What Are Macros? Your Questions Answered
There are a lot of buzzwords within the wonderful world of nutrition. You’ve probably heard about many different diets, weight loss plans, supplements, and all things related to nutrition. And you may have also heard the phrase “mind your macros” or “counting macros.” But what are macros, and do they matter?
We’re here to tell you that, indeed, macros matter. With this in mind, it makes sense to give you the details about macros, including some information on chicken breast macros so you can make more informed food choices.
What Are Macros?
A macro is what all the cool kids on the block call a macronutrient (because macronutrient is just too long of a word to say, you know?). But just because the word has been shortened to a nickname doesn’t mean it’s not serious.
Macronutrients are quite literally what your body runs on. It’s where you get your energy. You already know what macros are; you just might not have been categorizing them as such. Macronutrients are:
- Carbohydrates (aka carbs)
Fun fact: Alcohol is also considered to be a macronutrient, but because virtually no nutritional benefit is derived from it, we ignore it when counting macros.
From a calorie-intake perspective, both proteins and carbohydrates contain 4 calories per 1 gram, and fats contain 9 calories per 1 gram. Though calorie counting is a largely outdated practice, the number of calories you consume still matters, particularly when you’re trying to maintain or gain muscle mass, maintain healthy body weight, or use counting macros as a tool for weight loss.
Quality also matters: 100 calories of healthy veggies is better for you than 100 calories of ketchup, for example. (We know, the truth hurts.)
How Are Macros Different From Micronutrients?
You may have heard of the story about filling up a jar with big rocks, pebbles, and sand. If you fill the jar with the big rocks first, followed by the pebbles and the sand, you can fit everything in nicely. On the other hand, if you try to put the sand and pebbles in before the big rocks, you won’t have any room for the rocks.
The big rocks in this scenario are the macros (or macronutrients if your mouth muscles aren’t too tired to say the whole word). They are the building blocks of nutrition.
The pebbles and sand are the micronutrients. These are the vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin A, selenium, calcium, and others that work in conjunction with the macros to help your body function. We can get into those another day. Today, let’s stick with macronutrients.
How to Track Your Macronutrients
There are many fitness apps you can use to track your macronutrients, including myfitnesspal, IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros), Cronometer, and many others. These apps don’t just offer macro calculators, but they also offer coaching, meal plans, recipes, workouts, and more to help their users achieve their weight loss and fitness goals.
They can also help you track calorie intake and serving size of your meals, body fat, blood sugar, macronutrient ratio, body composition, activity level, food intake, nutrition information, the daily value of all of your nutrients, and help you determine your calorie needs, among other things. (They are total overachievers and we love it!)
Although it may feel intimidating, it’s important to understand your own personal macronutrient needs to get your daily value because it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. They are truly different for everyone depending on your particular fitness goals, body composition, gender, and so many other factors.
While many nutritionists and RDNs (registered dietitians) like to discuss the percentages of total proteins, total carbs, and total fats that you should have in your diet every day, it can get confusing.
That’s why we highly recommend using one of the aforementioned apps or macro calculators to help you with this process. They not only help you with nutrition facts around the food you’re eating, but they can also tell you exactly how many grams and calories you should be getting from each of the macronutrients.
Once you know what your macronutrient needs are, then you can figure out how you’d like to get those macros into your diet (that’s the fun part). Ideally, you would want to choose healthy foods, lean proteins, veggies, and other whole foods. And of course, you’ll pick your foods based on the diet you follow: high protein, low carb, low fat, keto diet, vegetarian, flexitarian, vegan— if we listed them all, we’d be here all day.
It should be noted that there is something called the macro diet, which does away with counting calories and focuses solely on tracking macros.
For now, we’ll just discuss macros as a whole, and we encourage you to keep macros in mind no matter what kind of diet you thrive on.
How to Get Your Macros
No matter what diet you follow, the possibilities of getting enough grams of protein, carbs, and grams of fat are endless. We tend to stick to a plant-based diet here at Nowadays, so we love whole foods like quinoa, legumes like lentils, whole grains like brown rice, and pea protein for our macros. We’re also huge fans of healthy fats like avocado, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and nut and seed butters.
