The word macronutrients or macros for short is a fancy term for nutrients that we as humans need to consume to survive. There are 3 essential macronutrients; carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Each individual food contains different proportions of all three macronutrients. Counting macros has gained popularity recently, replacing traditional calorie counting. Let’s breakdown what each of these essential macronutrients are and where to find them.
Carbohydrates A.K.A. “carbs”
Carbs are your bodies main energy source. They provide 4 calories per gram. We need carbohydrates for brain function, muscle recovery and growth, digestion, basically all of the functions to keep us alive. Carbohydrates are found in many plant based foods and processed foods. When you think of carbs, these are foods that are traditionally thought of as sugary or starchy, be it natural or processed.
Examples of carbohydrates are: fruit, vegetables (especially potatoes, corn, squash), legumes, grains-based food (rice, pasta, breads, quinoa), dairy (milk, yogurt), and processed items like crackers, granola bars, juices, and candy.
Understanding the role of carbohydrates in your diet is essential when it comes to performance and body composition.
Fat is another main energy source. It is the most concentrated energy source, providing 9 calories per gram. Fats are needed in many important bodily functions such as energy use and storage, satiety, insulation, and fat-soluble vitamin absorption (Vitamins A, D, E, and K).
Fat sources include oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut, butter and margarines, and marbling in meats (found in red meats).
The type of fat and timing of intake can influence your hunger levels, workouts, and overall health.
Protein has many important roles in the body. It provides 4 calories per gram. Protein breaks down into amino acids in the body and are used for many functions such as maintaining lean muscle mass, skeletal mass, the structural component of all cells in the body, and energy use.
Food sources of protein include red meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, soy (tofu, tempeh), legumes, and protein powders.
Protein plays a very important role with the development and maintenance of lean muscle mass, and can be maximized with guidance around timing and frequency of intake.
Why this approach might work for you
For some, taking the focus away from “calories” and instead focusing on getting the right amounts of macronutrients can take away that feeling of restricting. It can encourage a more balanced diet by including a variety of foods that provide all three essential macronutrients. It discourages individuals from thinking a 1500 calorie diet is sustainable on only salads, egg whites and avocados. You may be feeling sluggish (I mean, where are the carbs?!) which impacts the quality of your workouts. For some it takes away the negative thought process of “I can only have” and instead allows for more positive thoughts like “wow I can eat THAT much protein?!” For those that like to plan ahead and meal prep, macro counting makes sense. Many athletes who macro count feel a sense of control over what they are having and feel more knowledgeable and in charge of their nutrition.
Why this approach might not work for you
As with calorie-restricted diets, it is another form of counting. Trying to stick to your allotted macronutrients can seem like a daunting task, think of Tetris on expert level. It can be very time consuming. Some of the food diary apps are not monitored for accuracy, so certain foods are incorrectly entered. What you think you are consuming might not be true. For example, if you type in “chocolate chip cookie”, you might get a dozen chocolate chip cookie options, all of varying carb, fat, and protein amounts. How do you know which one is most accurate? Measuring and weighing your food is needed to know exactly what you are consuming. This can be quite overwhelming for those who don’t have a lot of time for meal prep, those who don’t make their meals, or those who have little nutrition knowledge. Like calorie restricted diets, macro counting can allow for poor quality food choices, given they fit into one’s macros. It’s easier to count macros off of a nutrition label than it is weighing and measuring your fresh vegetables and lean proteins.
To learn more about macro counting and if it would benefit you in your particular sport, speak with Sports Dietitians.
Writer: Emilie Trottier (Specialties: Crossfit Nutrition Specialist, Weight Lifting, Mental Health, Chronic Disease Management, Weight Loss, Body Composition Change)
“Health at Every Size” is a term you probably have seen all over social media and news. People either embrace it or demonize it. Some claim that it helps with self acceptance, positive body image, while others argue it enables obese people to remain obese, and those suffering with eating disorders to justify their behaviour. But what does it really mean? What is the purpose of the “Health at Every Size” movement.
The term “Health at Every Size” was coined by Linda Bacon, PhD in her very popular book The Surprising Truth about your weight: Health at Every Size released in 2008. According to Linda, the problem with weight is not fat itself, but with dieting. “A society that rejects anyone whose body shape or size doesn’t match an impossible ideal is the problem. A medical establishment that equates thin with healthy is the problem.” Additionally, Linda states, HAES is not a weight loss book, diet book or exercise program. The book is designed to encourage healthy living and support a shift from a client hating their themselves and fighting their body to learning to appreciate their body and their life.
There are five main principles to HAES®:
As one can see, the overall principles of HAES®: are positive and meant to support a healthy, well balanced lifestyle.
Unfortunately, this term has been skewed by media and persons around the world to support unhealthy lifestyles and lifestyle behaviours including eating disorders, clinical obesity, sedentary behaviours and excessive food consumption.
You are probably wondering, can someone be overweight/obese and be healthy. The answer to this is not a simple yes or no. It would depend on the definitions of the terms. Is someone judged overweight/obese based on the BMI alone (an outdated measure of body health); or is it based on weight circumference, body fat percentage? Is healthy based on the numbers found on a laboratory report or how active the person is? Or is it based on how balanced their life is with respect to food, exercise, sleep, social activity, etc.?
As you can see, there is no simple answer and there is no single answer that is perfect for everyone. It is individual and specific to each person. What I can tell you, HAES®: is not a means to justify restricting, binging or purging food. Nor is it a justification for living as a couch potato. Engaging in any of these activities is not healthy for the body, mind or soul.
