What the heck are macros? && HEALTHY examples of each!
Hey y'all! I'm back from some time off spent exploring Washington and playing with our new dog (insert huge smiling face here)! Ten days off isn't very long, but WOW did it feel good to go on an adventure and enjoy a bit of staycation too. I was nervous when Logan adopted a dog on his road trip, but Millie has proven to be such a fun/hilarious addition -- we absolutely love her. Anyway, integrating back into routine has been a bit challenging. Millie obviously requires some new habits and responsibilities, but I'm also struggling with feeling aligned with and excited about my day jobs. When it's sunny and beautiful out I find it really easy to ditch reading/meditation/yoga/journaling/etc -- I'll be working on getting up a little earlier each day for my ~spiritual practice~ :) If you're interested in seeing a few photos of Millie or from my trip, I've got a short slideshow at the end of this post.
ANYWAY! Enough about me, you came here to learn WTF macros are and how to get 'em! In the last post we touched on what nutrition means and why it's important to stay hydrated. This time we're chatting briefly about the macronutrients, also known as carbohydrates, fat, and protein. You've definitely heard about them and probably wondered how much to eat to get that *~dream bod~* or if Keto is right for you. While quantities are strictly unique to you and your goals, there are definitely reasons why each one is vital to your health and longevity.
Quickly for those of you who don't know, macronutrients provide energy (calories), and micronutrients do not. Each of the macronutrients plays an extremely important role to the function of our human bodies, and we have evolved to need all of them! My advice - always be wary of any diet or lifestyle change that suggests eliminating or strictly limiting a macronutrient. Your body needs them. Period.
There are many diets out there that require "counting macros." This means calculating how many grams of each macro you should consume to reach a specific goal and then tracking the macros in each food you eat so you can meet your macro goals. In some diets you may track only carbs and try to stay below a certain threshold whereas in others you may be more focused on calories alone. Counting macros can be really helpful and effective for learning appropriate portions, though this is best done with the help of a professional who can actually monitor that you're not eating too little which often happens when using tracking apps and websites. I personally am an advocate for intuitive eating rather than counting. In my experience counting can lead to preoccupation and emotional distress.
Carbs have been given a bad reputation, and it’s unfortunate because they’re tasty. Haha. Although there is plenty of research which supports low-carb dieting for weight-loss and health, carbohydrates take many many forms and are extremely important for long-term, overall wellness. That means mental health too ;)
There are two big issues with carbs:
1) The sources most people want to eat are highly processed, fake foods.
2) People have trained their bodies to run entirely off those sources, so they feel unsatisfied, hungry, and lackluster.
What's this look like? Well, an oatmeal breakfast, granola bar snack, low-fat salad lunch, second granola bar snack because you're freakin' starving, veggies and hummus because you're still hungry and the epitome of health, pizza dinner binge and a beer because you're not satisfied from anything else you ate, and cookies for dessert is one example that I see often. Carbohydrates are a quick-burning calorie that don't provide energy for long. When every meal/snack is carb-based, you end up hungry soon after or, even worse, HANGRY.
**PSA** Feeling hangry is a sign of poor blood sugar regulation! This is not a good thing!
Popular diets like Paleo and Keto are part of the movement to eat more fat which, as you'll soon read, is a slow-digesting calorie that leaves you feeling fuller for longer. That doesn't mean carbohydrates aren't healthy or valuable. As vehicles for vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates actually give your life color both literally and figuratively. Plus carbohydrates provide fiber which is necessary for healthy trips to the washroom. And sometimes you simply do need energy quickly -- especially extremely active individuals.
Here are just a few roles carbs play for us:
source of quick-burning energy
provide micronutrients (vitamins and minerals)
support regular bowel movements (oh hey there fiber)
Healthy carbohydrate sources:
Alas, fat... one of the most misunderstood nutrients. Fortunately fat-phobia seems to be coming to a close, though the implications of it have taken a toll on the health of millions. For years people have been told that dietary fat leads to physical fat and heart disease, and it isn't true. As a result of this human experiment, heart disease and other inflammatory diseases have actually INCREASED making us sick and overweight.
