Macronutrients, often referred to as macros, can be confusing. Many wonder what are macros in diet and nutrition and what are proper ratios.
Looking for tips on how to automate tasks for a spreadsheet using macros? Then hit the back button now. You are in the wrong spot!
The macros we’re talking about here has to do with food. So if you’re wondering, what are macros in diet and nutrition, you’ve come to the right place….
Macros are the hip, easier way of saying “macronutrients.” Indeed, it is sexier to say “macros” so let’s stick with that….
What are macros in diet and nutrition?
There are three macronutrients in nutrition. Two are essential and one is not required at all.
You’re probably familiar with all three macros. They are:
If you’re wondering what are macros in diet, and especially what role they play, the answer is … everything.
How do macros affect body weight?
Being conscious of your macro proportions of every meal is important. It can mean the difference between finally being able to get rid of those stubborn last 10 pounds of extra weight you’ve been carrying. And, it can prevent packing on 10 more pounds or more.
Not all macronutrients, er, macros, act the same when it comes to fat storage in the body. Of the three macros, only one causes a significant rise in blood sugar levels.
A big bump in blood sugar isn’t necessarily bad if you’re going to run some sprints or go for a long-distance run to burn the sugars. However, this macro is not essential and should be limited for most people.
Insulin levels and fat storage are related. Any blood sugar not completely utilized for energy will be stored as body fat. This is why perfecting your macro proportions will be far more useful for maintaining a normal, healthy weight and feeling energetic, compared to counting calories.
Knowledge of what are macros in diet us useful when keeping track of food consumed. And, it’s easier to monitor your macros versus keeping tabs on the caloric value of every scrap of food you eat. There’s even a “counting macros app” to make it super easy to perfect your proportions. We’ll discuss macro apps shortly….
Best Macro Diet for Weight Loss and Health
Not all carbohydrates, proteins and fats are created equal. If you’re looking for a macro diet that will be good for your waistline, mood, and energy level, it’s best to understand a few facts about macros in nutrition.
The first macro in nutrition we’ll discuss is carbohydrates. In the book Always Hungry by Dr. Ludwig, it’s stated that carbs are the one macronutrient that isn’t required by the human body.
If you do choose to eat carbs, the best carbohydrates to eat are ones that take the body longer to digest. That’s because the one macro that can cause a steep spike in blood sugar is carbohydrates.
What Carbohydrates are best?
Slow-burning carbs do not rapidly turn into sugar. Quick-burning carbs such as sugar and white and wheat flour, on the other hand, get fully digested even before they make it into the large intestine.
Think of these types of carbs as pouring the wrong fuel into a gas tank. You want slow, steady-burning fuel, so the best types of food to eat in the carb macro department are green leafy vegetables and some other low-starch non-tuber vegetables. Mashed potatoes are an example of a high-starch, tuberous veggie to avoid.
As for bread, there are few good options. High-fiber, whole rye bread is a slower burning carb that’s best eaten in the morning. Eating carbs early in the day allows the whole day to burn off the stored carbohydrates.
What about fat?
Some dieters concerned about calorie counting think carbohydrates are not problematic for optimal weight. That’s because this macro contains only 4 calories per gram, compared to 9 calories per gram of another macro in the diet we’ll soon talk about. This macro is dietary fat.
But less isn’t always more. Low-fat and nonfat this and low-fat/non-fat that might trick the dieter into a sense of dietary compliance, but low-fat foods are a false friend. That’s because you need enough dietary fat to help you feel full and avoid cravings for more carbs later.
Like carbs, fat is a source of energy. As long as a person is getting enough fat in the diet, carbohydrates can be completely eliminated from the diet.
Should carbs be completely avoided?
If anything, the one macro in nutrition you want to avoid the most is carbohydrates. As mentioned, low-starch veggies as well as some fruits, especially berries, are the best carbs to prevent unwanted fat storage.
If you’re used to eating lots of rice, pasta, bread and other grains, you may have a carb-craving if you quit these quick-burning carbs cold turkey. If you find yourself craving grains, the best choices in this macro group are slower-burning grains such as farro, quinoa, einkorn wheat and amaranth.
Slow-burning carbohydrates give you the energy you’re used to getting from carbs, but will take longer to digest. Carbs that take longer to digest won’t make your blood sugar skyrocket. What goes up must go down. When your blood sugar rises fast, you’ll likely experience an energy crash later.
You’ll have to experiment with what’s the best macro proportion for you, especially when it comes to carbs. Too little carbs may make you feel deprived. Too many might make you feel too heavy and foggy-brained.
Best Macro for Lean Muscle Mass
Before we talk about dietary fat and macro apps, let’s talk about another essential macro in the diet, which is protein. Protein can actually cause a mild bump in blood sugar but not to the extent of the other macro we just talked about, carbs, specifically fast-burning carbs.
You don’t need a 72-oz serving of steak to get an adequate serving of steak, maybe unless you’re a competitive bodybuilder. Protein is an essential macro in the diet for muscle tissue repair and connective-tissue health. An adequate serving of protein would be one or two fistfull sizes.
Protein deficiency is rare in first-world countries, so you’re probably getting enough of this macronutrient. Vegans may want to consider supplementing with non-animal sources of protein, such as brown rice or pea protein powder.
Best Nutrition Macro to help you feel full
Dietary fat is still a vastly misunderstood macro in the diet. Despite the plethora of information on the internet (such as this article), many people are fat-phobic. They think that eating fat will make them fat.
Dietary fat is the one nutrition macro that does not raise blood sugar at all. It helps you feel full longer. The longer you feel full, the less likely you’ll be tempted to eat quick-burning carbs.
Remember, it’s going to take trial and error to determine what macro proportions are best for you. Imagine a dinner plate. For some people, splitting the macros into even thirds for breakfast, lunch and dinner (carbs: 33%, protein: 33%, fat: 33%) will lead to steady energy throughout the day without the need for snacking. However, most people feel at their best eating more dietary fat and less carbs in what’s known as a low carb high fat diet.
Keeping a food journal can help you learn what macro ratios are best for you. If you’re looking to lose weight on a low carb ketogenic diet, the KetoDiet Buddy is an easy way to calculate your macros.
Counting Macros App
Now that you have a good idea on what are macros in diet, you may want to take a look at what your eating. Keeping track of macros in your diet isn’t nearly as hard as keeping track of calorie intake.
While it’s true that there are also calorie-counting apps, doesn’t it sound more enjoyable to not have to worry about calories? Instead, you’d just use an app to keep track of macro ratios.
There are lots of macro counting apps to choose from. Just as you’ll have to experiment with what macro nutrient profile is best for you, you may have to see what macro counting app resonates with you.
The following are the most popular apps for counting macros:
Macro Diet Recipes
Now that you know the answer for what are macros in diet and nutrition, you may be looking for recipes with certain macros. If you do a search for macro diet recipes, you may come across “macrobiotic” recipes. “Macro” and “macrobiotic” are not the same thing. Don’t be fooled!
Macrobiotic diets are grain-heavy and not recommended due to the impact on blood sugar. Though macrobiotic diets advocate eating slow-burning grains, people who are trying to lose weight and normalize blood sugar levels are better off restricting grain intake.
A low carb keto diet has been found to have many health benefits. If you are looking to lose weight and improve health, turn to eating low carb high fat. You can find excellent recipes that have a lower-carb, higher-fat and protein macro ratio here.