Healthy Living Blog

What are Macros?

Macros, or macronutrients are fat, carbohydrate and protein.  Marcos are the only nutrients that give fuel to our body. We need fuel from all three of these macros in order to keep our mind and body healthy, hence the term MARCOS- we need a lot of them. Many fad diets will reduce or eliminate a macro.  At first, that can seem simple for the dieter and will often result in the desired weight loss. However, our minds and bodies can’t typically sustain a drastic reduction or elimination of a macro for the long term, and the weight returns. Each macro plays an important role in fueling our bodies.

The fat macro just sounds bad. Won’t eating fat make you fat? Well, no.  Though it is the most energy dense macro, no single nutrient increases fat storage. We need fat (20-35% of our diet, actually) to absorb other nutrients, lubricate our joints, help our brain to function and maintain body temperature. Excess calories, regardless of the macro that provides them, is what causes excess body fat. So eat your fat, but try to make it a healthy mono-unsaturated or poly-unsaturated fat for heart health. Some examples include nuts, avocado, olive oil, etc.

The next macro, carbohydrate, probably has a worse reputation than even the fat macro. The most current fad diets are limiting carbohydrate intake. Most health organization guidelines suggest eating 45-65% of your diet from carbohydrates. The macro carbohydrate is what our bodies like to run on. It’s what gives us the fuel for the central nervous system, muscles and other really important body functions. Just like the fat macro, there are healthy sources of carbohydrate and not so healthy choices. The excess calories are what the body stores as fat, so choose carbohydrates that are less energy dense and whole grain or a whole food. Some healthy examples include barley, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, beans, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, etc.

Our last macro to discuss is protein. No one really seems to have a problem with getting enough protein. This macro is often overly consumed; we only need 10-35% of our diet to come from protein. The body does need protein to build muscles and organs and makes the framework of our bones. Ideally, one would consume a moderate amount of protein at each meal. Keep in mind that overconsuming protein will not automatically build larger muscles.  Like our other macros, this macro also can also come from healthy and unhealthy sources. Healthy sources include egg whites, soy products, lentils, lean poultry and fish, etc.

The USDA recommends 20-35% of your diet come from the fat macro, 45-65% from the carbohydrate macro and 10-35% from the protein macro. Given those ranges, that still gives plenty of room for personal preferences when it comes to food selection and diet outcome. Always begin an eating plan starting with how many calories you need to achieve your goal, and then track your macros and adjust your diet to meet the recommended range.

About Valerie Dickerson, MS, RD, Registered Dietitian

Valerie is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She received both her Bachelors of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics and Master’s degree in Nutrition from Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina. Valerie enjoys helping people develop a deeper understanding of food so that they have lasting lifestyle changes beyond their stay at Structure House. She prides herself on helping participants break down complex nutritional issues into practical realistic goals. She believes balance and a healthy relationship with food is the key to developing a lifelong food plan that fuels the body while not depriving it. Valerie conducts individual nutrition sessions, teaches nutrition classes, facilitates grocery store tours and restaurant outings, and supports participants in the What’s Eating You weekly series for Binge and Emotional Overeating. Valerie originally joined the Structure House team in 2011, took a three year hiatus to be with her young children, and rejoined the team in 2018.

View all posts by Valerie Dickerson, MS, RD

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