Macros, Calories, and the Big Picture*

Thursday, 23 March 2017, By Alex Campbell


Think back to your first venture into Health and Fitness. What an exciting time it was! The wealth of information available is enormous; we have literally all of the world's combined knowledge at our fingertips. Thus, when beginning our education on any given subject, we get flooded with jargon, contradicting messages, and occasionally the odd falsehood here and there.


This is much the case when it comes to education on Health and Fitness, particularly on the subject of 'Nutrition'.


 "Should I minimise carbs?"

"Should I minimise fat?"

"I've heard protein is bad for me, should I minimise protein?"


To adhere to every rule, guideline and 'MUST DO/MUST NEVER DO' that's out there would quickly mean we couldn't eat or drink anything! It's a strange, confusing world when it comes to nutrition.


One of the key points I help people with is the topic of tracking macronutrients versus tracking calories.


"Should I track calories?"

"Why do we track macronutrients?"

"What's the difference?"

"Why is this just so, so confusing?" (Only occasionally!)


Let's kick it off with calories, shall we? Calories are units of measure, specifically regarding energy contained in food. When it comes to weight loss, maintenance, or gain, it's about the balance of energy (calories). If you have too many calories going in than going out (eating more than you need, or not exercising enough), you'll gain weight. If there are less calories going in than going out (eating less than you need, or exercising enough), you'll lose weight. If there's the same amount going in as going out, you'll maintain weight.


Nothing revolutionary there.


"That's all well and good, but if weight loss and gain is determined by calories in versus calories out, why bother with macronutrients? If it ain't broke, why fix it?


Macronutrients, on the other hand, are specific nutrients required by the body for key functions (i.e. Protein for muscle repair and maintenance, Carbohydrates for a readily available fuel source and digestive function, Fat for hormone regulation) beyond just the supply of energy. Each gram of macronutrient contains energy (calories) in the following amounts:

  • Protein - 4 calories per gram
  • Carbohydrates - 4 calories per gram
  • Fat - 9 calories per gram


Based on your goals and body type, each person will perform better with different calorie and macronutrient recommendations. At Vision, when we go through a goal session with a client we determine what macronutrient amounts would best serve their goals and body type, rather than merely advising calorie amounts, for a few simple reasons:

  • Macronutrients have specific purposes, and thus if a client is having trouble adhering to a new eating style, is lacking energy, or having trouble recovering (to name but a few issues that can arise) it's easier to look at their macros and determine what they're having too little/too much of.
  • When we track macronutrients and advise amounts to consume, we automatically advise how many calories each person should be having, as macronutrients contain energy
  • In addition to starting an exercise program and (occasionally) making some big lifestyle changes, we're working with you to track your food and advise changes to hit your goals. Why complicate that with another number to track?


"Macronutrient tracking seems like the logical, handsome way forward then. What should I do to learn more about it?"


Follow the links on this page to read the 'So what's a Macronutrient?' article, and jump on your Vision Virtual Training profile to get started!


*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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