What Are Macronutrients?
Macronutrients are an important component of any healthy diet. A “macronutrient” is defined as any nutritional compound that people commonly consume in bulk and which provides the body with a great deal of energy. If you want to get into the best shape possible, you need to count the macronutrients you take in very carefully. To do this, of course, you must know exactly what they are. There are three main components of macronutrients. These macronutrients include protein, fat, and carbs. There is a fourth component to macronutrients, alcohol, although it is somewhat controversial as to whether alcohol is really a macronutrient.
Controversy Over Macronutrients
Alcohol is sometimes considered to be a macronutrient. There is a widespread and passionate debate in the world of nutrition about whether alcohol should be counted along with protein, fat, and carbs. Many people do not think that alcohol should be considered a macronutrient because it is not necessary as a component of a balanced diet. However, alcohol does meet some of the other requirements for classification as a macronutrient. Most importantly, it is calorically dense, so it can provide the body with a great deal of energy.
Proteins are an important component of a healthy diet. This isn’t exactly news. Proteins have gotten more attention as part of an optimal diet than any other component. In fact, some experts think proteins have gotten too much attention, to the detriment of other parts of a balanced diet. However, proteins are legitimately very important. They are essential nutrients for the body. Proteins are one of the basic components of body tissue. Of course, protein is also a fuel source. This is why it is considered to be a macronutrient. Proteins provide as much energy per gram as carbohydrates. Fats, however, provide more than twice as many calories per gram. A balanced diet will include proteins, carbs, fats, and more.
Adequate protein intake will help you build up muscle and keep you from losing muscle if you are at a calorie deficit. It will help you have a better appetite and is actually better for controlling appetite than fats or carbs. Protein also requires more energy to digest, so you are actually burning more in the digestion process. You can get protein from dairy, protein shakes, eggs, fish, and meat.
There are many misconceptions about how to get protein. Many people, even people that seem knowledgeable, will tell you to get protein from nuts or beans. However, nuts and beans are actually not good sources of protein at all. Only roughly 15% of the calories in nuts and beans come from protein.
Fat might get a bad rap, but it is an absolutely essential nutrient for the human body. It is important for brain function, regulating hormones, and vitamin absorption. You can take all the multivitamins you want, but if you don’t have a certain amount of fat your body will not be able to process these vitamins. Thankfully, it is very easy to find sources of fat. Perhaps a little too easy. Meat, certain fatty fishes such as salmon, nuts, products derived from nuts, and various oils are good sources of fat.
There is much confusion, even in this day and age, about how much fat intake each person needs. This is because how much fat someone needs varies widely depending on several different factors. The most important of these factors are your body fat percentage, your weight, and your fitness goals. However, everybody’s bodies are different and process fat at a slightly different rate. You simply have to get to know your body and how it responds to fat before you can figure out the exact intake of fat you should be at. It can range anywhere from 15% to 45% of your total calories. This percentage also varies depending on how many calories you consume. Finally, the stage of your diet that you are in can change the amount of fat you need to consume. Specifically, whether you are in a caloric deficit or surplus can significantly change how much fat you should be taking in. The general range is somewhere between 0.4 of a gram to 0.7 of a gram per pound of lean body mass. Keep in mind that the important number is lean body mass. You should not use total body mass for this calculation.
Pretty much everyone knows that carbs, also known as carbohydrates, are an important component of a balanced and nutritious diet. Carbs are used by our bodies for energy. They are stored in our muscles, blood, liver, and brain as a compound called glycogen. You’ve probably heard about the distinction between empty carbs and good carbs. Really, your body does not make any distinction at all between carbs gotten from healthy food and carbs gotten from junk food. Is all converted into glycogen just the same, and burnt just the same for energy. As you no doubt already know, you can get carbs from any processed foods and drinks. Pretty much any sort of junk food and junk drink will have plenty of carbs. However, as previously mentioned, there are also healthy ways to get carbs. Fruits, grains, and vegetables are all foods that are good for you which have plenty of carbs.
