Choosing WHOLE foods, meaning foods that come straight out of the ground, off the tree or from the farm with minimal processing is a very important part of practicing integrity with nutrition. The more whole foods we can incorporate into our daily intake, the better. In addition to choosing whole foods it is important to also determine the balance of macronutrients by which your body performs most effectively. What is your ideal ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fat? This answer is unique to each individual and it is an ongoing self performed science experiment that we sadly never learn in the classroom. (I hope to change that one day.) The first step in using yourself as your own scientific test subject is to identify your body type.
We are all fearfully and wonderfully made in a variety of shapes and sizes. Determining a general macronutrient ratio depends on the shape we most closely identify with. There are three commonly used somatotypes that can help you figure out which you relate closest to. The International Sports Sciences Association depicts these types:
Ectomorph: If you’re an ectomorph, you’re naturally thin with skinny limbs and a high tolerance for carbohydrates. Usually, your metabolic rate is fast. A good starting macronutrient ratio for you would be something like 25% protein, 55% carbs and 20% fat.
Mesomorph: Mesomorphs are naturally muscular and athletic. They have a moderate carbohydrate tolerance and a moderate metabolic rate. Mesomorphs can usually start at a 30% protein, 40% carb, 30% fat macronutrient ratio.
Endomorph: If you’re naturally broad and thick, you’re probably an endomorph. Endomorphs have a low carbohydrate tolerance and a slow metabolic rate. If you’re an endomorph, try a ratio of 35% protein, 25% carbs and 40% fat.
Now, while the above information does have some scientific basis, it is not the end all be all to personal sound nutrition. There are always exceptions. But, as a general jumping off point these are satisfactory guidelines. Once you’ve identified your somatotype and begun structuring your intake around those percentages you can fine tune the numbers to yield the result you are looking for. A tool that I use to see a broad overview of my macronutrients is the dailyburntracker.com .
Another approach to determining your macronutrient balance is through mathematical equations, which is definitely more precise. After you’ve been following the guidelines above for a while and want more fine tuning, the more precise calculations will get you there. These calculations are determined by finding your Basal Metabolic Rate (the amount of calories your body needs to survive), knowing your Activity Factor (the total amount of calories you need to do what you do every day), and defining your goals and lifestyle. The easiest way to discover these numbers is to ask your personal trainer to schedule your nutritional consultation. While trainers are not nutritionists or dietitians, they are required through their education to learn the basics of sound nutrition and how to manipulate those standards to help clients achieve goals. The cheaper, but lengthier and potentially frustrating approach is to DIY by using credible resources on the internet. The resources are out there, but if you aren’t overly familiar or confident with the material it can be cumbersome.
So, now that you recognize that your nutritional intake is an evolving balance that requires education and practice, I urge you to invoke your inner scientist and let the experimentation begin! Once your meals are balanced according to your beautiful body’s needs you will feel more energy and you will start to see a leaner, stronger and healthier you. You can do it!