Look, there’s a lot of content out there about nutrition. Some of it is great: peer reviewed journals, for instance. Most of it is junk. Seriously, I just typed in “best foods for weight loss” and got back 22,400,000 results. So, where does someone serious about nutrition, or serious about taking their nutrition seriously, even start?
One word: macronutrients.
Ok, but what is a macronutrient?
Pretty straight forward, right? It really is. It’s not a fad, it’s not a diet. It’s straight up nutrition that your body needs. It’s the same nutrients you’re ancestors needed and it’t the same stuff your progeny will need.
While their will always be fad diets with little to no scientific backing, there is a lot of scientific research behind macronutrients and how our bodies use them.
What You Need to Know
Our bodies require macronutrients to provide the energy necessary to maintain body functions and to allow us to carry out daily activities. As with everything, an individual’s specific needs will vary based on genetics, height, weight, activity level, etc. In general, the breakdown is: carbs, proteins, fats.
But wait! Fats were evil in the 90s and now carbs are the devil!
I know. Fads, remember?
The truth is as simple as this:
Eating too many calories will make you fat.
Fat doesn’t make you fat. Carbs don’t make you fat. Proteins don’t make you fat (or fit for that matter). It’s too much of any or all of these that lead to weight gain.
*We’re speaking gen pop here and not those who are afflicted with other health complications. It can definitely get dicey out there.
What You Need to Do
Keep a food journal for a couple of days. Be honest with yourself, you don’t have to show it to anyone. I know at our gym trainers like to use MyFitnessPal but use whatever you will use consistently.
*Another asterisk, I know. If you have had trouble with counting calories in the past (i.e. anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa) skip this step if you think it might cause undue stress and triggers.
Evaluate how much of eat macronutrient you are consuming and see how balanced it is. A lot of us eat way too many processed carbs and fats and not enough healthy carbs and proteins.
Here’s a cute little chart I found that can help (it’s not perfect but it’s succinct).
What Should My Macronutrient Breakdown Look Like?
Again, everyone is different. There are online calculators to help, but it’s still an online calc. It’ll give you an idea of whether you’re on track or not.
For example, BodyBuilding.com offers a macronutrient calculator.
When I plug on my age, sex, height, weight, goal, and activity level it gives me my breakdown. I’ve converted the grams to percentages below to make it easier to digest (ha!).
Your numbers will be different depending on all of the variables above. I’m short, very active, and pretty much in maintenance mode. I used to have a desk job, so my activity level was less. Interestingly enough, when I change that one variable my percentages stay the same.
You know what changed? The number of grams of each macronutrient I needed, by about 100g. So start with percentages, then look at total grams.
Remember, too much of anything can make you gain weight.
Remember too that cutting a particular macronutrient out of your diet, or reducing it to obscenely low levels, could have adverse effects you’re not considering. Plus, don’t you want a little bit of everything, everyday? I do.
It’s not magic, it’s science. As your goals change, so too will your macronutrient requirements.
For the next few days keep track of your food intake and activity level. If you’re not sure where to begin, here’s a list of a few macronutrients to get you started.