Macronutrients Made Simple
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that my day on a plate 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 simple!
- What are macronutrients?
- How to include carbohydrate
- Why you need protein
- What fats are essential
- Should I count my macros?
What are macronutrients?
Macronutrients refer to carbohydrates, fats and protein — the food groups that provide the energy and nutrition for living.
Macronutrients are the nutrients that you need in large amounts, while micronutrients are the essential vitamins and minerals that you need in much smaller amounts.
Most foods actually contain more than one macronutrient. To be healthy, you need to eat a variety of different macronutrients to get the micronutrients that you need to stay healthy.
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 fibre in food, which is essential for a healthy gut.
When you choose the carbohydrate sources for your meal planning, look for low GI carbs like wholegrains and starchy vegetables. These types of carbohydrates contain the fibre and micronutrients that are so important, while highly processed carbs generally do not.
How much carbohydrate do I need?
Generally speaking, around 45-65% of your total food intake should come from complex carbohydrate sources.
Sources of carbohydrate
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:
- Avocado (I love avo on rye toast!)
- Nuts and seeds
- Peanut butter — try making a thai peanut sauce to use as a dip or dressing!
Olive oil — a staple in my Mediterranean diet.
Should I count my macros?
I don’t believe that you should have to count ANYTHING that you eat. 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.
If you are trying to reach a specific fitness goal like building strength, it’s important to make sure that you get enough protein and carbohydrate to speed up your muscle repair and recovery. If you have a weight loss goal, the amount of each macronutrient that you eat is not as important as the total energy you consume each day.
Include all three macronutrients to be healthy
While I don’t recommend counting your macros daily, 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 healthy recipes for inspiration!
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.