There are 3 words you almost always hear when people talk about fitness and nutrition: fat, protein, and carbs. You hear about eating more of some and less of others. Experts frequently talk about the right time of day to eat these nutrients.
Obviously, these three nutrients are important!
They also have a name: macronutrients. If you want to tweak your diet to help you reach health or fitness goals, there’s a lot you need to know about these essential nutrients.
What Are Macronutrients?
Expert Dr. Axe explains that macros are the three main nutrients the body needs to survive. Each macro has a special purpose.
Probably the macro you hear about the most at the gym, proteins consist of amino acids. They are “building blocks” that also provide energy. Protein is needed to keep your heart beating, your brain working, and your muscles moving and growing.
If you’re doing intense exercise, like HIIT, protein is what will give you energy during the exercise. It will also enable your muscles to grow after your workout.
You may think fat is something to get rid of, but it’s actually an important nutrient. Fats are a dense energy source and they do a lot of regulatory work in the body. You can thank (healthy!) fats for keeping your hormones, temperature, and appetite balanced. Eating healthy fats can give you an energy boost before or after a workout.
Carbohydrates are another nutrient that get a bad rep, but they are actually essential. Carbs are the main source of energy for the body because they release vital glucose into the body.
It’s best to eat whole, natural carbs (like those in legumes or veggies) because they provide slow, long-lasting energy. Carbs make sure you can sustain long workouts and go about your day with energy even after intense exercise.
Where Do I Find Macronutrients?
Every type of healthy macro is naturally-occurring in many foods. That makes macro meal-planning relatively simple. Some examples of healthy sources include:
- Lean meats like chicken or fish
- Dairy like milk or yogurt
- Whey powder
- Peanut Butter
- Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- Sweet Potato
- Whole Wheat Bread
Do I Need to Pay Attention to Macros?
Since they are vital, everyone needs to eat macros. However, people who tend to eat a balanced diet and live a healthy lifestyle naturally don’t have to pay as much attention to the macros in their diet.
There are some circumstances that make paying attention to macros important, though. For example, you should pay attention to macros if you:
- Want to reach specific fitness goals
- Hope to achieve peak performance
- Have health concerns like diabetes
- Strive to maximize health benefits
If any of these goals match your own, you can alter your diet to make the most out of your macros.
What Ratios of Macros Do I Need?
The main way that you can customize your diet to capitalize on macros is by adjusting your ratios. You need all 3 macros to survive, for example, but if you want to bulk up as a bodybuilder, you’ll need more carbs than fats.
Counting macros and setting ratios should be very specific to your health goals. Common ratios for goals include:
- Bulking: 25-50% Protein/30-40% Carbs/15-40% Fat
- Cutting: 35-50% Protein/25-40% Carbs/30-40% Fat
- Shedding Stored Fat: 40-50% Protein/10-30% Carbs/30-40% Fat
- Maintaining a Healthy Weight: 25-35% Protein/30-50% Carbs/25-35% Fat
- For Competitive Sports like Boxing: 20-30% Protein/50-65% Carbs/20-30% Fat
- For Endurance Sports like Marathon Training: 15-20% Protein/60-65% Carbs/15-20% Fat
- Right Before a Bodybuilding Show: 15-20% Protein/50-60% Carbs/15-20% Fat
You can use tools like the calculator offered on bodybuilding.com to find a ratio that fits your body type, lifestyle, gender, age, and goal.
Will I Always Have to Pay Attention to Macros?
If you are going to get serious about counting your macros to tightly monitor your ratios, plan for a specific time period. Most people are only strict with macro ratios for a few weeks or months at a time.
The rest of the time, just keep a general ratio in mind. For example, simply aim to eat fewer carbs than proteins at every meal.
How you track, choose, and consume your macros can make a big difference in meeting milestones and goals. Pair your macro know-how with this FREE 8 Week Shred program to gain a headstart on getting ripped.