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Counting Macros: The Athlete’s Secret to Success

Things can get muddy when they go from “athlete’s best-kept secret” to “diet culture fad,” so we’re here to clear a few things up about counting macros — those elusive building blocks of nutrition that seemingly hold the key to unlocking our inner athletic prowess — and how it works for athletes. But first, do they even really matter for improving our performance? Let’s find out. 

“I'm leaner than I've ever been, and all I do with [my nutrition coach] is count my macros — which is counting carbs, proteins, and fats, and balancing them to meet my training needs. Everything in moderation.” — Elana Meyers Taylor

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Here is everything you need to know about counting macros for athletic success. 

What Are Macros Anyways?

Macros are short for macronutrients — the holy trinity of nutrition: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Each plays a crucial role in your body’s journey towards strength, endurance, and overall physical health and fitness. So, do they matter for athletes? YES.

Macros are essentially the superheroes that fuel your body for each move. The better primed you are with macros, the better your movements will be in training and on the field. Proteins rebuild your muscles after a grueling session, fats provide steady energy, and carbs are your body’s go-to fuel for quick movements and peak performance.

Whether you’re a sprinter, a weightlifter, a rugby player, or a dedicated yogi, your body needs the right balance of macros to provide your body with everything it needs for greatness. It isn’t just about hitting the gym and putting in the physical work, it’s about giving your body the right tools to rebuild, refuel, and recharge.

Of course, every activity requires different things and so every athlete needs a different balance of macros to excel.

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Speed

It’s no surprise to many that carbohydrates are a runner’s best friend. We’ve all heard about carbo-loading before a long race. Carbohydrates give you the right fuel for explosive bursts of energy and contribute to speed. Complex carbs are the best fit for hitting this macro. Think about items like whole grains, sweet potatoes, and oats.

Strength

Protein helps rebuild muscles and is your trusted sidekick for growth, too. Every athlete needs to ensure they’re getting enough protein to support training sessions. Consider foods like lean meats, eggs, and things like tofu. 

Endurance

The macro that goes hand-in-hand with endurance is fats. They provide a slow-burning energy source, which can keep you nimble and focused during marathon sessions of just about any activity. Without enough fats, you’ll hit energy peaks and fizzle out. The go-to’s for healthy fats are avocados, nuts, and olive oil.

Macros & Diet Culture

In a world obsessed with quick fixes and a deep desire for cheat codes and hacks, counting macros can sometimes be a slippery slope into diet culture territory. Everybody (and body!) is unique and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition. Before you start, consult with a nutritionist to determine your best course of action for your sport and how to use macros to your advantage. 

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Here’s the important thing: 

While macros are undeniably crucial for achieving peak athletic performance, you should always maintain a healthy relationship with food! Counting macros should never morph into an exceptionally restrictive diet that sucks the joy out of eating. Beware of falling into a “good” and “bad” food trap based solely on their macro content. Don’t forget to celebrate your wins – maybe with a favorite treat. Balance is always key and you need to be flexible with your nutrition (while still being disciplined) to a degree to enjoy both performance-driven meals and the occasional treat.

Your Personalized Playbook

So, counting macros can be a game-changer for high-performance athletes. It’s almost like having a personalized playbook for your body’s unique needs. Talk to a nutritionist to ensure you’re getting the right amount of each and have fun with it! Let macros be your sidekick on the journey to athletic greatness.

For more on different eating trends and what to look out for, don’t forget to check out other articles on the D-Word.

“The best I ever felt was when I was counting Macros.” — John John Florence

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