Nutrition 101 for Pharmacists

MAY 24, 2017
As one of the most accessbile health care providers, our patients come to us seeking advice not only for prescription medication and OTC questions, but also on the big question: How do I get healthy? Nutrition is the cornerstone of therapy for literally every single disease state we help to treat as pharmacists, yet we are not given much training as to the science behind it. Patients will come to you very frequently asking questions related to nutrition, and I am here to shed light on the most common questions patients want to know on this topic!

I know what you’re thinking: what the heck are these “macros” I keep hearing about? Is this some sort of gimmicky trick? Code name? “Macros” is short for macronutrients, represented by carbohydrates, protein, and fat. See, you have heard of them before! Now that that part of the mystery has been solved, let’s take a look at what each macro actually is, and how each can be utilized to help you reach your health and fitness goals!

If you’re Italian, or love Italian food so much that you basically are Italian, I bet you know some carbs! Pasta, bread, spaghetti, oh my! All of these are prime examples of carbohydrates.

As you may know, carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for our body and mind. Many diets that praise low carb/ketogenic styles of eating as best for fat loss have given this amazing macro a bad wrap (pun!) BUT have you ever tried this style of eating? Long term? How did you feel? I’m guessing the words “sluggish," “irritable," and “NEVER AGAIN!!!” came to mind. Don’t fret, this style of eating is not the end-all be-all. You can have your pasta and burn it off, too! The key here is not to go overboard- keep carbs in, but not in excess.

You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to know and enjoy this macro! Fish, chicken, and turkey are the most common examples of lean protein sources. This macro is composed of amino acids (don’t those structures from biochem just flood your mind!), making up our cells and tissues. So, that’s a pretty big deal, right? In addition to that, this macro also comprises enzymes: those catalysts for all the fun reactions we had to imprint on our brains for the midterm. You won’t ever look at greek yogurt the same.

Knowing that protein is made up of amino acids, and that these are complex molecules, it comes to be that it takes the body some extra time to break them down, as well as more energy to do so. Thus, you use more of the energy you eat to break down what you’re eating, so less calories used! Not to mention that this marvelous macro does in fact lead to a greater feeling of satiety (feeling full). Keep in mind, that while it does take the body more energy to break it down, we still have to have a need to use it- meaning, you can’t do the Brazilian steakhouse on the daily and not gain weight. Moderation is the key to it all! 

So, recap: it digests slower, it requires its own calories to be used for digestion and assimilation, it curbs hunger, helps build muscle, is delicious … I think I’ll include protein in my day!

Don’t be hatin’ here! While this macro doesn’t get spread around too well in the media (yes that was a butter joke, did I get any courtesy chuckles?), it has some major roles in helping your body, mind, and taste buds. Avocado, walnuts, olive oil- these are some examples with which you are probably familiar.

One day you hear fat is carcinogenic, the next day fats from fish can stop Alzheimer’s in its tracks, so what’s the real deal? The truth is that we NEED fat! When you look at its necessity for our hormone production and brain health, this macro has a starring role in our daily lives.

So, if it’s good for you, then more is better, right? Especially if it’s organic and from the “good fat” kind, I can have as much as I want and the gains will keep on coming, right? NO! Well, you’ll get gains, but not the kind you’re looking for, more so on the waistline. Too much fat is just that: too much fat! Excess intake will be stored as bodyfat, whether it’s organic coconut oil or lard. Essential fatty acids, yes, they are essential! Let’s not lose sight of this concept, however: too much is too much! Just because it has benefits, it’s still a fat. The keyword here is moderation. Say it with me, now!

Putting it all together, we have a mix of the 3 macros in almost every meal, and individual food, for that matter, that we eat. That is the beauty of flexible dieting: focus on the macros, and you can make your meals how you like them! I would like to take a moment and define what this does NOT mean: eating garbage all day because “it fit my macros." A similar moniker to flexible dieting is IIFYM: If It Fits Your Macros, NOT If It Fits Your Mouth! 

Flexible is good because it allows you to enjoy some indulgences, within moderation, and still stay on track with your nutrition, health, and wellness goals. Is eating on a rigid, “all clean” and restrictive diet good for your overall wellness? Well, let me ask you this: have you tried doing that? If you have, I bet you felt like you were going insane, even starving yourself! Most likely it was because in effect, you were. 

Where’s the middle ground, then? Taking the flexible dieting approach with moderation and realizng that eating Pop tarts for all meals of the day is not a healthy approach, I recommend using the 80/20 rule of thumb: 80% of your intake being from wholesome, nutrient-dense foods (sweet potato, fish, veggies) and 20% being those often-labeled "forbidden foods." Have you ever been to a wedding? Had wedding cake? Well, if you were “all clean” you’re telling me that if you’re getting married you won’t “cheat” and enjoy your own wedding cake? That you paid for? Are you getting that this sounds a little ridiculous? How about more practical applications: socializing with friends, birthday parties, work functions, eating out with your family? There IS a solution, and that, my friends, is flexible dieting! 

Well what ratio of each macro should I eat?
Here lies the beauty of flexible dieting: it depends on YOU! Your body type, your eating preferences, your metabolism, your eating history your goals, the list goes on! That is where we come in at The Fit Pharmacist: we work with you as an individual to customize your macro ranges! No cookie cutter, copy-paste programs here- we recognize that every person is vastly different from one another (just look at the above variables) so we take the time to do an extensive intake regarding these. We then work with you, at your own pace, to help you develop the skills, know-how and experience to become your own best nutritionist. We believe in self-empowerment rather than relying on an expensive shake, skinny wrap, or fad diet. 

Working from science-based research, and being in business for over 25 years with a RD, MD, PharmD, PhD in psychology, and exercise physiologist on staff, we collectively come together to bring you the best science and support to turn your wellness wishes into reality! To learn more, check out or reach me directly at

*Disclaimer: this article is for informational purposes only. While TheFitPharmacist has a registered dietician on staff, laws do not allow the "prescribing" or consultations of diets or eating strategies by anyone other than a registered dietician (RD). Please consult your state laws to learn more.

Klemczewski J, Propst K. 50 Days to Your Best Life! Evansville: Word Spank, 2014. Print.

Adam Martin, PharmD, ACSM-CPT
Adam Martin, PharmD, ACSM-CPT
Dr. Martin is a licensed pharmacist, having earned his doctorate of pharmacy degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy in 2012. He is the founder of TheFitPharmacist movement, which strives to empower pharmacists and pharmacy students to thrive in their careers by overcoming stress and unhealthy habits using science-based principles and unmatched support. His passion for helping those in pharmacy led to TheFitPharmacist Podcast on the PharmacyPodcast network, where he provides practical tips for staying healthy while working at the pharmacy, along with interviewing professionals in the top of their respective fields to bring their knowledge right to your earbuds. He merges his passion of pharmacy with the experts in nutrition through being the owner and nutrition consultant at The Diet Doc Pittsburgh North, with the company having over 25 years of success. Learn more and join TheFitPharmacist movement at
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