Understanding Macronutrients is the Key to Unlocking Your Fitness Potential Understanding macros can help you get stronger and leaner. Tracking macronutrients is the most basic way to manage and monitor your nutrition: It simply means counting the number of calories you eat each day from different sources of food. The reason so many gym junkies track their macros? Put simply, it works: Tracking macros can be the key to unlocking fitness potential you didn’t even know you had. What are macronutrients? Macronutrients are essential nutrients your body needs in large quantities (micronutrients, in contrast, are those that you need in small amounts). There are three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. All three are equally important and, yes, you can eat all three and be healthy and fit. Carbs 101 Carbs from foods like rice, bread, and starchy vegetables provide you with mental and physical energy. While some people can thrive on a low-carb diet, going keto isn’t the right route for most people, because let’s face it: Carb-heavy foods are delicious, and your body is designed to process carbs for energy. Aside from physical and mental energy, carbs help with post-workout recovery and muscle preservation. Just remember that not all carbs are created equal. Sure, you can fit an ounce of jellybeans into your diet, but an ounce of sweet potato sure will make you feel a lot better (and you won’t come crashing down in an hour). Protein 101 Protein is critical for muscle recovery and growth. Most people get the majority of their protein from animal sources, such as chicken, pork, and beef, although many plant-based foods contain ample protein (but not complete proteins). Protein is important for muscle repair, growth and maintenance, as well as satiety, which can help you reach your body composition goals. Fats 101 Avocados are good for more than just pretty toast: Healthy fats set you up for fitness success. Fat supports several body functions, and keeping your focus on fats can improve your overall health, which contributes, in turn, to your fitness. Dietary fat is important for nutrient absorption and sustained energy, both of which can help you power through workouts. Try to get most of your dietary fat from healthy sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It’s best to keep saturated fats to a minimum (not because saturated fat alone is bad, but because most foods with saturated fat are highly processed). Stick to whole-food fats like avocados, olives, vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and fish. Calories in macronutrients Each macronutrient has its own calorie value per gram. Carbohydrates and protein both contain four calories per gram, while fat contains nine calories per gram. While alcohol isn’t technically considered a macronutrient (because it’s not essential for survival), you should know that every gram of alcohol contains seven calories. Tracking macronutrients for fitness People generally track macros to either build muscle or lose fat. With the right macronutrient ratio, you can better manage your lean mass, strength, energy, performance, and even your sleep. Every athlete is different but here are some general guidelines for using macros to lose fat and gain muscle. Do you really need to track macros? The hard truth is that there’s no “best” macronutrient ratio. For people who exercise regularly (especially people who lift weights), it’s beneficial to shift the ratio to something more protein-heavy: Your muscles can’t recover from your workouts without adequate protein. In reality, the principles of a healthy diet are pretty simple: Eat mostly whole foods and balance your calorie intake (or eat in a surplus or deficit depending on your goals). Macro-tracking is just one tool of many that you can use to improve your fitness. For help with your own personalized training and nutrition program, contact a personal trainer at your local World Gym.