Understanding Macronutrients — A Quick Guide For Diet + Weight Loss

Understanding Macronutrients — A Quick Guide For Diet + Weight Loss

It took a good while for me to fully understand how important proper nutrient calculations were for optimal health + weight loss.

It’s somewhat of a hard pill to swallow.

Even with me being the organizational freak that I am, in the beginning of my health journey I still resented the fact that I had to be so meticulous with my eating to see results.

“But why can’t I just eat WHAT I feel like, WHEN I feel like, and STILL get results?!” 

Nine times out of ten, this approach doesn’t work well for ANYONE in the beginning.

And there’s a solid reason why…

You don’t yet have the education or self-control to put the proper amounts of nutrients + foods into your body!

Sure…over time you should be able to loosen the chains a bit and eat more mindfully — a.k.a. not feeling the need to track every morsel you put into your mouth. 

But, at first, you’re in the crucial habit formation stage. Where tracking is EVERYTHING.

Don’t worry, though! ????

In this article, I’m going to give you the super simple lowdown on how to effectively track your macronutrients so your healthy eating can get started on the right foot.

Let’s get started!

Macro-whaaa?!

So let’s quickly cover what macronutrients (or macros) actually are.

They’re basically key substances that are required in large amounts in order for our bodies to grow + function.

Ultimately, they’re the elements that properly FUEL our bodies. 

As human beings, we have three essential macronutrients that keep our systems up and running: Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fat. 

Now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty of why each of these are important…

  • Carbohydrates ????????

You may see a lot of shade in the diet industry about this macronutrient; however, it’s CRUCIAL for our bodies, and is the most readily available source of energy.

Carbohydrates lend the body glucose, which can be converted into energy.

This energy allows our bodies to function at the basic level and during physical activity.

What many seem to forget is it’s not as much about the AMOUNT of carbohydrates you’re having, but the TYPE.

There are two main categories of carbohydrates that we eat: Simple + Complex.

Simple carbohydrates (also called simple sugars) are often what give certain foods a sweeter taste.

They can be found in foods such as fruit and milk; however, it’s advised to limit intake as adding more sugar provides no nutritional value and can raise blood glucose levels rapidly.

Complex carbohydrates (also called starches) are longer sugar molecules which means they take more time to break down — leaving us feeling fuller, longer!

Examples include whole grains, beans and starchy veggies (like potatoes).

The general consensus is to eat more complex carbs, but that doesn’t mean we should kick all simple carbs to the curb.

There are some naturally produced simple carbs (fruit) that are extremely beneficial, while there are refined complex carbs that are not healthy at all (white bread, enriched pasta, etc.)

Daily Recommended: 45-65% of daily calorie intake

  • Protein ????????

This is the macronutrient all the cool kids are talking about. 

It’s seen as the powerhouse of the fitness community, and is heavily associated with building muscle.

What makes this macro SO important is the fact that it’s made up of amino acids — the building blocks of our bodies’ structures, which are required by our bodies to function at the most basic level.

Our bodies make amino acids themselves; however, there are some “essential” amino acids that we need, that our bodies don’t readily produce.

These missing aminos can be provided through sources of meat — or if you’re a vegetarian/vegan, through plant-based protein sources (whole grains + legumes).

Daily Recommended: 10-30% of daily calorie intake

  • Fat ????

Like carbohydrates, this particular macronutrient seems to be misrepresented in the diet industry as well.

Fats are crucial for a number of reasons, including providing us with sufficient amounts of energy while our bodies are at rest, and providing us with healthy cholesterol which helps maintain cell functions.

Eating too much fat can lead to significant weight gain and heart disease, so the key is to make sure we’re receiving the proper amounts of healthy fats in our diet.

Sources of healthy fats include nut butter, avocados, coconut oil, and almonds.

Daily Recommended: 25-35% of daily calorie intake

How To Calculate

What you’ll want to establish is the ratio of the three main micronutrients (carbohydrates + protein + fat) that you should be eating daily.

Keep in mind that your macronutrient ratios should be treated as guidelines.

You should start out incorporating the calculated ratios, and then adjust accordingly to your results over time.

Luckily for us, there are a HUGE amount of simple resources + apps that can calculate our macronutrient ratios for us.

Here are my top favorites: 

  • Lose It! — My absolute favorite food tracker that I’ve used for years! The app interface is super easy to use and it comes with a crazy amount of awesome features. [You can even track food by taking a picture!]
  • Fitocracy Macros — My inner minimalist could scream cause I love this app so much. It’s a super simple, beautiful approach to tracking macronutrients at a glance.
  • My Macros+ — This app is optimized for tracking macronutrient intake. It even allows you to customize goals based on your current lifestyle needs! Highly recommend.
  • Online Calculator — Enter in some key information about yourself and get your macronutrient ratios ASAP!

Why Macros Aren’t Everything

Let me make clear that tracking macronutrients is super important towards reaching your health + fitness goals.

It can also teach you a HUGE amount about how your body works and what you’ll need to provide it with for it to thrive!

HOWEVER (and this is a big however), macros aren’t EVERYTHING.

I feel this bears mentioning, since there is a trend going on in the fitness community termed “IIFIYM,” or “If It Fits In Your Macros“.

The gist of IIFIYM is that you base your food intake for the day strictly on macronutrient goals.

Which means, you can eat whatever you want as long as it fits in your macronutrient targets.

For example, it doesn’t matter if your macronutrients come from a healthy baked chicken + veggies dinner, or from fried chicken + french fries.

The latter, unhealthier, option might TECHNICALLY provide you with all your macros, but it lacks many vital MICROnutrients! (iron, magnesium, vitamin D, etc.)

The reason I personally disagree with this method is simple.

This doesn’t teach you to eat healthy in the long-term, or to nourish your body with the bright, beautiful selections of healthy food that are out there.

This tactic really isn’t about nourishment or establishing healthy eating habits at all.

Now, counting macros CAN teach you about portion control and where your calories come from — I just don’t think this method is the best way to do it.

Keep in mind, that my perspective is just one perspective.

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what is healthy and what isn’t. All health information (even mine!) should be taken with a grain of salt, since all of our bodies are different and thrive in unique ways.

Always do your own research when it comes to your health, and figure out what works best for you!

Health is never a one size fits all.

I really, REALLY suggest becoming fascinated with your macronutrient intake!

How each one affects us biologically is actually insanely awesome (from my nerdy scientific perspective over here ????)! 

Calculating macros is a tedious process, but it will maximize your results if you make the effort!

Always keep in mind that every human being is different and there will never be a foolproof set formula that will work for everyone.

I mean, as great as it would be to shed fat simply by eating a preset amount of chicken and veggies everyday, it unfortunately just doesn’t work that way.????

Through trial and error, you’ll eventually figure out what the perfect macro amounts are for you based on the results you see over time!

Do you track your macronutrients? And if so, what’s your favorite method to do so?!

Cheers,

Kat Rentas

Founder, Living In Slack Tide

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