MW Fitness Special: Everything You Need To Know About Macros
What’s making the macronutrient ratio all the rage in the nutrition circles? Experts turn the spotlight on myths and challenges
During my post-Covid recovery, the pounds I piled on made me doubt every weighing scale in the vicinity. I decided it was time to get back on the healthy-eating track. And this time around, my nutritionist asked me to have double the amount of protein on my plate in proportion to the carbs, recommended the exact type and quantity of fats and sugar for me, and labelled salads and veggies as ‘free foods’.
Macros are essentially macronutrients that are required in large quantities by our body and provide calories and energy. “Carbs, fats, and proteins are the three types of macronutrients,” explains Bengaluru-based celebrity sports nutritionist Ryan Fernando, whose client list includes cricketers Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan, and actors Abhishek Bachchan and Aamir Khan.
“People are putting in efforts to stay healthy, and that includes eating with precision. But not everyone has the same calorie needs — it depends on their age, gender, metabolism, genes, lifestyle, physical activity levels, and hence, needs to be monitored to get the desired result,” he adds.
Also, instead of relying on absolute grams of macronutrients, macro ratios are a more practical and sustainable way of maintaining healthy eating. “It’s difficult to measure our food before eating it every single time, but it is easier to maintain ratios by volume,” says Lovneet Batra, clinical nutritionist in Fortis La Femme, Delhi, and an author.
“We need all three major macronutrients. This is fuel for the trillions of cells that make up our body. Quality carbs, protein, and fats of the right quality and proportions in a way that suits you is crucial,” elaborates Luke Cutinho, holistic nutritionist and lifestyle coach who specialises in integrative and lifestyle medicine.
“We have good carbs and bad carbs, good fats and bad fats, good proteins, and bad proteins. It’s about what you choose as your nutrient source. For instance, you can choose your carbs from refined and junk and processed foods, or select fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as your carb source. While the former may give you carbs, it’s at the expense of your health as it can cause inflammation, highly unstable sugar levels, increased cravings, weight gain, brain fog, overheating, etc.,” he cautions.
Cutinho advises, “It is not just about gender. Nutrition needs to be a lot more personalised and we must also take into consideration the activity levels, emotional health, region and locality, health status and history, gut health, amount of digestive acids and enzymes your body is able to produce, digestive capacity, gut microbiome, genetics, carb/protein or fat-efficient body, and health goals. Macro intake has to be designed keeping all of the above-mentioned points in mind.”
Batra feels the diet may vary based on fitness goals, activity levels, age, medical conditions etc. but on an average, 50 per cent calories come from CHO, 20 per cent from proteins, and 30 per cent from fats. The amount of information available online on macros can be mind-boggling. “The biggest myth is, ‘If it’s working for him/ her, it will work for me too’. In nutrition, no one size fits all,” says Fernando.
Also, the idea that you need to eliminate one and have excess of the other as seen in Keto, Atkins, and a low-carb diet is also far from reality. “Carbohydrates act as energisers and have a protein-sparing effect; proteins are building blocks, and fats enable protection and absorption of vitamins A, D, and E, and help maintain hormonal balance. So, each has its own role to play,” Batra explains.
If you look at it, understanding macros is not complicated at all — they’re all equally important, and the only thing even more important than eating them is getting a nutritionist to guide you on how to consume your macros.