Before we can begin tracking macros, it's important to understand what they are and which foods provide them. This will not be comprehensive. It'll simply include what you need to know to better fuel your body for life and workouts. Tracking macros may feel daunting or overwhelming initially, but hopefully this post about what each macronutrient is will help you get started on your wellness journey.
Macronutrients are what your body needs in order to function well. You do not produce them on your own; therefore, you must consume them through food. What you put into your body will greatly affect the results whether its seen in the gym, cognitive function, or behavior. These macronutrients include carbohydrates, protein, and fat. The three categories will be what you base your diet on, and they will determine what you eat in a day and how much of it you eat.
Let's start with a general favorite... carbohydrates! Carbs typically get a bad wrap, but they are actually instrumental in your workout performance. One of their jobs is to enable fat metabolism and prevent protein being used as a source of energy.
Simple carbs are made of either one or two sugar molecules. They are easier for your body to break down than complex carbs, but they are typically the carbs you want to minimize in your diet. When we think of simple carbs, the first foods that usually come to mind are candy, soda, syrup, and desserts. These foods with processed sugar are empty of anything beneficial for your body like vitamins, minerals, or fiber.
Complex carbs are made of either 3 or more sugar molecules. They take longer for your body to digest and provide more sustained energy over time. These are the carbs runners use when they "carb-load" before a marathon. Some examples of complex carbs include: lentils, beans, peas, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and potatoes.
Protein is comprised of amino acids, the building blocks of protein, and protein is the building block of muscle. When our body breaks down protein, it fuels muscle mass, which in turn boosts metabolism. Most protein is consumed through animal products, but there are plant-based options as well, such as soy, hemp, and whey. It's important to note that all animal sourced protein contains essential amino acids while most plant-based options don't. Unlike nonessential amino acids, essential amino acids are not produced by our bodies and must be consumed through food. Great sources of animal protein include chicken, eggs, meat, and fish.
Fat is the most concentrated source of energy, vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. You will want to consume unsaturated fats and certain saturated fats while steering clear of trans fats.
Unsaturated fats are known as the "good" fats. They include nuts, avocados, oily fish, and the majority of plant-based oils (olive, sunflower, and soybean). These fats are good for your health.
Saturated fats are most commonly found in animal products, such as animal meat dairy products. You'll want to limit your consumption of these fats.
As a rule of thumb, stay away from trans fat! These fats can be found in foods containing hydrogenated oils... you know: pizza, fast food, baked goods... all the things we tend to crave. It's best to eliminate those kinds of foods altogether, but let's be real, we're human. That food is delicious. Keep consumption of trans fats to a bare minimum, and your body will thank you.
Now that you have a working knowledge of your macronutrients, I hope you feel better prepared to look at food labels and understand a little better what it is you're looking at and aiming to consume.
If you're interested in learning how to track your macros, head on over to the next blog post! In it, I'll provide formulas to help you calculate how many macros your body needs.