The term macronutrients keeps popping up in every diet blog but why you need Macronutrients? Well in a nutshell, macros are the big food groups needed in your diet that are the essential energy sources necessary for the body to thrive.
As you may know three is a magic number and that applies with Macronutrients. Those food groups I mentioned comprise of Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats. So yes, if you wish to alter your diet for weight loss, muscle gain or lower cholesterol levels you need them! Some diets are stricter than others about tracking macros, but more about that later!
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The big three, what are they again?
- Carbohydrates, aka Carbs, the ones with the bad rep. Carbs are responsible for the energy needed for most bodily functions. They are made up of sugars; however those sugars are not created equal. Simple carbs consist of just one or two molecules of sugar. They are digested super quickly because of this and you’ll feel hungry quicker than you can blink an eye! Examples of these would be candies, white bread, soda, and fruit juices. Complex carbs, aka the slow burners, have longer chains of sugar molecules and are the carbs that take more time to digest because they contain more vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Examples include fruits, veggies and whole wheat pasta.
- Protein. These keep you fuller longer, because they take a while for your body to break down. Your body needs protein to grow, repair and replace tissues in your vital organs. Protein is found in animal products, lentils, nuts and seeds. These are highly thermogenic and burn about 20-30% of your food. Proteins contain amino acids, which are converted into glucose for energy.
- Fat. Now don’t get it twisted, the word we fear also happens to be very important for energy and satisfaction. Unsaturated fats are considered the healthiest and are naturally found in olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. Saturated fats are the ones commonly found in meat, dairy and coconut oil. And finally, Trans Fats are the ones that make everything taste great, but don’t make our heart and arteries happy. They’re the partially hydrogenated oils used for frying, processing snack foods, margarine and delicious baked goods (Well damn! Why does the bad stuff always have to taste better?)
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Why should I count them?
Without measurement, there’s no way to implement change or monitor progress and you can totally have too much of a good thing. Tracking enables you to focus your attention on quality over quantity when it comes to making choices about your food. But there’s a catch, there is no one size fits all plan when it comes to implementing a macro count into your regimen. Recommended ratios are debatable and can change over time. It totally depends on your health history, fitness level, lifestyle, goals, metabolism and genetic disposition. Figure out what YOU need, do the math, and do you, boo! Or do like I did and consult a physician who specializes in weight loss. They can advise you on the best ratio after having done a blood panel.
How do I count them?
Simple, there’s an app for that. The easiest modern way to track macros is through an app. Many folks love MyFitnessPal, Lose It! or My Macros + to utilize their smartphone for counting. I personally use the Carb Manager App because it includes the barcode scanning feature and tallies up the macros. Or, you can go totally old school, whip out your calculator and write it down.
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At the end of the day, the ratio that works best for you will depend on your goals, history and where you are right now. Macros are just the tool to help you get what you want, do your research and figure out how to make them work for you!