Macros.  Common vernacular in the world of nutrition and meal prep, this term brings confusion to those who mightn’t live and breathe calorie counting.  Macronutrients include energy wielding nutrients needed in large amounts, namely carbohydrate, protein, and fat.  These are the same nutrients you’ll typically see arranged in pie chart form in your favorite nutrition app or journal.

The right calorie intake combined with the right macros mix can aid you in your quest for better health, performance, body composition, and energy levels.  The wrong one can lead to feelings of fatigue, lethargy, malaise, and bring about a general feeling of meh.  And even if pant size and caliper girth is not a goal of yours, macros still matter for overall health and wellness.

For the most precise and prescriptive calorie (and macro) recommendation, consult a registered dietitian; the right one can easily calculate your needs and provide a personalized plan.  If you prefer trial and error, the below mixes work for a wide range of individuals and a variety of goals.  Start with your goal in mind, read the description to make sure it’s a good fit, and then experiment to determine if this mix is the right one for YOU; ranges are provided for you to work within and continue to massage over time.  As goals and training evolve, your macros can too.  Keep track of what works – and what doesn’t.  You might even find that the right mix is one you create for yourself.

Macros Mixes

Goal: Lose weight without the hunger

Answer: Keto

Very low in carbs, moderate in protein, and a very high in fat, keto is praised for quick weight loss, steady energy, and health benefits ranging from cognition to focus and beyond.  This mix generally takes an overhaul of traditional eating and requires planning and attention to detail to hit ketosis.  Focus on a variety of sources of fats and oil, enjoy carbs from fiber-rich sources, add in protein to protect your lean body stores, and be sure to include as much variety as possible for overall nutrient intake.

Optimal Macro Mix: 5%-10% carb / 20%-25% protein / 70-80% fat  as a percent of calories

Goal: Get lean and get strong

Answer: Low carb, high protein

If you find that eating copious amounts of carbs only leads to cravings and energy highs and lows, or if you find that your gains in the gym only come when you boost your protein intake, this mix is a good place to start.  Low carb diets are well suited for those looking to lose weight (when cutting calories), stay lean while protecting muscle mass, and those looking to reduce empty calories and potentially improve health markers.  With a range of macros which you can personalize to fit your lifestyle, this plan works for those with the goal of moving towards better health, but in need of a bit more flexibility in their regular routine and a bit more variety on their plate.

Macro Mix: 15–25% carb / 40-50% protein / 30–35% fat as a percent of calories

Goal: Balance and variety plus health and wellness

Answer: 40/30/30

Not every athlete thrives on keto or low carb; some (most?) find good performance follows with carbs in the tank.  If you find your pace suffers without this quick source of fuel, try shifting to a 40/30/30 mix.  Strength, HIIT, and all-around athletes can benefit from a more balanced blend of carbs to fuel their workouts, ample protein to recover, and fat to nourish.  Research also supports this blend for being easy to adhere to and resulting in a myriad of health benefits.  For those with weight goals, this blend allows just enough room for a few indulgent choices but still a need to keep focused on fueling with healthy choices.

Macro Mix: 40% carb / 30% protein /30% fat as a percent of calories

Goal: Go farther and faster

Answer: Endurance macros

A higher percentage of carbs can play to your advantage when training for a long-distance race or intensely exercising on the regular.  Balance out higher intakes of quick-burning carbs with protein for recovery and healthy fats for nutrient absorption to be well on your way to reaching your performance goals.  Pro Tip:  Always make your choices work as hard as you do.  Yes, carbs are in candy and soda, but these calories won’t move you towards better health.  Instead, rely on whole grains, fruits, veggies, and dairy for your fuel.  And when on the go, you can find delicious carbs in a ZonePerfect classic bar, equipped with high quality protein, vitamins, and minerals too.

Macro Mix: 50–65% carb / 20–25% protein /15–20% fat as a percent of calories