WHAT THE F@#$ ARE MACRONUTRIENTS?!

BY LEEANN SMITH WEINTRAUB, MPH, RD.

To make sense of a macro-based diet, you need to understand what macronutrients actually ARE — remember your biology class? It’ll probably come back to you (or not) that there are “macronutrients” and “micronutrients.” The micronutrients are the ones that you only need in little amounts, like Iodine, Iron, Vitamin A, etc... but the macronutrients are the heavy lifters; the big boys you need in large amounts to fuel up your body. These fall into three primary groups: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Carbohydrates include grains, starchy veggies like potatoes and carrots, fruits, and honey. Protein foods are meat, chicken, fish, and eggs. Oils, butter and avocados are fats. However, most foods don’t fit neatly into one box and provide more than one macronutrient. For example, BEANS: our favorite musical legumes have plenty of both carbohydrates and proteins. Nuts have fats and protein.


MACRONUTRIENTS: WHY YOU NEED‘EM ALL

Because fats and carbs have been such dirty words, you might be stroking your chin and wondering if you could diabolically cheat the system and JUST do the proteins, carbs and let fats be damned. Sorry Charlie. You need ‘em all.The body needs carbohydrates in relatively large quantities because carbs are the main source of easy energy. If you’re getting enough carbs, your body will be able to use the fats and proteins for other roles like keeping your body’s innards and muscles functioning prop-erly. Plus, the high-fibers keeps your plumbing working. The USDA recommends adults get 45-65% of calories from carbs, the low range, like 40-50% or lower, may promote metabolic changes for weight loss.

Protein has had pretty good PR, so you’re probably aware of its importance for bodily struc-ture, function, growth, and repair. Hormones and enzymes, which play essential roles in the body are made up of and require protein. The USDA suggests that 10-35% of calories come from protein. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean meats all day, everyday—there’s tons of plant-based proteins too, like almonds, chia, peanuts, and peanut butter.Carbs have a bad rap, but nobody has it worse than fats. Fats are always the kid picked last for kickball (if that kid also happened to be really tasty).But don’t fear the fats: turns out, they’re really vital for absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and the creation of hormones. Fats help protect the internal organs and are the most ef-ficient source of energy storage in the body. According to the USDA, 20-35% of calories should come from fats.


Crafting Your Macronutrient Ratio

Here’s what an 2000 calorie meal plan might look like:

Carbs 2000 calories x 50% = 1000 calories ÷ 4 (calories per gram) = 250 grams of carbs

Protein 2000 calories x 25% = 500 calories ÷ 4 (calories per gram) = 125 grams protein

Fats 2000 calories x 25% = 500 calories ÷ 9 (calories per gram) = 55 grams fats



FIVE TIPS TO MASTERING MACRONUTRIENTS

  1. Don’t starve yourself! You need carbs, proteins, and fats in large but balanced quantities to help your body maintain its best functioning.
  2. A macro-based diet isn’t about counting calories. It’s about creating your own comprehensive plan.
  3. And unlike deprivation diets, a macro-based diet should leave you feeling satiated and energized while getting you leaner.
  4. It’s not about “good food” or “bad food”, it’s all about the balance.
  5. Be flexible! Try a couple different combos and see what’s working best for your lifestyle and your body. Keep healthy and keep happy.

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