Caroline from Northern Bootcamp discusses the importance of understanding and measuring your macronutrients and how this can benefit weight loss.
What is the real answer to weight loss?
We get asked a lot on boot camp, ‘how can I lose weight?’ Lots of people join us and they say they eat healthily but they still struggle with their weight. The first thing I say to that is ‘you must look at ‘the bigger picture’’. The bigger picture is the macronutrients we eat every day and that is what really counts.
We can spend a lot of time researching different supplements, which oil to use for cooking, etc, but you must look after the most important thing and that is the ratio of your macronutrients. If you don’t, you are never going to make big grounds in weight loss or successful weight management.
What are macronutrients?
Macronutrients are the three biggest components of nutrition. They consist of protein, fat and carbohydrates. These three components make up your daily calorie intake. The other smaller components are classed as ‘micronutrients’ and they are your vitamins and minerals.
How do I find the right balance of macronutrients?
Every body is different, and different body shapes will require a slightly different macronutrient ratio. The most common problem I see, and what I see with lots of clients that come to us, is that they simply have the balance skewed towards carbohydrates and not enough protein and fat in their diet.
The balance is worked out by calculating your total calorie intake, then dividing it into the components. How much percentage came from protein, how much from fat and how much from carbs? However, not all foods will fit into one category alone, for example, avocado’s main component is fat but it does contain a small amount of carbs and protein.
When you are beginning to count your calories it’s important that you use an app. One example is the ‘MyFitnessPal’ app where you can put in the exact amount of food you have had. Then the app will calculate what percentage of the came down to protein, carbs or fat.
I am not an advocate of counting every little bit of food you eat because I don’t think that is sustainable long-term, but if we are at a point where we are struggling with our weight and we just don’t know why, then this is definitely the first place to start.
In terms of a healthy and sustainable ratio of macronutrients, it really depends on how sedentary your lifestyle is, how much exercise you are doing and types of exercise you are doing. For example, strength training will require even more protein, but if you are doing lots of long distance stuff then you will need more carbs, and that is important to recognise.
A really good way to start in an ideal world would be 40% protein, 30% carbs and 30% fat. However, that is quite tricky to do. To get 40% of your calories to come from protein is quite a challenge, therefore I would bring it down to 35% protein, 35% carbs and 30% fat.
When you do this, you must bear in mind that things like alcohol are carbohydrates – they are empty calories – but they will still count in your total calorie intake. So if you are drinking alcohol that is going to skew the ratio of your carb intake.
You want good quality sources of protein in your diet. The best sources are non-processed meat, lean meat and beans, pulses and lentils. Your fats you want to get from ‘essential fatty acids’, so it’s much better to get it from avocados, fish, nuts and seeds rather than processed fat.
Once we have macronutrients balanced right we need to think about micro. These are vitamins and minerals, which are mainly found in fruit and veg. We should be looking at 5 portions of fruit and veg a day with lots of variety among them, as each food offers something different to your nutrition.
Finding the balance
So, when we are thinking about weight loss, weight management or fat loss, we need to be thinking about the bigger things and macronutrients are the bigger things. Getting the balance of your macronutrients right is the best place to start in any form of sustainable healthy lifestyle that is going to aid weight loss and help you manage your weight.