We all know that we should “eat healthy”, right?  And, we probably know that the best healthy foods are ones that are as close to their natural state as possible.  If you can picture it growing or grazing in a field, then it’s likely it has more nutrients.  You don’t see fields of donuts, after all.  Did you know that if you pay attention to your macronutrients and your micronutrients (macros and micros for short) you can maximize your body’s fat-burning and muscle-building potential? Let’s dive in!

What are macros?

The macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.  They are something that you require in large quantities in your diet for full metabolic function.  These are the 3 food groups that should build the foundation of your meals, and when they are combined in different ways (like carb cycling) they can really rev up your metabolism.

Protein:  Getting enough protein in your diet is key if you want to build muscle and burn fat.  Muscles are made up of protein and water.  Protein rebuilds lean tissue after resistance training and it helps to slow the rate at which carbs break down sugar, so it regulates both insulin and cortisol.  It also helps you to feel full faster so you are less likely to overeat. Protein is one of the key components for achieving a desirable body composition.  We recommend you eat protein at every meal.  Good sources of protein are lean meats, fish, eggs, cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt.

Carbohydrates:  Carbs give you energy quickly, and they are essential for energy. There are 2 types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.  This is one of the times in life where complex is better than simple!  Complex carbs have fiber, which slow the breakdown into sugar, keeping you from getting a sugar spike, which results in an insulin spike, which causes the sugar to be stored as fat.  Good examples of complex carbs are whole grains like oats, brown rice and quinoa, sweet potatoes, corn, legumes, 100% whole grain breads.

Fats: Fat has had a bad rap over the years, but it’s finally coming into its own.  Healthy fats are an important part of any weight loss program.  Fats support brain and nerve function, energy supply, protein absorption, help improve your mood and the motility of your bowels.  They help you feel full when you are on a low-carb day and they give you a slow steady source of energy.  Examples of healthy fats are nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, fish oil, and natural nut butters.

What are micros?

So, those are the macronutrients…what’s a micronutrient?  As you might have guessed, this is something that you need to get in your diet in small amounts.  These nutrients are still essential, but a little bit goes a long way.  Micros include things like vitamins and minerals, such as iron, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C, etc.  Ideally, you get your micros from your macros.  For example, lean beef is a protein (macro) and a great source of iron (micro).  A banana is a carbohydrate (macro) and a great source of potassium (micro).  Vegetables are a fantastic source for micronutrients, especially deep green, red, blue and purple veggies.

But what about…

There are some things in your diet that aren’t necessarily considered a macro or a micro.  Fiber, for example, is an important part of your diet that doesn’t really fall into either category, because it’s found in whole grains (macros) and vegetables (micros).  Water is essential for peak metabolic function as well, but isn’t considered either a macro or a micro.  Knowledge of macros and micros can simplify your meal planning, taking the guesswork out of what to eat and when.

So, when planning your diet, consider macros and micros and use them as the basic foundation for creating your meals, and then expand from there to create a variety of meals that provide your body with the nutrients it deserves!