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What's The Deal With Macros?

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

What are the three macronutrients?

  • Protein

  • Carbohydrates

  • Fats

Each macro has a caloric value

  • Protein & Carbs = 4 cal per gram

  • Fats = 9 cal per gram


Calories in vs. Calories out is the basis of how we decide how much food should be allocated, but each macro has a different chemical effect on the body.

Protein should always be the priority when creating a meal. Protein is the building block we need to grow lean muscle tissue. Without adequate protein intake, muscle doesn't grow. Protein can also not be stored in the body.

Protein should come from high-quality/leaner sources. This essentially includes meats, seafood, low-fat dairy, and eggs/egg whites. These sources are the most bioavailable. For individuals who have eating restrictions, protein can be found in soy, tofu, and vegan protein supplements. These contain some controversy surrounding how bioavailable the protein is.

A lower-quality sourced animal protein is still better than nothing. There is not a lot of evidence that supports the belief that a grass-fed grass-finished animal is more nutrient dense and beneficial for consumption than a standard grain-fed animal. The life of a grass-fed/finished animal or a regenerative farmed animal is more humane and excellent for the environment.

There are foods such as beans, legumes, and nuts that contain protein but these are not protein-dominant and in some cases considered a lesser quality protein. These items are still nutritionally dense in their own way and can be incorporated into a proper diet.


There are 3 metabolic pathways that determine what the body uses for fuel.

  • Phosphagen System

  • Glycolytic System (Glucose)

  • Oxidative System

The Phosphagen System or ATP-PC System is utilized in explosive activity usually 10 seconds or less. Its immediate “grab and go” energy used in situations such as going for a 1 rep max back squat or a max-height vertical leap.

The glycolytic system is for high intensity situations. This is where carbohydrates come into play. This is essentially your gas tank. Carbohydrates give you the energy to continue to exercise once the phosphagen system has run out. Another analogy for the utilization of carbohydrates is throwing tinder on a fire. The body burns it up instantly and utilizes it for energy. We determine how much carbohydrate an individual should be consuming based on activity level and style of training. An elite CrossFit athlete who trains 6-8 hours a day will need a higher amount of carbohydrates than a sedentary individual who takes 1 sixty minute CrossFit class a day. If an individual is eating more carbohydrates than they are able to burn through, then the body will store it through fat.

Carbohydrates are found in grains, tubers, vegetables, fruits, and breads. Any processed food with added sugar will contain high amounts of carbohydrates as well. When looking for more nutritionally-dense carbohydrates that will contribute to a healthy diet we want to gravitate towards sprouted/whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Simple carbs, also known as fast-acting carbs, are nutritionally barren but still serve a purpose. Athletes looking to perform at their peak may consume processed sugar, such as candy, Gatorade, or dextrose, to improve their training. This however is not encouraged for the everyday fitness enthusiast.


Lastly we have fats. Fats can also act as a fuel source. This takes place when an individual is doing a high-fat low-carb diet or is training in a long and low impact situation (Zone 2). The other and primary function of fat is hormone regulation. If our fat intake is too low, our hormone production will not be optimal. Fat is naturally found in our protein sources, it can also be found in items such as avocados, EVOV, Tallow, and Nuts. Not all fats are equal in regard to the hormonal effect they have on the body. Poly Unsaturated Fats such as vegetable oils, canola oil, and seed oils should be avoided as much as possible. Since fats are 9 calories per gram, their satiety is greater but watch out – those calories can add up!


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