Exactly how many carbs your body needs depends on a number of factors, as is the case for all macronutrients. You might be surprised to know that your body can actually survive on zero carbs. However, top-level athletes often consume 700 or more grams of carbs every day. You’re probably going to be somewhere in the middle. However, the range is quite wide, and you need to use trial and error to figure out the exact right number for yourself. Most experts recommend half a gram to 2 grams per pound of lean body mass. However, this varies depending on your body fat percentage, your fitness goals, your weight, and the amount of activity you’re putting in on a daily basis.
You may be surprised to see alcohol on this list, but it is often considered to be a macronutrient. This is because of the many calories contained in a relatively small amount of alcohol. Alcohol obviously is not a totally necessary part of your diet. It is not something you should use as a replacement for carbohydrates, proteins, or fat. Some misinformed people have heard that alcohol is a micronutrient and have then started on a diet including alcohol without checking further into how to consume macronutrients in a healthy way. Of course, you can get energy from alcohol as your body processes the carbs into glycogen. However, this is not recommended because of all the other negative effects of alcohol. The healthiest alcoholic beverages are usually the ones that have the fewest calories, in fact. It is a good idea to endeavor to consume as few calories from alcohol as possible, and to get the necessary calories from a balanced diet of carbs, protein, and a little fat. However, you should still count calories consumed from any alcohol you happen to drink. Unless you are a dedicated teetotaler, there will inevitably be some calories from alcohol that you need to take into account.
When you are studying macronutrients and figuring out how to construct a healthy diet, you should always keep in mind that all calories come from the various components of the macronutrient family. The only substances you can get calories from are carbs, fats, proteins, and alcohol. Contrary to popular belief, sodium, minerals, and vitamins are micronutrients and do not contain calories. That is not to say that you should not include these elements as part of your diet.
Sodium should be included sparingly as part of a healthy diet. Sodium chloride, better known as salt, is essential but most people consume far too much of it. You don’t need to put salt on your food to consume sodium chloride. It is likely already in much of the food you’re eating. A good multivitamin won’t only have vitamins, it will have minerals in it. Just how much vitamins and minerals you need depends on your lifestyle, diet, and body mass. You can check the label of the multivitamin bottle to see how much of a percentage of the recommended daily intake you’re getting from each substance in the multivitamin.
Of course, even if you’re taking a multivitamin, you still need to get vitamins and minerals from foods in your diet that you also get calories from. Calories are very important in terms of figuring out how much energy you’ll have, but they are not the only factor in a healthy diet. To make the relationship between calories and macronutrients more simple, check out this bulleted list:
- One gram of alcohol yields 7 calories
- A single gram of fat has 9 calories
- One gram of carbs has 4 calories
- A single gram of protein produces 4 calories
Now that you know how much of each macronutrient results in how many calories, you can easily dissect the information presented in a nutritional label when you were counting exactly how many calories you have ingested. Of course, a nutritional label will include carbs, protein, and fat. If food has a certain amount of alcohol in it, like beer-battered fish, this will not be included in a nutritional label. However, the calories resulting from the alcohol macronutrient in such foods will be negligible. You may wonder why, if the number of calories is already listed, you should look at the carbs, protein, and fat. It is important that you know how many calories come from each source, not just a total amount of calories.
For the purpose of counting macronutrients, all the other information on the nutrition label is useless. When you are constructing other aspects of your diet, you can take the other information on the nutrition label into account. However, you should be able to design your diet one area at a time, and when we are looking at the area of macronutrients the only things that matter are proteins, fats, and carbs. You should also double check your math as to the number of calories from each macronutrient by checking the total calories number on the label.
As you might imagine, food with no nutritional label on it is much more difficult to quantify in terms of how many total calories you’re getting from the food and which macronutrients these calories are coming from. However, in the age of the Internet it isn’t that difficult to figure out this information. For fruits and vegetables, for example, you can look up the nutritional facts online by doing a Google search or going to a specialized website. The same is true for meat. If you are going to restaurant, they may have the nutritional information available online. This is especially true if you are going to a chain restaurant. Even many fast food restaurants in this day and age have a PDF of the official information for all their food on their website. If you are going to a smaller mom-and-pop restaurant that does not publish their nutritional information of their food on their website, you may have to make a rough estimate based on any information you can find online.
