Maintaining a balanced diet is incredibly crucial for people seeking to get the most out of their fitness and overall health. One of the key aspects for achieving a balanced diet is having a solid understanding of the macronutrients, carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
If you are looking to delve into the basics of macronutrients and how they contribute (with a good fitness routine) to a healthy lifestyle then this is the perfect article for YOU.
While we dabbled in what meal prepping is previously (Check out THIS article), this give a more broad view into your macro’s which will help establish your meal prepping standards.
Table of Contents
- Macronutrient Basics
- Achieving a Balanced Diet
- Implementing a Nutrient-Focused Approach
Macronutrients are the major (the definition of macro in old Greek) way that your body functions. They are required in large quantities to sustain many bodily actions, both chemical and physical and provide lasting energy to move.
The three major macros that we are going to cover here are carbs, proteins and fats, and we will also touch on alcohol just a bit.
Carbohydrates, carbs for short, are the body’s primary source of energy to function. They are found in various forms in peoples diets via starches, sugars and fibers.
The two major breakdowns of carbs are Complex and Simple, which designates how they body breaks them down.
Complex carbohydrates are composed of longer chains of sugar molecules, which means they take a longer time to break down during digestion. This results in a slower, gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream. This ensures that there is a sustained energy over a long period of time compared to simple carbs. Foods that are complex rich include those incredible whole grains (this rice, wheat and oats), legumes, and starchy vegetables (potatoes and oddly corn). Another added benefit of complex cars is that they are often high in fiber, which helps digestions and leaves your stomach feeling fuller, longer.
Compared to complex carbs, simple carbs are composed of one to two sugar molecules or have even undergone the process that breaks complex carbs into their simpler forms. Simple carbs are quickly digested and absorbed, which results in a rapid increase in blood sugar levels, which gives you that “sugar rush” you always heard about as a kid.
Common forms of simple carbs are refined sugars, candies, sodas, juices and deserts.
While simple carbs do provide that quick burst of energy, they are often lacking in dietary fiber and other nutrients that are commonly found in the complex form.
It is generally recommended to have a higher proportion of complex carbs compared to simple, as there is a higher nutritional value, they provide sustained energy and promote better overall health. Moderation is key, like in many things and you will need to adjust your carb intake based on dietary needs or overall fitness goals.
Proteins are generally accepted as the building blocks of your body. They play an integral role when it comes to repairing, growing and maintaining the muscles that make up your frame. The components of proteins, widely regarded as amino acids, are needed for all sorts of physiological functions.
Proteins aren’t quite as complex as carbs as there aren’t to many different types, but just know that the human body actually creates MOST of the needed ones, while leaving you craving for a bit more.
Some great sources of protein include lean cuts of meat, poultry, fish, dairy, legumes (we keep mentioning these), and plant based sources, IE the dreaded tofu.
When you incorporate the right amount of protein for your goals into the fuel for your body, you will have a higher muscle recovery rate, which means they will get bigger, faster and stronger.
Fats, the most commonly villainized out of the big three, are essential for maintaining optimal health. With almost twice the energy per gram compared to carbs and proteins, fats serve as a stored form of energy for the body. They provide fuels during long periods of fasting, exercising or when you have a limited carb intake.
They also help in hormone production, the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K), and help regulate your body through temp control and cushioning vital organs. The brain is also composed of a significant amount of fat, which means that dietary fats help support brain function, development, and memory.
While fats are important for maintaining a healthy diet, making sure that you are getting fats from the right sources, like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These sources, which again help power the body as a whole, can be found in nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. Unhealthy sources are commonly called saturated or trans fat, which are found in processed foods and fried items.
When it comes down to building a proper nutrition plan, put a little fat on it for the best flavor.
Achieving a Balanced Diet
So now that you have a bit better understanding of what the major macros are, it’s time to dive into what YOU can do to achieve a balanced diet for your best health. Don’t forget that everyone is a bit different, so what we will be talking about are general guidelines to start with. Make adjustments as needed so that your nutrition fits your goals.
In order to achieve a balanced diet, it’s crucial to have an understanding of how to distribute the macronutrients properly for your goals.
While the ideal ratio varies depending on goals and preferences, there are some good guidelines to follow. For your carbohydrates, you will want to aim around 45-65% of your daily calories. When it comes to proteins the science says that as little as 10% all the way to 35% is adequate to build muscle. Another suggestion that is given is to do about .8g of protein to 1lb of bodyweight of an individual. The remainder of your diet will be made up from fats, which could be anywhere from 20-35%.
If you have any underlying medical conditions, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian for any personalized advice.
Depending on what your goals are, the balance of your nutrition could change from month to month, or even week to week. Your diet should be fluid and match what your goals are, not based around what people around you are aiming at doing.
Importance of Macronutrient Balance:
Balancing the intake of your macronutrient intake is instrumental for supporting your overall health and well-being.
Carbs provide the needed energy for any physical activities while proteins support the repair and development from performing those actions. Fats round it all out by contributing to various physiological functions, like making the smart decisions.
If you neglect or overemphasize any of the these macros, it will lead to potential imbalances and health issues that will leave you wanting more. The key to a well balanced macronutrient based diet is attaining the right mix of variety and moderation. This means eat the rainbow of vegetables, vary the types of meat you eat, and when it comes to grains, get creative and explore new options. While we recommend trying to consume whole, unprocessed foods, just be mindful of how MUCH of them make up your potential diet habits.
Implementing a Nutrient-Focused Approach: Mastering Your Nutrition
There are literally as many individual diet plans as there are individuals on this planet, but all of the good ones have a few key concepts in common, mainly building a balanced, competent plan and following through with it by tracking it.
Building a Balanced Meal Plan:
The first part of building a balanced meal plan is to understand what your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is to know how to build your calories around it. While there are a variety of online calculators (like THIS one), you can’t depend solely on their calculations. Once you use one of the calculators, you can use it as a base rate for how many calories you burn in a day.
Once you have your BMR, next comes building the actual meal plan around it. While we won’t dive into that in this article, what we can tell you that the key is to have that variety of all foods in your diet. Opt for complex carbs, lean protein sources, and the healthy fats that we have previously talked about. It will be up to you to experiment with different recipes and explore different combinations of food that align with what you love to eat. Remember to prioritize nutrient dense food and practice being mindful, while keeping your life fun as possible.
Tracking and Monitoring:
When it comes to tracking your macronutrient intake, it is important to understand you’re meeting your health and fitness goals, you gotta monitor it properly.
Many people use different apps and tools that are available online that enable easy tracking and monitoring. There are some things you need to consider as you go:
- How strict do you want to go?
- How many times a day do you want to munch?
- What are your training goals?
The reason you need to understand these questions is because every app out there will have different results based around the answers that you provided. If you are really looking at diving into tracking, hiring a coach to help you navigate might be a good call as well.
Just remember that it is important to create a balance between being mindful and obsessive. Listen to your body and seek any professional help (registered dietitian, nutrition coach, A DOCTOR) if you need any guidance to achieve your best results.
Having a good understanding for the basics of macronutrients (IE proteins, carbohydrates, and fats), is essential for getting your diet balanced and optimizing how you hit your fitness goals.
By incorporating a host of nutrient-dense foods and maintaining the balance for your macronutrients, your body will be fueled properly and it will support your overall well-being. Remember that the key for hitting your goals is making informed decisions and finding out what works best for your unique needs and preferences.
What kind of diet do you have that helps balance these major macros?
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not replace professional medical or dietary advice. Consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized guidance and recommendations.