You should eat high carb, low fat, medium protein.
You should eat high protein, low carb, low fat.
You should eat high fat, low carb, medium protein.
You should eat medium carb, medium fat, medium protein.
Friends, when it comes to macronutrients and what balance you should or shouldn’t be eating, it can get downright confusing what the heck to be putting on your plate, not to mention how much to put on it and when to eat it.
The weighing, the measuring, the issue of timing…
Should I eat fiber before my workout?
Should I eat saturated fat with protein?
Do I have to eat first thing in the morning?
Can I eat carbs before bed?
Can I eat sugar it is from fruit and honey?
Should I drink coffee after 11 a.m.?
These questions are just the tip of the iceberg lettuce.
All that nutrition noise out there kinda makes me want to pull an ostrich, stoving my head in the sand and hoping there’s a cheeseburger buried under there.
With that said, I had one of Y’ALL ask me what the heck is the deal with these macros shmacro things (kisses to you, Amanda) and whether they’re something worthy of spending time trying to count.
You know what, my friend, your wish is my command. You ask, I answer…that’s kinda the point of this whole blog dealio…I share my insight and experience about healthy living with y’all with the hope that a nugget or two of it can be beneficial to your life and your health journey.
Moral of this story: If there’s a health/nutrition/fitness/pregnancy/mommy topic you’re confused or curious about, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Facebook or Instagram.
For today, mis amigos, we’re going to briefly explore 1- what macros are, 2- why they’re important for our bodies, and 3- why counting them can be illuminating for some and devastating for others.
Before we get down and dirty, I want to emphasize to y’all loud and clear that I am not a nutritionist or health practitioner, nor am I claiming to be one. I don’t know what’s best for you and your life, your body, your conditions both past and current.
I’m just sharing my knowledge and experience with y’all in hopes of demystifying a potentially befuddling topic.
At the end of the day, I want you to do you. I respect the choices you make for your health and your life and your family, and I do not judge you for them. I’m just here to help and share and, maybe just maybe, inspire you. I know how much my healthy lifestyle improves my relationship with my Savior, my family, my peers, and myself, and I want that same joy and satisfaction for you.
Ladies and gents, grab a mug of coffee or bone broth or Chardonnay (no judgment, remember?) or whatever it is you like to sip on whilst reading my nutrition ramblings. Class is now in session.
What in Tarnation Are Macros?
Simply put, macros, aka macronutrients, are the three foundational building blocks that make up every diet: fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
Like nearly every issue in the health community, this one is also up for great debate. And it’s a debate that I’ve dibbled and dallied on both sides of the fence, thus feeling all the more qualified to lead you securely through this macro maze.
Last week, I dove head first into one of the macros, fat, urging all of y’all to consider a world without fat free, canola-based buttery spread and reduced fat peanut butter and egg white omelets. If you haven’t read up on why you shouldn’t fear egg yolks and coconut milk, go back and give it a skim. It’s worth your while.
Next up in the macro family is protein. Protein is the muscle-building block that is found so abundantly in meat, eggs, nuts, and dairy. It’s a low calorie source of energy (4 calories per gram) and should be part of every meal. Here’s the Sparknotes on why else it’s awesome:
When it comes to fueling your body with protein, I recommend having quality, whole-food sources at every meal and snack. Grassfed beef and lamb, pork, chicken, seafood, wild game, eggs, whole fat dairy, and nuts are all fantastic sources of protein for your body. Quality protein powders and bars can be solid choices as well if you are mindful of the ingredients; if you can’t pronounce it or it sounds like a contagious disease, you should probably avoid it.
Last but not least, we have carbohydrates. From simple carbs like white rice and potatoes to complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and Pink Lady apples, carbs are a vital source of energy, vitamins, and minerals for our bodies, also weighing in at 4 calories per gram.
Simple or “bad” carbs raise blood sugar more quickly, releasing more insulin. While eating these simple carbs (I’m not going to call them bad because food, inherently, does not possess morality; food is just food) on occasion is totally cool beans with me, too much of these insulin-raising foods overtime can lead to problems like type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Complex carbs found in fruit, starchy veggies, nuts, and seeds take longer to breakdown usually due to fiber, so they don’t result in a blood sugar rollercoaster that simple carbs often provide (why you’re starving 90 minutes after you pound that bowl of fried rice).
There’s a lot of hype out there about how much weight and fat can be lost by cutting carbs out altogether. I’m not going to tell you that’s a marvelous or horrible idea…remember I’m trying to just provide facts. I do want to take a moment to highlight how eating those organic oats or butternut squash can help your body.