If you’re a plant-based eater, people probably ask you where you get your protein. There are countless options for plant-based protein, including legumes (think pea protein), nuts, and seeds. As an example, let’s compare how Nowadays nuggets stack up to a popular animal-based food like chicken breast when it comes to macros.
Chicken Breast Macros vs. Nowadays Nugget Macros
At Nowadays, our goal was to create the perfect vegan nugget as a valiant (and dare we say) superior stand-in for chicken. While chicken nuggets have become American standards, the poultry industry uses much of the Earth's precious resources and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, among other not-so-nice things.
To be the change we want to see, we got to work on creating a nugget that wasn’t just juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside but also had an impressive macronutrient profile that could go head-to-head with animal-based chicken — be it boneless, skinless, grilled, or otherwise cooked chicken breast (we’re looking at you, fried chicken).
By way of nutrition facts, let’s compare total breaded fried chicken breast macros versus Nowadays nuggets, shall we?
Macronutrients per 85g serving
Breaded Fried Chicken Breast
From a macronutrient perspective, it’s clear that while the amount of protein per serving of breaded fried chicken is higher than a Nowadays nugget, it comes at a cost. The breaded chicken has almost six times more fat than our nugget. And if you dig deeper, depending on the brand and cooking method (baked versus fried), you’ll find the fat content of a breaded fried chicken breast also comes with higher cholesterol, saturated fat, and sometimes even trans fats (more on that in a moment).
Nowadays nuggets aren’t carb-free, which we think is a great thing because everyone needs a good amount of carbohydrates for a healthy body. In fact, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we need about 45-65% of our calories to come from carbs. That means that if you’re eating 2,000 calories a day, you need around 300 grams of total carbohydrates to make up those daily calories, give or take.
A Few Words About Fat Content
When it comes to comparing fat, it’s important to pay attention to the type of fat in question. There are four main dietary fats in foods. They include:
- Trans fats
- Saturated fats
- Monounsaturated fats
- Polyunsaturated fats
You're probably aware that transfats are a no-no because they can negatively affect your cholesterol levels. In fact, all fats have some kind of impact on cholesterol in your body. When it comes to cholesterol, you want your HDL (high-density lipoprotein) to be high and your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) to be low.
Trans fats can lead to high cholesterol, among other not-so-great effects on your health. Saturated fats are a little more complex because while we used to think that they were all bad and they all had a negative impact on cholesterol, new research shows that it really depends on the type of saturated fat in question. According to Harvard Health, the general rule of thumb is to avoid trans fats altogether and limit saturated fats.
If you’re getting saturated fats from poor-quality sources like fried chicken or other fried foods, processed meat, french fries, ice cream, potato chips, and the like, your cholesterol levels will undoubtedly suffer.
Nowadays nuggets contain zero trans fats and saturated fats, and 3.5 grams of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These are the "good fats" that you've likely heard about. They are stable fats that contribute to brain health and other functions in the body. They include fats from avocados, flax seeds, chia seeds, olive oil, nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, etc. In fact, sunflower oil has a particularly high amount of polyunsaturated fats, which is the oil we use to make our nuggets!
Aside from the macronutrients, Nowadays nuggets are made with organic, non-GMO yellow peas. With only 6 other ingredients that were carefully selected with your health in mind, you can be sure that putting our nuggets on your plate is good for your body and the planet. (And incidentally, your macros.)
We might add that our unique combination of seasonings (from mushroom and yeast extract) and our perfect breading on the outside make these nuggets so flavorful and so crispy that for just a second, you may think you’re eating fried chicken.
Choose Your Macros Wisely
As you’ve learned, we simply cannot function without macros as they make up the total calories in our day-to-day diet. They are quite literally the building blocks that help you maintain and build muscle, maintain healthy body weight, balance blood sugar and so much more.
If you’re looking for a plant-based alternative to chicken breast and other animal products, Nowadays nuggets are a great addition to most diets. Check out the many recipes we’ve created using our nuggets, from classics like chicken and waffles to a tasty Caesar wrap with avocado. You can choose your macros wisely and enjoy every bite.