By: Dr. Keith Kantor
The term “macronutrients” has become a popular amongst the fitness and diet industry; several health experts use macronutrients as a tool for teaching patients the right amounts of foods to eat. Logging macronutrients can help patients track their own food intake regularly, enjoy their favorite foods in moderation and most importantly they are accountable to what they are eating daily. There is a common hash tag #ITFYM (if it fits your macros) giving examples of how to eat according to this nutrition lifestyle and still enjoy the foods you love in moderation. There are benefits to becoming familiar with macronutrient counting and it is also important to learn more about micronutrient requirements.
What is the difference between macro and micro?
Macronutrients are foods in the form of protein, carbohydrates, fats, dietary fiber, and fluids that your body needs in substantial amounts to function and stay alive. Micronutrients, as opposed to macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fat, fiber and fluids), are comprised of vitamins and minerals, which are required in small quantities to ensure normal metabolism, growth and physical well being.
How does this all tie together?
In order to see results such as weight loss, body fat loss, improved health, reduced risk for disease such as diabetes, heart disease, etc. a qualified health professional like a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can recommend specific amounts and or ratios of macro nutrients to eat daily. The next step is to obtain a tracking APP, there are several options out there, some of activity monitors such as Jawbone, Apple, Fitbit have food logging synched up with their programs, another popular APP is myfitnesspal.
How do you track your food and macronutrients?
Be honest about your portions, you may need to measure out your food for the first week or so to get an idea of what a cup, tablespoon, or ounce looks like. It may seem like you only had a cup of spaghetti but most plates of spaghetti are actually 2-3 cups. There are also brand names that have already been entered into most food tracking data bases, meaning you can type in “ Sushi California Roll” and it will pop up rather then entering in all of the ingredients in the sushi roll.
How do you know what specific amounts or ratios to track and for what goal?
|Historical Government Guidelines (old food guide pyramid)||Too high in carbohydrates, too low in fat and protein. These guidelines were developed based off of poor research that fat contributes to heart disease and whole grains should be the foundation of your diet. These ratios actually promote insulin resistance and weight gain||50-55%||15-20%||20%||15-20g. / Day|
|Healthy Lifestyle/Weight Loss/ Vitality||Promotes healthy blood sugars due to moderate carbohydrate and sugar intake and high fiber. It is anti-inflammatory due to higher percentage of fats (assuming they are heart healthy fats).||25-35%||25-30%||40-50%||25-35g. /day|
|Body Building||This is a common ratio for competitive figure and bodybuilding athletes. It is hard to maintain because the lower fat intake can promote hunger and the higher protein content can strain the kidneys if the protein is not truly being used to repair and grow muscle tissue. This is not recommended for long-term lifestyle.||40%||40%||20%||25g. /day|
Loop Hole Alert- Quality of food can make or break you.
Tracking macronutrients with low quality food like fast food, or processed meats, etc. Will still work against your progress.
Protein should come from certified all natural meats, seafood and poultry. The dyes, antibiotics and steroids can damage your metabolism and hormonal balance even if the low quality food fits into your macronutrient targets.
Carbohydrates should be mainly consumed form plant based foods like fruits and vegetables, this will also ensure that you are meeting your dietary fiber goals. Limit intake of breads, pastas, crackers, etc. especially from white bleached flours. If you consume a diet that does not meet your fruit and vegetable intake, you not only will not meet your fiber requirements but you will increase your risk for certain diseases despite your macro nutrients being in the right ranges daily.
Fats are all not created equal. Avoid processed fats, especially trans fatty acids. Healthy fats include, nuts, seeds, oils, avocado, and grass fed butters. Just because a processed pastry fits into your macronutrient count does not mean it is healthy and will not impact your health negatively.
Fluids and Hydration Consuming half of your body weight in ounces of unflavored alkaline hydroxide rich water is a very important part of the macronutrient lifestyle and diet. The water has to be plain and unsweetened even if the sweetener does not have calories, it is still artificial and can impact your overall health specifically blood sugar stability. If you weight 180 pounds then you should be consuming 90 ounces of water daily. We encourage people to drink three 30-ounce water cups/bottle daily.
What about counting calories?
To be honest calorie counting was the beginning of the end to our population because we tuned our body off to hunger cues and just tried to reach a target calories goal despite what our body truly needed. An example of how crazy calorie counting is- two doughnuts will give you about 400 calories and a spinach salad with salmon and olive oil and vinegar will run you about 700-900 calories depending on the size of the salmon. Metabolically the doughnuts will spike insulin and then drop, resulting in more cravings for sugar and metabolically the body does not burn fat efficiently. The salmon salad will promote stable blood sugars, and the person will feel satisfied after eating it due to the healthy fats and the metabolism will continue to burn fat for fuel.
Calorie restriction is dangerous for those who are exercising intensely regularly. Cutting calories will slow metabolism and make it more difficult to lose weight in the long run. Focusing on macronutrient balance will improve metabolism, specifically the hormone insulin, resulting in a lifestyle that is easy to maintain and an occasional treat will not be as detrimental.
Exceptions to macronutrient counting.
Those who suffer from organ failure (early and late stages) will need a low protein, low fat diet.
Micronutrients are not as easy to track but you also do not need them in such large quantities as macronutrients. A good way to ensure that you are getting in the recommended amounts of micronutrients is to consume a high quality vitamin/mineral supplement in addition to adhering to your macronutrient ratios. The different macronutrients contain different micronutrients, for example vegetables and fruits contain vitamin C and proteins contain zinc, both are micronutrients that you need for your body to function and they are found in different food groups.
Sodium is a micronutrient that can be tracked daily and should for optimal heart health. Avoid processed foods like frozen meals, prepackaged noodles, etc. These items have a huge amount of sodium that can increase your risk for heart disease. Sticking to a diet that only has natural occurring sodium like fruits, vegetables, unprocessed all natural meat, seafood, and poultry is best. You can control the amount of high quality salt you add when cooking if needed at all. Aim to have less then 3000mg. of sodium per day, if you have hypertension aim for 2500 mg. per day or less.
Magnesium and vitamin D are the most common micronutrient deficiencies in America. Vitamin D can be obtained for absorbing sunlight for 10-20 minutes per day, a balanced diet and a supplement. If you are not deficient then aim for 1000 IU of vitamin D per 25 pounds of your body weight. Magnesium deficiencies can be recognized when you have chronic muscle tightness and poor sleep. Magnesium can be found in nuts, seeds and vegetables, as well as a high quality supplement of 200-500mg/daily is recommended.
Track your food and aim for the healthy lifestyle macronutrient ratios, consume a variety of foods, specifically fruits and vegetables to ensure your micronutrients requirements are being met in addition to a high quality multi-vitamin mineral supplement. Consume at least half your body weight in ounces of water per day.