What does this stand for?
“Macros” is an abbreviation for macronutrients. These are the essential nutrients our body needs. The three macronutrients which make up your daily caloric intake are protein, carbohydrates (carbs) and fat. In order to attain an optimal functioning body, understanding what they provide for us and how they do so is a great start. Each of these producing energy for our daily activities, but what exactly do each of these do and why do we need them?
Let’s start with some basics everyone should know when it comes to nutrition and planning out your meals daily, weekly or monthly. Protein and carbohydrates both are 4 calories per gram, whereas fat is 9 calories per gram. What does this mean? Well if we are looking at a nutrition label on the back of a food product and for example, it says it consists of 10 grams of protein, 4 grams of carbs and 2 grams of fat. This would translate to 40 calories from protein because I take 4 calories per gram and times it by 10 to get 40. Then I would have 16 calories from carbs because I take 4 calories per gram and times it by 4 to get 16. And lastly, I would have 18 calories from fat because I take 9 calories per gram and times it by 2 to get 18. So in total, this item has 74 calories (40+16+18=74). When reading nutrition labels, this is how you add up the macros to see how many calories are in a product. As you can see fat has more than double the number of calories per gram so be careful and don’t let it creep up on you and add unwanted calories to your day.
Protein = 4 calories per gram
Carbohydrates = 4 calories per gram
Fat = 9 calories per gram
What does protein do for our body? Protein helps maintenance and repair the tissues and cells in the body. When we strength train we cause microtrauma to the muscle, and when we consume the proper protein it aids in rebuilding these tissues to build new muscle strands and increase the number of muscle fibers. Basically protein is very important for muscle recovery and building. Protein are the building blocks of the body made up of amino acids. There are 20 amino acids with 10 of them being essential and the other 10 non-essential. The essential ones we must consume in our diet while the non-essential are produced naturally in the body. I will spare you from the detailed explanation of this, just know we must consume the 10 essential in our diets. In addition we need protein for our hormones and transportation/storage of molecules. As stated earlier, protein is a source of energy along with the other two, but what separates it from the others is it is the last macronutrient to be stored as fat. Protein should be eaten with every meal, as an added bonus it helps keep feeling full longer. Daily 1 gram of protein per LBM (lean body mass) should be consumed or a simpler way is 1 gram per bodyweight.
What do carbohydrates do for us? Carbohydrates are the main source of energy. These are broken down into glucose for energy usage and stored as fat (energy for a later use). Many people have been taught carbs make us fat. This is not true. This macronutrient actually allows us to perform mentally and physically up to full potential. If you meet any professional athlete or Olympic athlete, ask them if they eat carbs. The answer is yes, and a whole lot of them! Carbs can be broken up into three main categories; complex, simple and fibrous.
Complex carbs are also known as “starchy” which are slowly digested and absorbed by the body. The majority of your carb sources should be coming from these. An example would be oats, oatmeal, potatoes, rice, and quinoa. These are best eaten
Simple carbs or “sugar” are the fast digesting bets immediately before or after a workout so it can be metabolized quickly for fuel or to refuel. Glucose, fructose, sucrose, and galactose are some types of simple carbs. These should be avoided for the most part, unless its a piece of fruit, which should be limited to 1-2 pieces a day maximum.
Fibrous carbs are mostly the vegetables which should be eaten to assure we are consuming all of the vitamins and micronutrients (which we will leave micronutrients for another day). Humans cannot digest fiber so it basically helps keep our bodies regular and running smoothly.
Carbs should make up 35-60% of your daily nutrition in order to be fully fueled to power through the day and your training sessions.
What is this nutrient we call fat and how can it help us be physically fit? Fat is also known as triglycerides. As the other two fat is another source of energy. Depending on the individual, someone may get more energy from fat compared to carbs and vice versa. We need a balance of all three so don’t go thinking fat is not necessary. It helps aid with certain body functions as well as break down vitamins in order to receive the correct nutrients from them. There are “bad” and “good” fats. The three categories are; saturated, trans and unsaturated fat. The “bad” ones would consist of the saturated and trans which both of these can increase blood cholesterol levels and lead to a higher risk for heart disease. Saturated fats are found in high-fat meats and dairy products. Trans fats are found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils such as fried foods, vegetable shortening, processed snacks and baked goods. These two types of fat should be avoided or limited to a very minimal amount. “Good” fats are mono and polyunsaturated. Mono can improve blood cholesterol levels and come from nuts, olive oil, peanut/almond butter, and avocado. Polyunsaturated come from plant-based foods and oils, with one specific type having a more important role. This would be Omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil, especially salmon. Very beneficial to the heart, while lowering blood pressure as well. Fat also can aid in lubricating joints and slow down arthritis issues. As for the amount of fat we need in our diet, roughly 15-25% or whatever is left after figuring out protein and carbohydrate needs.
