, drug use, diet and exercise. We have varying levels of control over these things, from none (e.g. inherited diseases) to a great deal (individual behaviors). 

If you're a member of CrossFit Algiers, you’ve already taken an interest in what personal behaviors can positively affect your health. You’ve made the decision to focus on exercise, whatever your motivation for that. You've learned that you get the greatest results when you apply yourself consistently.

While some benefits of exercise are instantaneous, such as the mental clarity and rush of endorphins and endocannabinoids that fill your bloodstream after a vigorous workout and give you that sense of wellbeing and accomplishment, many of the health effects of exercise are borne out in the long game: the molding of your body into a stronger, leaner version; the lowering of your blood pressure and heart rate as your heart becomes stronger and triglyceride levels balance; reducing and stabilizing your insulin levels to ward off metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Good things come from just about any exercise (when done safely), but the best health outcomes arrive when exercise is done with consistency over long periods of time.

The same pattern arises from diet. The short-term benefits you’ll discover from a healthy diet are often mood-based: you’ll generally feel better, less “weighed down”, more alert when eating healthily. This is great, we all want to feel better in the moment! But the truly powerful health benefits of diet, like exercise, are realized when a healthy diet is applied consistently for a long period of time.

WHAT MAKES A DIET HEALTHY?

There is A LOT of information in the world on what makes a diet healthy. Some of the information agrees, some of it conflicts, but the biggest issue for so many people is that there is just SO MUCH information that they don’t know where to begin.

There are many diets that have risen and fallen in popularity within the CrossFit community over the years: The Paleo diet, the Zone diet, the Keto diet, Whole 30. The official CrossFit diet prescription is: Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. I’m not going to tell you what kinds of food to eat. People have all sorts of reasons for eating or not eating certain foods. I would suggest, though, that you try to eat foods that you enjoy and avoid making your diet feel like you’re on “a diet.” Restrictive dieting, in my opinion, is unsustainable, and if you feel like you’re constantly denying yourself the things you truly want, you’ll be doomed to fail. The kernel of this article focuses on the second sentence of that prescription: Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. How much is that? How do you know?

 

ENERGY BALANCE

The first law of thermodynamics says that the total energy of a closed system is constant. In other words, the amount of energy into the system (your body), which primarily comes in the form of food, is equal to the work being produced by the system (all of the internal processes that keep you alive plus the physical work you do) plus whatever is left over, which is stored by the system. Remember “the system” in this example is your body. And how does your body store excess energy? Why, in fat, of course!

We measure the amount of energy we consume in food as calories. The food we eat is divided into three main categories, called macronutrients (macros), which are: Fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Each type of macro has a calorie density, which is number of calories per gram of that type of macro. Fats have the most energy at 9 calories per gram, and both carbohydrates and proteins have 4 calories per gram. A fourth macronutrient, alcohol, has 7 calories per gram. Alcohol, unlike the other three, in non-essential. It is commonly consumed, though, and should be accounted for in macro counting, so I’m including it on the list.

Macro Calorie Densities

Macro Type

Cal/g

Fat

9

Carbohydrate

4

Protein

4

Alcohol

7

 

We'll go into more depth, and review this info in Part 2 of my Complete Guide to Counting Macros, or contact us now to talk with one of our certified nutrition coaches at CrossFit Algiers.