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Do macros matter


Do macros matter for an athlete in a caloric deficit?

We have all heard that calories are king when it comes to weight loss. And yes, generally as long as you are not in a caloric deficit, then you will not lose weight. However, how much do macros themselves play a role in this scenario?
Let’s first define what macros are. Macros, or macronutrients, are the nutrients you get from the foods you eat, which provide you with energy (calories). There are three types of macros: protein, carbohydrates and fats.
Not all macros are created equal. Protein and carbs will provide you with 4 calories per gram, whereas fats will provide you with 9 calories per gram.

Why does this matter?
If you have 2000 calories as a daily budget, and you consume 90 grams of fats (they add up fast!), you will be left with only 1190 calories for your protein and carbs. Versus if you consume 60 grams of fats, you will now have 1460 calories left for protein and carbs.
The next question is why do we want more calories from protein and carbs?
We know that protein has a high thermic effect of food. This is the number of calories needed to break down the macronutrient in order to assimilate the energy found in the food. Protein has a TEF of 20-30%, whereas carbs TEF is 5-10% and fats are only 0-3%.
Essentially if you consume 100 calories of protein, you will assimilate around 70-80 of those calories, whereas with fats you will assimilate 97-100 calories. When you are in a deficit, all calories add up!
Secondly, protein is found to be very satiating. While in a deficit, one of the biggest obstacles are hunger and satiety. Consuming adequate protein, evenly spaced throughout the day helps with satiety and decreases hunger levels.
Lastly, protein has been shown to help preserve lean mass while in a caloric deficit. At the end of the day, we want to lose fat mass specifically, not just weight. Therefore, we want to preserve as much muscle mass as we can in this process. Albeit resistance exercise will be the biggest driver to maintain muscle, consuming adequate protein (in combination with RE) helps to mitigate the loss of muscle mass while in a caloric deficit.
So, you are probably thinking that protein is important, but what about carbs and fats?
I want to start off by saying that fats are essential. I typically don’t recommend dropping below a certain fat intake while in a deficit since fats are responsible for hormone synthesis, neurotransmitter production, cell membranes, and nutrient absorption, to name a few. We need fat for these essential roles. Our bodies will also use fat for energy, and store the unused fat in the body.
Carbs are the body’s primary and preferred energy source. When it comes to the athlete, muscle glycogen is what is responsible for our vigorous workouts. The more muscle you have, the more glycogen you can store. Furthermore, the better the body becomes at utilizing muscle glycogen during exercise.
As mentioned earlier, in order to preserve our muscle mass, we need to keep the training stimulus and intensity relatively high. To help us with this task while in a caloric deficit, we want to prioritize carbs over fats. During vigorous exercise, carbs are the body’s main source of fuel, with nearly all carbs used during exercise coming from muscle and liver glycogen. Therefore, it is important to have saturated liver and muscle glycogen stores pre-exercise. At lower workout intensities, the body will rely a little more on fats for fuel, however with increasing intensity there is a shift to glycogen utilization.
Lastly, let’s chat quickly about fiber. Fiber that is counted within carbs isn’t broken down by the body. That means net carbs equals the total carbs minus fiber. For example, if your apple has 30 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fiber, you are getting 25 grams of carbs. Like protein, fiber also helps with satiety and fullness.
As you can see, for the athlete in a caloric deficit, macros may play an important role. I would optimize my protein intake, decrease fats to what is essential, and fill the rest of my calories in with carbs. If you are looking for some more guidance, our nutritionist Diane would be happy to put together a customized plan catered to you and your goals.


Does exercise selection matter?

When it comes to setting up your training program, there are multiple factors that you want to consider:
How often are you going to train (frequency)? How much will you train (volume)? How hard are you going to train (intensity)? What are your goals?
Are you training to increase your aerobic capacity? Do you want to increase muscular strength or muscular endurance? Do you want to increase muscle size (hypertrophy)? Is there a specific skill you would like to acquire?
Your unique training program should correspond with your training goals.
Evidence suggests that the adaptations which occur within a training block are specific to the type of training executed. For example, if one were to train their aerobic endurance over 12 weeks, their ability to sustain a higher VO2 for a prolonged period of time would increase, however their strength in a leg press or squat would most likely not change.
Furthermore, if one were to train 1-5 RMs for 12 weeks, their muscular endurance most likely would remain consistent.
That being said, if you are looking to increase your bench 1 RM you would want to focus more on the 1-5 rep ranges, whereas if you are training to complete as many pushups as possible in 2 minutes, you would want to focus more on the endurance rep ranges of 20+.
In addition, if you perhaps want to grow bigger biceps, you would want to work your biceps multiple times per week, in a variety of ways. For example: performing chin-ups, bicep curls, preacher curls, spider curls, etc.
Depending on your specific goals, it is recommended that you set up your training program to align with those goals.  If this is something you’d like more assistance with, our kinesiologist Diane would be happy to help.


Increasing one’s 1 RM is more effective if resistance exercise is performed with higher loads, whereas muscular hypertrophy is mediated by intensity of effort since both heavy and lighter loads taken to volitional fatigue have been shown to increase hypertrophy.