So, what can you take away from this. Health comes in many shapes and sizes. The judgement of healthy comes down to more than a number on a scale, miles run, calories burned. Being healthy is about finding balance, acceptance and self-love. It is about being kind to our bodies, respecting our bodies and engaging in thoughts and behaviours that enable a positive lifestyle.
Written by: Catherine Rose-Loveless, RD (Registered Dietitian, HAES Practitioner, Yoga Instructor and Wellbeing Coach)
For more information on HAES® visit:
Are you an active individual eating a healthy diet and puzzled as to why you can’t take off the last 10-20 pounds? Specializing in sport nutrition and weight loss I see a couple common mishaps.
Could a few key “health” foods be kiboshing your weight loss efforts? These 3 come to mind.
2. Nuts and nut butters
The common denominator in this list is they are all deemed health foods with a number of nutritional benefits. While this is TRUE, there are some key considerations.
Sure Granola can be super nutritious. But don’t be deceived, I’ve had more than one client shed pounds JUST by being mindful of their granola snacking habits!
The Good: Points go to the nutritious and fibre rich ingredients, including nuts and seeds, oats, quinoa, coconut, and dried fruits.
The Bad: Granola and granola bars, even homemade varieties, use a high volume of sugary ingredients like dates, and honey, providing that desirable crunchy and cohesive cluster. Technically ‘natural’ sweeteners, these are also very concentrated forms of carbohydrate. Furthermore, nuts and seeds, as well as nut butters pack a calorie punch.
The Bottom Line: Snacking willy nilly on granola is too easy. And, since it’s deemed healthy, you don’t think twice about it. But with a 1/4 cup of granola being very high in carbohydrate, relatively low protein, and easily hitting upwards of 250 calories, your seemingly harmless, healthy snack habit may be a sugar spiking extravaganza that’s looking more like a meal.
Solution: Search recipes for smaller quantities of sweeteners (dates, maple syrup, honey) and nut butters or modify yourself so it fits your needs. Compare recipes that provide nutritional info and serving sizes to give you a sense of what’s coming in. Strategically, using a measuring cup and closing the jar up out of sight can help ensure you don't overdo it.
2. Nuts, Seeds and Nut Butters
A convenient addition to snacks, salads, breakfasts and more, nuts, seeds and nut butters are healthful and something I recommend to clients to boost their intake of healthy fats. With an upsurge in paleo, keto, and other low carb diets, nuts and nut butters fill the void. But could it be that your peanut butter habit is sticking to your waist-line?
The Good: I’m all for adding fats. Whole nuts, seeds and natural nut butters are a great source of heart healthy fat, high in omega 3s, fibre, and nutrients. They offer some protein and due to their fat content offer some satiety, which is a plus.
The Bad: Per gram, fats are more than twice the calories as carbs and proteins. Nuts, seeds and nut butters, being a significant source of fat are thus calorie dense. How many of you measure your nuts or pay attention to how much nut butter you spoon out? Since psychologically 12-15 almonds or a mere tbsp of PB seems pretty meagre, it’s easy to overdo it.
The Bottom Line: Including these healthy fats is a definite DO for our diet but portion control is key. For all the low carbers out there, your fat needs are indeed higher, just know that these tasty little bites are not a free for all.
Solution: Measure Measure Measure. If you’re a sucker for nuts and nut butters pre pack them in controlled quantities or find them already pre packed in individual sachets (black diamond brand sells these and found at most Costco stores). Avoid mindless snacking on nuts in front of the T.V., or having a nut jar on your desk which could facilitate overdoing it.
So you heard it here, salads and raw veggies could be making you fat! No, it’s not the plate of romaine or a few baby carrots that's the problem, but how about the dips and toppings on your greenery? Peruse the nutritional facts on some popular chain restaurant menus and have a look at how your salads could be adding up.
The Good: Veggies are very high in water, fibre, vitamins and minerals and the ruffage takes time to chew and digest helping with satiety. The veggies themselves are nutritionally dense NOT calorically dense. Filling your plate with loads of veg is great for preventing hunger, and keeping us super healthy.
The Bad: Most don't eat a plain plate of leaves or raw veg unadorned. Tune in to the fancy toppings, adding loads of calories, including bacon bits, shredded cheese, chèvre, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, crispy tortilla bits, and the list goes on. Then add on the dips and dressings poured generously on top. You get the picture. One tablespoon of dressing or dip alone runs you 120 calories or more. I’ve seen restaurant salads racking up to over 600 calories per plate.
The Bottom Line: Salads and raw veg are a great choice. Most of us need to be eating more! They don’t have to be bland to be healthy, but added dressings and crunchy bits can add up. When it comes to raw veg, how many times does your carrot hit the dip?
The Solution: Compare labels, or make your own dressings and dips that are more healthful; for example replacing oil with greek yogurt and herbs or higher ratios of lemon juice, and vinegar. Measuring out your dressing and asking for it on the side when dining out gives you the most control and can be a significant calorie saver.
The message here is that there CAN be too much of a good thing. Sometimes it’s not what you’re eating but how much! Practicing mindful eating and proper portioning with all foods ensures you don’t overdo it. Learning more about food and the nutritional value of your snacks and staples can help you make more educated decisions. Check in with a nutrition expert, compare labels and menu nutrition data, or try out a food app tracker periodically to clue you in.
Writer: Debora Sloan (RD, certified personal trainer and Crossfit coach)