I get this question a lot. And the truth is, calories are an important first step in figuring out how much fuel your body needs. But there's more to it than just counting calories.
Let's back up. What is a calorie, anyway? Well, the scientific definition is “the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius.” Not a very useful definition for everyday life. For our purposes, calories are fuel. Under the umbrella of "fuel" there are different kinds of fuel that all effect the efficacy and efficiency of our metabolism and our body's performance in general.
Think of your metabolism as a bonfire. You have to have the right fuel to build and sustain a good burn. If you throw lighter fluid on an open flame, the result will be explosive and short lived. A good fire is the perfect blend of kindling, logs and those white-hot embers underneath. Your body is the same -- except we call those specific types of fuel "Macros" or "Macronutrients".
Let's say I need 1,500 calories to fuel my daily activities. I could get that by eating:
a box of M&Ms (450 calories),
half of a 20oz bottle of Dr. Pepper (125 calories),
a Big Mac (563 calories),
a medium order of french fries (340 calories)
Total calories: 1,478
4 Protein pancakes and a 1/2 c. of strawberries and bananas (342 calories)
3/4 c whole milk yogurt, 1/4c. blueberries and 2T granola (198 calories)
Chicken Waldorf wrap (333 calories)
1/4 hummus, 8 baby carrots, 5 whole grain crackers (172 calories)
Black bean & Spinach quesadilla, 1/4c guacamole, 1/4 greek yogurt (453 calories)
Total calories: 1,498*
How is the first menu going to make you feel vs the second? ? Which one is going to sustain you throughout your day? Which one is the better choice?
The second one, right? You didn't need me to tell you that. But why does that menu provide more efficient fuel than the first when the total caloric values are similar? Now you see why there has to be more to the conversation than just calories.
That's where macros come in. "Macro" is short for "macronutrient" and simply refers to the type of fuel - carbohydrate, protein, and fat - a food contains. Counting your macros is a way to "budget" your food to ensure that you are getting enough of each different type of fuel. Getting the right kind of fuel is as important as getting the right amount. Let's dig into that next week!
What do you think? Have you ever budgeted your calories using macros? Email me and tell me about it!