Have you heard of macronutrients? Maybe you know a little, maybe you are super confused by all of the information available, or maybe you’ve never even heard of them. That’s okay! I am going to simplify what macros are, and how much you should be consuming, so you can easily make healthy decisions that will allow you to be the best you possible! I am a firm believer that healthy does not have to be hard (in fact it can be fun and attainable!), and it’s no different with your macros.
So, what are macros? Simply put, everything you eat can be broken down into one of 3 specific macronutrient types -protein, carbohydrates and fats. While many people like to focus on overall calorie consumption, especially if they are trying to lose weight, this does not give you a complete approach to making the correct food choices for your body. Think about it: two meals could have the exact same calorie count, but one of them could be made up of nutritionally dense foods, while the other one could be processed, refined foods. Which one do you think will fuel your body better? Tracking your macros will help you better understand what foods you need to eat to make the healthiest choices possible.
How many macros your body needs varies depending on your activity level and body composition. A general rule of thumb is to aim for 50% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 20% protein in your diet. In order to successfully do this, you have to first understand what foods fit into each macro. Here is a breakdown to help:
- Carbohydrates – When consumed in the correct quantities, carbohydrates are a very important fuel source for your body. They include grains, fruits, vegetables, and sweeteners. With this food group, you should focus on food sources that are in their natural state so that you get the maximum amount of nutrients. Carbs that are also high in fibre will help to balance your blood sugar, keep you feeling full, and help with your digestive function.
- Protein – This macro makes up muscle, hair, nails, organs, bones, and pretty much all body tissues. Food sources include meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, quinoa, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, so it helps to keep you full longer, and balances your blood sugar level.
- Fats – Remember, healthy fats do not make you fat! Fat is an important component of nerves, hormones, hair, and nails, and gives us insulation to protect and regulate our body temperature. Like protein, it takes longer to digest than carbohydrates.
You want your fats to come from omega 3 sources like almonds, chia seeds, fish, flax oil, soy, and walnuts. These fats are essential to get from your diet, and are deficient in many people.
Omega 6 fats come from animal products, like meat and dairy, and can actually lead to inflammation in the body if consumed in excess. Many people consume higher than optimal levels of these fats.
Sources of saturated fats include avocado, meat, dark chocolate, nuts, dairy and coconut oil. They have had a bad reputation in the past, but when consumed in moderation, and in combination with a good balance of macronutrients, they can be good for you.
At this point, you may be wondering how to track your macros. I highly encourage you to use an app like MyFitnessPal. This allows you to enter the food you eat each day to see if you are reaching your macronutrient goals. I suggest tracking your grams, as well as each of the macronutrient categories, to make sure you are getting the proper amount of nutrient dense foods. If this sounds like a lot, don’t worry! The app does it all for you. All you have to do is input the food and check your grams under the “Nutrients” tab (It may be located elsewhere in other apps). To make it easier, I recommend entering what you will be eating the night before. That way you know what to eat ahead of time without having to guess the day of, or finding that you are way off by the end of the day. It really only takes a few extra minutes, and I have found it very helpful to keep me on track with my goals. If what you eat does not go exactly as planned, you can just edit it in the app! Also, keep in mind that the 50/30/20 (carbohydrates, fat, protein) ratio is just a starting point. You may find that you need to adjust this, depending on your individual needs and goals.
I know that even simplified, tracking macros may sound overwhelming, but I suggest that you give it a try to see how great you feel eating the right foods in the correct amounts.
So there you have it! Macros made easy. This is a topic I discuss in detail in my Your Best Life online program, in addition to providing 4 weeks of healthy, easy meal plans including recipes, and information on how to determine the approach to eating that helps you look and feel your best. For more information on this amazing, effective course, click here.