Mac’n on em!
Something I often suggest when people want to lose weight, is to track macronutrients. What are macronutrients? What do they do for us and how can tracking them help us lose weight?
There are three different macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Each have their own role in helping our bodies function properly. Macronutrients are found in all foods and have a caloric count.
Fats: 9 calories per gram
Fats tend to get a bad reputation because of how calorie dense they are, but they are essential for having a healthy diet. Suggested intake of fat is about 15%-30% of what you consume daily. They help with cell function, vitamin absorption, brain development, and more.
There are a lot of different types of fats, but let’s focus on trans fats, omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.
Trans fats are the ‘bad’ fats. These are the fats you want to avoid the most because it has shown to increase the risk of heart disease. Trans fats can be found in packaged foods.
Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential ‘good’ fatty acids. Your body does not produce omegas. They are something you can only get through diet. They can be found in foods like fish, nuts, and some oils.
Proteins: 4 calories per gram
Protein helps repair and regenerate body cells and tissues. It also helps give us a healthy immune system and production of hormones. Suggested protein intake depends on activity level, weight goals, and numerous other factors. Protein is made up of 20 amino acids, 9 of which are essential. While the body does make amino acids, it cannot biosynthesize the essential nine amino acids which are required to help our bodies function normally. These essential amino acids can be found in animal sources like meat, dairy, and eggs. For vegetarians and vegans, it is harder to find essential protein, but eating a variety of foods like grains, nuts, and different vegetables will be beneficial.
Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram
Carbohydrates are made up of small chains of sugar which breaks down into glucose. This glucose is the bodies main energy source. There are two different types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates, like sugar, have a shorter molecule chain and therefore are easier for the body to break down. Complex carbohydrates, like starch, have larger molecules and take the body longer to break down.
The number of calories you need a day depends on your age, weight, height, activity level, and gender. Once a person’s caloric intake is found, you can figure out the best macronutrient intake for that person goals. Macronutrient intake is very individual to a person and their fitness goals. Everyone’s body responds differently to food. Some people respond better to low fat and high carbohydrates or vice versa.
WHY CAN TRACKING HELP?
One of the main reasons I personally like to track is for awareness. I tracked everything I ate for one week within my caloric needs. I was amazed to find that my diet was primarily fats and not very balanced between all three macronutrients. I was eating the right number of calories but not the right macronutrient ratio that was best for hitting my goals. Remember that everyone will have different macronutrient needs dependent on their goals.
Macronutrient tracking can promote healthy choices. You may be able to fit in a treat now and again but you will not be able to have an overall unhealthy diet and be able to hit your targeted macronutrients. The leeway also helps to prevent binging.
SHOULD I TRACK MACROS?
The best diet or execution of your diet should be one that you will stick with. Tracking macronutrients might not work best for you personally as a diet approach. However, I believe that if you are new to fitness world, tracking will be beneficial for intake awareness especially for those wanting to losing fat.
Jackie Sorensen, CPT,
I am not a medical consultant, but have learned through research and practice. Before attempting any listed advice above, it is best to talk with your physician.