Macros… the phrase we’ve heard from dietitians, bros as the gym, Jillian Michaels, and maybe even your sister-in-law! But what’s the scoop about macros? Are they really worth all the hype they seem to be and will they help you reach your goals? Most importantly: what even are macros?
I know how overwhelming nutrition can seem even without all your friends and family telling you what you should focus on! Keep reading for the scoop about macros and why they are so important for your nutrition and lifestyle!
What even are macros?
Before we get down into the nitty gritty about macronutrients and how they can be so impactful to your weight loss journey, it’s important to understand what they even are and why we need them! We can start by defining a macronutrient: a nutrient that we need in very large quantities in our diet. There are three specific macronutrients we need in our diets: carbohydrate, protein, and fat.
These three macronutrients are the foods we need in the largest amounts and each has their own role and function for our health. Recognizing this, it’s important we find a good balance of macronutrients for your lifestyle and can also manipulate them to help you reach your goals faster too! Just like anything else in life, we must have balance in order to achieve long term health. Too much or too little of one thing and our body may fall out of homeostasis; therefore, we may find ourselves groggy and low on energy or even gaining weight or fat.
Macronutrients are the bread and butter to our nutrition and body composition goals. Just as the saying “abs are made in the kitchen” goes, we can balance our macronutrients to promote fat loss, mental clarity, and even a higher performance level. As a result, understanding the role and function of each macronutrient can be helpful in determining how you can make achieving your goals (and feeling good in the process!) even easier. Here’s the scoop about macros!
Scoop about Macros: Carbs
Carbohydrates tend to get a bad reputation; however, they are truly the key to so many of our body functions and are the primary source of energy for our cells. Carbohydrates are found in many foods but more specifically in food groups such as grains, dairy, fruit, and even vegetables. Because carbohydrates are our primary source of energy, they should be one of our biggest macronutrient groups!
As our body’s primary source of energy, carbohydrates are utilized and converted into energy within our cells. As a result, carbohydrates are fuel for our organs, muscles, and even our brains! Carbohydrates not only are metabolized into this energy in our cells, but it’s the most efficient macronutrient to metabolize for energy (sorry, not sorry keto lovers).
Knowing this, our daily carbohydrate intake should have a range of 40-65% of our total calorie needs. But yes, this range is big for a reason! Carbohydrates should almost always outweigh the amount of protein and fat, but what percentage of your total calories you focus on can be personalized to your goals whether it be weight loss, fat loss, maintenance, or even performance. So how do we determine what ratio to choose? Well, we take a look at your goals and also what ratios would be optimal for the other two primary macronutrients (protein and fat) too!
Scoop about Macros: Protein
Protein is known for its amino acids, the essential building blocks for muscle repair and recovery! What you may or may not realize is that every cell in the body has and needs protein. We use protein to make new cells and repair cells (especially muscle cells and fiber!) to be stronger and more efficient than before. However, not all of our foods contain all the essential acids we need, which makes our overall protein intake even more important!
When we take a look at our overall macronutrients and how they align with our goals, whether that be fat loss, muscle gain, or maintenance, protein intake can be the deal breaker on whether or not you are seeing progress. Why? Because protein not only helps us to maintain lean muscle mass, but it can help us to build muscle too! And when we build lean muscle mass, we can also increase our metabolism as well.
Protein for your Goals
Just as protein is important for muscle repair and growth, it is also helpful in a weight loss journey. Protein promotes satiety, which helps us to regulate our hunger and fullness levels and make weight loss with a calorie deficit satisfying and effective. As a result, it’s important to aim for 20-30% of our daily calorie intake to be from protein and if your physically active or on a weight loss journey, protein intake along the higher portion will be most helpful!
But even if we are aiming for 25-30% of our total daily intake to be from protein, it doesn’t mean we have to eat like cavemen to hit our protein goals! Protein comes from many sources, and we can find protein in animal meals, tofu or tempeh, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, and even in sources like edamame, greek yogurt, and nut butters! Overall, protein helps keep us strong and healthy, but it also helps us to reach our goals and stay satisfied with our hunger throughout the journey.
Scoop about Macros: Fat
Just like carbohydrates, fat tends to have a bad reputation based on a lot of misconceptions we’ve had over the years. Too much fat? Low-fat? How much fat are we really supposed to eat is the question that has repeatedly haunted us, especially when it comes to a weight loss journey. Regardless of what you may have heard, fat is important for our energy and for our overall health. Fat helps us to absorb fat-soluble vitamins as well as produce essential hormones and provide mental clarity. So how much fat should we eat and what foods should we choose?
Though fat is an essential macronutrient, we should strive to keep our fat intake generally under 30% of our total daily intake. Fat may seem a little complicated, but choosing the best sources of fat for our general health can make all the difference in the long term. Choosing unsaturated or plant based fat can be the most helpful in preventing heart disease and promoting hormone and brain health. Foods such as tofu or tempeh, seafood, and even nuts and seeds are great sources of fat; however, we can also include unsaturated fats such as olive or avocado oil into our diets as well.
The Not so Good Fat
Just as there are great and healthy sources of fat, there are some not so great choices as well. Though fat is an essential macronutrient for our health, we should limit our intake of trans fat to as little as possible and our saturated intake much less than our plant based or unsaturated fat intake. Trans fat and saturated fat can lead to higher cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease or stroke; therefore, it’s important to include fat in our diets but emphasize plant based and unsaturated sources. Overall, fat is one of the three essential macronutrients and should be included in our every day life to provide us with lasting energy, help us balance our blood sugars, and promote healthy and happy hormones.
The Final Scoop about Macros
No matter what your goals are, it’s important to have a good balance of macronutrients! Like I mentioned before, each one of these macronutrients are essential; however, each macronutrient tends to help us in different ways and can be utilized in different ratios to achieve your current goals. Understanding more about macronutrients can be helpful, but how can we make sure that we are putting this knowledge into practice?
The following general tips can help you maximize how you use your macros to reach your goals!
- track your current intake: by creating awareness on what you are currently eating, you can see what your current macronutrient ratios are and whether or not they align with your goals (fat loss, muscle building, maintenance, performance, etc.)
- prioritize 25-30% of your daily intake to be protein: it helps you stay satisfied and fuels lean muscle
- eat primarily complex carbohydrates by focusing on whole grains and vegetables and cutting down sugary drinks and sweets
- decrease trans fat and saturated fat by limiting fast food and processed foods
Need some help making sure you’re on the right track with macros and have goals fit for your needs? Remember that you can always find a more personalized approach through nutrition coaching! If you are ready to learn how macros can help you reach your goals, apply here to hop on a free strategy call! We will discuss how macros may be the missing key to your success and start building an individualized roadmap to your success in the next 90 days.