What are ‘Macros’ and why should you care?
We all know nutrients and nutrient density is important. But are some nutrients more important than others? And how do you look at nutrients while keeping your long-term health goals in mind? We’re going to answer those questions today by looking at Macronutrient Tracking.
What are Macronutrients?
Macronutrients are the primary essential nutrients that we need in order to survive. They are called “Macro” because these should make up the majority of the nutrients that you are consuming. Micronutrients, by contrast, are substances that are needed in far smaller amounts, like vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes.
There are three macronutrients; carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Contrary to what many diets will tell you, you do need all three for your body to function properly. Luckily, there are endless ways to include all three within your daily diet, as every food falls into one of these categories.
Carbs, as we’ve discussed on the blog before, are your body’s primary source of energy. When you eat carbohydrates, your body converts them into glucose (sugar) and uses this sugar either right away or stores it to be used later. Carbs can be simple and easily digestible, or complex with dietary fiber that helps promote digestive health.
Protein acts as a building block for your body, helping you to heal injuries and grow new tissues throughout every system in your body. Proteins come from a huge variety of sources, both animal-based and plant-based. Every protein is composed of amino acids. When we ingest proteins, our bodies break the proteins down into amino acids in order to use them to construct whatever protein structure our body requires internally. Human bodies require 20 different types of amino acids, 9 of which we have to get externally through our diets as the body cannot produce them itself.
Despite being shunned by diets for decades, fat plays a vital role in vitamin absorption, protecting your organs, assisting with cell growth, and hormone regulation. Of course, some fats are better than others, and it’s important to still limit ‘bad fats’ such as trans fats, as they can quickly contribute to a number of health issues is over-consumed.
All three of these macronutrients should be included on nutrition labels, and macros for whole foods, such as fruit and vegetables, are easily accessible with a quick google search.
What’s the benefit of counting Macros?
To begin with, tracking macronutrients provides people with a more detailed and structured option over simply tracking calories. A slice of cake and a poke bowl may have similar calorie counts, but the nutrients making up those calories are way different. If your aim is to reach 143.75g of protein, that cake slice is unlikely to help you hit that target.
By tracking your macros, you’re more likely to make healthier decisions overall. But as we’ve already mentioned, it can help if you have specific health conditions as well. For instance, if you need to follow a low-carb diet to help with epilepsy, or a low-fat diet to manage cholesterol levels. Athletes often adopt a high-protein diet so they can give their body the necessary amino acids to repair and grow muscles while following a demanding workout plan.
How to count macros, and how much do you need of each?
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer for this. As with most nutrition advice, everybody is different, and the macros you need may be heavily dependent on your health goals. A good starting place may be to look at the Federal Dietary Recommendations:
45 – 65% of your calories from carbohydrates
10 – 35% of your calories from protein
20 – 35% of your calories from fat
These recommendations are based on the idea that Carbs provide our body with the quickest source of energy, but that may not be what’s best for everybody.
In order to start tracking your macros, you’ll need to convert these percentages into grams, based on your daily target caloric intake. For instance, for a target of 2,300 calories, your daily intake may look like this:
50% Carbs = 287.5g
25% Protein = 143.75g
25% Fat = 63.8g
You can easily find calculators online that will do the math for you. HOWEVER, If you’re interested in finding your ideal Macro targets, we HIGHLY suggest you work with a certified nutritionist to go over your goals, your lifestyle, and any underlying health concerns that need to be considered when it comes to your dietary needs. An online calculator simply will not compare to talking to someone who is able to look at all the factors that come into play. If you’re local to the Tampa area, we recommend reaching out to Pulse Personal Training and talking to one of their trainers to get started.
One last thing
Of course, you do not NEED to count macronutrients to follow a healthy balanced diet. Counting macros is simply another tool you can use on your health journey. We believe it can be beneficial to anyone who’s looking for a more structured plan, but for many people, it can simply be a stepping stone to help them break unhealthy habits. You may even find you get comfortable enough to eyeball portion sizes, or you get familiar enough with the dishes you eat most often that you don’t have meticulously log every meal. the best nutrition plan is one you can actually follow, and hopefully, one that brings you joy, because food should be something we celebrate. It’s important to cultivate and maintain a healthy relationship with food, and always remember that paying attention to what we eat is important because it fuels our bodies to perform at their best. When we eat better, we feel better!