Know Your Macros
For many individuals seeking to lose weight or clean up their diets in general, calorie intake mistakenly becomes the sole consideration in making dietary choices. While calorie intake is certainly an important factor to keep in mind when you have a specific fitness goal to achieve (such as weight loss, weight gain, increased energy, or increased performance), it’s best to also consider the source of those calories at the macronutrient level to maximize your results.
Considering macronutrient sources is critical because of their varying caloric content and the different rates at which the body metabolizes them. A client who wants to lose weight and train for a 5K will require an emphasis on protein (to maintain lean muscle mass while they lose weight), but also sufficient carbohydrates to fuel their training.
Benefits of Counting Macros
A sample macronutrient recommendation for an endurance athlete might include 50% of calories from carbohydrates, 30% from protein, and 20% from fat. The total calorie goal ultimately depends on factors such as their age, overall activity level, and current calorie intake.
On the other hand, if a client wants to lose fat and add muscle, the emphasis shifts slightly away from carbohydrates and toward fats and protein (for instance, 40% carbs, 35% protein, 25% fat).
This shift is recommended for several reasons: first, additional protein needs to be available to provide building blocks for new muscle tissue to form; second, carbohydrates can be deemphasized in the absence of endurance-related performance goals; and finally, additional fat can improve satiety during calorie restriction, helping you stay on track as you lower your overall calorie intake.
Again, the total calorie goal depends on several factors that are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
One of the great benefits to counting macros is that this strategy can simplify your food choices throughout the day, allowing you to make dietary adjustments on the fly in order to get closer to your prescribed macros. If you find yourself making it to your final meal of the day, take a look at where your macros are; if you’re a little too low on protein, go for a protein shake.
If you’re, a little too high on fat, go for a cup of fat-free Greek yogurt, which is rich in both carbs and protein. The main takeaway here is that counting macros and staying faithful to your ratios can help you stay on target to reach your fitness and nutrition goals instead of just hoping the results will come.
As with many aspects of nutrition, there is no single macronutrient profile that will work for everyone. It’s best to have your needs evaluated on an individual basis.