Whether you're watching your weight or trying to bulk up with muscle, you've probably hit the internet looking for help, suggestions, and information at least once. If your search has been anything like mine, you will have stumbled across something called "Macros." Sometimes called Macronutrients or referred to in a programme called IIFYM (if it fits your macros), I gave a macronutrient diet a go recently with great success.
So what is a macronutrient and why should you care?
A macronutrient is an umbrella term for the three types of nutrients that make up the majority of what we put in our mouths every day: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Most importantly, it covers the nutrients that our bodies require not just to survive, but to thrive and function properly.
And what do I know?
I'm no doctor, nutritionist, or health coach. I'm just an overweight gal who recently had some success with counting macros and likes to share when good stuff happens! I did manage to complete a course in Nutrition and Health just recently, too.
But what does each macro do?
A whole lot of super complex and sciencey stuff...but here is the TL:DR version:
Protein— builds and repairs tissues and regulates our metabolism. Protein provides four calories per gram. You'll find it in lean meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and should have some at every meal.
Fat— protects our brains, provides us energy, and leaves us feeling full while packing nine calories per gram. You'll find fats in lots of things, but the ones that will be best for you are the naturally occurring fats found in dairy, meat and fish, nuts and seeds, oil and fatty fruits like avocado.
Carbohydrates— found in almost all foods and provides four calories per gram. Carbohydrates help us perform basic functions and is the energy powerhouse. When it comes to choosing carbohydrates for your plate, look for complex whole food sources like vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, 100 percent whole-grain bread, pasta, and brown rice.
Macros work best when they work together, so consuming fats, carbohydrates, and proteins together is a great plan for maximizing their benefits and balancing blood sugars.
And how does it work?
Based on your goals, you can set an allowance in grams of fat, protein, and carbohydrates for your daily meals. Then you start weighing things* and measuring things. As long as you stick to your allowance, you can fill it as you please.
In theory, you could spend your whole day's worth of carbohydrates on a slice of chocolate cake or a handful of jellybeans. Or, you could enjoy a small portion of rice, or sweet potato, or oatmeal, or maybe all three across the course of the day! Nothing is truly off limits. Even cheese and wine are OK!
Unsurprisingly, though, I quickly realized that spending my macro allowance on fruits, vegetables, nuts, healthy fats, legumes, whole grains, lean protein, and other wholesome foods left me feeling full and healthy! Then the weight started falling off, too...
So how do you hit your macros?
There are a bunch of ways you can slice up your allowance. For me, it was easy to take my total and split it by four, meaning I could have four moderately sized meals a day. You might choose to have a carby breakfast but a low-carb lunch and dinner or you might be keen on six small meals... do what works for you!
For me, there was one other handy trick that I found really helpful. I got into meal prepping.
Meal prepping isn't just an Instagram thing, it's a really great way of managing your food intake, time spent cooking, and ensuring you're eating the fats, proteins, and carbohydrates that your body needs. It also means you'll have prepackaged lunches to see you through the day instead of leaving you hungry and tempted by whatever you can find, like the local cafe.
What can I expect if I do my macros?
Expect to get frustrated. Expect to have to read the back of everything you consume and expect some surprises. But if your experience is like mine, expect to feel good for all the great food you're eating, expect to alter your taste buds, and expect to enjoy the time and money you save by meal prepping.
Carry on your research, work out your goals, and decide your macro allowance, then go forth and eat!
You can check out my other 'health' related musings and experiences on Longevity.