Macronutrients Are Key to Health & Weight Loss Success

Dr. Christopher McGowan
April 14, 2021

A good start to any weight loss journey is being able to separate fact from fiction when it comes to dieting strategies. Here’s one falsehood of which we should all be aware: counting calories leads to weight loss success. In fact, most people who have been through a weight loss journey would agree that the “calories in, calories out” approach simply doesn’t work. So, instead of equating weight loss to calories, what’s a better practice to follow? The answer can be found in macronutrients. 

What Are Macronutrients?

One of the true keys to weight loss success is finding your body’s correct balance of macronutrient (or macro) consumption. There are three different types of macronutrients—proteins, carbohydrates, and fat—and each one serves a unique purpose for your body. How your body responds to each macronutrient is an important area of focus on when trying to lose weight. Your overall health and well-being rely on macronutrients as well. 

“Protein is the building block for everything, carbs drive energy, and fat is both energy-driving and energy-storing,” explained Laura Sebring, MS, RD, LDN, lead bariatric and weight loss dietitian and nutritionist at True You Weight Loss. “Each macronutrient plays a role, and it is important that every diet includes them all. The key is finding the right distribution of each, which will vary by person.”

Helping Your Body Function at Its Best

The correct macronutrient balance is essential to your health and weight loss goals because each one contributes to your bodily structure as well as how your body performs its necessary functions, such as digestion. Here’s how they work:

  • Protein: When your body digests protein, it is broken down into amino acids that help maintain and generate all of your body’s cells and tissues. Amino acids from protein also help with maintaining muscle mass. Healthy protein can be found in chicken, fish, quinoa, black beans, nonfat yogurt, eggs and oats, among others.
  • Carbohydrates: Your body needs carbohydrates (or carbs) because they are broken down into glucose, or blood sugar, during digestion. Glucose is used by your body as energy or fuel. Your heart, bowels, muscles and brain all depend on the energy from carbs to function properly. Complex (or healthy) carbs should be chosen over simple carbs at least half of the time. They have a more complex structure and contain the nutrients and fiber that your body needs. They also do not cause unhealthy spikes in blood sugar. Some healthy carbs include apples, berries, melons, beans, legumes, corn, peas, potatoes, brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and whole wheat pasta. Simple carbs, which should be avoided, include baked goods, candy, soda, and any processed food or food with added sugar.
  • Fat: The absorption of certain nutrients (namely vitamins A, D, E and K) within your body happens because of fat. Your body also needs fat for brain health, blood clotting, and inflammation control. Moreover, fat helps your body store energy and achieve a feeling of fullness. Healthy fats can be found in avocados, nuts, nut butter, seeds, and olive oil.

If deprived of any one macro, your body and its organs will not have the resources or energy they need to work properly or effectively. This will almost certainly lead to depleted health, organ damage, and the reversal of any weight loss efforts. Therefore, including the proper distribution of protein, fat, and carbs in your diet, and never completely eliminating one, is always the best choice.

“My patients often ask me if they can follow a high fat, low carb diet. My answer is always NO, never stop eating your fruits and grains,” said Sebring. “You can eat the carbs, just make the right choices and avoid the junk food. Also, be aware that many foods are made up of more than one macronutrient. For example, bread is a carb, but it is also made up of some protein.” 

Macro Intake Differs Per Person

The percentage of macronutrients needed will vary per person, based on weight and other factors. However, Sebring typically starts by recommending that her patients follow a 30/40/30 regimen (30 percent protein, 40 percent carbs and 30 percent fat). This is adjusted if and when necessary, until the patient feels comfortable and satiated with their daily macro intake.

“Every person’s body responds to each macronutrient differently, depending on things such as activity level, hormones, metabolism, insulin response, and digestive habits,” Sebring explained.  “If a person is feeling really hungry all the time, or their activity level increases, we may add in more protein. It’s a very personalized effort.”

Also important to note is that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does provide evidence-based recommendations for the distribution of macronutrients. Your dietitian will guide you, based on USDA guidelines, regarding your body’s particular needs.

Apps to Help You Track & Pair Foods

Because it can often be confusing and overwhelming to track macronutrients while following a weight loss plan, there are many apps that can do the work for you. Lose It!, the True You Weight Loss app, and MyFitnessPal are all helpful tools that can support you during your weight loss journey. Just type in your chosen foods, and the app will generate a breakdown of your macro intake to ensure you are getting enough of each. Some apps even offer an option to provide weekly progress reports that can be shared with your dietitian.

Another helpful tip is to eat your carbs, proteins, and healthy fats together to slow digestion and help you feel fuller longer. For example, pair carbs with protein by dipping veggies in hummus, and try to sneak a protein in with every meal and snack. 

So, here’s the real weight loss truth—by including all three of the macronutrients in your daily diet and making healthy choices within each group, not only will you feel better and more energized, but you are more likely to lose weight, too.

Dr. Christopher McGowan
Dr. Christopher McGowan

Dr. Christopher McGowan, MD, a leader in endobariatrics, specializes in non-surgical obesity treatments and is triple-board-certified in Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, and Obesity Medicine. Renowned for pioneering endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG) with over 2,000 procedures, his global influence and research contributions define him as a top expert.

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