Don’t worry too much about not getting the exact amount of macronutrients and the calories from these various macronutrients correct when you’re eating at a restaurant. The vast majority of the time, you will be able to reach a fairly accurate number, so if you eat at restaurants occasionally a simple estimate of the macronutrients that you are getting from these meals is acceptable.
It’s important to remember that the information listed on a nutrition label is for only one serving. This may seem like common sense, but maybe many people forget this and think the nutritional information is for the whole package. This is a very common mistake to make, but this can totally throw off your calculations. You should also keep in mind that what a nutritional label specifies as one serving is often less than the serving you’ll be taking. Companies that make food and drink usually make the serving size very small, as this makes their food look more healthy.
A 20-ounce bottle of soda, for example, will be consumed by most people all at once. However, the nutritional facts label is based on a serving of 8 oz. This makes the bottle of soda look like it’s not that unhealthy. However, you need to multiply the number of grams of sugar (which is usually around 30 in this example) by 2.5 to get the amount the entire bottle. Roughly 75 grams worth of sugar are in the whole bottle. Once you calculate the amount of sugar in the whole bottle, you can see that this drink is actually extremely unhealthy. It may seem like a pain to carefully and painstakingly read the nutrition label of every product you consume, but keep in mind that the end result will be being much healthier, having a better body, and even having a more clear mind.
Believe it or not, fat and cholesterol are not all bad. A certain amount of saturated fat and cholesterol can actually be good for your body. Of course, too much can be very bad. However, in moderation, these things can be a component of a healthy balanced diet. Cholesterol and saturated fat have a reputation for causing heart disease and obesity because they are very rich in calories. A constant calorie surplus is what ended up causing obesity and heart disease. You won’t necessarily have a calorie surplus if you eat saturated fat and cholesterol-laden foods carefully.
Actually, saturated fat has its benefits. It can encourage testosterone production, improve mental function, and help your immune system. Saturated fat is included in the total fat column, so there is no need to count it separately. Cholesterol, on the other hand, isn’t included in the total fat amount, but it should simply not be counted at all. It is produced naturally by the body, like saturated fat. As previously mentioned, it is also in the same boat as saturated fat in that new research is showing that it isn’t necessarily bad in and of itself. When you are counting macronutrients as part of your diet, you simply don’t need to worry about cholesterol. This can be hard to get into your head, because cholesterol has been vilified for so long. However, after you force yourself to overlook it for a while you will not even think about it.
Sodium, as you may already know, is a mineral. If you remember what you wrote about minerals above, you know they do not contain any calories. Minerals are not macronutrients. Sodium, as with saturated fat and cholesterol, has been vilified by many nutrition experts. However, as with cholesterol saturated fat, a human being needs a certain amount of sodium to function. If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or another disease where your doctor has told you to watch your sodium intake, you should carefully check the amount of sodium on the nutrition label. Otherwise, you don’t need to worry about it. Foods that are very high in sodium are unlikely to be in your diet anyway. Many foods that are very high in sodium are junk food, like potato chips. You will likely have a low and healthy level of sodium just due to watching your diet, even if you are not necessarily looking out for sodium in particular.
You should not worry about going on one of the very popular low sodium diets. These diets are built totally around having a very low amount of sodium, which is not anywhere near as important as having the right amount of macronutrients in your diet. If you are counting the macronutrients as part of an effort to lose weight, it may be very tempting to decrease your sodium intake. This is because sodium intake decreases can cause short-term weight loss. However, keep in mind that much medical research has proven that such diets do not have an effect on your body weight in the long run.
Fiber is specified separately on a traditional label. However, you should not count it separately from other carbohydrates. It does have several characteristics that cause a body to process it differently than other carbs. However, for the purpose of counting macronutrients, it should just be counted along with all the other sources of carbohydrates.
