There are so many ways to approach nutrition, but the method that I want to talk about today (which I personally follow) is counting macros–also known as flexible dieting.
First off, a lot of you may not be familiar with what macros are. Macros stands for macronutrients, which simply means nutrients that are needed in large quantities in order for the body to function properly. There are three types of macronutrients which are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. These are the main building blocks that make up all foods. It is important that a person’s diet contains a healthy balance of all three macronutrients because each macronutrient has its own individual purpose within the body.
- Protein: Protein is essential for building muscle and repairing tissue. It is a building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Protein is also used to produce enzymes, hormones, and other chemicals in the body. The recommended amount of protein for an active individual is about 1g of protein per pound of body weight. This is a lot more protein than most people realize, which is why it is so important to make sure there is a protein source included with every meal. Some examples of quality protein sources are chicken, turkey, pork, fish, lean beef, protein powder, and egg whites.
- Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are used to make glucose, which is our body’s main source of energy. Glucose can either be used right away, or stored for later use. Additionally, if the source of carbohydrate is complex (meaning it is whole grain), it contains fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals used to fuel the body. Sources of complex carbohydrates include whole grain bread, pasta, oats, barley, etc.
- Fats: Fat is the major storage form of energy in the body. Because of this, it is considered to be a fuel source. Fat is also necessary for vitamin absorption and maintaining proper hormone balance. Moreover, fat cells insulate the body and regulate its temperature. You need to be careful, however, because there are many bad sources of fat including processed foods, fried foods, dairy, and certain meats. Good sources of fat include olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and fatty-fish such as salmon.
Now that you have an idea of what macros are and foods that fall under each category, I want to discuss why I support the idea of counting macros. Counting macros means that instead of just eating a specific amount of calories, you follow a set amount of protein, carbs, and fats. This is much more beneficial than counting calories because it makes sure that your diet is well-rounded. By simply counting calories, you have no idea the amount of nutrients you are getting from the food you are eating. By counting macros, you are making sure that your body gets the proper balance of nutrients it needs from each macronutrient group. Additionally, counting macros ensures that you are accurately keeping track of the food you eat. Many food companies label their products differently when it comes to calories, so this method is not always precise. For example, certain companies subtract the calories contributed from fiber out of the total calorie amount because technically, fiber is not absorbed by the body. This means that you may not always be accurate when just counting calories; however, when looking at the macros listed on a nutrition label, everything is accounted for which leads to greater precision in terms of your nutrition.
Counting macros has been a huge help for me. One of the best things that results from counting macros is it eliminates the title of “good” and “bad” foods: nothing is considered to be “bad” if eaten in moderation. Counting macros has really helped me with this concept because it allows me to fit in foods that I would have previously thought to be as “unhealthy” into my diet while still hitting my nutrition goals. By looking at foods this way, it allowed me to create a healthier relationship with food instead of restricting myself. Counting macros also allowed me to look at food as nutrients instead of just calories. For example, a piece of pizza, which is usually considered to be “unhealthy,” is not just x amount of calories, rather it is a source of carbs from the crust, fat from the cheese, and protein from any meat added to it. Of course, you can’t fill your diet with only pizza even though it contains a variety of macronutrients, but it can be fit into your diet while still allowing you to hit your macros. Lastly, counting macros is a very realistic and sustainable approach to nutrition. Counting macros allows you to continue to eat the foods that you love, just in different portion sizes, without having to go on some crazy restrictive diet plan in order to meet your goals. Instead, this method can be easily incorporated into anyone’s lifestyle; it just takes some practice learning how to accurately keep track of your food.