Macro-nutrient tracking is the first of a 3-layered approach to dieting. Macro-nutrients are broken down into 3 essential sources: proteins, carbohydrates and fats, which all play different roles in metabolic function. These 3 components are what make up "calories" with different caloric values.
This is where many dieters make the first mistake: caloric tracking is not the same as macro-nutritional tracking. Calories are essentially the big-picture, e.g. a man consuming 2,000 calories per day. The question becomes, what makes up these 2,000 calories? They could be comprised of varying amounts of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. This is why tracking macro-nutrients is more effective than caloric tracking in improving overall results.
The breakdown of the 3 essential nutrients are as follows:
Protein - 4 calories per gram
Carbohydrate - 4 calories per gram
Fat - 9 calories per gram
Fat has the highest caloric value per gram, as it is the most difficult for the body to break down.
The 2,000 calorie diet of Man A could be entirely different on a macro-nutrient level than the 2,000 calorie diet of Man B.
Here is an example:
Man A eats ~2,000 calories per day, and his diet is high in protein.
Man B also eats ~2,000 calories a day, but his diet is heavy in carbohydrates.
Man A has a much healthier diet, enriched with protein, than Man B, but Men A and B are both consuming roughly the same amount of calories. This is why macro-nutritional tracking is so important to dieting. It exposes the 3 critical nutritional sources that feed metabolic function and affect body composition.
Overall, a macro-nutrient diet should always be plentiful in protein. Tracking these 3 components on a daily basis, with apps such as MyFitnessPal, is the best way to improve dietary habits. This type of logging will allow you to better visualize what your body is consuming and processing on a daily basis. Everyone's target macro-nutrients will be different, as factors such as age, weight, height, activity level, goals, past dietary history, medications, ailments, etc. all affect the metabolism and result in different macro-nutritional targets.
The next layer after macro-nutrient tracking is nutritional sustenance, i.e. what types of food make up the 3 forms of macro-nutrients.
Stay tuned for the next piece on nutritional sustenance!
For additional questions, contact the author.