WHAT ARE MACROS?! Everything You Need to Know!

Hello love birds!

Click here if you'd rather listen to this blog post on my podcast!

As you may have noticed from my recent blog posts, I'm going back to the basics and teaching you the foundations of nutrition from a no BS, no extreme dieting, no deprivation point of view.

My ultimate goal is to educate you on how to eat well so that this becomes a LIFESTYLE, instead of just another fad diet that you try, fail at (no judgment, this is just inevitable with things like a juice cleanse/cabbage soup diet/insert other BS diet), and ultimately beat yourself up over.

Today, I want to break it down to the baaaaasics and teach you what macronutrients are and why each of them play an essential role in an overall healthy lifestyle. 

In the past few years, tracking macros has become a popular trend, but on a very basic level - it's important to understand what macronutrients actually are and how each of them affect your hormones and body composition. 

When you're educated about WHY you're making healthy choices, it's much easier to make them because you know you will look better AND feel better – from the inside, out. 

Let's break down MACRONUTRIENTS, shall we?!

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Macronutrients are the building blocks of any diet, and are comprised of protein, fats and carbohydrates. Each of us consume each of these macronutrients every single day, but you may not be familiar with what each of these ACTUALLY do on a cellular level in your body. 

Protein

  • 4 calories per gram
  • Protein takes longer than carbohydrates to break down in your system, making you feel satiated longer
  • Used as a source of energy when carbohydrates aren’t available
  • Aids in new tissues for muscle growth and repair, allowing for faster recovery after muscles have been broken down in a workout
  • Produces essential hormones and regulates digestion

Sources of protein: 

• Lean cuts of meat (ground turkey, ground beef, chicken, etc.)
• Fattier cuts of meat (steak, beef, lamb, veal, game meats, etc.)
• Protein powders *you can find my favorite protein powders here.
• Tuna
• Shrimp
• Salmon (rich in Omega 3 fats - one of my favorites!)
• Tilapia
• Oysters
• Trout
• Fish
• Eggs
• Egg whites
• Lean tofu (in moderation, because of soy)

Suggested amount of protein to consume per day: .75 - 1 gram of protein per body weight. So, if you're a 140-pound woman, you could aim to consume 140 grams (1 gram per pound of body weight) of protein per day. Contrary, if you're 200 lb., it could be very hard to hit that amount of protein in grams per day, so you could aim to consume (200 x .75 grams = 150 grams of protein per day)

Fat

  • 9 calories per gram
  • Helps your body lose fat when eaten in the right amounts
  • More calorie-dense than carbohydrates and proteins, but helps keep you fuller for longer
  • Regulates essential hormonal functions, especially in women
  • Omega-3 fatty acids support heart healthy and thyroid function (and your thyroid regulates everything in your body – including fat loss!)

Sources of healthy fat: 

• Nuts and seeds – almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews, macadamia, walnuts, pumpkin seeds
• Nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower, etc.)
• Avocado
• Coconut oil
• Coconut milk
• Coconut fat
• Extra virgin olive oil
• Flaxseed

Suggested amount of fat to consume per day: Around .5 grams per pound of body weight is a good place to start. Some people do really well with a moderate protein, higher fat, lower carbohydrate diet – others do well with a moderate protein, moderate fat, higher carbohydrate diet (especially if you're an athlete). Find what works best for you or work with a nutrition coach to figure it out. It just takes a bit of trial and error to find what style of eating makes you thrive. 

Carbohydrates

  • 4 calories per gram
  • Easily metabolized/broken down as the body's main fuel source, which is why it’s beneficial to eat them primarily before and after a workout (paired with protein, of course)
  • Indigestible carbohydrates (fiber) are necessary for intestinal health and help you stay “regular.” Beware of “high fiber” marketing and stick to getting your fiber primarily from vegetables (both green and starchy), and some fruit.
  • Play a huge role in the proper function of muscles, brain and kidneys
  • Two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex
    • Simple carbohydrates – fruits, processed foods and anything that tastes “sweet” essentially fit into this. Limit your consumption as much as possible (unless it’s starchy vegetables like carrots, squash, etc.). Often causes a spike in blood sugar, resulting in an extreme dip in energy after consumption.
    • Complex carbohydrates – vegetables, whole grains, brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, etc. These are the carbohydrates (listed below in the grocery list) you’ll want to be consuming because they’ll keep you full for longer and not give you that “crash.”