Fiber does have some different characteristics that bare explaining, even if it is simply counted as part of the carbohydrates section of your macronutrients intake. Fiber will slow digestion considerably, depending on how much you ingest. It also decreases cholesterol. As previously mentioned, cholesterol is not necessarily a bad thing. However, too much cholesterol certainly is bad and fiber can help with this. One underrated benefit of fiber is that it can make you feel full more quickly. This will help you eat less, which will help you control your weight in the long run. You don’t have to worry about counting fiber separately than other carbohydrates, as mentioned above. However, you should make sure to eat plenty of veggies and fruits that have a high fiber content. You can do some research on the Internet and figure out which fruits anf veggies have high fiber content.
Obviously, sugar is not necessarily good for you. It does have many ill effects on the body, especially if consumed in large quantities. However, for the purposes of tracking macro-nutrients, you need to remember is that sugar is a carbohydrate. You don’t need to look at the sugar specifically, you need to look at the total amount of carbohydrates listed on the nutrition label. The amount of sugar in the item will be included in this listing. Of course, it is probably a good idea to not get as many of your carbohydrates from sugar as you do from other healthier sources. A moderate amount of sugar is fine.
In fact, it can be an excellent source of energy if you need energy very quickly or if you need to get your blood sugar up in short order. Keep in mind that you don’t need to eat junk food to get carbohydrates from sugar. Most fruits and vegetables include a fair amount of natural sugar. If you eat a lot of fruits and veggies, most of your carbohydrates from sugar will come from this source. However, it is okay to eat a few sugary desserts here and there. This will not mess up your diet as long as you don’t eat too many of them, and this will help you not feel like your carefully constructed diet is a painful grind.
Suggested Daily Value
The percentage of daily value that you can see on every nutritional label is what the government recommends you take in daily based on a 2000 calorie diet. The percentage daily value is a very controversial rating, and has been ever since it was introduced. Many people, including many scientists and nutrition experts, dispute the methodology upon which the percentage daily value is calculated, for example, supposing a 2000 calorie diet is not followed by the majority of Americans. The vast majority of Americans take in significantly more than 2000 calories a day. Also, these percentage daily values are supposed to be standardized for all Americans. However, as you already know from reading this article, what you need to consume varies depending on your gender, your physical activity, your body mass, and many more factors.
This makes it nearly impossible for a percentage daily value to be calculated for everybody. There are very few things that experts praise about this rating. You may be unsurprised to hear that the percentage daily value is not helpful for macronutrient counting specifically. Now, many nutrition experts contend that it provides an unhealthy distribution of macronutrients. In fact, many nutritionists believe that the way macronutrients are wrongly distributed in the percentage daily value can contribute to obesity. There are studies that show that people follow the recommended macronutrient distribution actually gain weight in the long run. Obviously, this is the opposite of what a healthy balanced diet is supposed to help you do. Needless to say, you should avoid recognizing the percentage daily value rating when you are building your diet.
Now that you understand what goes into calculating macronutrients properly, it’s time to put everything you’ve learned into practice. Once you have figured out the amount of macronutrients in food and exactly where these macronutrients come from, it is time for you to measure out your portions to ensure that you are following your diet properly. This may seem like a pain, but you will get used to it in time. Remember how much healthier your body is going to be when you’re following an optimal diet. This will help remind you that it is worth it to measure your food.
One way you can make measuring your food less of a hassle is by getting a food scale. They are relatively cheap and very simple to use. They can also be used for functions other than measuring out portions of food, but that is not covered within the scope of this article. Anyway, you could also get measuring cups and spoons if you’d rather not get a food scale. You may not already have a scale, but you probably already have some measuring cups and spoons.
If you stop and think about it, however, a food scale is worth it if you are serious about your own health and fitness. It is much more exact than trying to measure food by hand. When you are trying to measure out exact portions, you may be surprised at how difficult it is if you are using an assortment of different cups and spoons. One of the most common problems that people run into when using cups and spoons is that they overfill the implement and thus consume more than they intended. You may only consume 10% more calories than you intended every day, but this could be the difference between gaining weight and losing weight. Another benefit with having a food scale is that you only have one implement to clean, while if you’re using cups and spoons if you may have to clean several out of time.
