Have you ever heard someone say they’re counting their macros, and thought…”Ummm, what?” Macros is a shorter way to say macronutrients. The same goes for micros, meaning micronutrients. It sounds silly and a little overboard, but it’s one of the best things you can do for your body. Macros make up our carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Micros are those smaller bits of everything that we need for our body; vitamins and minerals. The thing to keep in mind, is that having a good balance of macros and micros, is going to allow your body to perform the way you want it to.
So let’s talk about these macros first; carbohydrates, protein and fat. They are called macros because our body requires large amounts of them. Eating healthy sources of all three will make up a balanced, healthy diet. Carbohydrates are our body’s most immediate source of energy. Without carbs, we wouldn’t be able to get much done! When you eat a carb, it is converted into glucose in the body and then used immediately as energy. Whether it’s thinking, running, working, or driving, we need that energy to sustain us.
Protein is the macro that keeps us full, slows digestion, and provides the building blocks for muscle growth. Protein provides the body with more structure to break down which ultimately slows digestion; thus keeping you fuller for a longer period of time. Not to mention, if you’re trying to build muscle, you MUST provide your muscles with fuel and the materials to build.
The last macro, not to be forgotten is…ready for it? FAT. Yes, I said fat. I can’t stress how important it is to provide your body with fat on a daily basis. It needs to be the right kind of fat, which we’ll get into later, but it’s absolutely necessary in any diet. Fat provides our body with insulation, protects our organs, keeps us satiated, lowers cholesterol, serves as an energy reserve when we don’t have glucose, and provides our brain with fuel. See how important fat is?!
How much of all three of these macros do we really need? Well, it’s important to note that usually half of your diet should consist of carbs. Like I said, it’s the body’s fuel so we always need to be refueling! On any given day, depending on how active you are, your diet should be made up of 40-60% carbohydrates. If you work out 2 times a day and love to burn those calories, you’re looking at the higher range of 60%. If you’re sedentary and pretty much just go to work and that’s your day, you want to stay closer to the 40-50% range.
As far as protein, there’s a simple calculation to figure this out. Divide your body weight by 2.2 to get kilograms. Then multiply that number by 0.8. This will give you a daily protein need for your body. Any average person needs 0.8g/kg of body weight in protein. A factor that can change this would be if you’re a bodybuilder and you’re specifically targeting muscle building. If you’re into that, you should absolutely be seeing a dietitian.
Fat, again, last but not least should provide anywhere from 20-35% of calories of your diet. Also note that less than 10% of those fats should be saturated. There are four types of fat: saturated, trans, polyunsaturated, and
monounsaturated. I strongly urge you to limit saturated and trans fat in the diet. The polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (or as I call them PUFAs and MUFAs), provide our body with the healthy fats we need; omega-3 and omega-6. These fats pull the bad fats out of our body and help boost our good fat levels. Fat is also responsible for keeping us feeling satiated and full throughout the day. Think of anyone who’s tried a low fat, low carb diet. Do you think they enjoyed it? NO! They’re depriving their bodies of what it needs most!
You know what these macros are now, so what foods do you eat to make sure you’re getting them? Carbohydrates are everywhere, which is a great thing. Some common foods include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and some dairy foods like yogurt. Any food that contains natural sugar is considered a carb. Foods that provide protein include nuts, seeds, legumes, meats, dairy, and eggs to keep it short. Fat-friendly foods include fish, vegetable oils (sesame seed oil, olive oil), avocados, nuts and seeds. Keep in mind that many foods overlap. There are a ton of foods out that there provide protein and fat, carbohydrate and protein, or even all three!
Check macros off the list, you now know what a macro consists of and what it does for your body. Just a quick lesson on micros, and you’ll be prepared to navigate this macro/micro world! Micronutrients include vitamins A, D, E, K, C, B vitamins, calcium, potassium, and sodium to name a few. What they do is provide the means to develop our nervous system, bones, teeth, hair, skin, nails, vision, maintain gut health, build muscle tissue, regulate water balance, wound healing, and transporting oxygen throughout the body. These are just a few reasons why micronutrients are so important. Want healthy hair, skin, and nails? Make sure you’re eating a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water! As far as food sources the list goes on, however it comes back to the basics; whole grains, lean meats, fish, beans/legumes, vegetable oils, fruits, and vegetables. Micronutrients are in all of these foods and to put it simply, eating a balanced diet will ensure you’re providing your body with the means necessary to feel good and look good.
Putting this all into perspective, when you eat a balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains, you’ll be getting almost all, if not all, of the macros and micros your body requires. So why track macronutrients? It’s important to make sure you’re eating what your body requires. I often use a meal tracker to make sure I’m getting adequate protein, carbs, and fats. I’d be willing to bet most of us aren’t eating enough protein on a daily basis, or enough carbs, which is why we feel so tired all day at work. Think about what your diet consists of, and how you’ve been feeling throughout the day. Are you tired? Exhausted when you get home from work? Have no energy by the end of the day to work out? I challenge you to track your macros, see if you’re really eating what your body requires. And as always, consult a dietitian in order to ensure you’re providing your body with what it needs.