Disclaimer: the advice in this post is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Before beginning and exercise regimen or diet, seek counsel from your healthcare practitioner.
There are lots of dieting fads out there, so many that it can be overwhelming to try to balance nutrition for the average healthy person who just needs a basic guideline to help them figure out the amount of nutrients they need on a daily basis. They say there is no magic formula, but there is a simple way to manage nutrient intake, and that’s where macronutrients come in. Macronutrients are divided into 3 groups: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. The USDA recommends the following ranges for macronutrients, based on your activity levels:Protein: 10 – 35%, Carbohydrates: 45-65%, Fat: 20-35%.You need all 3 of these categories in order for your body to function at it’s best. And the word macro means big, so think of tracking macros as looking at the big picture of your overall nutrition. Still wondering “why these categories”? We’ll tell you.
Proteins are the building blocks of cells and muscles. The 8 essential amino acids found in many animal proteins and even a few plant proteins can help you build muscle and repair tissues in the body. Lean protein is necessary to refuel after a workout. Protein also keeps your metabolism functioning in a healthy way. Several lean sources of protein are chicken, lean beef, quinoa, whey, greek yogurt, lentils, and fish.
The carbohydrate category probably contains the largest variety of foods. When counting macros, carbohydrates include, fruits, vegetables, and starches. Although many look at macros as simply energy in vs. energy out, I encourage you to remember that the quality of the fuel you put in your body does count for something. Carbohydrates help preserve muscle and low glycemic carbs, such as sweet potatoes, help stabilize blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates also restore energy levels. Examples of nutritious carbohydrates are strawberries, broccoli, and brown rice.
In the 90’s, fat was a dirty word in the nutritional sense. People were obsessed with everything being low-fat. However, the human body needs healthy, unprocessed fats in order to store energy and transport nutrients effectively. Imagine trying to have a healthy metabolism without your body being able to transport the nutrients you receive from other foods, pointless, isn’t it? Fats make this happen for vitamins A, E, and K. Healthy sources of fat are nuts, avocado, coconut oil, and extra-virgin olive oil, as well as small portions of real butter.
If you have trouble making sense of nutrition and and figuring out what you need and in what portions, tracking your macros can make keeping up with your food intake much simpler. Just remember to get your nutrients from healthy foods, and you will be well on your way to eating a better diet in no time!