Best Food Scales
It is important that you get a digital food scale when you are on a strict diet. However, you need to make sure that you get the correct digital food scale or your efforts will be for nothing. There are several important things that you should look for when you are choosing a digital food scale.
You should find one that has a measuring platform big enough for all the food you may be consuming. You should also take a look at the scale’s weight capacity. Many of the most popular scales go from one gram (which is roughly equivalent to 0.1 of an ounce) up to 11 pounds. You may be wondering why the scales go up to 11 pounds instead of 10. Well, you may need to weigh something that is 10 pounds, but how would you know if you have too much of this item at the scale doesn’t go a little bit above 10 pounds? It’s also very important that the display is clearly readable. It may be a good idea to try and get a scale with a backlit display, as this will make it easier to read in low light situations. Of course, the scale should be easy to clean and store. Finally, it is a good idea to get a scale that has an automatic shutoff, as this will keep the battery from wearing out too quickly. To see a list of 6 specific models that you may want to consider, read on.
The Ozeri Pronto
The Ozeris Pronto is one of the most popular scales on various e-commerce sites. It has many overwhelmingly positive reviews. If you take a look at the Ozeri Pronto it’s easy to see why it is so well-liked. The scale has a very large measuring platform, making it easy to weigh a variety of different foods. However, it is also easy to store and easy to clean. This scale allows instant conversion between metric and imperial measurements. You may be surprised to learn that a lot of scales don’t have this feature. The Pronto also comes in seven different colors, so you have the opportunity to match it to your kitchen. While the Pronto is a good scale and certainly a viable option, it is not perfect. The display is not backlit, and if you have a large plate on the platform it may obstruct the display.
The Etekcity Digital
This user-friendly scale is another favorite amongst people who are into nutrition and maintain a healthy diet. It has anti-fingerprint technology to keep the scale looking sleek and attractive. It also has a thin and smooth design to make it easier to handle and store. This scale features a stainless steel finish to help it stay clean. It has very high ratings on several different e-commerce sites. It can quickly convert units from metric to imperial. The scale also has four high precision sensors that ensure the weight is very accurate. This scale has a backlit display, which is a fairly rare feature amongst digital food scales. Some online reviewers note this scale can also work as a postage or jewelry scale. This way, you can monitor your diet and more.
Eatsmart Precision Pro
The Eatsmart Precision Pro is known to be a very accurate scale. It comes in four different colors: black/chrome, silver, red, and white. Unlike the other scales on this list, this scale comes with a special booklet on tracking calories. This could assist you in your quest to design a healthy and balanced diet. Another unique feature of this model are the non-slip rubber tabs on the bottom. These tabs help keep it securely in place. Some scales have a problem with moving around, especially if you’re weighing relatively heavy items on them. Additionally, the Eatsmart scale has a 3 minute timer before it shuts off automatically, so the battery will not die prematurely.
Etekcity Scale with Bowl
The second scale from this company on the list has a few more features than the first. The most obvious additional future is the removable bowl that is made specifically for this scale. Of course, the scale can accept other bowls and plates and any other container in addition to the included bowl. Also, the bowl can be taken off the scale and used for anything you may need to use it for. This top of the additionally comes with a temperature sensor and an alarm / timer. This makes it the most versatile scale on the list. It is constructed of stainless steel to deter mold and mildew. It also has a large backlit display. If you are looking for a versatile digital scale, this may be the one for you.
Ozeri Touch Professional
The Ozeri Touch Professional is, as the name states, a professional-level scale. It is used in the kitchens of restaurants across the country. However, it is available for regular cooks to buy at a reasonable price. One unique feature of this scale is that it goes up to 12 lb. All the other scales only go up to 11 pounds. The scale also has 5 different colors so you can match it to your surroundings. The tempered glass finish not only looks great, it is 4 times stronger than traditional glass.
