Growing up, in school, on TV, and in magazines, we constantly read about “calories.” We were taught that calories are all we need to worry about when it comes to managing our weight. A calorie deficit meant surefire weight loss, while a calorie surplus meant guaranteed weight gain. However, have you ever stopped to ponder the source of these calories and consider that not all calories are created equal? The idea of counting calories is outdated and makes no physiological sense. That’s where macronutrients comes into the picture.
What Are Macronutrients?
Commonly referred to as macros, these building blocks are what make up the molecular contents of food. Macros can fall into three categories: fats, carbohydrates, and protein. Here’s the thing, our bodies need all three of these macronutrients, and cutting out one in the long-term will lead to a health crisis. There is a delicate balance between all three and they are all vital for the overall nourishment and function of your body. Instead of counting calories, I challenge you to consider the source.
Each macro provides a certain number of calories per gram, for example:
- Fat contains 9 calories per gram
- Protein contains 4 calories per gram
- Carbs contain 4 calories per gram
Have you ever paused to wonder, if our bodies are meant to quantify calories, why are there no calorie receptors? Alas, our bodies rely on hormones, not calories, for messaging and metabolism. Plus, when it comes to building and maintaining muscle, if you only count calories, you could be lacking adequate dietary protein, which will lead to the breakdown of your muscular composition and important cellular processes.
You’re probably now wondering: how do I count macros? Where do I go to figure out the amount of carbs, proteins, and fats I should be eating every day?
This is where most people drop off of the macro lifestyle. It seems too challenging at first, but it’s not! I promise, just give it a try and you’ll find that it’s actually much simpler than it sounds. I recommend calculating your personal macros using the free MyFitnessPal website or app.
Protein is the most essential macronutrient for those trying to reach their fitness goals. Prioritizing protein will help you to build muscle and help to prevent muscle loss. It is also the most satiating macro, helping you to be able to stave off hunger and feel fuller longer.
– Lindsey Mathews, Trainer & Nutritionist
MyFitnessPal is one of the most popular web-based exercise and fitness tools available today. With MyFitnessPal, you can track your daily food and beverage intake, calculating the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that you are ingesting on a daily basis. As a result, you can uncover patterns and learn more about your personal consumption preferences overnight.
A note on micronutrients. Micronutrients are found in nutrient-dense foods, such as yogurt, spinach, fish, eggs, nuts, bananas, potatoes, broccoli, kale… the list goes on and on! While is is important to make sure you are following the right macro plan for your goals, it is just as important to make sure you are getting proper micronutrients as well. This means meeting your macros with nutrient dense foods to fuel your body, as opposed to seeing how much junk food you can fit into your macros without going over your daily allotment.
Within MyFitnessPal, you can also track the macro composition of each food item, ensuring you hit your macros for the day. Depending your age, sex, weight, muscular composition and goals, and so forth, your macros will be unique to you. Typically, macros follow a carb, protein, and fat ratio of: 4:2:2.
Now, you can lose weight, maintain muscle, and continue ingesting the vitamins and minerals you need to be happy, healthy, and full of energy throughout the day. Simply eating rice crackers and salad on a daily basis for calorie counting will cost you energy, muscle, and happiness – it’s just not worth it.
So if one of your 2019 resolutions is to either lose weight, keep weight off, build muscle, or just feel better with ease, the best way to get there is to track and adjust your individual macros for success.
Here at Fast, Fit & Fab, we can help.
P.S. I recently discovered you can track macros quite easily via the Fitbit app. Simply track your food, and it will give you the macronutrient percentages breakdown. Very easy to use. However, not as detailed as MyFitnessPal for tracking and goal-setting. Therefore, if you already own a Fitbit, it’d be worth looking into for ease of use. If you do not already own a Fitbit, then MyFitnessPal is still the one I’d recommend.