When it comes to nutrition, your body asks for 6 things from you: water, vitamins, minerals, good fat, lean protein and plenty of carbohydrates. The ratio of the last 3 items is what we call our macros. When I switched to eating 100% whole foods several years ago, I lost 25 pounds in 4 months and I’ve never looked back. There are times, however, when my weight fluctuates by more than a pound or two and when that happens, my macros gets more attention.
Macros are the ratio of carbs, protein and fat in your food. Understanding it is a powerful tool to have under your belt when you want to really take your program up a notch or you want to end a plateau. Understanding your food proportions is a great way to get results. If you really want it, you have to log what you eat. I use Myfitnesspal.com, but any food logging system will work. Before I share a basic understanding and some tips on macros, I will caution you that there are more important aspects of nutrition to focus on prior to looking at macros.
The first focus should always be getting enough calories. Staying above a minimum of 1200 calories allows your body to function properly avoiding having to “steal” energy from your cell stores which can be very dangerous if they are especially busy repairing or fighting disease. A very close second importance is keeping your calories clean and easy for your body to process. Next comes self care, forgiveness for imperfections and celebration of each victory, no matter how small. This is what keeps you moving forward. I have to assume you’re rocking these top three concerns to move on to the balance of what we eat and how that impacts fat loss, beginning with the three components of macros.
Carbohydrates: I hear about the evils of carbs quite often and see a good number of low carb diets. My opinion, and it’s a strong one, is that this is unhealthy and takes dieters in the wrong direction. For most clean eaters, carbs should make up around half of our macros. Vegetables are carbs. Fruits are carbs. Whole grains are carbs. If grains don’t make you feel good, stick to the vegetables and try sprouted grains or gluten free oatmeal instead. We need carbs to thrive. Steering clear of sugary carbs that offer little in nutrition is an excellent idea.
Lean Protein: The reason I add “lean” to the description is that a significant reason for obesity in this country is an excess of fat, sugar and protein. By using up all of your fat percentage eating fattier meats like beef and pork, you leave very little room for the good fats like salmon, avocado, olive oil and egg yolks. It’s important to keep your fats varied, so keep your protein as lean as you can and plant based whenever possible. Here’s a list that will help you with protein choices: http://1fwtraining.com/nutrition/what-should-i-eat/protein-sources/
Good fats: I have very little trouble getting my good fats in. They are abundant and I love them. I listed a few previously, but the list is long and delicious. Keep your fats changing each day. If you love dairy, enjoy organic grass fed milks and cheeses, but leave room for plant fats like avocado, olives, nuts and seeds. Keeping fats in balance is hard work for most of us. Please check out my blog on this specific aspect of macros maintenance: http://1fwtraining.com/controlling-the-fat-in-food-even-the-good-fats/ and why you should limit your dairy option, https://1fwtraining.com/reframing-the-dairy-debate/
To give you an idea of how macros plays a part in meals, I have a list of my most common “easy meals” and how they look from a macros perspective. These are not menu plans! They have a severe shortage of vegetables, the cornerstone of healthy eating. These are quick meals used as fall back plans when you don’t have time to prepare a well balanced meal but are far healthier than fast food or packaged meals.
As you take a look at the various meals (shown at the very bottom of this page), you will see how some meals are high protein and others low; some are very high fat and others low in carbs. Each meal does not have to be perfectly balanced for your macros. Hitting a nutrient ratio goal should be per day, not per meal. It is best to have all food groups present in each meal and boost a lack of any single nutrient with a snack focused on what’s out of balance. Having perfect macros is difficult enough each day, much less for each meal. Go for a daily balance and keep your sanity I say! One caution to this rule is protein, which I recommend that you keep below a third of your daily grams* at any given meal to not overload your system’s ability to process it effectively and safely.
When I plan my meals with macros in mind, an important step is prelogging. Unless you’ve logged for a long time and eat much of the same stuff repeatedly, it’s hard to guess with these percentages. The truth is in the logging, followed by what you actually eat, of course.When you prelog, you’ll see that it all works out in the end once you identify shortages and repair the balance before you eat the meals. If you read my last blog http://1fwtraining.com/easy-meals-making-it-work-for-you/, you’ll hear about layering when building a quick meal. These charts below, built by layering, show you how you can balance meals as you go by using out-of-balance meals to take you to your macros goal by the end of the day.
Macros is a valuable skill and one worth working at if you have goals that seem out of reach. There are times for living life without over thinking it and times for knuckling down and fine tuning to reach your goals. Finding the balance is what life’s all about.
*To learn more about macros and to find the right ratio for your lifestyle and goals, join us at www.1fwtraining.com ~Lorrie
***Values obtained from MyFitnssPal.com may or may not be exact. Variances based on member entries may exist.
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