OXO Good Grips Scale
The OXO Good Grips Scale is one of the most unique scales on this list. It is the most expensive, at $49.95. However, it has several unique features that none of the other skills have. The most obvious unique feature that it has is a pullout display. Some of the other scales have problems with the display being hard to read if a large plate is placed on the measuring surface. However, the pull-out display of this scale means that this is not a problem anymore. The scale also features a light, which makes it easier to weigh things in low-light situations. The OXO scale additionally has an auto turn off feature, so you know the battery will last for a long time. The scale features the ability to calculate both metric and imperial units. It is also made out of stainless steel for hygienic reasons.
Counting Macros vs Calories
After reading the above information, you now understand the basics of counting macros. However, it may seem like a long and involved process. Many people feel a temptation to simply count calories instead of tracking macros. The fact is, you can lose weight if you just focus on taking in as few calories as possible and on burning more calories than you take in. This is the simplest basic fact behind all diet and exercise regimes. However, there are different kinds of weight loss.
The quality of your weight-loss will be better if you focus on the macronutrients. One example experts often give is that not taking in enough protein when you are trying to lose weight will cause you to actually lose muscle instead of just fat. Obviously, we don’t want this. Even not consuming enough fat can be bad for your body. It can mess up various hormones that will prevent you from losing weight in the the way you might like. As you might have already guessed, an inadequate carb intake can negatively impact your health too. It can reduce strength and cardio performance significantly. Keep in mind that if you’re going to be really dedicating yourself to getting healthy, you going to have to go the extra mile to ensure your body will be in the best shape possible. This extra mile means tracking macros instead of just calories.
Best Apps for Tracking Macros
If you have just read this article and it sounds like macros maybe a little too complicated to count, think twice. There are several apps available that make it much easier for you to count your macros with an IIFYM calculator. The features of these apps differ somewhat. However, they are all fairly similar in that all you have to do is input the food you have eaten and it will calculate the macros for you. Of course, it is still on you to make sure that you watch your eating. Also, there may be some dishes that are not in the app’s database. This means that you still may need to calculate macros manually from time to time. To learn more about two apps that will help you count your macros more quickly and easily, along with providing some other features, see below.
My Macros+ is one of the most popular fitness apps that was created specifically for tracking macros. It was designed by a professional bodybuilder, so you know that, unlike some other fitness apps, this app was actually created by someone who knows fitness inside and out. My Macros+ has a library of more than 1.5 million food items. All of this content is stored in your phone’s memory. This means you can track your diet even if your phone is not connected to the Internet. One thing that helps this app stand out is that it counts total macros not only for the day but also for all the items and the meals you’ve eaten. The way this is broken down makes it easy to understand. You can set goals using the app. Also, this app allows you to log your body weight so you know exactly what your progress has been.
Fitocracy is known for being one of the simpler apps that can show you how to count macros. This app can be used to just track calories, but it is a full-fledged macro counter as it can track protein, carbohydrate, and fat consumption. It may not have quite as many features as the previous app, but it is also likely is simpler to use. This app can track your eating history and give you a weekly average of your calorie and total macronutrient consumption. One unique feature this app offers is free exercise routine suggestions that you can pair with your diet.
MyFitnessPal is probably the simplest app on this list. Is certainly is the most popular, possibly because of how simple it is to use. MyFitnessPal does also feature several capabilities that the other apps just don’t have. For example, you can use your phone’s camera to scan the barcodes of various products. The app will then bring up the nutritional information of these products. Of course, the app also has a huge database of more than 5 million foods that you can search manually if you can’t just scan the barcode. MyFitnessPal makes it easy for you to save and reuse meals you’ve eaten in the past. This way, you do not have to construct every single meal from scratch. Of course, if you are logging a new meal, this app makes it incredibly easy to do so.
MyFitnessPal allows you to set goals and lets you see graphs that depict your progress in a simple and easy to understand way. This app also has a community future. You can connect with family and friends so they can encourage you on your fitness journey. You can also get advice and connect with other members of the MyFitnessPal community.