Mastering Macros For A Balanced Diet: Your Essential Guide
09 Nov 2023
One weight loss trend that's been around for quite some time is counting macros for a balanced diet. This isn't just basic calorie counting: It's about paying attention to key nutrients and taking in the daily recommended portion your body needs to maintain your energy levels and overall well being. When you find your optimal balance and amounts of macro nutrients, you take a major step toward reaching your health goals. And here's how to do that with food.
What are macros?
Macros, short for "macronutrients," are the three vital nutrients your body needs to function optimally throughout the day: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. They're different from micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, that are less building blocks than important supplements.
Macros make up the calorie count of your meals, and no one food item contains equal amounts of all three. Overindulging in one nutrient over the others can lead to poor health outcomes.
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What are the three macros?
Proteins are the macro that fuels the repair and maintenance of tissue, especially muscles. They're also behind your cell regeneration, and getting enough of them is key to maintaining a healthy immune system. In fact, the body contains thousands of proteins constructed from nitrogen-based building blocks called amino acids.
There are roughly four calories in every gram of protein. Nutrition experts often recommend getting 10% to 35% of your daily calories from protein sources. Foods such as meat, eggs, tofu, beans, and nuts are all excellent protein sources.
Carbs include sugar, starch, and fiber, and they're the body's primary energy source. Your body converts carbs to glucose, which fuels the critical cellular processes that keep your brain sharp during the day.
For some people, carbohydrates are associated with poor sources of nutrition, such as white bread, but there are healthier alternatives. In fact, nutritious carbs are the foundation of a balanced diet, helping you maintain high activity levels throughout the day. In short - not all carbs are "bad" carbs!
There are four calories in one gram of carbs, and getting 45% to 65% of your daily calories from carbs is a solid range. Food rich in carbohydrates includes more simple carbs like potatoes and rice, as well as more complex carbs like fruit, beans, and whole grain oats.
Fat helps your body store energy over long periods so that you can keep going for a while without food. Additionally, fat protects your nerves, regulates your hormones, promotes nutrient absorption, and helps you manage your body temperature.
For many, fats add flavor and taste to many meals. As a result, fat has been falsely conflated with all fats being bad for your health. However, many fats are vital for healthy bodily function, though some should indeed be eaten in moderation. For example, saturated fats should comprise at most 10% of your diet. In contrast, healthy fats are unsaturated and can lead to better health outcomes.
Fats contain nine calories per gram, and a great target intake range is 20% to 30%. High-fat foods rich in healthy fats include olive oil, avocado, fatty fish, and meat.
What is a macro-balanced diet?
Counting macros starts with knowing your recommended daily calorie intake. This is easy if you plug your body weight and daily activity level into an online calculator. Alternatively, you can calculate how much you need for yourself using the below formulas.
Assigned male at birth : Calories/day = 10 * weight (kg) + 6.25 * height (cm) - 5 * age (years) + 5
Assigned female at birth : Calories/day = 10 * weight (kg) + 6.25 * height (cm) - 5 * age (y) - 161
Once you know your daily calorie needs, finding the right balance of macronutrients is a matter of ratios. As a refresher, some ideal target ranges include:
Proteins : 10% - 35% of total calories
Fats : 20% - 35% of total calories
Carbs : 45% - 65% of total calories
However, it's essential to pay attention to the sources of each macro you eat - some are healthier than others. For example, you can eat more of the fats you get from fish than the fats you get from red meat.
What is the right macro diet for you?
45 - 65% carbohydrates
10 - 35% protein
20 - 35% fat
This is a diet based on standard recommendations from nutrition experts. It's often a good starting point if you're not used to closely watching what you eat. Chances are it'll lead you to better health outcomes without too many challenges.
In practice, you'll likely fill around half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, a quarter with high-fiber carbs, and the last quarter with protein. You'll also prioritize using healthy fats, like olive oil, while cooking.
10 - 15% carbohydrates
45 - 50% protein
35 - 45% fat
The paleo diet is a great choice if weight management is your top goal. Increasing fat and protein from the traditional diet may orient the body to burn that instead of glucose. This is also a good meal plan for gluten-sensitive people or people who get brain fog after eating pasta, potatoes, or rice. It's also recommended for people who only engage in light exercise.
5% - 10% carbohydrates
30 - 35% protein
55% - 60% fat
The keto diet is a more extreme version of paleo, with the goal of burning fat for fuel rather than carbs. The drastic reduction in carbohydrates in your diet puts may put your body in a metabolic state called ketosis. In this state, your body is said to be very efficient at burning fats.
What are the benefits of a macro diet?
Meeting weight management goals. A balance of macronutrients is often more important to managing your weight than your calorie count. For example, suppose you're only eating 2,000 calories a day but most of your meals comprise simple carbs. If not burned, these low-quality carbs are often converted to fat, which your body stores.
Building lean muscle mass. Paying attention to macros can help you find the best nutrient ratio for your body to help promote fat reduction and muscle development.
Managing blood sugar levels. The diminished carb count in certain diets can help control insulin production and blood sugar levels if you live with type 2 diabetes.
Maintain a healthy macro balance with Meal Village
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