All the calories we’ve been talking about come from macronutrients — AKA protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
These all have different effects and assist your body with different funcitons. When you understand what these are you are more able to make educated decisions about what you eat depending on your goals. Let’s start with the basics.
- Protein is the building block of your body. It helps your cells repair, grow, and divide (aka muscle).
- Fat is the (pun intended) grease that assists with protein’s job. Your muscles, organs, brain, and bones need fats to function properly.
- Carbs are the easiest source of fuel for the human organism.
To get a little more advanced, the human body runs on glucose sugar for energy. Every macro gets broken down to glucose at different rates. Carbs are converted to glucose more quickly than any other macro which is why it’s best for “fuel”. Next is protein and ironically fat is the hardest thing for your body to convert to glucose.
All of this information will help you make informed decisions about food. If you’re hungry at your sedentary desk job the best decision is something high in healthy fats and protein. The worst would be anything high in carbs or sugar. If you’re hungry before a workout, you actually want some sugar and carbs to help you push your body.
Now I realize at this point it sounds like I am saying carbs are bad for weight loss. They are not. In fact for a lot of people, trying not to eat carbs makes you feel constantly tired (which makes sense). Your body needs carbs. But if you’re smart and know your macros, you’ll eat them before or after you’re active.
More Fun Facts about Macros:
- Protein is also the best for helping you feel full (also called satiety).
- Protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram.
- Fat has 9 calories per gram. This is what led to the Fat-Free diet craze in the 90’s.
- Carbs are the least filling macro.
Calculating Your Ideal Macros
Everybody is different and finding your perfect macros would actually require a lot of medical tests. That being said, there are proportions of macros that are more ideal across a broad spectrum for weight loss.
To start, return to this spreadsheet and pick the blue box that corresponds to how many pounds you wish to lose per week. Keep in mind that higher deficits are better at first but also harder.
Enter the chosen number from the blue box into the yellow box of this spreadsheet. Once you do, the green boxes will automatically calculate the “more ideal” number of grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fat that should be eaten everyday.
Even though the spreadsheet is about to do all your thinking for you, I’d like to explain what’s behind the calculation. When you input your weight loss calories, the spreadsheet is going to have you get 40% of your calories from protein, 35% of them from fat, and 25% of them from carbohydrates.
The reason why is that protein keeps you fuller for longer and it’s really easy to eat a lot of protein. Fats help protein do their job and also contain lots of calories so you don’t have to mess with that nonsense of 6 meals a day and whatever else. And finally carbs are necessary but I am willing to bet you’re eating way too many of them right now and it’s only by trying to cut down that you’ll realize this for yourself (I did).
Here’s some tips:
- Avoid Trans and Saturated Fats. Eat monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (read food labels). For more info read: not all fats are created equal
- For carbs you want to avoid simple carbs. Instead eat complex carbs. Read more about simple carbs and complex carbs here.
- Sugar is the enemy of fat loss. Especially high fructose corn syrup and maltodextrin. You should try to eat as little sugar as you possibly can if you’re truly invested in losing weight.
Part 3: How To Keep Track of Everything
Get in the habit of reading every single food label before buying or eating something. It’s a good habit to have at the supermarket to monitor what you’re eating and to avoid sugar (you’ll be surprised by how many things have sugar).
But it’s also important to pay close attention to Serving Sizes which can be misleading. Take the label below for example:
At first glance it seems this is only 100 calories. But notice that it’s 4 servings per container so if the whole chicken is consumed, this would actually be 400 calories from: 10 grams of fat (2.5 grams *4), 8 grams of carbs (2 grams *4), and 68 grams of protein (17 grams *4).