Back to our pyramid!
In my last post, Nutrition Priorities: Part I, I talked about the base of this pyramid & why we need to focus on our caloric intake as the first step to improving our diets.
The next layer of focus is Macronutrients. Once you’ve found balance in your caloric intake, you can start to dial in where those calories are coming from. Macronutrient (macros for short) is just the title of this group of larger nutrients (hence, “macro”) in foods that make up the calories which are protein, carbohydrates, and fats. These three nutrients contribute a certain amount of calories-per-gram in foods and there is a balance of the three macros that help your body feel and function at its best.
With my nutrition clients, I focus on these two bottom pieces to start out because they do go hand-in-hand. If we have set goals for macros to eat, we will automatically be balancing our caloric intake as well! Adding in the additional focus on macronutrients can help us see even greater, faster progress because you need a certain amount of carbs, proteins, and fats to fuel your daily activities and training.
I keep talking about these “certain amounts” and the “balance of the three” that everyone needs, and I wish I could tell you now exactly what that is for you! But each persons’ needs are completely unique and everyone is likely to have different macro goals in different ratios. Besides our unique genetic differences, our macro needs also depend on our current lifestyle; like how much we are currently eating, what ratio we’ve naturally been eating these macros in already, what type of physical activity we do daily in the gym and throughout our typical day, our body shape, weight, and percent of body fat. There are so many factors that really require us to have a truly individualized approach to our health and our body composition goals which is another reason I love helping people find that perfect macronutrient balance because every person has a special case!
Even if you have your calories balanced, your performance or your body composition could still suffer if you’re eating the wrong macro balance. Carbohydrates are necessary for high-intensity exercise. It is our fuel for most exercise, especially Crossfit type workouts and strength training. If you are only eating to your calorie goal but not including enough carbohydrates, your workouts could be suffering because you won’t have the energy to fuel those demands. You may not even realize how low-energy your workouts are until you start increasing your carb intake and realizing how much your performance is improving! Your body composition can also be affected by eating the right amount of carbohydrates because once you’re fueling yourself enough from outside sources (food), it will start burning off your inside sources (body fat) at greater rates! Most people are constantly trying to limit their carbohydrates in an effort to lose weight, but realistically, you’re likely not eating enough to fuel your weight loss!
Protein is another important macronutrient because, as many of us know, it is the building blocks of our muscle-mass! Proteins make up so many important vital-functions within our bodies also, but it’s often over-consumed because many people believe more is better and if it’s high in protein it must be healthy! However, it’s possible that we are getting too many calories from protein and not leaving enough room to get in enough carbohydrates and fats for overall balance and wellness! So again, you may be meeting your calorie goal, but if 80% of those calories are only coming from protein, you’re definitely missing out on some important nutrients!
The last macronutrient, fat, is another fuel source for our body, especially at lower-intensities like our day-to-day activities or a slow, steady workout. Fats are also needed to keep your immune system functioning, your nervous system healthy, and for metabolizing and absorbing important vitamins. It’s easy to eat a very high-fat diet without hardly noticing (especially since it’s emphasized in a Paleo diet), but fats have the highest calorie-per-gram: 1 gram of fat contributes 9 calories, whereas only 1g of protein or carbs contributes only 4 calories. A smaller amount of fats can make up a large amount of calories, so over-eating these can easily throw off our calorie balance.
If you want to read more about each of the macronutrients, check out my post The why… to learn more about why each one is important and needed! And if I can help you with understanding how much and what it is you should be eating, Contact me!
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