As much of a fan I am of ‘intuitive eating’, I would not be as successful with it without the foundational nutrition guidelines I learned from tracking my macros. Is this to say everyone who wants to be successful with nutrition should track their macros? Nope! However, it is important to have a general understanding of what macronutrients are & why each one is important if you want a better grasp of how to fuel your body properly to feel your best and reach your goals. So let’s get right into it so I can try to keep this one short and sweet : )
Macros are short for macronutrients, which are protein, carbs & fats. Protein, carbs and fat are what make up calories and the body needs them in large amounts (hence the word MACRO). This means that all calories come from either protein, carbs or fat (Alcohol is technically the fourth macronutrient but it is non-essential, aka your body doesn’t need it to survive – bummer, I know). Some foods contain two macros, some foods contain all three and some are just one.
For example, egg whites are JUST protein, they contain no fat and no carbs. On the other hand, whole eggs are protein AND fat. Many foods generally contain two or three BUT are more dominant in one. Oatmeal for example, is mostly carbs but also contains small amounts of protein & fat. Another one many people get confused with… peanut butter! Most of the calories from peanut butter come from fat but it also contains some protein and some carbs. Therefore, peanut butter is a fat source, not a protein source like many people think. Knowing what foods are what macros will be super helpful in properly balancing your meals & intake in general, so lets dive into the importance of each macro along with some examples of each.
Basically, including protein in your diet will help you maintain and/or build lean muscle, regulate blood sugar and keep metabolic processes in check. It’s the building blocks of muscle, skin, cartilage & bones. Also, protein requires more energy for our bodies to digest than fat or carbs, ultimately burning more calories in the digestion process alone. It also is the most satiating macronutrient. This is why protein is so crucial when trying to lose weight!
Sources of protein: grass fed beef, pasture raised poultry, wild caught fish, tofu, tempeh, cultured dairy, high quality protein powder, egg whites.
Carbs get a bad wrap, when in reality they are extremely important. To clear things up a little, CARBS DO NOT MAKE YOU FAT. Eating an excess of any macronutrient will make you gain weight (a calorie surplus is a calorie surplus). Moving on. Carbohydrates are the number one source of fuel for your brain and body. Carbs are the macronutrient that provide fiber as well. Fiber is very important to consume because it regulates digestion, is great for heart health/blood pressure and raises good cholesterol (HDL) while lowering bad cholesterol (LDL). Carbs also play a crucial role in building muscle. It’s all about eating them based around your goals and body’s needs, just like any other macronutrient.
Sources of carbs: whole grains (rice, oats, quinoa), root veggies (potatoes, carrots, parsnips), beans/legumes (chick peas, black beans, lentils), fruit.
Similar to carbs, fats are another source for energy. In fact, fats provide more than twice the amount of energy per gram than carbs. Fat also helps absorb certain vitamins and minerals. For example, vitamins A,D,E and K are all fat soluble, meaning they can only be absorbed with fat present. Fat is also CRUCIAL in hormone regulation, reducing inflammation, brain function and heart health. For these reasons, I never recommend a low fat diet. Hormone imbalances are especially difficult to manage and can cause a whole host of other health issues, especially regarding metabolic function.
Sources of fat: olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, nut butters, avocado, ghee, butter, high quality cheese.
So now that you understand the importance of each macro and the roles they play, now it’s time to make sure you are getting enough of each to support your goals, overall energy and body processes (metabolism, blood sugar regulation, digestion, etc). In case you missed it, HERE is the newsletter from a few weeks ago all about balancing your meals. One thing I didn’t touch on there was specific portions. The reason for that is it would be impossible to recommend portions that are going to apply to everyone!
My best advice here is to simply listen to your body. When putting your meals together, take a second to really evaluate how hungry you are. If you are trying to lose weight, you may want to consider filling your plate with more veggies (but please don’t eliminate carbs or fats). And to be clear veggies are carbs, they are just very low calorie per volume compared to typical carbs like rice, potatoes or fruit. HERE is another newsletter from a few weeks ago that covers this specifically.
Now, if you have no clue what a portion of anything should look like, that’s where I recommend two things: 1. consult with a nutrition professional to get more specific guidelines for YOU. 2. Consider tracking your macros so you can get a better handle on what amounts of food will be proper for your goals & overall health. I’m happy to help with either of these options, so don’t hesitate to hit that reply button if you feel a little lost / confused or simply need more specific guidance!
I hope this was helpful and as always, reach out if you have any questions : )