If you’ve been around a bodybuilder, you’ve likely heard them talking about getting their “macros” in. Balancing your macronutrients is honestly just another way to look at food consumption, just like any other approach such as Whole 30, Precision Nutrition’s hand/palm/fist/thumb approach, or any other.
If you haven’t found an approach that works well for you yet, maybe macro dieting is the method right for you! Macro dieting/Flexible Dieting can help with portion control as well as more balanced nutrient intake and paying more attention to processed food intake. As with most approaches, finding the right balance will help with energy levels, cravings, and even quality of sleep and workouts.
What ARE Macros?
The three MACROnutrient categories are carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Speaking in terms of calories, carbohydrates and proteins provide 4 calories per gram and fat provides 9 calories per gram. Is a macro the same as a vitamin or mineral? No, vitamins and minerals are MICROnutrients which are also very important! Your body needs less of them (hence the word micro) but they are vitamins and minerals needed for immune function, blood clotting, bone health, growth, and so much more!
How Much Should I Eat?
Macros are based on your height, weight, age, activity level, and goals. For example, a 150-pound, 5’ 5” female who is moderately active and wants to have a steady weight loss would be around 1700 calories per day broken down to a pretty typical 40/30/30 ratio: 40% carbs at 170g, 30% protein at 124g, and 30% fat at 56g.
You can find your own macro calculator here:
NOTE: Calculators are not perfect or right for everyone. A more accurate calculation would calculate based only on LEAN tissue since body fat % plays a roll in the energy needs of the body.
*Gasp* Carbohydrates ARE needed for energy. Carbohydrates also tend to be where we consume the micronutrients we need in our diet. Whole foods are the best source for carbohydrates because they will pack more fiber. Fiber is the part of carbohydrates that reduce our risk for disease, improve digestion, etc. Optimally, women should obtain at least 35g of fiber per day and men, 48g.
Fat and Protein
Fats give us energy, support cell growth, and aid in the absorption of vitamins and nutrients (our BRAINS are fat-based! So the next time someone calls you “Fathead” perhaps a “Thank You!” is in order).
Mix up the types of fat you eat to get a balance of saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats.
Proteins are the building blocks of our muscle (and most the rest of our body for that matter). A very lean protein is a protein with 1g of fat or less per ounce. Lean protein is 1g-3g per ounce. When looking at your labels, first determine how many ounces you are looking at like a 3-ounce fillet of beef/chicken/pork/fish. If your 3-ounce fillet has 9g or less of fat, you have a lean cut of protein.
Keep in mind that any strict form of eating may not be suitable with a history of disordered eating. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any major changes in the way you eat and be aware of any interactions with medications. Like most healthy ways of eating, eating your macros will come in the form of eating every 3-4 hours, choosing whole foods, and eating your vegetables! In the end, eat mostly plant-based foods and find the system that works best for your lifestyle and goals, and you will likely see success!
Interested in more reading? Check this out: