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Calculating macros for your unique needs

Calculating macros for your unique needs

Calculating macros for your unique needs

Everyone has different requirements when it comes to their macronutrient needs. The balance of food groups is important, as it impacts how satisfied you feel with your meals, whether you are getting all the nutrients you need and how you manage your weight.

However, calculating how much protein, fat and carbohydrate you need to consume can be confusing – here’s a rundown on how to ensure you’re getting what your body needs to function optimally.

What are macronutrients?

Macronutrients are a group of nutrients that provide your body with energy and the components it needs to maintain its structure and functions.  [1]

Macronutrients include carbohydrates, protein, and fat. As your body needs them in high quantities to function optimally, we call them “macros”.

Micronutrients are mostly vitamins and minerals that aid in the digestion of macronutrients and other bodily functions. We get micronutrients along with the macronutrients we consume. For example, when we consume protein such as eggs, beans, meat, fish and milk, we also get iron, calcium and vitamin D. Fruits and vegetables, which give us carbohydrates, nourish our bodies with a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Carbohydrates in the form of wholegrain such as brown rice, wholegrain bread and cereals provide fibre, B vitamins and magnesium and fats provide us with vitamins A, D, E and K.  [2]

The calorie content of each macronutrient is:

  • Carbs: 4 calories per gram
  • Protein: 4 calories per gram
  • Fat: 9 calories per gram

It is important to include each macronutrient in your daily diet. This will be easier if you build each meal around a combination of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats.

Let’s look at each macronutrient in detail:

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are sugars, fibre and starches that provide the body with glucose. This is then converted into energy. Simple carbs such as white bread and high-sugar foods provide you with a hit of energy but do not keep you full. They also wreak havoc with your blood sugar levels. Complex carbs, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, provide fibre and vitamins to aid in digestion and keep you feeling full longer.

Good sources of carbs include:

  • Whole grains: brown rice, oats, farro, and barley
  • Vegetables: peas, potatoes, corn, and other starchy veggies
  • Fruits: mangoes, bananas, figs, and apples
  • Beans and legumes: black beans, lentils, and chickpeas
  • Dairy products: milk and yogurt

Protein

Amino acids, or proteins, help us to build muscle tissue and boost the immune system. There are nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own so we need to get them from food sources such as meat, poultry, fish, legumes, eggs and nuts.

Complete proteins provide all of the amino acids that your body needs in appropriate amounts. The most common sources of complete protein are meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and milk, quinoa, and edamame.

Incomplete proteins provide some, but not all, of the amino acids you need. Many plant-based proteins are incomplete proteins. However, when they are consumed together as complementary proteins, you can get all the amino acids that your body needs. Nuts, seeds, and (most) grains are examples of incomplete proteins. You can consume these foods separately or together throughout the day to get the essential amino acids you need. [3]

Protein is important in your diet, especially when you are trying to lose weight, as it can make you feel full longer.

Good sources of protein include:

  • Poultry: chicken and turkey
  • Eggs: particularly egg whites
  • Red meat: beef, lamb, and pork
  • Seafood: salmon, shrimp, and cod
  • Dairy products: milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Beans and legumes: black beans, lentils, and chickpeas
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds and pumpkin seeds
  • Soy products: tofu, edamame, and tempeh

Fats

Fats, or lipids, include triglycerides, phospholipids and sterols. Fats may be trans, saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Unsaturated fats are best for your health while saturated fats can increase bad cholesterol. Trans fat is a polyunsaturated fat that is processed to become shelf stable. Most trans fats are not natural and are to be avoided. [4]

Good sources of fat include:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Coconut: fresh, dried, and coconut oil
  • Avocados: fresh and avocado oil
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds and pumpkin seeds
  • Fatty fish: salmon and herring
  • Dairy products: full fat yogurt and cheese

How do I calculate the ratio of macronutrients that is best for me?

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine recommends adults try to get 10-35 percent of your calories from protein, 45-65 percent from carbs and 20-35 percent from fats. [5] It is important, however, to consider your age, health, weight and other lifestyle factors such as physical activity levels and the amount of stress in your life when calculating your macros.

Based on this information, you can decide the percentage of carbohydrates you need to function well. This may be:

Very low – less than 10 percent of total calories

Low – 10 to 15 percent of total calories

Moderate – 15 to 30 percent of total calories

High-carb – more than 30 percent of total calories

When you know which percentage of carbohydrates will suit you best, turn the percent of carbohydrates into a decimal and multiply it by your daily calorie intake. Then divide this number by four (as there are found calories in one gram of carbohydrate).

For example

30% carbs on a 2000 Calorie per day diet = 600 Calories

600 Calories divided by 4 (4 calories per gram carbs) = 150 g carbohydrates per day.

Then, choose how much protein will best suit you, multiply your daily calorie intake and divide by four again to get your daily recommended grams of protein.

When you have determined your carbohydrate and protein intake, fill in the remaining gap with fat. [6]

You can also find macro-counting calculators online to help you determine what will work best for you but it’s advisable to work with a Functional Medicine health practitioner who can guide you through the process.

What is macrotracking and why do it?

Macrotracking simply means logging the foods, and their subsequent macros, you eat on a website, app or food journal.

Macro tracking has a number of benefits. It can help you lose or maintain weight, alter your body composition or gain muscle. It is less restrictive than calorie counting as you can choose the types of foods you wish to eat, it is more sustainable over a long period of time.

Counting macros can also focus your attention on food quality rather than calorie content, thus helping you to choose healthier, more nutrient-dense food to meet your macro targets.

For example, a bowl of sugary cereal may have a similar number of calories as a bowl of oats topped with berries and pumpkin seeds, but these meals vary widely in macronutrient content.

However, unhealthy foods may still fit into your macros and calories — so it’s important to make healthy food a priority. [7]

A good general guide to healthy, balanced macros is to consume:

  • 15 to 20 percent of calories from protein
  • 15 to 30 percent of calories from carbs
  • 50 to 70 percent of calories from fat

A person may find that certain ratios of macronutrients are more beneficial than others, depending on their caloric needs, body composition goals and health conditions.

For example, someone eating to build muscle mass will want to ensure they achieve a calorie surplus, with a significant percentage of calories from protein and carbohydrates.

In contrast, an individual following the keto diet and aiming to lose weight will want to achieve a different macronutrient ratio, getting most of their calories from fat and very few from carbohydrates, while creating a calorie deficit.  [8]

When individuals are following the Paleo diet, they will consume a similar ratio to the above, focussing on healthy, natural fats. There are wide-ranging benefits to the Paleo diet, including reduced inflammation and improved digestion and blood sugar control.  Find out more about the Paleo diet and if it may work for you.

Some simple tips for tracking your macros

There are some simple guidelines that will help you when you are macro tracking:

  • Eat whole foods only (or a minimum of 95%) Anything pre-packaged should have recognisable ingredients
  • Try not to consume more than one serving of grains per day on average
  • At least half your plate should be veggies for two of your three meals per day
  • A serving of protein should be about the size of your fist
  • Cook with healthy oils only
  • Eat slowly enough to tell when you’re full. Then stop eating.
  • Always combine carbs with a form of either protein or fat [9]
  • Become knowledgeable about portion sizes, balancing meals with healthy nutrients, and actively managing food cravings through awareness
  • Eat a variety of colours and flavours to get the full spectrum of healthy compounds from food in every meal
  • Chew food thoroughly to improve digestion [10]

Determining your macros

At Advanced Functional Medicine, our team of experts can guide you in what are good macro ratios for your age, health and lifestyle. With guidance, we can determine the balanced diet that will suit you best for the short and long term so that you can reach your health and wellness goals.

Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper - ND is the founder of Advanced Functional Medicine Australia. He is a Naturopathic Doctor with extensive functional medicine training from leading practitioners in the USA and worldwide.

He is leading the way with advancements of functional medicine, clinically implementing worldwide best practices in Functional Medicine throughout Australia.

Jarrod consults in person from Perth, Western Australia and also online via Telehealth throughout Australia and worldwide.

If you are looking for personalised treatment, we highly recommend contacting Jarrod Cooper’s Advanced Functional Medicine clinic in Australia.

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