This post is part of our nutrition series. Read the first and second installments, How Important is Nutrition to Exercise and Your Health and Planning your Nutrition? Start Here.
When creating a change in one’s health and fitness level, becoming aware of food intake is very important. Macronutrients are best defined as the large components that make up a dietary intake – think proteins, carbohydrates and fats. If we are trying to lose, maintain, or gain weight, we need to begin with a clear understanding of the total daily calories of our food intake so that we create a change. How do you figure out how many carbs, proteins and fats you’re consuming in a given day? It’s not as daunting as you might think. Here’s how to begin.
It has been generally established that 2000 calories a day is a baseline total consisting of a certain percentage of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Those percentages can be adjusted depending on activity, metabolic differences, and blood work considerations. Again, knowing your current macronutrient breakdown is an important first step to making changes to your health. It’s not enough to know how many calories you take in – we must look a little deeper, because we want to know what kind of calories they are.
To figure out our calories, we need to know the calorie breakdown for macronutrients:
- Both protein and carbohydrate contain 4 calories per gram each
- Fat contains 9 calories per gram
- Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram.
Calculating our daily caloric intake means we must read food labels, become aware of serving sizes, and create a daily total base on the grand total of all food and liquid calories consumed. It is much easier to do this now compared to the mid 1990s, as we used to dig through nutrition manuals to research foods, and then log them to calculate totals. Today, with apps such as My Fitness Pal and Live Strong, it’s a much simpler process.
The easy way to begin is by taking it one day at a time. For one day, write down everything you eat that contains calories. You can make it easy by measuring your food to determine serving sizes – food scales are ideal. Then, use an app like My Fitness Pal (this one is free, so I advise using it to start counting your daily intake) to get usable numbers. All you need to is input your food and liquid servings, and the macronutrient listing will be provided. This will show us where the total calories rest in proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
Understanding your macronutrient ratios is an important first step in making lasting changes to your nutrition and your health.
Stay tuned for next week’s post – we’ll cover what to do once you understand your current caloric intake. In the meantime, please contact me if you have any questions.