Have you ever heard of the term ‘macros in nutrition’? If not, then this blog post is for you! When it comes to the subject of well-being, there is a tendency among many to question the various methods that define a healthy lifestyle.
Is there one wellness plan that works for all, or is wellness something that should be approached differently from person to person?
Recently, the macro concept in wellness has created a lot of confusion for many people, especially with the popularization of the ketogenic diet. You might be wondering yourself, what are macros in nutrition? Well today, let’s get right into it to learn more!
What Are Macros?
Macros are short for macronutrients, a term that refers to the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in foods. They are the nutrients that the body needs in large quantities. Almost everything you consume is either carbohydrate, fat, or protein, although it’s worth noting that some foods can fall into more than one of these food groups.
Carbohydrates include starches, fiber, and sugars. After consumption, most carbohydrates are converted into glucose, also known as blood sugar, which your body either uses for immediate energy or stores as glycogen for later use in your muscles and liver.
Carbohydrates can be divided into two groups: simple/refined carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Simple/refined carbs like table sugar are easily broken down by the body and can produce a surge in blood sugar. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are made up of longer molecules, so it takes more time for your body to break them down. They also tend to be healthier than simple/refined carbohydrates.
In an average diet, the majority of one’s caloric intake is made up of carbohydrates, with 4 calories for every gram of carbohydrates. Foods like grains, starchy vegetables, beans, dairy products, and fruits all contain carbohydrates.
While it is one of the most contentious topics in health and wellness, many major health organizations advise that you should get 45–65% of your daily caloric intake from carbohydrates.
Protein is essential for functions like immune functions, cell signaling, and the synthesis of hormones, enzymes, and other tissues.
USDA recommends that 10-35% of your daily caloric intake should come from proteins. An alternative measure is that you should consume 0.8-1 grams of protein for every kilogram of your body weight. Whole grains, seeds, nuts, chicken, pork, red meat, dairy, eggs, fish, and legumes are some examples of foods high in protein. Of these foods, lentils and beans are particularly high in protein.
Your body requires fat for energy and vital processes like hormone production, nutrient absorption, and body temperature regulation.
There are three types of fats: trans fat, saturated fat, and unsaturated fat.
- Trans fats are found largely in fried and processed foods. For the most part, it’s best to avoid trans fats as much as possible because they are unhealthy.
- Saturated fats are commonly found in animal products like red meat, sausage, cheese, and dairy products. There is an increased risk (1) of heart disease that is associated with excessive consumption of saturated fat.
- Unsaturated fats are mostly present in plant-based foods like nuts and avocados. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for heart health, can be found in fatty fish and flaxseed. Certain nuts and vegetable oils contain omega-6 fatty acids, which are beneficial when consumed in moderation.
It’s generally recommended that fats should make up 20-35% of your total daily caloric intake. But because fats contain 9 calories per gram, fats constitute the macronutrient with the most calories.
What is a Macro Diet?
You may or may not have heard about macronutrients and the macro diet before. In the last few years, athletes and bodybuilders have become increasingly interested in the macro diet. The idea behind the macro diet is pretty simple: You put more emphasis on consuming a set quantity of macronutrients than setting a daily calorie limit.
Some proponents of the diet believe that tracking macros help people lose weight and reach their fitness and health goals. However, there are some risks associated with the macro diet, such as not getting enough of certain vitamins and minerals, or eating disorders if one gets too restrictive with their diet.
Why Are Macros Important?
Genetics, activity level, and individual goals all affect how much a person needs each macronutrient. There’s no one answer for everyone. So to achieve a truly balanced dietary plan, your goal should be to eat as many different types of food as possible. That’s why macronutrients are important – they form the cornerstone of nutrition, and a dietitian can help you find your sweet spot.
Below is the recommended macronutrient distribution according to the Dietary Guideline for Americans (2020-2025), prepared by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):
- 10-35% of calories from protein
- 20-35% of calories from fats
- <10% of saturated fatty acids
- 45-65% of calories from carbohydrates
This distribution recommendation was developed to lower the chance of one developing chronic illnesses, including obesity and cardiovascular disease. You should be aware that these ranges can change depending on factors like age and pregnancy.
How To Balance Macros?
We get that meal planning can be a bit of a fuss. That’s why we’d like to share with you MyPlate, an App recommended by The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, to make sure that you’re getting the right amount of macronutrients. MyPlate helps you follow the recommendations outlined in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans so that you can help you work on tracking macros.
MyPlate encourages you to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Fruit should make up slightly less than ¼ of your plate, while vegetables make up at least ¼ of the plate. The App then encourages you to fill the remaining half of the plate with lean protein and grains (preferably whole grains). Lean protein and grains should each make up around ¼ of your plate. It also pushes you to include 1 serving of dairy per meal. The App pushes you to achieve nutritional equilibrium. With this plate model, you can be sure that you get enough macronutrients from foods.
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