Tracking Macros

Posted on May 22nd, 2019

Macros

You’ve heard of them before but do you know what they are? Macros is short for the term macronutrients. Macronutrients are the ‘major’ nutrients that contribute calories (or energy) to our food and beverages. We need macronutrients in much larger amounts and they make up most of what we eat each and every day. Whereas micronutrients are nutrients we need in smaller amounts and don’t contribute much in the way in terms of calories, think vitamins and minerals.

The Different Types of Macros

Macronutrients can be broken down into three major food categories: protein, carbohydrates (carbs), or fat. Alcohol also is a macronutrient but doesn’t provide much in terms of nutritional value with the exception of calories so we won’t be discussing it here today.

  • Protein provides us with 4 calories per gram. I like to refer to protein as “the building block” of the body. It helps with muscles, skin, hair, nails, and satiety. (and so much more)
  • Carbohydrates provide us with 4 calories per gram. You think of carbohydrates as our energy source. In short, carbohydrates provide us with the energy and fuel we need each day.
  • Fat provides us with 9 calories per gram. Fat helps with satiety, nerves, and with certain fat choices, you may see some heart health benefits and reduction in inflammation.

Tracking Macros

You may have heard of tracking macros. Typically following a pattern that if a food fits in their calculated macros then they can eat it. Here are some things that tracking macronutrients doesn’t take into consideration:

  • Nutrient quality. While tracking your macros is more specific and potentially more balanced than just tracking calories alone, it still doesn’t take into account the micronutrient quality in each maco food. For example, there is a big difference in saturated fat versus monounsaturated fat that can contribute to health. You may also be picking carbohydrates that lack other nutrients like fiber and vitamins that may have been a more nutritious choice.
  • Tracking can get a little hairy. Many foods can fall into two or more groups when it comes to macronutrients like nuts have both protein and fat. So it can become a bit confusing at times on how to count and categorize your food.
  • While separating foods into different macronutrient groups may be easier for some individuals it can be really time-consuming. This method will typically require you to plan ahead which can be difficult for families-on-the-go or to really enjoy a meal out with friends or family. Also, you need a way to track your macros. This is usually done using an app but it can become time-consuming to measure, search, and record each food item. Many of these databases house nutrient data that has been user submitted so accuracy can be in question.

One big benefit I do like about tracking macros is that it doesn’t exclude any food groups or foods. Woohoo!

Take-Away

Nutrition typically is not clear cut in terms of eating one way or another. What works for some may not work for others. Nutrition should be approached on an individual level. For a general healthy diet, the focus should be on a mindful approach to food and nutrition with fewer food rules, a balance of each macronutrient group since each nutrient provides us with benefits and looking for choices that are more nutrient rich.

Heather Steele, RD/LD is a registered dietitian and loves to garden, cook, and ride her bike! Heather is Reasor’s corporate dietitian offers a variety of services including store tours and corporate wellness.
The information included does not constitute medical advice and should only be used as a general recommendation for a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle. Reasor’s Registered Dietitians’ opinions and recommendations are their own; they are not paid to endorse any products or services.