In our previous post, we talked about the importance of dropping the word “diet” and replacing it with the word “lifestyle.”
Now, let’s start learning more about some habits for a healthy lifestyle.
First, we want to tackle something we get questions about a lot: macronutrients.
Contrary to prior belief, counting macros is no longer just for athletes and bodybuilders. A lot of people have begun monitoring their macronutrients to help gain a better understanding of portion control and balanced eating.
In fact, if you want to start counting macros, the good news is that it’s fairly simple.
So, what are macros?
The foods you eat contain nutrients that give your body energy. These nutrients are categorized as macronutrients and micronutrients.
Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals found in the food you eat. Your body only needs micronutrients in small amounts.
On the other hand, macronutrients are the three types of nutrients that give your body the most energy: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. But not all macronutrients are created equal.
For an obvious example, when choosing a carbohydrate option, a bowl of oatmeal would be a healthier choice than a donut. Technically, both are carbohydrates, but your body isn’t going to respond the same. You get the idea.
Here are some examples of healthy choices in each macronutrient category:
- Carbohydrates: leafy greens and other vegetables, whole grains, fresh fruit and berries
- Proteins: lean red meat, poultry, white fish, eggs
- Fats: olive oil, avocado, almonds, almond butter
When it comes to tracking your macronutrients, it’s important to remember that ratios are not one-size-fits-all and can be customized to support any fitness goal.
First, you have to start by determining your macronutrient ratio. These numbers depend on several factors including your goals, age, and activity level. A sedentary male or female with a goal to lose fat will have a different macronutrient ratio than a highly active male or female with similar goals.
Here is a good baseline to start with:
- If you exercise an hour or less daily: 30% protein, 40% carbohydrates, 30% fat.
- If you exercise for one to two hours daily: 30% protein, 45%carbs, 25% fat.
- If you exercise for more than two hours daily, we suggest that you consult a certified sports dietician. Higher physical output requires more personalization and monitoring.
Now, to figure out the actual number of macros you need in grams and how to keep track of them:
- Determine how many calories you need to eat daily. Similar to figuring out your macronutrient ratios, determining your daily caloric needs requires data such as your age, weight and activity level. Use an online calculator to help you find your calorie sweet spot no matter what your goal.
- Now, add up your macros. It’s time to figure out exactly how many grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fat you need to consume on a daily basis. Luckily, there’s a calculator for everything. Just do a simple Google search for a macro calculator.
- Now that you have your macronutrient needs down, you will need to keep track of your daily intake of protein, carbs, and fat so you can start gaining a better understanding of portions, etc. Food tracker apps make counting macros quick and simple. We love the free version of MyFitnessPal. Not only does it make tracking easy with its barcode scan feature, but it’s also available for both Android and iPhone.
The thing to remember is that you are not destined to be counting your macros forever – unless you want to.
Instead, try it for a month. By doing so, you will start getting a better visual understanding of what healthy, balanced portions look like.
That sounds like a healthy lifestyle to us.