Here’s how carbs can help rock your world:
With that said, what carbs are a should make their way to our plates? The ones that make you look, feel, and perform your best! To start with, I ALWAYS will push y’all toward wholefoods for your macronutrients, so foods that aren’t processed or packaged are solid choices. Simply put, I recommend 1) fruit, 2) sweeter starches like beets, squashes, potatoes, and squashes, and 3) Quinoa and rice.
Personally, when I want to alter my body composition and lose fat, I see best results when I limit fruit to about one serving a day and sweet starches to one a day. Right now, as a nursing mom, I’m not limiting anything. Yes, I want to lose this baby fat, but I’d rather see that my son is nourished and thriving before I see my abs come back. Point being, feel free to play around with different types of carbs and see what works for you!
Why Counting Macros May Work For You
You’re Entering Into Healthy Eating 101
If you’re just starting off on the road to eating and living a healthier lifestyle (notice I said lifestyle, not 20 day challenge or 30 day diet or 60 day cleanse), counting and weighing and measuring and tracking and logging can be really illuminating for you. There was once a time in my life when I had no clue what 2 tablespoons of peanut butter looked like or how large 2 cups of spinach was or how tiny ¼ cup of almonds really is. So, if you were like me when I first started dabbling with nutrition and healthy cooking, it can be really helpful to weigh and measure things.
You Want to Lose Weight/Fat/Body Composition
This is NOT a typo, I repeat, NOT a typo. In order to lose weight or fat or shift your body composition from chunky to hunky, you must be eating enough calories! I find most of us underestimate how many calories we are consuming, especially women! Knowing how many calories you’re consuming a day is really important. Yes, not all calories are created equal, and calorie consumption is not the end all be all of weight loss. If you’re eating too many or too few calories, it’s going to be a rough road to losing that ‘stubborn belly fat’. And consuming 3,000 calories, whether its from apples or apple pop tarts, is going to make it difficult to accomplish this goal.
Your Body Isn’t Acting Normal
From disrupted sleep and infertility to hair loss and weight gain, what you’re eating or not eating can be a HUGE factor in these bodily irregularities. Been there, done that, friends. Back last Thanksgiving when I was ready to start trying to have a baby, I had irregular cycles that were nearly impossible to track, thus making the likelihood of conceiving all the more difficult. After a lot of research, I realized I need to closely examine my nutrition; I used a calorie-tracking app to see how many calories, carbs, fat and protein I was actually consuming in a day; I was shocked to see most days averaged 1,200-1,500, which is NOT enough for a young, active lady trying to create a baby-friendly body. Similarly, my carbs were pretty low. I worked on tweaking both of those, and within half a year I was pregnant!
I’m not saying eating 2 sweet potatoes a day will cure your migraines or 4 chicken thighs will make your arthritis go away; however, there’s a definite link between nutrition and your body not feeling so great that it’s worth your time and interest exploring. That’s all I’m sayin’ bout that.
Why I Don’t Count Macros
With all that said about how tracking and logging and weighing and measuring your food can be a fantastic tool for you and your health journey, it doesn’t work so well for me.
As I’ve shared with y’all before, I haven’t always had a healthy relationship with food. From years of undereating, overexercising, binge eating, comfort eating, and all sorts of emotions in between, it has taken me a lot of prayer, reflection, research, and experimentation to mend my broken relationship with food.
In high school, when I started educating myself on nutrition and calories as told by Shape magazine and Jillian Michaels (insert eye roll here), I can remember spending hours looking up restaurant’s nutrition facts, scribbling down in a little journal which foods were the healthiest choices by rare chance I actually set foot in Wendy’s or Taco Bell and had to order a meal.
Back in those pre-iPhone days, I would look up how many calories were in the foods I was eating daily and add them all up, desperately trying to make sure I was under 1,200. Woof.
I was also oddly obsessed with fiber. Not to get into the TMI zone with y’all, but I have always been blessed with an efficient digestive tract; therefore, my body certainly didn’t need the encouragement of extra fiber. Nonetheless, I consumed mass quantities of Kashi cereal, Fiber One twigs, and Benefiber tablets, knowing that ‘fiber has been linked to weight loss’. No wonder I had tremendous gas pains and bloating for much of my late teenage years.
And so it began.
Quickly, it seemed like my life revolved around food. I would get anxious or stressed out when going out to eat, wanting to know exactly how many calories were in what I was eating. I wanted to be out with my friends, enjoying myself like everyone else without a care in the world about calories. Birthday parties, which seemed to be a weekly occurrence on my freshman dorm hall, were a terror, knowing I would be pressured to eat the cake, I would be dying to eat the cake, but I ‘couldn’t’ eat the cake.
Food became surrounded by rules: Fat free dressing always on the side. Three tortilla chips at dinner. No whole milk or sugar in coffee. Only egg white omelets. No snacking between meals. No rolls at restaurants. A healthy dessert only on the weekend.
