Macronutrients, also called macros, are becoming more widely talked about in health and nutrition topics. Nutritionists often develop meal plans for patients based on macros, rather than calories alone. A healthy diet consists of the right nutrition, rather than limiting the intake of foods.
That’s not to say that calories aren’t an essential factor for weight loss. However, counting calories alone doesn’t improve your chances of taking in the right nutrients that you need. It only limits the number of calories. Whether the goal is weight loss or an overall healthy diet, the quality of nutrients should be a focus, not just the quantity of calories.
Macronutrients are three types of nutrients you need in your body. They consist of fats, carbohydrates, and protein. In knowing what macros you’re consuming, you’re able to make better food choices that result in healthier nutrition choices for your body.
How does counting macros work?
Keeping track of your macros is a way to account for all of your nutritional needs, rather than only relying on calorie intake/expenditure (i.e., the need to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight). Without balanced levels of macros, you deprive your body of the building blocks it needs to function efficiently, which can compromise efforts to lose weight in the long run.
Counting macros isn’t only ideal for those who are interested in dieting for weight loss. According to Michigan State University, counting macros is an excellent way to guarantee success in reaching fitness goals, whether they be better performance for athletes or whole-body health.
Expert sources, such as Washington State University, provide overviews of the macros and where to find them in your diet.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the three types of macronutrients and why your body needs them:
- Fat. It’s something that most people avoid, especially when dieting, but as we know, all fats are not created equal. The body needs fat to support various physiological processes, insulate organs, and be available as a source of energy. “Good” fats are found in things like olive oil and avocados. Processed foods are often full of “bad” fats, which don’t get digested well and don’t provide the body with a good energy source. In short, there are fats that you need in your diet for better body performance, but with moderation. Some recommended fat sources include nuts, meat, and dairy.
- Protein. Proteins are essential building blocks for a healthy body and contribute to the tissue structure, metabolic system, and hormone system. Protein is found in fish, meats, chicken, and eggs. It’s also found in whole grains, some types of vegetables, nuts, and beans.
- Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are your body’s quick source of fuel. The body will use carbs first, to conserve protein to build muscle mass. Some good carbohydrate choices include fruits, non-fat dairy, and grains. Bread and pasta, for instance, are carbohydrates. Healthier alternatives for these things might be whole grain options.
How to determine your macronutrient needs
Like any form of dieting, your nutritional needs will depend on your body type and goals. Counting macros can sound more confusing than simply counting calories. Still, it is a much better way to create a healthy diet that provides the right nutritional balance for your body.
Some specific diets include the Paleo Diet and Keto Diet, they have higher intakes of protein and fats compared to carbs.
So, where do you start? Sources linked above, like WSU, provide a percentage for each type of macro in your daily diet. Your calorie intake and daily diet will depend on activities and current body weight. You can find free macro calculator tools online to help you develop your own plan. You might also consult a nutritionist or dietitian to help you develop a meal plan that meets your health goals, too!