Making Friends with Nutritional Macros
When the topics of weight loss, fat burning, and boosting metabolism come up, a great deal of the discussion usually includes counting calories. In fact, there are lots of apps that can help you count them, seemingly making your weight loss efforts easier. What if you were to count nutritional macros instead? What would happen then?
What are nutritional macros?
Nutritional macros (macronutrients) are the three primary categories of nutrients you get from the food you eat: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Each macro provides a specific amount of calories:
1 gram of fat provides 9 calories
1 gram of carbohydrates provides 4 calories
1 gram of protein provides 4 calories
If you want to lose weight, one of the things you can do is count calories or macros, but if you count the latter, you will have important nutritional information that will not only allow you to lose weight, but improve your body composition, metabolic health, energy level, and overall health as well. That is, counting macros gives you a more complete and holistic look at your nutritional intake.
Read about metabolic health—what you need to know
Each food choice you make contains different levels of macros, and each macro provides your body with different benefits. When you focus on nutritional macros you know where you are getting your calories from and the impact they can have on your health.
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How many grams of each nutritional macro should you be consuming every day? This varies for every individual, depending on your health status, personal goals, and other factors, like activity levels. However, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine provides the following recommendations for adults:
10-35 percent of calories from protein
20 to 35 percent from fats
45 to 65 percent from carbohydrates
You can calculate your nutritional macro needs using a series of steps that does involve some math skills! You can also use a specialized device that personalizes your dietary goals by identifying your macro needs on a daily basis based on your metabolic flexibility. A Lumen can be used for this. Right now, you can get your own Lumen with a $30 discount with the code NS30 .
Nutritional macros and calories
When you count macros, you are paying attention to the quality of your food rather than the quantity. It helps you focus on reaching your weight, fitness, and overall health goals by noting the type of calories you are consuming rather than just the number.
For example, say you have a daily calorie goal of 1,800 calories. What is the optimal way to achieve that goal while also providing your body with the level of nutrition it needs to function at its best? A medium doughnut will put a 250-calorie dent in your daily goal, but what about nutritional value? It provides 14 grams of fat, 3.7 grams of protein, and 29 grams of carbohydrates, and very few micronutrients like vitamins and minerals.
Compare this with two cups of lentil soup (278 calories), which contains 5.6 grams of fat, 18.6 grams of protein, and 40 grams of carbs. These two food choices have about the same number of calories, yet the nutritional values are miles apart, and your body will know the difference!
The doughnut, for example, contains saturated fat, 14 grams of sugar (a fast-absorbing carb) as part of the carbohydrate total, and poor levels of vitamins and minerals. The sugar will elevate your blood glucose levels, causing your body to make more insulin, which in turn interferes with your body’s ability to burn fat until sugar levels return to normal.
The lentil soup has complex carbohydrates (slow-absorbing carbs), which don’t cause spiking sugar levels and metabolize slower. Although protein and carbs have the same amount of calories per gram, protein is more difficult to digest and so burns more calories in the process. Protein is also critical for supporting and promoting muscle function and mass.
For those who love carbs—and that’s a lot of people!—getting the most nutritional value and satisfaction from your carbohydrate faves can be a challenge unless you know how to make some wise swaps. The goal is to focus on unrefined, slow-absorbed carbs rather than processed, fast-absorbed ones. If you are ready to reduce calories and carbs while boosting your nutritional intake, check out these tasty carb swaps.
Hemp milk or coconut milk vs dairy milk: 0 gr (plus a bonus of omega-3 fatty acids) or 2 gr vs 12 gr per cup
Cauliflower rice for white rice: 7 gr vs 22 gr per ½ cup
Lettuce leaf wrap vs bread slice: 1 gr vs 12 gr (approximate)
Zucchini spirals vs linguine: 4 gr vs 35 gr (bonus: zucchini is gluten-free!)
Plain yogurt vs fruit-flavored yogurt: 13 gr vs 47 gr per cup
Cucumber slices vs traditional crackers: