If you’ve explored any form of fitness and nutrition over the past few years, you’ve likely heard the word macronutrients. Macronutrients are nutrients that provide the energy needed to maintain body functions and carry out the activities of daily life, and there are three of them – carbohydrates, protein, and fat. When trying to plot out your macronutrients (a.k.a. macros), you’ve likely been confused about what it means and why the ratios tend to shift depending on what diet you choose and what your current goals are. For someone trying to actively lose weight, your macros may look one way. For someone trying to gain weight and build muscle, your macros will look another way. For those already at their ideal weight, you guessed it , completely different ratios needed. To be truly healthy, including the proper macronutrients in your diet is essential, and it’s even more essential to reach your optimal fitness goals. However, even I know that understanding what macros are, why they’re so important, and how to determine the correct ratios can be a bit intimidating. So, let’s take the stress out of it all, and talk about what macronutrients are, and how they will help you achieve your best body!
In recent years, carbs have somehow earned the title of enemy among those trying to lose weight and get fit. However, our body needs carbohydrates to produce the energy we need to get through the day. Although there are some carbs, such as cakes, cookies, and other junk food, that are bad for you, healthy selections of carbs actually provide us with adequate fiber and keep our brains from getting all foggy. These healthy selections include sweet potatoes, brown rice, fruits, and whole grain breads and pastas. Carbohydrates provide the major source of energy to fuel our bodies, and it is recommended that carbohydrates make up 30 – 65% of our total calories.
Protein is and macro that we all need as well, regardless of fitness goals, but much like carbohydrates, not all proteins are created equal. We need protein because our bodies are made of protein which creates about 20 different amino acids, eight of which are essential to allow our bodies to properly function. This means that we must focus on eating the types of protein that contain these essential amino acids. Examples of these proteins include chicken, fish, egg whites, lean steaks, and other animal sourced protein selections. Although some plant-based sources can provide these essential amino acids as well, you would typically need to consume much larger quantities. Overall, it is recommended that protein make up about 10-35% of your overall calories, but you can add a little more if you are lifting heavy and often.
Before we even dive into the recommended amount of fat, let’s first talk through the different kinds of fat and why some are much healthier than others. There are three types of fats: Saturated fat found in fatty meats and full-fat dairy. Trans fat found in junk food, baked goods, and most fast-food options. Unsaturated fat found in nuts, seeds, avocados and certain oils like olive. For a healthier heart, and body overall, it is best to ensure the majority of your fats come from the unsaturated category. Does this mean you can never have fries of chocolate brownies again? Absolutely not! But it does mean food containing saturated and trans fat should only be eaten occasionally, and in small amounts.
Incorporating healthy fat into your diet is essential for your body to function properly. Fats also keep us satiated, meaning we fill full faster and for longer. Overall, it is recommended that healthy, unsaturated fat, makes up about 20 – 35% of our calories.
How to Balance Macronutrients in Your Diet
Properly balancing your macros is really dependent on your overall fitness goals. Macros for a person trying to lose weight will differ from a person trying to gain weight and build muscle. And both will differ from someone who’s reached their fitness goal and just trying to maintain. So, let’s break down the basics of what your macros should look like based on your specific goals.
- Counting Macros for Weight-Loss – If your current fitness goal is weight loss and fat loss, you’ll want to ensure that your macro counts also help you to reduce your calorie intake. Generally speaking, for weight loss, you should aim for 15-30% of your calories from carbs, 35 – 45% of your calories from protein, and 30 – 35% of your calories from fat. Keeping to this ratio will give you the nutrients you need to shred the pounds without sacrificing muscle.
- Counting Macros for Weight/Muscle Gain – If your goal is to gain weight and muscle, your macros will need to allow you to add calories to your diet. Try making 40 – 60% of your calories from carbs, 25 – 35% of your calories from protein, and 15 – 25% of your calories from fat. These ratios will give you the added protein needed to build muscle and gain weight without gaining fat.
- Counting Macros for Maintenance – If you’ve already reached your ideal fitness goals but want to ensure you’re able to maintain all that hard work, then you’ll want to ensure your calories and macros are at a range to help you sustain your goals. To do this, shoot for 30-50% of your calories from carbs, 25 – 35% of your calories from protein, and 25 – 35% of your calories from fat.
Now that you’re well versed on how to manage your macros for your fitness goals, why not up your fitness game? Check out my website for loads of healthy, macro-friendly recipes, articles to help you stay on track with your fitness goals, and some one-on-one SloaneSquad training to ensure your fitness plan is customized for your goals to give you the best results!