Properly Fueling Your Workouts: Part Two - Macronutrient Goals
By: Samantha McCarthy MS, RD/LDN
Macros...it’s a new and trending word in the health world. Macronutrients have long been an important part of any athlete’s training routine, but they are now becoming more popular with the everyday gym-goer. Macronutrients are the 3 main nutrients that provide our bodies with calories (AKA: energy); protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Each nutrient has many important and different functions in our bodies that help keep us alive and support our workouts. But, they are not equal. We need more of some nutrients than the other, especially if we are active.
Carbohydrates are the first macronutrient we will discuss. Carbs are the preferred fuel source for our exercising bodies. They provide 4 calories per gram, so if a food has 10 grams of carbohydrates, it provides 40 calories. As with all of our macronutrients, there are good and bad sources of carbs. Take a look at the table at the end for examples. For the active individual who works out 3-6 times per week for about an hour at moderate intensity, aim to get 40% of total calories from carbs. If you consume a 2000 calorie diet (refer to last week’s tip to calculate your calorie needs), then 800 calories should come from carbs, or about 200 grams.
Protein is the next nutrient and it is a bit more unique. Unlike fat and carbs, protein is not loved for its energy content. It is actually very inefficient for our bodies to use protein as energy, but don’t assume you don’t need it. Proteins have many, many essential functions in the body. For the active individual, the most important functions of protein are to build and contract muscles and transport nutrients. Without adequate protein, our bodies would feel weak and lacking in energy to perform exercise. Protein provides 4 calories per gram, like carbs. The goal is to get at least 30% of total calories from protein. Example: if you consume a 2000-calorie meal plan, 600 calories should come protein or about 150 grams.
Last is fat. Fat is another excellent source of fuel for our bodies. It provides the most fuel out of all the macronutrients: 9 calories per gram. If you do the math, you can guess that our goal is to consume about 30% of total calories from fat. For a 2000-calorie meal plan, about 600 calories should be from fat or about 67 grams.
Follow the chart below to help you choose the healthiest protein, fat, and carbohydrate source:
Saturated and Trans Fats:
The next two weeks will discuss pre-and post workout nutrition along with proper hydration!