One of the biggest culprits is hydrogenated oils like canola/vegetable oil and margarine. Fat from these sources behaves differently from natural fat, so it becomes problematic for your body to use. An example of this is in cell walls. You are made up of around 37 trillion cells, and each of those has a cell wall. Cell walls are flexible, strong, and play an important role of keeping cell contents safe and secure -- and they're made of fat! When you consume processed fats (hydrogenated oils), they become integrated into your cell walls, hormones, and more; however, they don't behave the way natural fats do. Cell walls made of processed fat lose their flexibility and integrity, so the body begins to malfunction.
**PSA** If there is anything you should be avoiding like the plague, it's hydrogenated oils.
Here are a few roles of fat:
long-lasting energy (these calories burn slowly, so you don't get hungry as quickly)
building blocks of hormones and cell walls
absorption of fat-soluble vitamins
Healthy sources of fat:
butter from grass-fed animals
eggs from pasture-raised chickens
wild-caught fish / fish oil
high-quality oils - avocado, coconut, olive, etc
Most people know protein as an important component for muscle growth, but it is necessary for much more than that. Protein is kind of like the master building block for the body and supports many vital functions including the immune system, digestion, blood sugar regulation, and more.
When choosing sources of animal protein, it's important to opt for grass-fed and pasture-raised as often as possible. Why? Well for one, animals raised in those environments have access to more complete and natural diets. Maybe you've noticed on egg cartons the words "vegetarian fed" or seen the difference in eggs produced by vegetarian vs grass-fed chickens. The vegetarian eggs are pale yellow and mild in flavor in comparison to the natural eggs which are vibrant orange and taste better. Part of the reason for this is that chickens are omnivores and meant to consume bugs in addition to grasses, etc.
Another reason for choosing grass-fed and pasture-raised is the living conditions and stress of the animals. Stressed animals produce stress hormones. When we eat meat from stressed animals, we consume their stress hormones. It's not good. Not to mention that your dollar speaks, and supporting healthy living/diet conditions for the animals you eat is simply the right thing to do.
Here are some of protein's roles:
building blocks of enzymes, neurotransmitters, hormones, etc
building blocks of muscles, organs, skin, etc
Appropriate sources of protein include:
eggs from pasture-raised chickens
nitrate-/nitrite-free meat from grass-fed or pasture-raised animals
full-fat yogurt/cottage cheese
A bit about each photo:
1) Millie a few days after she and Logan arrived home from San Diego. She was nervous and laid quietly on the couch most of the time. She wasn't interested in playing but really enjoyed belly rubs.
2) Millie after two weeks at home with us. She is super happy, playful, and smiley. Still a sucker for belly rubs. It's been fun to watch her open up and relax as she's realized that she comes back home with us every day.
3) Millie in the hammock with Logan at Baker Lake this past weekend. We found an awesome spot off the road with a lot of space and a private beach! We had fun playing in the water and hanging out by the fire. You can see Millie was enjoying her late afternoon nap here with Logan. haha
4) Beacon Rock State Park in the Columbia River Gorge was my first stop. The hike up the rock itself was a series of intricate bridges scaling the side built in 1912! I also did a hike to waterfalls and a viewpoint which you can see in the background to the right. It was so beautiful and relaxing here -- will definitely make the trek down again!
5) I woke up to pee and was surprised to see the sun rising. It was beautiful! This dock was maybe 30 feet from my campsite, and I did yoga down by the water a few hours later. When I first arrived to this campground, I was shocked to see there were only 2 campsites! I was lucky to get one but disappointed later when I realized I wasn't in the part of the park I'd planned to camp. Things always have a way of working out though, the other campground was crowded and didn't offer the views nor experience that I had here. Loved it.
6) Palouse Falls State Park in Eastern Washington was a huge surprise! I took this photo with the falls to my back because I was amazed by this canyon. It looks like it could be in Utah or Arizona but was actually in the middle of miles and miles of wheat fields. Absolutely incredible. I'd like to camp here as well, though I'd like to find my way to the bottom of the canyon rather than stay up above in the campground.
7) Blue Lake in North Cascades National Park. I was exhausted from days of driving and HOT after passing through the Methow Valley, so this hike was tough but worth it. The water was a beautiful shade of blue-green -- I took my boots and socks off to dip my feet, and it was deliciously cold. I really love driving SR-20 and camping in the National Park.