If you’re hoping to shed a few pounds before the pools open or a big trip this summer, you might be thinking about reducing your calorie intake. While taking charge of your diet is always a good idea, counting calories may not be the solution to your weight loss goals. In reality, tracking macronutrients is where you might find the most success.
That’s because what we eat matters more than how much. So, rather than counting calories to lose weight, take a closer look at what your calories are made from and how those macronutrients matter in hitting your overall health goals. Keep reading to find out how macronutrients may be your key to weight loss success.
What are Macronutrients?
Macronutrients (also known as macros) are the main building blocks of our foods that our bodies need in relatively large amounts to function properly – hence the term macro. They are broken down into three top categories: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Our bodies need all three of these macronutrients to provide us with energy (calories), promote cellular growth, enhance our immune function, and help our bodies with overall repair. The problem with many daily diets is eating the right balance of these three macros.
Top Three Macronutrients & How to Count Them
While each macronutrient group translates into a specific number of calories, how our body processes and uses these macro calories from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for energy differ greatly! Let’s see how each macronutrient and how it can impact your weight loss and nutrient goal efforts:
Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy and should make up about 45% of your daily macronutrient food intake. They offer quick fuel for your brain, heart, kidneys, and other organ systems in the body. Carbohydrates are also a great source of fiber, which is essential for healthy digestion, appetite control, and balanced blood cholesterol levels. So contrary to what many of us have been told by “diet experts” over the years, carbohydrates are actually good for our bodies.
The problem is the type of carbohydrates we eat. In the digestive tract, carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules and sent into the bloodstream as glucose. Insulin is released to help the body’s cells take in the glucose for future use. When we eat too many processed carbohydrates (especially simple sugars), this excess glucose is stored as fatty acids. Over time, excess sugar can also lead to insulin resistance, diabetes, and a range of other health conditions.
Good carbohydrates to eat are complex carbs. This includes:
- Vegetables (all)
- Whole fruits (especially those lower in sugar like cherries, grapefruit, and pears)
- Legumes (lentils, kidney beans, peas, etc.)
- Nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, etc.)
- Seeds (chia seeds and pumpkin seeds)
- Whole grains (oats, quinoa, barley, etc.)
Carbohydrates to avoid include simple, processed foods like:
- Processed bread and pasta
- Fast food
- White rice
- Sugary cereals
- Cookies and other desserts
Protein should make up 25-35% of your macronutrients. This is the most important macronutrient to reach when tracking your goals. The reason for this is that your body breaks down protein into amino acids that help to build muscle and carry out other important body functions.
As most bodybuilders can attest, eating protein is essential for healthy weight loss and strong muscles. A diet with substantial protein helps to ensure that any weight loss comes from reducing fat stores – not breaking down muscle. Eating healthy protein sources also helps you build lean muscle mass, which naturally increases your metabolism to burn more calories each day.
Healthy proteins to eat for those trying to lose weight include:
- Lean meats
- Low-fat dairy
- Nuts and seeds
Fat was once considered a villain, but we now know that healthy fat is crucial for our health – and even helpful for weight loss! We need fat to absorb the essential fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and protect our brain, skin, eyes, and gut health.
Healthy fats also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Fat also helps us keep our cravings and appetites in check. As the last nutrient to leave the digestive tract, fat makes us feel fuller longer. This helps to reduce unnecessary snacking and overeating.
Healthy fats to eat while trying to lose weight:
- Fatty Fish
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive Oil
Macronutrient Calculators and Calorie Breakdown
You can easily figure out macronutrient calorie intake with some simple math. Here’s how it works:
- 1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories
- 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
- 1 gram of fats = 9 calories
Apps have also made tracking macronutrients and calories simple. My Fitness Pal is one of the top for overall features and tracks both macronutrients and calories as defined by your current health and overall goals.
6 Macronutrient Tracking Tips to Reach Your Weight Loss Goals
If you’ve struggled to lose weight by counting calories alone, consider changing it up and try a new strategy. Here are a few macronutrient diet tips that will help you make better progress with your weight loss efforts.
1) Strike a macronutrient balance that encourages weight loss.
The typical macronutrient balance recommendation for weight loss is 45–65% of your daily calories from carbs, 20–35% from fats and 10–35% from protein. While these numbers tend to work for most people, the best ratio for you will depend on your body’s needs and specific health goals. It’s best to speak with your AlignLife Chiropractor to determine your optimal balance.
2) Consider macronutrient value over calories.
Cutting calories could help you lose a few quick pounds, but it doesn’t often offer sustainable or lasting weight loss. The reason is simple: as we saw above, not all calories are used, stored, and burned the same. For example, a 200-calorie bagel and a 200-calorie chicken breast may offer the same amount of energy, the way your body uses those calories is vastly different. While the bagel’s excess carbohydrate calories could be later stored as fat, the chicken’s protein calories will be used to restore muscle tissue. To get the best results with your weight loss meal plan, consider the quality of your food and the macronutrient balance as well as calorie count.
3) Eat healthy protein throughout the day.
Include protein at every meal so your body can access this energy source throughout the day. Eating a high-protein, low-carb breakfast can also reduce blood sugar fluctuations and keep insulin levels in check. You can also make getting your daily dose of lean protein easier with a supplement like Peak Protein from Aceva.
4) Go unprocessed and whole-grain whenever possible.
Carbohydrates should make up around 45% of our daily calories, but the types of carbs we eat matter significantly! The refined sugar in processed foods and sodas will spike your blood sugar and cause weight gain without any nutritional benefit. Instead, choose fiber-rich, whole-grain sources of carbohydrates like whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and quinoa.
5) Be flexible and patient.
Some days, you’re just going to be hungrier than other days. Maybe your morning workout was more intense, or you need extra brain food to solve a complex problem at work. Fuel yourself with smart snacks and be flexible to shift your diet plan as needed. Flexibility and patience help keep your stress levels low and prevent yo-yo dieting.
6) Support weight loss with Meta Trim.
For those ready to take their weight loss goals to the next level, pairing Aceva’s Meta Trim with a macronutrient diet and exercise plan can help. This supplement boosts fat loss, improves energy, and controls cravings naturally with ingredients like L-Carnitine, GABA, Medium Chain Triglycerides, and Green Tea Leaf Extract.
Hit Your Macros & Weight Loss Goals with alignlife
As it turns out, getting in shape isn’t all about cutting calories. For the best results, we also need to consider the macronutrient makeup and the quality of the foods we eat. But a strategic weight loss plan doesn’t stop there. Exercise, sleep habits, stress management, and even healthy spinal alignment are also necessary for lasting weight loss success.
Ready to transform your diet with macronutrients?