A final recap on macronutrients. We need a combination of all three to attain the physique we desire. Each one plays an important role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. There is much more detail to cover but this should be enough to get you started.
How to get stronger
How do I get stronger?
There are multiple methods for increasing your strength, the one method I think is bullet proof is PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD. This basically means each time we do the same workout we need to make it a little more difficult in order to continually stress the body. There are a few different ways we can do this. We can increase the weight, reps or sets. We can decrease the rest period or total lifting time. Lastly, we can attempt to do it all the same as previously but with better technique/form. So let's go into a little more detail of these ways to progressive overload for strength gains.
Let’s say for an exercise you were able to complete 4 sets of 10 repetitions(reps) at 50 pounds. Then one way we can make it more challenging is going up to 55 pounds for 4 sets of 10 reps. All we did was increase 5 pounds but kept the sets and reps the same. (Specifically idea for strength.)
Another way would be to take the 4 sets of 10 reps at 50 pounds and either add an additional set to make it 5 sets of 10 reps for an additional 10 reps. Or we could do 4 sets of 12 reps at 50 pounds for an additional 8 reps. Both of these are adding repetitions but one is doing so by adding a whole set and the latter is by adding reps per set. (Specifically ideal for adding muscle.)
We could also attempt the same 50 pounds for 4 sets of 10 reps and decrease our rest period or try and complete the lifts in a shorter period of time. Even though we did not increase anything as we did on the prior methods, decreasing time will not allow our muscles to recover fully and see if they can still perform the same way. (Specifically ideal for body composition.)
Lastly if we completed the 4 sets of 10 reps at 50 pounds but our form was a little off, we could attempt to do it all exactly the same but focus on maintaining better technique/form. (Specifically ideal for those who struggle with orthopedic issues.)
All of these are different ways to continuously create progressive overload will help aid in getting stronger. Each one may be more specific for a certain goal, but overall strength gains will come from each. Once the methods have become easily understood then all you have to do is pick one you want to play around with. Trying them all out, deciding which is more desirable, creating the most gains. One method is not better than the other, give them all a shot and remember, we must FAIL in order to GROW. So don’t be afraid to get into the gym with a new game plan to make some strength gains.
Pick one and have fun.
Increase weight, sets or reps. Decrease time during or between sets.
Cardio or weights?
“Cardio is the only way to lose weight.”
This myth has been debunked many times with scientific-based research proving strength training is more effective when it comes to burning fat and losing weight respectively. After we strength train, the following 24-48 hours we continue to burn calories as our body works to repair the muscles we have broken down. So other than the training session itself, the metabolism continues to work while these processes occur. As we increase our lean muscle mass, we amp up our metabolisms, by adding more fuel to the fire. By this I am talking about how lean muscle is our “fire/metabolism” and the addition of new muscle puts more logs on it to create a bigger “fire” or in metabolic terms, a quicker metabolism. The quicker our metabolism the more calories we burn on a daily basis just by being awake. When it comes to cardio, if we were to run for 30 minutes, then we would burn calories for the duration of the exercise. But once we complete the run the calories are no longer being burned (other than that of your regular metabolic rate). With this being said, strength training is optimal for fat loss but cardio could be utilized to supplement the process by adding to the total calories burned per day.
“Weights will make me bulky (manly).”
This could not be more untrue! If you want a lean, non flabby physique then weights will help you achieve this. People too often think heavy lifting leads to big bulky bodies. Which over a very LONG time can be a by-product of it, IF that’s the goal. But these individuals aren’t just lifting weights, they are also properly fueling their bodies by eating a caloric surplus in order to grow. We cannot grow without proper nutrition. If it was as simple as just training with weights, then everyone who went to the gym for this style of training would be huge. But that's not the case. Go check out the female bikini competitors and look how feminine their bodies are. Far from bulky, yet they lift weights regularly. If we look at a bodybuilder and wonder how he got so big, well a good chunk of these HUGE individuals are supplementing with steroids. Weights are very significant in adding bone density and preventing osteoarthritis. Research study shown in the elderly, leg strength is directly correlated to mortality rate. The stronger their legs, the more balanced and less likely they are to fall. Also, the increased bone density helps reduce the likelihood of a broken bone which could cripple them.