I recently met with Lachlan Parker – an excellent Boot Camp Personal Trainer and founder of Syd Fit Club here on Sydney’s North Shore. While we were chatting, we started talking about food for fitness and Counting Macronutrients. As a result, I wrote this blog post to break it down and give you a quick guide to what, how and why.
What is “Counting Macros”?
In any food that provides the human body with energy (calories), that energy either comes in the form of carbs, fats, proteins or a combination of the three. Counting Macros is the process of tracking your food intake and adjusting your meals to include a defined ratio of Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins.
What are Macro Nutrients?
Fats are needed for energy, structure and function. Every cell in your body is held together by fat molecules and many of your hormones require fat or cholesterol to be produced. Fats are responsible for our inflammatory and anti-inflammatory response and play a part in our mental health too. Fats are vitally important. You can read more about it in my Which fats are healthy? blog. Fats are found in cold pressed oils, butter, avocado, nuts, meat, skin, and fatty fish.
Proteins are also important for hormonal function as well as enzyme production, immune function, cell signalling and the building of our tissues. Proteins are found in eggs, fish, muscle meats, organ meats and lentils.
Carbohydrates include sugars, starches and fibre. Digestible carbs get broken down in your tummy and enter your blood stream as sugar. Carbohydrate is the only nutrient that the body doesn’t need to receive through the diet but when consumed as leafy greens and dark nutritious vegetables it comes with a lot of really beneficial micronutrients (discussed below.) Carbohydrates are found in leaves, vegetables, beans, dairy, fruit and grains.
How to count macros
- “Counting macros” means counting macronutrients. To do this you’ll need to log everything you’re eating into an app such as MyFitnessPal or Cronometer. Once you log the food, you’ll be able to see what the ratios are between each macronutrient.
A good starting point is to aim to start at:
- 40% HEALTHY FATS
- 30% PROTEIN
- 30% CARBOHYDRATES
After you eat each meal, take notice of how you feel immediately after you finish, how you feel an hour later, two hours later and so on until your next meal. Based on how you’re feeling, you can adjust your ratios. If you feel really over-full when you finish your meal, you might have had too much carbohydrate. If you feel hungry before it’s time for your next meal, you might not have included enough fats and proteins
A note on micronutrients
Counting macros doesn’t inherently consider MICRONUTRIENTS.
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. Your body needs a surprising amount of vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are necessary for energy processing, immune function, blood clotting, metabolism, mineral absorption and many other functions. Minerals are important for bone health, fluid balance, nerve transmission, stomach acid production, immunity, blood pressure, reproduction and so much more.
Vitamins and Minerals are found in leafy greens, darkly coloured vegetables, fruits, berries, fungi, good quality meats, organ meats and bone broths.
Is it right for you?
Not every tool is right for every person. I personally had a lot of success from looking at my macronutrient ratios because it helped me understand more about the impact food has on my body and it helped me get my insulin resistance under control. (You can read more about that in My Story).
Contrarily, I’ve worked with clients before that reported that tracking their food so closely was very triggering for eating disorder tendencies.
As with all diet and lifestyle changes, I would encourage you to stay in touch with your body and respond to your own needs. If you are feeling like this method is giving you great healing or insight, you can keep going, but if you feel like this is not right for you, you should listen to your gut and find something more suited to your needs.
My number one piece of advice when it comes to food is to focus on crowding a lot of nutrient-dense food IN to your diet and don’t focus on how to cut things OUT.
Need more guidance?
If you would like help with this, or if you have any health concerns I would love to coach and develop you in your health journey. You and I could work together to execute your personalised nutrition plan. The aim is to provide you with the tools, assessments and coaching that you need at that particular time in your health and nutritional progress.
I could help you learn these concepts through Food Coaching or we could deal with your underlying health issues together in one-on-one Nutritional Therapy Consultations. You could call or email me, and I’d be happy to talk through an action plan with you.