Counting macronutrients appears to be a new trend. Trend or lifestyle? Either way, I like this style of achieving a healthier a diet. Whether you want to lose weight, maintain, or build muscles, it’s all about the Macros. We know by now that just counting calories isn’t sufficient for achieving a healthy diet. It’s important to figure out what is going into those calories. How do we do that?
It’s All About the Macros – Macrontrients, so what are they?
Calculating macronutrients means that you are going to track some of the important nutrients from your foods. Namely, protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
Protein is an important part of what we eat. Most people are likely not getting enough protein. It’s important for protein synthesis building and repairing cells, aiding in muscle mass, and helps with satiety (feeling full).
- Aim for a minimum of .5g/lb of body weight and a maximum of 1 lb/body weight.
Fats are an important part of our diet too. So out with the old idea that fat-free is healthier or going to help you lose weight. Your diet should consist of mostly healthy fats, which are necessary for absorbing fat soluble vitamins, providing essential fatty acids that cannot be made by the body, and for a source of energy.
- Aim for 15-30% of your calories to come from healthy fats
Carbohydrates are a healthy source of fuel. While low carb diets can aid with weight loss, cutting out carbs isn’t necessarily healthy for your body’s nutrition or digestive process. The body needs carbohydrates for energy, the breakdown of glucose, and proper organ function.
- Aim for 30-50% of your calories to come from healthy carbohydrates.
You can see that there are some wide ranges provided here. The targeted amount of macros you need is going to depend on your body’s needs, your exercise level, and your goals.
WATER – Remember that water is also an important part of the body’s functioning.
For Weight Loss with little exercise or mainly cardio based exercise, the recommended Macros would be:
For Strength Training – First off, this goals requires you to eat more calories. you need to make sure you are feeding your energy and your muscles for healthy growth.
You can find handy apps that will calculate macros for you, e.g. My Fitness Pal. You will need pay attention your activity level and personal needs to find the closest percentage that works for you. On days I strength train, I eat more protein, more carbs, and more calories. On days I am not very active, I eat less, including less carbs and fats. I am an advocate of a high protein diet to maintain good muscle mass and reduce cravings.
A sub trend with macros is the IIFYM – If It Fits Your Macros, which means that any food is game as long as it fits your macros. The obvious downfall with this idea is the assumption that you can eat anything you like as long as it fits within your macro goals. It’s definitely a good idea to enjoy some of your fave food, but if you want to be healthy or lose weight, enjoy foods that aren’t on the healthy list in small quantities per week. Yes per week. Identify 1-2 days/week when you can let yourself indulge without binging.
To put yourself on a path of a healthier diet, it is wise to look at some other micronutrients too. Ensure that you are consuming enough vitamins and minerals.
The Big Idea is that regardless of the number of calories you are consuming, you want these calories to be filled with nutrients that are fulfilling your body.
Things to limit:
- Sugars 100 g or less
- also aim to eat more products with natural sugar, rather than added sugars or sweeteners
- Sodium 2.3g or less
- Trans Fats 1% of daily calorie intake
The next task is to track your macros and adjust your diet accordingly. You’ll know it’s right when your body feels like it’s functioning well. I know you hate to track your food, it’s so time consuming, I hate it too. But if you’re looking to change your diet, it’s a very helpful tool to improving your nutrition. Once you have a pattern of healthy foods/meals, then you may not need to continue writing it down every day. The other helpful part of tracking your foods is that you will become more attuned to the nutrients in certain foods, which will you help you make better choices when are on the go. By using your macros as a guide to what you should eat, you will be able to balance out your foods. It’s easy to fill many plates a day with a lot of carbs and little protein. By balancing out your foods, your body will respond better AND you will likely find that you are more satisfied from the foods you’re eating.