I’m sure you’ve heard or seen the word macros at one point or another, with the current fitness craze flooding everyone’s newsfeeds with gym selfies and fancy lingo.

The term ‘macros’ is short for macronutrients and refers to the three basic components of every diet: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. In order to have a well-balanced and effective diet, it’s important to get these proportions right because calorie counting alone may not give you the desired results. Focusing on the composition of calories you’re consuming, and not just the number of calories is the fundamental principle behind counting macros.              

Although it’s important to be aware of how many calories you’re consuming in a day, the number of calories doesn’t take the nutritional content of what you’re consuming into account, which is one of the major problems with traditional calorie counting. Eating 100 calories of candy is very different from eating 100 calories of vegetables; and based on their nutritional content, your body will use or store these foods differently as well. The classic saying ‘everything in moderation’ encourages using portion control instead of making drastic restrictions to your diet. Unless you’re eating the right foods, however, you’ll eventually give in and fulfill that late-night craving for McDonald’s. 

Margaux Parker/The Varsity

Margaux Parker/The Varsity

Putting the Pro in Protein             

To start living a healthier lifestyle, it’s best to focus on macronutrients, not just calories. In the world of fitness and athletics protein is arguably the ruler of the macronutrient kingdom. Protein is primarily associated with building muscle, which is why it’s extremely common to see bodybuilders, fitness trainers, and athletes often obsessing over protein supplements. But protein does more than just build muscle. Protein is essential for the growth of new muscle tissue and also for repairing broken tissue. 

Car ‘bro’ hydrates              

The diet and fitness industry has a rocky relationship with good ol’ carbs. As the body’s most easily accessible source of energy, carbs are broken up into glycogen, which is necessary for our muscles and liver, and glucose, which is essential for brain function. Carbs are generally divided into two classifications — simple and complex.

The difference between the two classifications is the length of the carbohydrate molecules. Simple carbohydrates have a shorter molecule chain, which makes it easier for the body to break down. Complex carbohydrates, such as starch, have a larger molecule chain and the body takes longer to break them down into usable components. When it comes to macros, choosing sources of complex carbohydrates is best for keeping your hunger satisfied: making it easier to resist those wicked cravings. 

Making friends with fat             

The third major macronutrient, fat, has a reputation for being unhealthy, but it should not be demonized or avoided because our normal body functions rely on them. There are different kinds of fats, including saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. The three that we should be concerned about are trans fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and omega-6 fatty acids.

To put it simply, trans fats are the enemy. They have been shown to increase the risk of coronary heart disease and should be avoided. Trans fats are generally found in most packaged and processed foods and in various brands of margarine. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, on the other hand, are known as essential fatty acids and for good reason. Similar to the essential amino acids found in protein, your body cannot produce them on its own, so they must be obtained through your diet. 

Learning how to properly measure, prepare, and record food is key to accurately measuring your macros. It may sound difficult and annoying, but luckily, there are numerous apps that make recording our calories and macros a lot easier. MyFitnessPal is one of the most popular calorie counter and diet tracker app, because it has the world’s largest nutritional database and it’s available across all platforms. Not only does it track your entire food intake, but it also has an exercise tracker with more than 350 exercises stored in its database. It’s convenient, easy to use, and it allows you to customize a personal diet profile to fit your specific needs and goals.