Are you tired of fad diets? Yeah, us too. America’s “get it now” mindset applies to more than material goods. We also want fast results when it comes to weight loss, fitness, and nutrition. But guess what? Fad diets almost never work, and they’re nearly impossible to maintain long-term. Up to 60% of people who lost weight on a “fad diet” end up gaining it all back (or more!) within five years.
Healthy weight loss, weight gain, or sustained fitness comes from a steady, determined nutrition plan. Macronutrients are crucial to maintaining your health. But what are macros, and how can you fit them into your everyday life?
What Are Macros?
“Macros” are short for macronutrients, or the three main categories your body needs for energy: carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Counting how many grams of each of these categories you consume can help you focus not just on calories but also on where those calories come from.
We all know the recipe for weight loss is to burn more calories than we take in every day. But simply counting calories doesn’t account for the kinds of food we’re putting into our bodies. Counting macros can help us adjust not just how much we eat but also what we eat to fuel our bodies.
Carbs are our body’s primary fuel source. When we’re super active, our bodies use carbohydrates to keep us going. Contrary to some beliefs, carbs aren’t bad for you. Our bodies need carbs to function correctly. However, like all macro categories, it’s all about finding healthy carbs.
Some examples of healthy carbohydrates include:
- Low-fat dairy products
- Whole grains
- Fruits and some vegetables
The “bad” carbohydrates come in the form of processed foods or refined/added sugars. Read more about cutting back on your sugar intake here.
We’ve come to associate the word “fat” with “clogged arteries and excess pounds.” But that’s just not the case. Our bodies need fat to function. Fats help our bodies to regulate hormones, create energy reserves, and absorb certain vitamins, among other tasks.
Healthy fats (unsaturated fats) should play a sizable role in your daily diet. These might include:
- Olive and avocado oils
- Fatty fishes, like tuna or salmon
- Nuts, seeds, and nut butters
The trick is to avoid unhealthy, saturated fats, which can have a negative impact on your arteries and vital organs. Limit such as full-fat dairy products and fried foods.
Ah, protein: the strong lady’s friend. You’re probably very familiar with protein, so we’ll spare you too much detail here. Suffice it to say that protein plays a starring role in keeping us healthy and active.
For many athletes, protein is an important part of building and maintaining muscle and staying lean. Healthy sources of protein include:
- Lentils and beans
- Soy products
- Nuts and seeds
- Lean meat, like chicken and fish
- Low-fat dairy products
Red meat has a ton of protein, too, but it’s high in fat. So eat those steaks in extreme moderation.
Why Should I Count Macros?
Counting your macronutrients can help you see the composition of your diet and adjust according to your health and fitness goals. While calorie counting is great (and important), not all calories are created equal. Counting macros helps you narrow in on what you’re putting into your body.
Are Macro Nutrition Goals the Same for Everyone?
No. Your macro goals will differ depending on your activity level, fitness and health goals, health history, and a variety of other factors. Ultimately, you should consult a licensed dietician or nutritionist to help you determine your ideal macronutrient ratios. But you can start by using the macro calculator and equation found here.
Even once you start counting macros, you’ll likely change your ratios over time. If your goal is more muscle mass, you’ll increase protein. Training for a marathon? Carbs are your friend. Finding the perfect balance of these macronutrients can be a challenge, but you can continue tweaking your eating plans as needed.
Is Macro-Counting Right for Me?
Like all nutrition programs, counting macros isn’t right for everyone. While most people (particularly athletes) can benefit from micronutrient tracking, you should first consult a dietician or medical professional to determine whether it’s right for you.
Tracking your macros is relatively easy once you learn how. You can use popular nutrition tracking apps like MyFitnessPal to set macro goals and see how your daily diet holds up.