Written by Deanna Wolfe
Macronutrients, counting and understanding them, may seem difficult, overwhelming, and not worth the effort. However, many individuals want to be able to eat in a balanced manner, consume the right nutrients, and not stress about food. Understanding macronutrients is typically the best place to start.
Do I recommend counting macronutrients for the rest of your life? No. However, understanding macronutrients deems the first step to a healthier outlook on food, which will allow you to have a more balanced intake of nutrition, abolish food ‘rules’, and progress with your body composition and health goals.
Here are my top four benefits of understanding and counting macronutrients:
1. It’s not considered a ‘diet’.
You can eat any way you prefer by counting macronutrients. This is not a diet with foods you can and cannot eat. You can eat vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, non-GMO, completely organic, or gluten-free. Rather, the benefit of counting macronutrients is choosing foods you love, and eating them in the correct portion and at correct times. You don’t only have to eat certain foods or follow strict diet ‘rules’.
2. You don’t HAVE to ‘eat clean’.
Understanding macronutrients opens your eyes to what food truly is: nutrients that fuel us. Yes, food is nourishing for the soul and creates amazing memories, but food can only contain 3 macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) plus micronutrient. That’s about it.
There are no magical superfoods, ‘bad’ foods, or foods that will help you lose belly fat. There are more nutrient-dense or less nutrient-dense foods based on their make-up, but that doesn’t mean you only need to eat the most nutrient-dense foods.
3. You can have a cookie without feeling like you’ve ‘messed up’ your diet.
Many people who are looking to achieve body composition goals have an all-or-nothing mentality. If berries are great for me, I might as well eat 3 cups. If coconut oil is great for me, why not put it on everything? If cookies and pizza are bad for me, I am going to avoid them forever.
Are any of these statements sustainable? No. Yet, there are so many men and women following meal plans that don’t allow them the flexibility to eat a homemade cookie if they crave it and understand that it is not going to ruin all their progress. Usually, if someone is on a meal plan and does not understand macronutrients, they may think they are ‘cheating’ and then end up eating a larger amount of cookies/brownies/etc because they already blew their diet.
WRONG. When understanding macronutrients, you understand that a cookie is processed, and has a large amount of carbohydrates and fat. It doesn’t have a lot of fiber, so if you eat it, you won’t feel satiated and you could have eaten something else in exchange that would fill you up and make you feel better.
YOU ultimately have the decision about how you fuel your body and you know that one cookie won’t completely derail you because you understand what it’s made of, and why you are choosing it.
4. You begin to truly understand your body, and that you don’t need to be exact with macronutrients anymore to feel your best.
When you first start counting macronutrients, you may eat pop-tarts, cookies, pizza, and many foods that used to be off-limits to you. However, you will most likely always come back to a well-balanced meal because your body feels the best eating that way. You will be more in tune with your body because you understand how certain foods affect your energy, your GI system, your mood, your body composition, and which foods may not be necessarily worth it to consume because you’d rather have something else.
You will also be able to eyeball any portion when dining out, because you took the time to learn the correct portion for nearly ALL foods in your diet. Soon enough, you will be confident enough to know how your body feels when it is fueled properly. You will realize that you do not need to count macronutrients every day to be able to eat in a balanced manner, nor stress about food, while still reach your nutrition and fitness goals.
So while macronutrients may seem scary and confusing, they can truly teach you how to honor your body and make peace with food. I certainly don’t support a diet that doesn’t let you eat a homemade brownie, but also don’t assume eating a brownie without knowing its constituents or its effects on the body is suitable either. What I do recommend is gaining an understanding of macronutrients so that you can have a healthier outlook on food, a more balanced intake of nutrition and make progress towards your body composition goals. All without food ‘rules’ or a specific diet!