Macros, or macronutrients, can get a little confusing since people often refer to foods as macros. Nonetheless, those foods contain more of that specific macronutrient than the others. Macros are just the individual elements, and most foods are made up of a blend of all three - protein, carbs, and fat. Understanding macros can help you lay a solid foundation for a balanced diet.
What Are Macros
In simple terms, “macros” are the building blocks of nutrition: they are the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Macros are the nutrients you need in large amounts because they provide your body with the calories it needs to function. On the other hand, micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. Yes, they’re also essential for good health, but these don’t provide any calories and fewer amounts are needed. Each macro may provide you calories, but each one actually serves their own purpose and are found in different foods. You can see a simple breakdown below.
Carbohydrate: Provides fuel and the energy needed for your body and brain. It’s found in all plant foods (grains, fruits, vegetables), milk, and yogurt.
Protein: Helps build and repair your muscles, organs, skin, blood, and different chemicals like hormones in your body. It’s found largely in meat, poultry, fish, dairy, tofu, and eggs, and in smaller amounts in nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Fat: Insulates and protects your bones and organs, acts as backup fuel for energy, and helps brain development. Healthy, unsaturated fats are found in olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel). On the other hand, unhealthy saturated fats are found in beef, pork, butter, full-fat dairy, and processed foods (cookies and donuts).
How Do I Count My Macros
Because most foods contain a mix of carbs, protein, and fat, you can’t completely cut one macro from your diet - and it also makes counting them difficult. Bodybuilders in particular are notorious for counting their macros, relying on eating trends. These focus on manipulating macronutrients to achieve weight loss or gain muscle. Nonetheless, people following those diets often lose sight of what’s healthy and what’s not. Your macronutrient distribution could actually look the same, no matter what you're eating. Quality wins over quantity when it comes to your health, so don’t get so caught up when measuring your macros that you miss out on the foods your body really needs.
So how do you count macros? By not micro-managing your macros and simply seeing where your numbers fall. Get colorful fruits, veggies, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein on your plate to know you're hitting all of them. Balancing your macronutrients is the most important way to stick to a healthy eating plan and reach your health goals. So try food logging for a few days to see how your macros measure up.
How Many Macros Do I Need
The numbers aren’t set in stone since everyone is different of course. However, you do need to consume a certain amount of each macro within a certain range. This flexibility allows you to pick a style of eating that suits your needs, food preferences, and health goals. Below is the recommended healthy ranges for a balanced diet.
Again, be sure to log the food items you eat in order to keep track of your macros and view the daily totals as percentages.