What are macronutrients?
So, what are macronutrients? Building a balanced meal doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are the basics of what macronutrients are. After you learn a little bit more about your individualized nutrition and calorie needs, building a balanced plate isn’t rocket science. It’s important to include different food groups to increase satiety, prevent deficiencies, and to make sure you’re obtaining optimal nutrition needed to fuel your lifestyle.
Nutrients are required not only for growth but to function and are broken into two groups: macronutrients and micronutrients. We are going to talk about macros for now but micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that are also essential to a healthy diet.
Why learning macros can be helpful for planning meals
Learning what foods fit into each macronutrient will help you create balanced meals in any setting (refer to the RDRx Nutrition Meal Planning Guide to view food categories). Recognizing what foods fall into each category can be helpful and important for meeting your estimated nutrition needs.
Creating a meal plan is meant to be a guide, not something you have to follow strictly. Having the nutrition knowledge to create healthy meals can help you apply it to everyday life.
Let’s break macronutrients down a little more, shall we?
Protein: is essential especially for those who are active. Amino acids are your building blocks. When you train or exercise, you break down muscle fibers that need to be repaired. You’ll definitely hear me more than once ask you about your protein intake.
If you are trying to lose weight, protein is very important. Too little protein can result in losing muscle mass so protein needs to be a priority. Having adequate amounts of protein at meals and snacks will increase satiety reduces hunger and makes it easier to adjust calories to fit your goals.
Carb: Fuel, not something to be afraid of. Eating too little can mean you don’t have enough glycogen for optimal performance, and depending on your activity and goals this can be a roadblock. Without glycogen fuel (carbs broken down) your body will look other places for energy, which also can result in muscle loss. Yikes!
Carbs can be tricky though since there isn’t a one size fits all. Leftover carbs are stored in our liver and muscles to be used for later but when we have extra, it can become unwanted weight gain.
Another thing I see quite frequently is when people lower their carb intake they lose weight quickly. Yes, they are often lowering their calories but this is also because carbs bind to water. When you lower your carb intake, glycogen is quickly metabolized in your liver and muscles to meet the body’s need for glucose (carbs), but each gram of glycogen is bound to 3 or 4 grams of water. So, if your body uses up its glycogen stores, a lot of water is released over a short amount of time. Therefore, what you are losing is mostly just water weight. Don’t let that initial weight loss fool you. There is more to it!
- Focus on high fiber nutrient dense complex carbs. Examples of these include beans, sweet potatoes, quinoa, oatmeal, fruits, and vegetables.
- Look at total carbs, it’s easier to manage Look at a food’s “Total Carbohydrate” measurement on a nutrition label to make it easier to keep track.
- Practice mindful portions. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that carbohydrates make up approximately 45-65% of your total daily calories.
Carbohydrate Examples: Whole grains, beans, sweet potatoes, quinoa, oatmeal, rice, fruits, and vegetables
Fat: is satisfying because it’s the most calorically dense nutrient and…well it’s delicious. Fat is digested slower, helping us feel full and happy. We need fat for multiple reasons including cell membranes, to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, to control inflammation and for secondary energy.
Fat Examples: Avocado, eggs, olive oil, nuts and seeds, nut butters, salmon, tuna
Macros nutrition for beginners:
1.) Half your plate should be non-starchy vegetables.
2.) Add a protein. Typically one gram per your body weight in kilograms is the minimum for healthy people.
3.) CARBS. Go ahead and fill ¼ of your plate with complex, fiber-rich carbs.
4.) Don’t forget healthy fats. Adding avocado, olive oil, or nuts to make meals more satisfying.
So there is a brief description of the three macros. We need all of them for different body functions and to improve performance.
With RDRx Nutrition Meal Plans you will have estimated recommendations for how much YOUR body needs.
Everyone is different; therefore everyone has a different “magic amount”. And guess what! It changes depending on multiple factors.
Kitchen tools that might be helpful for meal prep:
KNOWLEDGE: Read labels, learn how to create a balanced meal, try journaling to better assess what you are eating, use hunger and fullness practices, etc
Here’s how to apply macros! Check out my How to Build a Healthy Smoothie video and blog or some of my recipes like this Chicken Teriyaki Bowl!
Also, check out my recipe for the Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken Bowl for a macro-filled meal!
Carbohydrate: Long grain rice, pineapple
Lean Protein: Chicken
Non-Starchy Vegetables: Bell pepper, red onion, asparagus, spinach
Healthy Fats: Olive oil, light coconut milk