Tracking Macronutrients Could be Key to Weight-Loss Success
However, the ideal macros vary from person to person
Macros, or macronutrients, are the big three: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. When someone says, “I’m counting my macros,” they are keeping track of either the amount of protein, carbs, and fat in grams, or as a percentage of their total daily calories.
While how you eat and food quality are important, the “what” you eat – macros – is also key to maintaining, losing, or gaining weight. If you’ve looked at other diets or workout plans, you’ve likely seen a diet broken down into macros. What you won’t see is the disclaimer that while those macros may work for some people, they don’t work for everyone.
Take me and Kerri for example: Kerri mentioned in her recent post that we gave her macros for weight loss: 30% protein, 20% carbs, and 50% fat. What you should know is that Kerri’s numbers are different from the numbers I’ve used for my weight loss these past few months, meaning both of us lost weight using different macros. And when I rebuilt my health from chronic stress last year, I used different macros from the ones I use now.
Finding the ideal macros for your body, goals, and current health is a very individualized process that can take time and experimentation. Chances are these numbers may be very different from what you think they will be. It can be intimidating to undertake this on your own, which is where a nutritionist can help.
Here’s a closer look into what macros do for our health and how they can vary from person to person:
Protein is vital to muscle growth and repair. It is the building block of many cells and helps the body carry out its work (replicating DNA, producing neurotransmitters, etc.). Protein also feeds hunger. If you find yourself hungry soon after a meal or snack, chances are you didn’t eat enough protein.
Some people need more protein in their diets than others. Those who are under stress, recovering from an illness or injury, exercise intensely, are pregnant, or lactating generally need more protein than people who don’t fit these categories. That being said, some people just feel better when they have a little more protein. Robin is one of these people.
For weight loss, eating enough protein helps not just because it keeps you full but also because it ensures that you lose fat instead of muscle.
Carbohydrates are used for energy as well as stored in the liver and muscles for later use. Complex carbs such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and tubers, contain fiber which promotes feelings of fullness. Fiber also promotes even blood sugar and steady energy.
Classic macros for weight loss and muscle building have carbs at around 40-50% but this number can be too high for weight loss for most people. However, just like with protein, some people may need more carbs than others. Children, pregnant and lactating women, and athletes fall into this category. The type of workout you choose may also necessitate more carbs on certain days or at certain times during the day. For instance, when I eat more carbohydrates on days when I lift weights, my energy is better. I don’t need the same amount of carbs on days when I run or kickbox.
Fat can also be used for energy and stored for later use. Fats form the membrane around every cell in our body, compose most of our brain, are the backbone of hormones, and can calm inflammation. Eating fat gives you satisfaction with your meal. If you find yourself not “hungry” but unsatisfied following a meal, you may need more healthy fat.
Classic macros seem to downplay our need for fat but truly, you need to eat fat to lose fat. Given the role of fats in building hormones, women generally need a lot of fat. When Kerri asked me how I meet my target macro for fat, I joked that I “put butter on everything,” which is not that far from the truth. As a woman who is prone to mental illness, I can tell that my brain needs a lot of fat to function: more than half of my calories come from fat. I don’t feel as “on it” when I don’t have enough.
The holistic nutritionists at Healthy Nest are skilled in helping you find your best diet, and that includes macros. There’s no time like the present to get started! Click here to schedule online for a free, 20-minute phone consultation with a Healthy Nest holistic nutritionist.