Tracking your diet: Macronutrients
When it comes to tracking your nutrition, there are a few ways to go about it. Depending on what’s comfortable for you, you can experiment with calorie counting, macro counting or even just intuitive eating. Today we’re going to get into counting macros and how it can help you achieve your health goals.
Macros, short for macronutrients, are the primary building blocks of your diet, according to Healthline. They’re broken down into three basic energy sources: protein, fat, and carbs. Protein is made up of amino acids that help your body repair cells and create new ones, which is why protein is so essential in recovery and building muscle. The upside about protein is there’s hardly any digestive or weight-related consequences for eating too much of it. Protein isn’t stored as body fat and worst case scenario, may take the body longer to digest. Foods like meat, eggs, milk, and fish are great sources of protein, or even just a protein powder supplement.
Fat. There’s a word that seems to scare a majority of people with a weight loss or fitness goal. Fat is bad right? Not entirely. We usually think of fat in terms of our body’s excess fat storage, the parts of our body that are a little curvier than others. But fat is also an essential macronutrient in your daily food intake. Dietary fat is primarily a source of energy for the body. It also keeps your skin, nails and hair healthy. If your trying out a new diet and you notice your hair thinning, or nails coming in a little frail, you’re probably not consuming nearly enough fat. Now eating too much fat is where diets go astray. The extra fat that your body doesn’t burn off is stored in the body and can lead to weight gain. But we all need fat to survive. Fat keeps the body insulated and organs protected, as well as aiding in vitamin absorption. There’s no such thing as having 0% body fat. According to Dexafit, the healthy fat percentage for women is around 21-36% depending on your age, and for men it’s a bit lower at around 8-25%. There’s a variety of methods for measuring your body fat, the most convenient avenue is as easy as purchasing a scale at your local retailer. Good sources of dietary fat include cheese, nuts, avocado, and even chocolate.
Last, but certainly not least, we have carbs. Carbs are our body’s favorite source of energy and a large portion of your macro count for the day. During exercise, the body will immediately look to carbs as fuel and later resort to fat if it’s all burned up. This is because most carbs break down into glucose which allows a much faster digestive process than fat oxidation, according to the National Institute of Health. Carbs can also be overdone and will be stored as excess fat if your intake is too high. Healthy examples of high carb sources include oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes, fruits and vegetables.
How do you know how much of each macronutrient your body needs? Here’s where the counting comes in. Our bodies need about 1g of protein per pound of body weight, according to the Cleveland Clinic. That number can vary based on your physique goals and personal preference, but this is a great place to start. Fat is a little harder to nail down, most experts recommending between 44-77 g. Females on the lower end, males on the higher end. Also keep in mind your activity level and how much energy your body needs throughout the day. Carbs I find the most difficult to estimate, because it’s the most individualized nutrient. Some people thrive on a very high carb diet and some are happy on a very low carb diet. Our bodies have their own preferences and quirks. Experts recommend anywhere between 150-350 grams per day.
Like counting calories, there are plenty of helpful apps for macro counting that won’t cost you a dime. Apps like MyFitnessPal and MyPlate allow you to not only organize your nutrition every day, but also to keep track of your progress right from the start.
Take it from me:
I got so frustrated with these generalizations when I first tried to count my macros because there was so much room for error. The best source of knowledge I could depend on was personal experience from other people. So I’m going to go through my personal macros that I’ve found the most success with in the hopes that it helps you on your fitness journey.
Protein was easy, I’m about 120 pounds at 5’3 so my ideal protein macros would be around 120 grams. My main goal right now is to put on muscle so I bumped that number up a bit. Generally, I try to stick to 140 g a day. Fat varies the most for me, but I feel comfortable at about 50 g. What’s left in my daily macros is all carbs. My body loves carbs, the more carbs the better. Meaning, I don’t really feel bloated or overly full when I consume a lot of carbs and whenever I’m looking to increase my food intake, bumping up carbs doesn’t seem to cause me any noticeable weight gain. They make me feel energized and full, ready to take on the day without feeling sluggish. I found the most balance at 150 g of carbs per day.