If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that my daily diet typically includes a wide variety of macronutrients. If you’ve ever used a food tracking app or felt like you had to follow a complicated eating plan to be fit and healthy, I’m here to show you that when you understand your macros, a healthy diet can be really easy!
What are macronutrients?
Macronutrients refer to carbohydrates, fats and protein — the food groups that provide the energy and nutrition for living. When we talk about macronutrients, we’re really talking about food groups that provide calories (energy).
Why do I need to know about them?
Carbohydrates, fats and protein are not just sources of energy; these macronutrients also help your body function. For example, some carbohydrates can provide fiber while others can supply quick energy to muscles. Protein assists with the building, maintaining and repair of muscles. Fats facilitate cell structure and act as an insulator for warmth.
Carbs are found not just in bread, pasta or rice, but also in vegetables and fruit. Carbohydrates are so important in your meals as they provide one of the main sources of fiber in food, which is essential for a healthy gut.
When you choose carbohydrate sources in your meals, look for low GI carbs like whole grains and starchy vegetables. These types of carbohydrates contain the fiber and micronutrients that are so important, while highly processed carbs generally do not.
How many carbs do I need?
Generally speaking, around 45-65% of your total food intake should come from complex carbohydrate sources.
Sources of carbs
Some sources of healthy carbs to include are:
- Whole grains
- Beans and legumes
- Root vegetables
- Green leafy vegetables
Your body uses protein to build and repair the tissues of your body — including your muscle tissue! If you work out regularly, getting enough protein from food is essential for your recovery.
It’s still important if you don’t exercise too, as protein is important for healthy bones, cartilage, skin and blood.
How much protein do I need?
Protein should make up about 15-25% of your total energy intake. Protein is a macronutrient that helps you to feel full for longer. Getting enough protein is important if you are trying to make healthy food choices or reduce nighttime snacking.
Sources of protein
Most people think of milk, eggs or meat when they think of protein. However, there is also lots of protein in fish, grains like quinoa, and there are plenty of vegetarian sources of protein too.
Here are some protein sources to include:
- Nuts and seeds
If you are struggling to meet your protein requirements, you might include a protein shake, but remember that this may not contain the micronutrients that you get from whole food sources. It’s always best to get all the protein you need from your food if you can!
Eating healthy fats is another way to keep yourself feeling full for longer while getting essential micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids. These are important to keep your brain and hormonal system healthy so that you feel your best.
How much healthy fat should I eat?
Healthy fats should make up 20-30% of your total energy intake. Make sure that these are the good fats from plant sources or animal sources like oily fish (think salmon or sardines) that contain the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Sources of healthy fat
Some sources of healthy fat you can include in your meals and snacks are:
- Nuts and seeds
- Peanut butter
- Olive oil
When we eat more calories than we need, the body stores that extra energy as fat. If you eat too much protein, your body converts that protein into carbohydrates or sugars through a process called gluconeogenesis — which can stress your kidneys and liver. This is why it’s important to balance your macros. You’ll also be less inclined to overeat!
Should I count my macros?
As long as you get a wide variety of foods, which include carbs, protein and fat, you should be able to eat intuitively to give your body the nutrition it needs to support your lifestyle.
However, if you are trying to reach a specific fitness goal, it’s important to make sure you are getting the proper amount of macros. If you have a weight loss goal, the amount of each macronutrient that you eat is not as important as the total calories you consume each day.
Include all three macronutrients to be healthy
It’s important to ensure that your portions over a week contain a balance of all the different types of food you can eat. This will keep your body healthy inside and out, and it will also help your mood so that you have more energy and vitality in your daily life.
If you are stuck for ideas, check out my bi-weekly newsletter for healthy recipes! Subscribe below!