So what are Macronutrients (Macros)?
Macronutrients are the nutrients we need an abundance of every single day. They are categorized as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Each of these play major roles in fueling and constructing the human body. As we start to understand which foods fall under which category, it’s important to know the classification is based on the primary molecule in that food. For example, nuts consist of protein and fat molecules but are classified as a fat source. This is because nuts are primarily made of fats.
Carbohydrates are made of carbon and water. Hence, the two parts of the word: carbo - and hydrate. Carbs are our main source of energy. They are stored in our muscles and organs as glycogen and are found in vegetables, fruits, tubers, legumes, grains and sweeteners.
Whole Food sources: Plantains, Banana, Grapes, Nectarines, Apples, Berries, Black Bean pasta, Lentil pasta, Quinoa, Parsnips, Winter Squashes, Carrots, Green zucchini, Yellow squash, Kale, Spinach, Brussel sprouts, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Rice, Rolled oats, White potato, Sweet potato, Japanese yams
Best sources for pre & post workout: Rice, Rolled oats, White potato, Sweet potato, yams
Proteins are made of amino acids and are the building blocks for tissues, organs, nerves, muscles and more. There are over 50,000 different proteins in the human body! Protein does more than create tissue. It is also an essential component for enzymes, antibodies, hemoglobin and peptide hormones. It repairs broken down muscle fibers post exercise, makes sure you have the right cofactors for metabolic processes, and contributes to your adaptive immune system. Protein is the primary nutrient for animal meats, seafood, and some legumes.
Best sources: Chicken breasts, Chicken thighs, Ground turkey, Ground bison, Ground beef, 0% Greek yogurt, Shrimp, Sea scallops, Protein powder, Egg whites, Atlantic salmon, Steak, Whole eggs, Plant-based protein powder
Best sources pre & post workout: Plant-based protein powder, Whey protein powder, Chicken breasts, 99% Ground turkey, 0% Greek yogurt, Egg whites
Contrary to popular belief, dietary fat is not the villain it’s made out to be. Fat is essential for optimal health and performance. Fats are made up of fatty acid molecules. They play numerous important roles in the body: Energy source, cell building blocks for cells, hormones, and increase satiety. They regulate inflammation too! Did you know vitamins – A, D, E, K are only fat soluble so we must have fat to help us receive these important nutrients.
There are three classifications of fats: Saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
· Saturated fats are highly stable, don’t rancify easily, and are solid at room temperature. These are great to use for cooking!
· Monounsaturated fats are relatively stable, don’t rancify easily, and are liquid at room temperature.
· Polyunsaturated fats are relatively unstable, go rancid easily, and always liquid. Never heat or use polyunsaturated fats in cooking!
· Trans fats, on the other hand, are a by-product of the hydrogenation process. Hydrogenation is the man-made manipulation of unsaturated fats. These fats are toxic and interfere with the essential roles fatty acids play within a healthy body. Avoid vegetable oils, fried fats, canola oil, margarine, and vegetable shortening.
Best Sources Saturated: Red meat, Duck fat, Pork fat, Ghee, Coconut oil Best Sources Monounsaturated: Olive oil, Avocado oil, Cashew oil, Almond oil, Pecan oil Best Sources Polyunsaturated: Flaxseed oil, Fish oil, Krill oil
Best sources pre & post workout: NONE. Keep these meals low in fats.
Why Counting Macros Can Be Important
Counting and tracking macronutrients is a powerful short-term tool that shows you what is in the food you eat and how well your metabolism responds to it. Since nutrition needs an individual approach, tracking is a great way to understand what foods work well for you. Macro tracking also guides you to control portions whether you are looking to gain, maintain, or lose weight. It sets you up for success to kick start your goal and learn how to continue it in the long run.
How Can I Find My Macros?
Protein Macro Target: As a guideline, start within 0.75 - 1.0 grams of protein per desired body weight. Next, depending on your activity level, calculate your carbohydrate macro target to be between 35-45% of daily calories. From there, your fat target becomes the remaining calories.
How Can I Apply Macros to When I'm Buying Food at the Grocery Store?
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail! Before heading to the store, make a list of 2-3 lean protein sources, 2-3 fatty protein sources, 3-6 different colored vegetables, 2 starch sources, nuts, seeds, cooking oils, and your favorite snacks. Your macros guide how much food from each category you need. Nutrition labels on the back of meat packages, goods, and produce give the breakdown of macronutrients per serving. You can simply utilize these labels to determine weekly food needs. It may take a little trial and error at first but that’s part of the process!
Start with whole food sources by sticking to the perimeter of the store and then head down your favorite snack aisles.
Specialized macronutrient tracking with quality food choices will positively impact your, resting heart rate, sleep quality and recovery. It may take a few weeks for your body to adjust, but you should start to see a positive correlation around the 4-5 week mark of your new macro targets.
In addition to Macronutrients, there are also Micronutrients: In times of stress, it’s natural to reach for comfort foods to help us cope. This is usually the time when we end up cooking our favorite childhood recipe. But don’t forget to make sure you’re getting in your micronutrients as well. Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are all micronutrients. They take part in many metabolic pathways, making them fundamental to maintain our body’s optimal functionality and therefore health. Some of the most micronutrient rich foods? Fruits and vegetables of course.
So what about snacks? Ah the good old fridge stare down… you know when you open up your fridge every hour or so to look at it with empty eyes, wondering what snack to have next. We’ve all been there, especially recently. Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with snacking, it’s important to understand if it’s coming from a place of boredom or actual hunger. Awareness is key. Take a moment to identify why you are walking into the kitchen and act accordingly. Going for higher volume/less calorie dense snacks will keep you occupied/entertained for longer, whereas a protein rich option can provide a stronger sense of fullness. Don’t forget to continue to hydrate throughout the day as well. This helps curb appetite, not to mention the overall health benefits.
How much macro and micronutrients do we need? Let’s understand Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE): TDEE takes in account all the factors that influence our daily caloric expenditure. One of these factors is the energy required to perform daily NON-exercise activities (NEAT). As we find ourselves forced at home for days on end our NEAT can be severely impacted, especially if we were previously used to being active throughout the day. A decreased NEAT ultimately means a lower TDEE so you must adjust accordingly. You can still make up for it by going on walks, working from a stand up desk and making sure you move around the house every hour or so. The longer we sit and don’t move, the lower our TDEE will be. Also be sure to dedicate time and schedule your at home workout each day then plan your meals and snacks accordingly.