If you have googled health and fitness in the past year, you have probably come across the terms macros and micros. These terms have become very common among the health world but are often poorly understood.
First off, macro = macronutrients and micro = micronutrients. People mostly like to talk about the macros as this is what they are tracking. But micros are very important to your overall health and should not be forgotten. The micros separate the junk food from the good food.
Macros consist of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
Micros consist of vitamins, elements, minerals, and antioxidants.
Macros gained popularity in the health world as a way to track what you are eating instead of using just blind calories. It simplifies your food into three categories and just like calories, you have a set amount each day. Why do fitness gurus and bodybuilders like this way of tracking? Diet and exercise go hand-in-hand, you will not get that 6-pack by exercising alone, no matter how many hours you run. But mixing a healthy diet with exercise will show off those cut abdominal muscles pretty quickly.
There are two major pitfalls that I run across as a healthcare professional:
- All macros are not created equally. Just like with calories, a 500 calorie burger vs. a 500 calorie salad are very different in terms of health. This is where you need to watch those micronutrients.
- Your body does not recognize an apple as an apple. It breaks it down into its molecular makeup and uses the product as its fuel. Breaking down a salad gives your body an ample amount of vitamins, antioxidants, and other micros, in addition to those macros that you are counting. But if you just count the macros and eat a burger, you are missing those vital micros that achieve overall health.
- The only way to prevent this is to STOP EATING JUNK. I don’t have to teach you the health benefits of vegetables vs. burgers or fresh vs. processed, you just have to use your common sense.
- Guessing on your macro amounts. Without any doubt in my mind, we underestimate the bad and overestimate the good.
- Find a good nutrition resource like MyMacros+ or Fitocracy macros. These apps allow you to enter your food and portion size just like calorie counters, and it will track your macros for you.
- On the same note, don’t guess at portion size. Invest in a $10 food scale from Walmart and know what a real portion is.
- One trick I have learned is to track my food before I eat. This allows me to know how many portions I can eat within my daily limits. It also prevents the overeating that comes with guessing.