What is a Macronutrient?
You may have heard my reference tracking macros in the past. It may have triggered interest in some way. For me it changed my life. Tracking macros helped me break out of a long restrict and binge cycle. It showed me that fitness doesn't have to be miserable. So, I want to help you understand them better.
What are Macronutrients?
Macros, or macronutrients, are a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Your body needs these nutrients in larger quantities to function properly and to give it the energy it needs! Also each nutrient has a specific role for your body.
Lets go over the importance of each..
Carbohydrates, or carbs, are the main energy source for your body. There are two types of carbs: simple and complex. Simple carbs (like honey, fruit, or yogurt) are easy for your body to break down into glucose (aka energy). Complex carbs (like starches and grains) are harder for your body to break down. But, these complex carbs do usually contain fiber and help rid your body of waste, so they’re not all bad!
Proteins, allow your body to grow. Protein builds and repairs tissues and protects lean body mass (your muscle mass). Proteins have amino acids which are essential. Proteins aren’t just meat — you can also get proteins from plants , such as beans, lentils, and soy.
Last but not least, we have fats. Fats get a bad rap in the Fitness world but the truth is: fats are vital for energy. That’s because we store fat (aka energy) in our bodies for when we need it! Fats also cushion your organs and help with the production of certain hormones. Of course, fats should also not make up the majority of your macro intake. Although many people go way over the recommended fat intake for them.
Now that we know what macronutrients are, let's talk about why you should track them.
Want to improve health? Count your macros.
You know about calorie counting. You can look at the calories of the serving you’re eating and count them up. Staying on the lower end of your calorie intake might sound like a great idea, but it’s not always.
You can eat 1200 calories worth of bagels, but we all know that's not a good idea. Tracking 1200 calories doesn't show you how much protein you're getting. You need adequate protein to lose fat and not muscle.
That’s why I recommend macro counting instead. It helps make sure you have a good percentage of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
Whether you are trying to lose fat or maintain muscle. Tracking your macronutrients is essential to your success. It can also be helpful to people trying to manage or prevent a medical condition. Studies show some evidence that a middle-aged person who increases their protein intake may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease. Awesome, right?!
Also, for someone like me who struggled with a vicious cycle of restricting and binging. Tracking macros showed me that I could have a bagel or slice of pizza or ice cream and not gain weight or fall off track. Tracking macros gives you numbers of each macro to hit for your goals and where you currently are. This makes it realistic and sustainable. Also, allowing you flexibility because you can fill the numbers how you please. Yes, that means you can have a bagel rather than an apple. Does an apple have more nutrients in it? Yes, but you can eat a bagel and not derail progress.
Where do you start?
What macro count should you aim for?
Tracking your macronutrients doesn’t automatically mean weigh loss (or improved cognitive health). Weight loss comes from finding a macro ratio that meets your energy needs. The USDA has a “MyPlate” system that encourages using a divided plate to layout your meals. Similar to one you may use for your child, this same idea can be used for yourself when planning out your macros.
The USDA recommends this split of your macronutrients:
These percentages may be a healthy start but might not work right for everyone. That’s why it’s so important to find macro percentages that work best for your body. By tracking your weight, taking photos and measurements you can see how the numbers effect you. I go over all these things in depth in my 12 week renovation program
Want to start tracking your macros? Apps like MyFitnessPal can show you a breakdown of macros and percentages. Best of all, it’s FREE. Again, these numbers may not be 100% accurate but its a place to start.
Bottom line: Macros are GOOD!
Tracking macros can definitely be an adjustment. Especially for those who are used to looking at calories. However, once you get an idea of what goal you're trying to accomplish. Then get the hang of what percentages work best with your body, the easier it will become. When my clients start tracking macros, they find it's a lot easier than calorie counting or eliminating food. The key is to just start — and then adjust along the way. Tracking macros is a beautiful tool not a ball and chain.