Sources of healthier carbohydrates: 

• ALLLLL THE VEGGIES (spinach, romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, etc.) *this is where I like to get the majority of my carbohydrates from. The more colorful your plate, the better!
• Sweet potatoes
• Red or white potatoes
• Yams
• Squash (butternut, acorn, spaghetti squash, etc.)
• Carrots
• Apples
• Berries
• Bananas
• Cherries
• Grapefruit
• Beets
• Tomatoes
• Watermelon
• Any and all fruit
• Brown or white rice
• Beans
• Quinoa
• Barley
• Lentils
• Air-popped popcorn
• Gluten-free oatmeal

Suggested amount of carbohydrates to consume every day: As a general rule of thumb, consuming 30% of your caloric intake worth of carbohydrates is a good place to start. Obviously this will vary if you're training like an Olympic athlete vs. the average person working at a desk all day. I like to make sure I'm getting enough of the RIGHT carbohydrates that won't spike my blood sugar, by consuming TOOOONS of veggies. Again the more colorful your plate, the better!


It's important to note that there are some foods that fit into more than one category – salmon, for example, has a decent amount of fat, but it’s primarily classified as a protein because it contains more grams of protein than fat. Peanut butter, for example, contains protein, but has more grams of fat, so it’s considered a “fat.”

In general, I like to structure every one of my meals around a TON of veggies (complex carbohydrates), protein and healthy fats, which myself & my clients refer to as #GPF (greens, protein and fat).

This ensures that I'm hitting all my macronutrient goals for the day and balancing my blood sugar so that I'm not hungry every hour (because YO GIRL IS ALWAYS HUNGRY!) 

I talk all about how to make every meal healthy and satisfying – including recommended portion sizes and meal timing – in this article

Should You Track Macros?

Now that you know how protein, fats and carbohydrates work together to help your body perform, you may be wondering, "Should I track my macros?"

And, if you haven't been living under a rock, you've probably seen your favorite fitness idols on Instagram and YouTube talk about tracking macros. 

I have my own opinions about tracking calories and macros based on my own past experience, but I will do my best to objectively let you decide for yourself whether or not you want to track macros. 

You may want to track macros if: 

  • You're a professional athlete looking to achieve a certain skill level for a sport
  • You're interested in competing in some sort of bikini, figure or physique competition
  • You've been training and eating well (honestly) for a while and have hit a plateau (i.e. you want to dial it in and lose the last 5-10 pounds to enhance your performance or aesthetics)
  • You have a strict deadline that you need to lose/gain weight by (vacation, wedding, something that's important to you)

You don't necessarily need to track macros if:

  • You haven't nailed down the nutrition basics yet – meaning you're completely NEW to a healthy lifestyle and need to master the foundation (such as choosing from the list of healthy protein, fats and carbs above). If you are not already doing this, DO NOT PASS GO. You don't need to track macros yet.
  • You've never dieted or tracked macros before and are genuinely curious about how many calories you're consuming every day (this can be helpful for a beginner to do for 3-5 days, because it can be VERY eye opening – most people are usually eating way more or less than they think they are.)
  • You've tracked macros or calories in the past, have a general sense of what portion sizes look like, and can eyeball your measurements when making meals. 
  • You have a history of an eating disorder and/or body dysmorphia, because being attached to numbers (i.e. how many protein, fats and carbs you're consuming, or calories in general) can 10x the problem. 

Keep in mind there may be different seasons of your life where it can be beneficial to track your caloric intake/macros. Maybe you're competing in a weightlifting or Crossfit meet and need to hit certain strength goals, so tracking macros would be helpful to make sure you're eating enough. Or maybe you have a wedding coming up, and want to really dial in your nutrition to lose the last stubborn 5-10 pounds.

GENERALLY SPEAKING: you do not need to religiously track macros and calories to be an overall healthy person.

For the majority of people who just want to look and feel good, who live a moderately sedentary lifestyle (work at a desk all day), then you will be just fine if you follow a healthy way of eating that provides light structure, like my #GPF (greens, protein and fat) style

However, if you're a professional athlete, training for a show, or have a deadline coming up such as a vacation or wedding, then tracking macros can aid you in reaching your goal faster.

Remember: everything in moderation.

Just as it's not healthy to drink sodas and eat chips all day long, it's also not healthy to take things to the OTHER extreme and be glued to your phone tracking macros all day.

(I talk all about these extremes in my most recent podcast episode, if you're interested).

Everything in moderation, and during the appropriate season of your life. 

The most important thing to keep in mind is to let go of things that are no longer serving you, so if you find yourself becoming too obsessive about tracking your macros, take a step back. Contrary, if you find yourself too lax about your nutrition, maybe it's an appropriate time to track for a few days to get back into a routine with good nutrition habits.

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY AND YOU WILL BE GOLDEN BABAAAY. 

 

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to comment down below, send me an email, or apply for my nutrition coaching services.

Sending you tons of HEALTH and HAPPINESS! xo,

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