Micronutrients: Do I need them??

What is a "MICRO" and why should I eat them? 

This is the second part in my mini-series about IIFYM; aka Flexible Dieting; aka Counting Macros.  We learned that "macros" are protein, fat and carbohydrates and are the calorie containing components of all foods.  But most foods also have vitamins and minerals that we need to eat...the MICRONUTRIENTS. So if all food is made of protein, fat and/or carbs where do the vitamins, minerals and fiber come from that we see on the nutrition labels?  Well, the come from the same foods. These are considered "micronutrients" because they are only needed in small amounts...hence, "micros". These vitamins and minerals are important for growth, development and disease prevention.

They are necessary and you must ingest them, they are not made by your body. They are found more readily available in healthier, whole, nutrient dense foods (meat, veggies, fruit, oats) and not so much in processed, boxed, packaged foods. Though packaged food can be fortified with vitamins it is wiser to get more natural "clean foods" (for lack of a better term). Plus, the more whole and less processed the food is, the more you get to eat of it because they are typically less caloric!

When tracking macros for fat lass a person could easily hit their protein, fat and carbs by eating protein powder, cereal, donuts and pizza...this is actually possible. But this person's nutrition would be nearly void of all vitamins and minerals! Vitamin C, Calcium, Vitamin A, magnesium, iron...not enough of any of those in the foods this person is consuming, even though they are still hitting their macros. They will see fat-loss, yes, but they may hit a plateau sooner and they will certainly be hurting their overall health. Their immune system may take a hit. They may feel rundown. They will probably even have issues with bodily functions as well.  This is why BALANCE in food choices is important.

Now, you could get the same things from pill-form vitamins but you would need a lot of vitamins to get what you would need on a daily basis, plus, most people like eating food! I'm not against vitamins, I do take a good multi-vitamin myself, but only to fill in any holes I may have. I do not rely on my vitamin pill for my micro nutrients, so much so that if I don't take it I don't stress, I'll get it the next day.

So how do you track them if you decide to count macros (iifym) for fat-loss?  You find a good food tracking app and as you log you food you will see that, as long as they are entered off the label correctly, the vitamins are also being calculated. (Hint: when tracking veggies and fruit with no label I look up the USDA listing in myfitnesspal, it is usually spot on).
Remember, this way of eating and constructing your meals is not a new concept but one that is well proven by science.  It is a way to construct your daily intake of calories and nutrients that, as long as you stick to it, will give you the best results and body composition (muscle to fat ratio).  It is not "calorie counting" but rather "macro tracking."      

There are many great apps out there:
MyFitnessPal.com (free- but the paid version will let you track specific macros)
Macros by calorie count (android- free)
Macros+ (Iphone)
 **If this sounds scary or confusing and leaves you wondering how to even begin, I can help you with that.  You won't weigh and track forever, it's a learning tool!