If you are like me, you probably want to be able to enjoy a cupcake at your son’s birthday party, or a slice of pie at Thanksgiving…
That’s okay! Enjoy your life and these one-time events!
In fact, allowing yourself to enjoy your favorite foods will make it easier to maintain healthy eating. You can do this while not sacrificing your daily success. How can we do that? Stay within your calories and macronutrients…
What are Macronutrients?
The McKinley Health Center of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign defines “Macronutrients [as] nutrients that provide calories or energy. Nutrients are substances needed for growth, metabolism, and for other body functions. Since “macro” means large, macronutrients are nutrients needed in large amounts.” 1
There are only three macronutrients: carbohydrate, protein and fat.1 All other micronutrients (like calcium or iron) do not contain calories. (Alcohol is the only other substance that contains calories.1)
The amount of calories per gram varies between the macronutrients:
Carbohydrate = 4 calories per gram
Protein = 4 calories per gram
Fat = 9 calories per gram
(Note: Alcohol = 7 calories per gram)1
For example, let’s look at a slice of Colby Jack Cheese:
1 g carbohydrate = 1 g x 4 calories/g = 4 calories of carbohydrate
7 g protein = 7 g x 4 calories/g = 28 calories of protein
6 g fat = 6 g x 9 calories/g = 54 calories of fat
Keeping Up with the Carbohydrates:
Carbohydrates get a lot of bad publicity. Why are they an essential nutrient?
- Carbohydrates are the quickest sources of energy for our bodies.
- They are necessary for the kidneys, the brain, the central nervous system and muscles like your heart!1
- Carbohydrates (particularly fiber) are key components for a healthy intestine and bowel movements.1
Fiber is a carbohydrate that our body cannot digest, and therefore assists with waste removal. The McKinley Health Center writes, “Diets high in fiber; however, have been shown to decrease risks for heart disease, obesity, and they help lower cholesterol. Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products.”1
The Power in Protein:
Protein is typically found in animal products, such as meat, cheese and milk. It can also be found in legumes, nuts, meat substitutes, and some small amounts are in vegetables.1 (Note, that if you choose to not eat animal products, you will need a supplement for the essential amino acids not found in plant based protein.1)
Protein is an essential and powerful part of your diet because:
- It is the key substance in most cells, and therefore, is essential for growth.4
- Muscle, Tissues and Skin are made of protein. 4
- It is sometimes used as a longer lasting source of energy.4
- It is the sole source of essential amino acids. 4
- It is Important in tissue maintenance and repair. 4
- It creates essential hormones and enzymes. 1
- It “[preserves] lean muscle mass.” 1
Getting Fit with Fat:
Getting fit with fat seems like an oxymoron, but in truth, we need to consume fat. Fat is essential for:
- Energy; fats are actually the most efficient form of energy, which is why the body stores any extra energy as fat.4
- Absorbing some vitamins including, Vitamin A, D, E, K and carotenoids.1
- Cell membrane maintenance. 1
- “Normal growth and development”1
- “Providing cushioning for the organs”1
In fact, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans say that 20%-35% of our daily calories should come from fat! Does this mean we should eat a stick of butter every day? Not quite.
Fats can be divided into 3 main groups: saturated fat, unsaturated fat and man-made trans fat.4 Trans fat and saturated fat are known to increase the risk of heart disease. Trans fats are recommended to be eliminated from our diets.4
It is also recommended that we reduce saturated fats to be under 10% of our caloric intake.4 Therefore, if you eat primarily unsaturated fats, you will lower your risk of heart disease. (Read: You will lower your chance of heart attack, hospitalization and will gain more control over your life.)
What is the ideal macronutrient ratio?
Depending on what resource you are looking at, you will receive a different ideal macronutrient breakdown.
According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, our daily macronutrient ratio should be within the following ranges:
- Carbohydrates: 45-65% of calories
- Fat: 20-35% of calories
- Protein: 10-35% of calories2
Many bodybuilders and personal trainers choose a ratio with lower carbohydrates and high protein.
Therefore, choosing a carbohydrate : fat : protein ratio of 45% : 25% : 30% is a great place to start. After you test it for a while, you can see if the ratio is compatible with your body, and then tweak the percentages from there.
For example, in a daily 2000 calorie diet, this ratio would result in 900 calories of carbs (225 g), 500 calories of fat (55.5 g) and 600 calories of protein (150 g).
What is MY ideal calorie and macro intake?
Add your information into a calorie and macro nutrient calculator.3 Note, that even the standard formula is not perfect. After a month or more of trying the calories, you can modify if you are not getting the results you would like. And as always, make sure to consult your doctor if you are experiencing any negative symptoms.
How to implement:
If you are ready to embark on this journey, there are three things that will greatly assist you:
This will not be an easy journey, but you can do it! Remember that taking care of yourself is the best way to take care of your family. Just make sure to still enjoy the occasional cupcake. 😉
Here is some motivation for you as you embark on this adventure:
“It’s not about perfect. It’s about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that’s where transformation happens. That’s how change occurs.”
We’d love to encourage you! Comment below if you are choosing to count calories and macronutrients!