November 22, 2023

The Balanced Plate: Mastering Macronutrient Harmony

by SHIFT Nutrition Team

Despite what popular diets claim, calorie intake is not the only important thing to consider when looking to achieve body composition and athletic performance goals. Adjusting the balance of macronutrients, which include carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, is important to consider when making nutritional changes. “Macro coaching” is working one-on-one with a nutrition expert to set personalized macro targets, track intake and macro levels, and make adjustments based on observed and measured outcomes. Before evaluating if macro coaching is a good fit for you it is necessary to understand what macronutrients are and why each is important.

Understanding Macronutrients: Why Each is Important

Macronutrients are the nutrients the body needs in large amounts. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins each provide key benefits and together offer the macronutrient balance that helps your body work as efficiently as possible.

Carbohydrates: Fueling Your Life

Carbohydrates not only act as the body’s preferred source of energy, but they also provide several essential vitamins and minerals. The three main types of carbohydrates are sugars, starches, and fiber. 

Sugars are simple carbohydrates that the body absorbs the quickest, providing boosts of energy. Natural sugars are found in fruits and dairy, which contain other beneficial nutrients. Refined sugars and added sugars (found in many processed foods) provide energy but tend to be lower in nutrient density.  

Starches, on the other hand, take the body longer to digest, having a slower release of energy. Starches are considered a complex carbohydrate and are found in foods, such as beans, rice, bread, and oats. Starches are digested slower and tend to produce more sustained energy.

Fiber is a carbohydrate found in plant foods that the body can’t digest. As another complex carbohydrate, fiber promotes a healthy digestive tract and keeps you feeling full for longer. A diet high in soluble fiber is linked to lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, while regular insoluble fiber intake helps with digestion and may help prevent diverticular disease

The body needs all three types of carbohydrates to work at its best. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which then is used by the body. Extra glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver and the muscles. Glycogen from the liver can be converted to glucose to help the body maintain stable glucose levels, while glycogen from the muscles is used to perform mechanical movements.

We recommend including carbohydrates (mainly complex sources) as a part of a balanced diet. A registered dietitian can help you determine how to optimize the nutrient density of carbohydrate foods in your diet and understand how to time your carbohydrate intake for improved athletic performance. 

Fats: Providing Growth and Development

When you work with a registered dietitian who is a performance nutritionist or health and wellness coach you learn that fats play a crucial role in nutrient absorption and satiety.

Fats are necessary for the body to transport and absorb certain antioxidants and vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fats are also found in our cell membranes and are needed for blood clotting, healthy skin, and proper nervous system function. Fats slow down digestion and help you feel full longer which makes them a key nutrient in macronutrient balance.

Your diet and nutrition coach will encourage you to prioritize unsaturated fats in your diet. Unsaturated fats are beneficial because they can improve cholesterol levels and are considered anti-inflammatory. Prominent sources of unsaturated fats include plant-based oils, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and avocados. 

In contrast, saturated fats are found in animal products, such as meat and dairy, and in plant foods, such as coconut oil and palm oil. Your macro coach would likely recommend that you replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats as a part of your overall macronutrient balance to reduce the risk of heart disease. 

Proteins: The Body’s Building Blocks

Protein is found in every cell in your body – it is found in bones, muscles, hair, tendons, skin, and tissues. Proteins are important for muscle repair after exercise, and they play a central role in satiety and hormone secretion. Animal proteins provide vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and vitamin D, while plant-based proteins provide B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium.

Proteins are made up of basic building blocks, called amino acids. The body can create some amino acids naturally while others must come from food. Proteins that contain all essential amino acids are called ‘complete proteins’ and include eggs, dairy, fish, and other animal products. ‘Incomplete proteins’ are those missing at least one essential amino acid. Most major plant-based proteins, except soy, are incomplete. 

Tracking protein and understanding how much you need at each meal and in each snack is often a primary focus in macro coaching.

Balancing Carbohydrates, Fats, and Proteins

If you aren’t paying attention to the balance of macronutrients that is best for your body’s needs and for your unique goals it is difficult to optimize your diet. Rather than solely focusing on calorie intake, work with a registered dietitian to better understand each macronutrient’s function and how much you need of each to achieve your goals.

As you plan any meal or snack, your sports nutrition coach will recommend specific macronutrient target amounts that optimize energy, satiety, and recovery. For example, your coach might recommend a pre-workout fuel of ~30 grams of carbohydrates to help you get the most out of your workout. Another example would be your coach setting meal-based targets for protein intake, such as 20 grams for breakfast, 30 grams for lunch, and 40 grams for dinner.

Each person is different and has diverse nutritional needs; however, getting a personalized plan can make a significant difference. If you are training for an athletic goal, for example, your diet must support your increased energy needs and, naturally, you would require a different diet than someone leading a more sedentary life. 

If you’re searching for a “macro coach near me,” consider SHIFT. With Fuel U, you receive one-on-one nutrition coaching with personalized plans that address your specific needs. We also help you learn about nutrition so that you can continue making healthy dietary choices on your own. We disregard fad diets and instead use proven, evidence-based strategies to get your body working at its best. 

Our 12-week Fuel U programs include two DEXA body composition tests, a customized fuel plan, and weekly accountability with one of our registered dietitians. We take into account your goals, medical history, and preferences so we can take an individualized approach that helps you achieve what you want. 

Nutritionist and Trainer Near Me: Choosing Fuel U by SHIFT

Don’t struggle another day confused about which approach is best for you to meet your health goals. When you turn to the registered dietitians at SHIFT, you receive a customized Fuel U program that includes expert help with macro coaching. 

Let us help you achieve your body composition and health goals. Contact us today to learn more about our Fuel U programs.

-The SHIFT Team


balanced plate, macronutrient coaching

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