As you go about setting up your healthy eating diet plan, it’s important that you understand the importance of counting macros. It’s one thing to ensure that you eat the right amount of calories each day and another to ensure that the foods you are selecting are healthy.
But, if you want to really take your progress to the next level, one thing that you must make sure you are doing is counting macros.
Let’s go over everything you need to know about macros and why you must count them.
What Are ‘Macros’?
Let’s first explain what exactly macros are all about. A ‘macro’ refers to a macronutrient, which is basically the carbohydrates, proteins, and dietary fats that you are eating in all the foods you consume.
While some foods may only contain one or two of these macros (a chicken breast for instance contains only protein and a small amount of fat), over the course of the day, you will take in all three macros. While some diets may have you significantly reducing one macro (usually carbs or fat), it’s virtually impossible to eliminate them entirely.
Each of these macros is going to have a different role in the body, so it’s vital that you get in all three for optimal health and well-being.
Protein is the macro that’s involved in building new body tissues. When you do a workout for instance, you break down your muscle tissues and protein is what helps you build your muscles back up so they are stronger than they were before.
Protein is also what helps to regulate blood glucose levels and plays a key role in keeping you satisfied throughout the day. If you eat a meal without any protein, don’t be surprised if you’re hungry again an hour or so later.
The best sources of protein to consider consuming are lean animal based sources like steak, turkey, chicken, and fish, seafood, eggs, and dairy along with vegetarian friendly options like beans, lentils, and tofu.
Nuts and seeds also contain some protein as well, however they contain more fat than they do protein.
Carbohydrates on the other hand are the energy providing macronutrient. They’re the body’s preferred source of fuel, so by eating them, you help give your body the energy it needs to complete all the daily tasks.
Carbohydrates also provide dietary fiber, which slows down digestion and helps combat hunger, while also helping to keep your heart health in check.
Finally, carbohydrates are an important source of antioxidants, which help combat disease and free radical damage. It’s important to note that not all carbohydrates are antioxidant and nutrient rich however – the primary carbs that offer this are the fruit and vegetable sources, not the heavily processed carbohydrates that you may be otherwise eating throughout the day.
Eating as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible during the day is a wise idea, and then to that, you can also add moderate amounts of complex, high energy carbohydrates that aren’t processed. Examples include brown rice, quinoa, barley, oats, and sweet potatoes.
Beans and lentils are also an excellent source of carbohydrates, provide a good dose of dietary fiber, and will also offer some protein as well.
Finally, the last of the macronutrients is dietary fats. These are going to help provide a longer-term source of energy for the body and are also involved in keeping your hormones at a proper level.
Dietary fats are also needed for optimal brain function (especially the omega-3 fatty acids that are essential in every diet), and if you eat the right varieties, will also help keep your heart health in good shape as well.
Dietary fats are the most calorie dense nutrient coming in at nine calories per gram (compared to four calories per gram for both protein and carbohydrates), therefore you just need to be very careful about how much of them you eat.
If you eat too many, they’ll add up quickly and this can send your calorie intake soaring.
As you can see, each of the macronutrients has a place in your diet plan. If you are not getting enough of each type, it can really impact how your body feels and functions on a day to day basis.
By counting macros, you can ensure that you are getting exactly what you need. This is different than just counting calories because while both techniques do involve making sure that you are taking in the right amount of food, counting macros is the only way that you ensure you are getting the proper amount of the right types of foods.
And this can play a big role on the progress you see. Your total calorie intake is going to dictate whether your gain or lose body weight, but it’s your total macronutrient intake (how many grams of proteins, carbs, and fats you consume) that will establish whether you lose lean muscle or body fat.
Since it’s fat you want to be losing, counting macros is a must.
So how much of each macro should you aim to be eating?
While there is no one-size-fits all number here, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for the average person for protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight, which is the minimum amount of protein required to avoid losing muscle mass. If you are an athlete you should be aiming to get approximately 0.55 to one gram of protein per pound of body weight. Dietary fats should be set at a minimum level of 0.3 grams per pound of body weight and then the rest of your calories can go towards your carbohydrates intake.
Some people may prefer adding a few more fats and fewer carbs to their diet while others will prefer the opposite, so the choice is up to you and should be based on what you feel best doing.
So there you have the main details you need to know about counting macros. If you want to optimize the progress you see with your diet plan, you’ll want to ensure that you make counting macros a part of the process.