Macros: you’ve probably heard the term, but do you know what it means, and why it’s important?
Each person needs a unique number of Calories in order to reach and maintain their goal weight. Within that goal, they also need a certain amount of carbohydrate, protein, and fat- the three macronutrients.
Macronutrient (or simply “macro) ratios vary, with many fad diets promoting macronutrient ratios that operate far outside of the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range, or AMDR. The AMDR is the acceptable range of each macronutrient consumed as a percentage of total Caloric intake.
While total Caloric consumption ultimately determines body weight outcomes, macronutrient distribution plays a critical role in overall health, disease prevention, and body composition. The amount of each macronutrient that each individual needs is highly variable and largely dependent upon activity level and health status.
To be clear, most Americans consume far too much carbohydrate, especially in the form of highly processed, low quality carbohydrate. Caloric beverages, snack foods, and refined grains (pasta, rice, bread, etc) are all common examples of highly processed, low nutrition carbohydrate.
Vegetables, fruit, dairy, beans, and whole grains, on the other hand (in that order), are high quality carbohydrates that play an important role in overall health. The AMDR for carbohydrate for children and adults is 45-65%.
Those who are inactive or overweight should operate on the lower end or just outside of the AMDR: say, 35-40%, while individuals who are highly active should operate towards the higher end.
Protein plays a vital role in the human body: literally every cell depends on protein for function, repair, and maintenance. The AMDR for protein is 10-35%.
Unless a physician recommends otherwise, it’s generally best to operate on the upper end of the AMDR for protein, as studies have shown that this tends to promote the maintenance of muscle tissue and aid in the maintenance of a healthy body weight. This is especially important for older adults, as rate of muscle loss tends to be higher.
Focus on high quality protein in the form of seafood, lowfat and nonfat dairy, and lean cuts of beef, chicken, turkey, and pork. Skip processed proteins in the form of cured meats, breaded meats, fried meats, protein powders, jerky, and protein supplements.
The AMDR for fat is 25-35% of total Calories. However, some individuals may need more or less depending on activity level and individual weight/health status. It’s generally best to operate in the low to middle end of the AMDR unless a physician specifies otherwise.
While fat tends to get a bad rap, certain types of fat are better than others: skip processed peanut butters, coconut oil, butter, margarine, and other sources of saturated and trans fat in favor of unprocessed nuts and nut butters, omega-3 rich fish, olive, and canola oil.