And if a rule was broken, I subjected myself to guilt and punishment. If I ate too much granola at brunch in the dining hall, I would run 7 miles that afternoon or go to 3 exercise classes the next day. And after the hours of exercise, I would still beat myself up about how weak I was around food and how I would never escape this powerful grip food had over me if I kept this up.
To me, food had morality, and food impacted my morality. I would say things like, “Oh, I can’t have ice cream; I’m trying to be good.” And I endured a cycle of restriction-undereat-overeat-guilt-punishment. Yet those rules and restrictions seemed to make every dessert or sugary food I ever came in contact with all the more appealing.
It’s like the bad boy in high school that your parents tell you to stay away from; he becomes all the more tantalizing and attractive to you when you’re told you can’t date him. Like Bender from the Breakfast Club…
That was my life with sugar for roughly 6 years.
After hearing about Diane Sanfilippo’s 21 Day Sugar Detox and her own struggles with sugar binges and addiction, I decided to give it a try for myself.
While it wasn’t a super strict diet plan, it did force me to cut out sugar- the real, the fake, the processed- for three weeks. I never got hangry or headaches or turn into a Grimlin, but it sure was illuminating to see how much of my daily mind space was occupied by sugar.
From the treats in the breakroom (WHY ARE THERE ALWAYS DONUTS IN THERE?!?!) to the candy bowl at the doctor’s office to the Andes mints at the restaurant, I became so mindful of the power food, specifically sugar, had over me and was sick of it. Food and sugar should not become an idol, but for me, it was; I was letting something that was created to be a fuel for my body hinder it, hinder my emotions, and hinder my relationship with God. No bueno.
I was ashamed I’d let food disrupt my relationship with my Savior, and it was time to make it stop.
Slowly and steadily from that day forward (key word=slowly), I began to ask God for His strength as I trusted my body more and more that it knew what it needed to eat, how much it needed to eat, and to actually listen to its actual hunger/full cues instead of my own haphazard schedule and rules.
And you know what? It worked.
What a novel thought- to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re comfortably full.
I finally backed away from the rules mindset and told myself, “By golly, food is just food. No good food, no bad food, it’s just there and it will be there tomorrow”. Once I had that realization, the dessert sections of the menu and the bulk bins of dark chocolate almonds
Friends, for me, nutrition and healthy eating is all about eating what makes me feel energized and satisfied.
Have there been setbacks, times when I overdid it on healthy treats? You betcha! But I had to let my body and brain see how I felt if I actually let myself eat half a bowl of tortilla chips or two slices of wedding cake (the answer=doo doo, I felt like doo doo). Did I make myself spend 3 hours in the gym afterward? Nope, I just moved on with my life.
But I’ve stopped assigning treats to a schedule or if I’ve ‘earned’ them; if I want Yumilicious froyo on a Tuesday at 4:53 p.m. or a glass of Prosecco on a Monday night, I’m going to do it. I don’t let myself have that froyo everyday at 4:53 p.m, but I allow myself these delicious, soul-satisfying foods on occasion and don’t think anything of it. I move on with my day.
To this day, I truly eat what I want and try to listen to my body’s cravings. Granted, as you see on my social media accounts, it’s not dominated by grilled cheese sandwiches and Twix bars and Sonic Blizzards. I’ve had enough experimentation over the years to know if I actually ate an entire Sonic Blizzard I would feel sick nasty. I certainly will eat a few bites of Mister HHT’s if he gets one because a few bites are enjoyable (I am human, after all), but I know the whole thing doesn’t work for me.
End scene. Soap box over. Mike drop.
If you are interested in counting macros or it works for you, pretty please don’t think that I’m saying it’s unhealthy or will lead to disordered eating; if it works for you and helps you live a healthier, happier life, please do it!
If you are someone who has struggled with these kinds of disordered eating patterns before, please feel free to reach out to me! I’d love to guide you through this process of empowering your body, trusting you body, and regaining control over your body. We got this! You don’t have to do this alone!
YOUR TURN: How do you feel about counting macros/counting calories/weighing and measuring? Does it work for you? Does it help you stay on track? Or does it make you a little bit on the crazy train like me? Leave a comment below or email me at email@example.com and let me know!! Remember, I'm here for you.
Y’all are beautiful, wonderful, and uniquely made. Remember, we talked about that on Monday. Good news, the weekend is nearly here! We got this!
Healthy Happy Texan
I'm a Foodie, Fitness Instructor, and Follower of Christ. Add a passion for teaching others, dark chocolate, bacon, and dogs -- and that's me in a box.
Come on, let's live a little!