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Let’s talk about Macros, baby!


All the good things and all the bad things that may be


You’ve probably heard someone mention macronutrients, but what are they and why do they matter? Macronutrients are carbohydrates, fats and proteins, which are the nutritional components from the food we consume. In short, macronutrients are what power your body every day. Nearly every eating plan or diet you’ve read or heard about seeks to manipulate the ratio of macronutrients you consume.

So, what foods should you be consuming, then? Let’s start off with a few points to consider. When you hear a nutritionist say that food is nutritionally dense, it means it is full of nutrients the body needs in order to function. The best example is beef or chicken liver, it is the most nutritionally dense food. Not necessarily my fav food at a cookout to be honest, but a great example of a nutrient dense food nonetheless. Examples of foods that are not nutritionally dense would be processed foods or “fun” foods like chips and cookies. Unfortunately, the typical American diet is low in fiber, high in refined carbohydrates and high in unhealthy fats, which is associated with poor health (Weatherby 2004).


Tips for eating foods with more nutritional value


  • Shop perimeter of grocery store

  • Eat foods with minimal ingredients on the label

  • Don’t eat it unless your grandmother can recognize it




(Harvard, 2011)


Balance

Everyone’s focused on calories. Let’s talk macros. A macro balance for weight loss and fitness will focus on higher protein, moderate carbs and moderate fat. Protein should be 20-30% of total calories. Note this is not an appropriate goal for everyone, particularly those with kidney disease, liver disease, and osteoporosis. It is good to consult a nutritionist regarding your optimal macro balance; one size does not fit all. In addition, certain diets like, a Ketogenic diet, have a very unique macro balance, which may not be appropriate for everyone. The following is a good scale to aim for macros which examples from MyFitnessPal and Cronometer:

§ P 20-30%

§ C 35-45%

§ F 25-35%



MyFitnessPal

Cronometer



Another marker to focus on is fiber. The Recommended Daily Amount (“RDA”) for fiber for women is 25g and men 38g. It is a good goal to aim higher than RDA once you get in the routine of hitting it, as high fiber foods: satiate, help you feel full, reduce processed foods, found in foods that are nutrient dense, keep you regular, and feed the microbiome, which is associated with better weight.


It can be hard to determine the macronutrients you consume and in what ratio without help. The easiest way is to track what you eat in either MyFitnessPal or Cronometer. By tracking what you eat, you’ll start to have better understanding of your body’s needs. On days you hit your protein recommendation and fiber, you’ll likely notice you feel satiated without going over your recommended calorie intake. One important concept that studies have proven is that it’s key to balance nutrients on your plate even if it is just a snack. According to one study examining blood glucose levels of the participants, blood sugar was regulated better when they consumed carbohydrates, fat and protein together instead of a meal or snack of just carbohydrates (Basturk, Koc Ozerson & Yuksel, 2021). It’s important to keep blood sugar balanced without having big spikes and drops, this is when you can experience crashes or mood swings (think hangry). Carbohydrates are metabolized quickly, fat and protein slow digestion down and help maintain blood sugar. Higher protein and higher fiber also improves glycemic balance of a meal.


As some of you may have noticed, it can be difficult to hit the recommended protein daily. It may be easier to only focus on one macronutrient at a time. Aim to hit your protein goal daily for a week or more until it seems routine (typically takes about 21 days to develop a new routine/habit). Then aim to hit your fiber goal, comes from complex carbohydrates. As you begin to balance your meals/snacks, you may notice positive health improvements as well, such as, no desire for late night snacking, better sleep, waking without feeling very hungry and better muscle recovery. One study observed the impact of macronutrient ratios and sleep quality; it was noted that participants reported better sleep quality with higher fat and protein compared to those who had a higher carbohydrate percentage (Lindseth & Murrary 2016).


Tips to translate meals into macros


▪ Enter your meals before you eat them, best if you are meal planning and prepping.

▪ Enter meals after you’ve consumed them.

▪ Enter one meal. OR

▪ Enter a hypothetical meal to gain understanding on the nutrient balance.


Below is sample day that I created for a client to meet macro and fiber requirements


▪ Breakfast: coffee with oat milk, 3 eggs with steamed broccoli mixed in and one orange

▪ Snack: apple with peanut butter

▪ Chicken grilled over red cabbage, olive oil, edamame beans and roasted sweet potato

▪ Banana with peanut butter

▪ Flank steak with jasmine rice, black beans








References


Basturk, B., Koc Ozerson, Z., & Yuksel, A. (2021). Evaluation of the Effect of Macronutrients Combination on Blood Sugar Levels in Healthy Individuals. Iranian journal of public health, 50(2), 280–287. https://doi.org/10.18502/ijph.v50i2.5340


Harvard Medical School. (2011). Healthy Eating Plate. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate/


Lindseth, G., & Murray, A. (2016). Dietary Macronutrients and Sleep. Western journal of nursing research, 38(8), 938–958. https://doi.org/10.1177/0193945916643712


Mahan, L.K., & Raymond, J.L. (2017). Krause’s Food & the Nutrition Care Process (14th Edition). Elsevier.


Weatherby, D. (2004). Signs and Symptoms Analysis from a Functional Perspective (Second Edition). Bear Publishing.



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