Anyone who is looking seriously at their caloric intake and strategies for weight loss is sure to have come across the term ‘macros.’ Macros, short for macronutrients, refer to the nutrients from which we get the majority of our energy – carbohydrates, protein, and fats.
The Science of Macros
The world of nutrition science is bursting with information about fats, carbs, and proteins. The question that we need to ask ourselves, however, is “What does the body care about at the macro level?” A chunky, low-fiber carb will certainly fuel that hike up the mountain, but not as much as a high-fat, low-carb meal.
The nutrients of greatest importance to the body are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Carbs are easily digested through the large intestines, fats are stored in fat cells, and proteins are building blocks of tissues and organs.
Fat is a key fuel source for muscles and is essential in our diet. This is why a diet high in fat overloads the otherwise overpowering efforts of the abdomen and intestinal region. Conversely, carbohydrates are essential for cellular respiration as well as providing the body with the energy for day-to-day functions. And then, of course, there is protein. Protein is a nutritional rock star that boosts metabolism and decreases appetite, among other functions.
What Is the Right Macro Mix?
A good rule of thumb for the macronutrient ratio is 50-25-25. This translates to 50% carbs, 25% protein, and 25% healthy fats in a given day. This can vary, though, based on your specific goals. Those who are looking to lose weight could benefit from a ratio of 30-40-30 (30% carbs, 40% protein, and 30% fats). While bodybuilders and those individuals looking to build muscle tend to lean more towards a 60-25-15 ratio (60% carbs, 25% protein, and 15% fats).
And of course, the quality of what you are putting into your body is always a giant factor. Whole foods that are nutrient-rich win out over-processed foods every time. They help maintain healthy body composition and reduce the risk of prediabetes and cardiovascular disease. Quality proteins and fats are also important for metabolism, brain health, and brain plasticity. Reducing the amount of processed sugar in our diet also has the added bonus of improving our mood and stabilizing energy levels.
Strategies for Success
Tracking macros can be a highly effective nutritional strategy. Here are a few tactics to make the process easier:
- Use a macro tracking app: MyFitnessPal, My Macros +, and Fitocracy are all good ones
- Invest in a food scale: portion control is important and hard to eyeball when you are first starting out
- When hunger hits: protein and fiber-rich foods are your best bets
- Plan ahead: having a good meal plan in place is a game-changer as far as sticking to any diet
While it’s definitely worth doing, getting started on your macro-tracking journey can feel overwhelming and daunting. However, the nutrition and health experts at NHQ know the nuances of macros and can help you get started. Connect with them today!