Maybe you’ve heard people talking about or seen things written about “macros” and are curious. Maybe someone has recommended you count your macros and/or incorporating macros into a meal plan over dieting. YESSS! Let’s talk about why these macros are SO important!
To begin with, macros is just short for macronutrients. The macronutrients we focus on are: carbohydrates, fats, and protein. All diets utilize macronutrients, even if it isn’t a main focus. I personally prefer living by macronutrients and eating clean, healthy foods over all fad diets.
One issue with diets is they tend to have time limits, or lead people to believe there is a starting and ending date. The problem with this is that nothing has really permanently changed. If you are successful with a trendy diet for the recommended time limit of that diet, but return to previous eating habits, you will very likely be right back where you were before. In order to maintain those successes and maintain a healthy weight, you will need to eat healthy consistently. If you want to be healthy and fit for life, you need to maintain fit, healthy lifestyle habits!
Calories are important to count, and should certainly be included in your macronutrient numbers. There is no consistent number of calories for every person; this is as individual to you as your fingerprint. The number of calories you should take in daily will depend on your height, weight, age, and activity level. In order to maintain muscle and keep your metabolism active, you must eat at least the number of calories that is your Basal Metabolic Rate (the number of calories your body needs in an inactive state to provide the necessary energy). This number will be your minimum. In order to induce fat loss, you will need to create a caloric deficit between the number of calories you take in and the number of calories you burn in a day’s time.
Ensuring that you get the proper number of grams of lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats in each day is the key. Did you catch the descriptors there? LEAN sources of protein, COMPLEX carbohydrates, and HEALTHY fats! This does not include fried chicken, loaded cheeseburgers, donuts, ice cream, chips, etc. Let’s break down examples of the best macronutrient options:
1. Complex Carbohydrates: Sweet potatoes, baking potatoes, red potatoes, quinoa, oatmeal (real not instant), jasmine or brown rice, rice cakes
2. Healthy Fats: avocado, cashews, almonds, feta cheese, olives, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, salmon, natural peanut butter, almond butter
3. Lean Protein: Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, ground chicken, turkey, eggs, white fish (tilapia, orange roughy, mahi, triggerfish),
Okay, fine, you say. . . now what? How do I know how much of each macronutrient do I need? Well, that also depends on you. Again, there is no main number for every person. The amount of lean protein and complex carbohydrates an individual needs depends on your weight and how much exercise you do. When it comes to protein, your body cannot store it. Once your body reaches the amount of protein your body needs, it is then converted to energy or fat. Most fitness and medical professionals recommend that you concentrate on meeting your protein goal, then look at carbohydrates and fats to meet your caloric goal.
Carbohydrates provide fuel for your body during high-intensity exercise. This allows your body to use carbs during exercise instead of protein, which in turn allows your body to retain your muscle mass.
When it comes to fats, most people typically try to stick with low fat or cut fats out. We all need to include 20 to 35 percent of our daily calories from healthy sources of fats. Healthy fats are found in natural sources – plants and animals.
There are many online macronutrient calculators you can use to figure out your specific needs. These will ask for your age, height, weight, and some will ask for your activity level. A nutritionist or personal trainer can also help you with these and prepare meal plans specifically for your needs. Some of the sites that I prefer for calculating macros are: