Complete Guide to Macro Counting Part 2

jodi@crossfita…
Wednesday, August 4, 2021 - 13:42
Image
woman abs

Editor's note: Macronutrient counting can be a game-changer for your body composition. In this three-part series, Coach Eric will detail the theory and practice you need to reach the lean body goals you've always wanted. Check out Part 1 of the series here. For more information, or to get a copy of his exclusive Macro Counting Calculator, contact us at crossfitalgiers.com.

By Coach Eric R. Palmer

CF-L2

In Part 2, let's review the basics of what macronutrients are, and dive into how to track them to reach your goals.

ENERGY BALANCE

How does your body store excess energy? Why, in fat, of course!

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

 

MACRONUTRIENTS

Each macronutrient type serves a different purpose. Within each type of macro, there are different types and variations that have a more nuanced effect on a person’s health and metabolism, but for the purposes of this article, I will keep it broad and basic.

Fats are used to store energy in the body, make hormones, absorb fat soluble micronutrients (vitamins), and build cell walls. Fats are an essential part of any diet – without any fats, you die. Fats have, at various times and with various groups, had a bad reputation in nutrition because they pack the most energy into the smallest amount of food, and in this country there is an obesity epidemic. But fats are essential to our health. Too much of them can be problematic, but too much of ANYTHING can be problematic. Macro counting is aimed at making sure we get both ENOUGH and NOT TOO MUCH of any of the three essential macronutrients.

There are three basic types of dietary fats: Saturated fats, unsaturated fats, and trans fats. Trans fats are man-made fats intended to increase the shelf-life of foods (think Twinkies), and should be eliminated from the diet. Saturated fats are primarily (but not always) derived from animal (mammal and avian) fats. They are fats that are typically solid at room temperature: butter, beef fat, coconut oil. High levels of saturated fats can have detrimental effects on cholesterol and triglyceride levels and balances when combined with a traditional, high-carbohydrate diet, so they should be enjoyed in measure. Unsaturated fats are derived from plant and fish, are generally liquid at room temperature, and should make up the bulk of fat intake in a traditional, high-carbohydrate diet. In some diets, such as the Keto Diet, high levels of fat and very low levels of carbohydrate are consumed in order to change the way the body stores and used energy from the traditional glucose-based energy system to a ketone-based energy system. For the purposes of macro counting, a fat is a fat.

Carbohydrates (carbs) are the body’s primary source of readily-accessible energy. The body breaks carbohydrates down into a simple sugar, glucose, and uses that to power its internal organs. Glucose linked up into long chains and stored in the muscles as glycogen, which is readily accessible to be used as energy to quickly contract your muscles in order to move your body. I’m sure you’ve heard of simple versus complex carbohydrates; very basically, complex carbohydrates (whole grains, starchy vegetables, etc.) take longer to metabolize so they provide the body with a steadier stream of blood sugar, rather than peaks and valleys that simple carbohydrates (sugar, honey, processed flour, etc.). For the purposes of macro counting, though, a carb is a carb.

Proteins are broken down by the body to amino acids, which are then recomposed to build and repair tissues and perform all the internal functions the body does. They are the building blocks for building muscle. Amino acids are broken into two groups: Essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids are those that the body cannot synthesize itself (or in sufficient quantities) and thus must be obtained through food. Non-essential amino acids are those that the body can create enough of without having to consume them directly, or that the human body simply does not need. When more protein is consumed than the body needs, it is metabolized further into glucose and used as carbohydrate.

MACRO COUNTING

I can hear you all now. “OK, great, Eric, thanks for all of that, but I thought this article was about Macro Counting.” It is, and I’m getting to it, but I wanted you to know what you were counting and why first. I know I’m more likely to do something if I understand it a little bit. I'll go into the specific of what to do to track and refine your macro counting in Part 3 of this series, but you can always reach out to us at CrossFit Algiers for help with your nutrition goals.