When it comes to cardinal rules in the world of fitness professionals, this one sits near the top: No personal trainer should ever recommend or endorse a particular diet for weight loss.
There are simply too many variables involved, with every client’s story unique. But that hasn’t stopped the next diet “fad” from always being right around the corner, complete with an alleged scientific breakthrough that promises results that all too often fail to deliver for the countless number of people who invest their time and money.
This is why so many turn back to the old reliable: Burn more calories in a day than you take in and you’ll lose weight, an approach that usually coincides with a lifestyle change. From that basic concept was born, long ago, the idea of counting calories, followed relatively recently by its lesser-known relative, counting macros.
Clients might start asking you if they must be counting their macros and how it works. Whether you accept as true with this type of food tracking and diet is up to you. However, what’s important is that you know the details behind counting macros and that you refer them out if their questions encroach on your scope of work.
What Are Macros?
Macronutrients are the body’s primary source for energy, with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients—micronutrients—offering a supporting role. Macronutrients consist of the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats contained in the food we consume. Except for alcohol, macros represent all the calories we get from what we eat and drink. Each of the macros plays a particular role in developing and maintaining fitness and health.
Proteins help build and maintain lean muscle mass. Proteins also build, maintain, and repair body tissue, which is very important to the recovery process after a workout.
Carbohydrates are the primary energy source for the body and the brain. Carbs increase blood glucose levels, which is what supplies the energy to the body and is the preferred source of energy to the brain.
Fats help regulate hormones. And while all types of fats should be part of a healthy diet, unsaturated fats should be the predominant kind, with saturated and trans fats held to a minimum.
Every macro contains a certain number of calories per gram. A gram of protein or carbohydrate equals four calories. A gram of fat equals nine calories. If drinking alcohol is part of the equation, that needs to be accounted for, too. Alcohol has seven calories per gram.
The percentage of macros during a diet has a direct effect on the body’s ability to perform and recover from exercise, control hunger, and gain or lose weight. When compared to counting only calories, it’s a difference that proponents say can be explained like this: Counting calories is like buying a suit off the rack; counting macros is like having a suit tailor-made.