Macronutrient is a term used to bucket three types of foods we eat. Our bodies require certain amounts to function properly, and this can vary per person. On the other hand, alcohol also provides calories (7 calories per gram) but is not considered a macronutrient because we don’t require alcohol to live, unlike fats, protein and carbohydrates. Macronutrients are filled with micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, to meet our nutritional needs.
Learn more about keeping on track with 4 Ways to Keep on Track With Your Nutrition
Where to Find Macros
Whether using macros to influence your food choices or just trying to follow a balanced diet, it’s good to know which foods contain what and how many macros.
- High-carb, low-protein: fruits and vegetables
- High-carb, low-fat: pasta, rice, cereal, bread, legumes, fruits, vegetables
- High-fat, low-carb: nuts, seeds, olive oil, cheese
- High-fat, low-protein: avocado, olive oil, coconut milk
- High-protein, low-carb: eggs, meat, fish
- High-protein, low-fat: non-fat Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, turkey or chicken breast, lean ground beef, whey protein powder
Fits Within Your Calories?
One way to eat better and also to lose weight is to use macros as well as calories. You get an allowance In grams for fat, protein and carbs, but how you spend that is up to you as long as it fits within your daily calorie intake for your weight loss goal.
For example, fat contains 9 calories per gram, protein and carbs 4 calories per gram. So if your daily calorie “allowance” is 2000 calories per day, then you can split your macros to make up 2000 calories per day for example.
Not All Calories Are Really Equal
While 100 grams of salmon and 100 grams of chicken wings may have the same macronutrient profile (both are about 60% protein and 40% fat), they are hardly equivalent in regard to nutrient value. Jelly beans and sweet potatoes are both around 100% carbohydrates, but again, there’s no comparison when it comes to nutritional value. Now can we lose weight eating nothing but wings and jelly beans – If they fit within your calories? Probably. But most people would realise quickly they feel and perform much better when they spend most of their macros on lean proteins, fruit, veg, healthy fats and other wholesome foods, which also tend to be more filling as well as nutritious.
While we know calories don’t always contain the same value and your food quality matters. After all, nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all. If you’re a healthy individual, it’s helpful to explore different options and find one that works for you – and importantly make it a sustainable habit.
Ways You Can Track Your Macros
If you’re new to tracking macros, the app we recommend to our clients is Myfitnesspal. Tracking calories and macros can be made easy with this tool and can be broken down into four steps:
1. Setting Your Calories
The first step is to find out your target calorie intake. This would depend on your goal, age, sex, height and activity levels. When you set up your Myfitnesspal app, logging or scanning your calories can be done on your homepage.
2. Setting Your Macros
Myfitnesspal automatically sets your macros at 50% carbs, 20% protein and 30% fat. You can tweak this as you like; the app translates the percentages into grams for each macronutrient. (Note: Premium app users have the option of setting goals in grams or percentages.)
Need some guidance? See this article on How To Balance Your Fitness Goals With Your Social Life
3. Plan and Track Your Diet
As you enter snacks and meals into your food diary, Myfitnesspal will total how many grams of macronutrients you eat, whether fat, protein or carbs. It’s helpful to plan your meals for the day, or you may find yourself at dinnertime with only 200 calories left!
4. Repeat and Refine
With time, both the planning and knowledge of understanding and planning macros and calories get easier. You can refine the exact percentages based on your results and find meals that work for you.