What are Macros?
So if you read health magazines or follow fellow fitness junkies on Instagram you may of heard the word ‘macros’ being thrown around a lot lately. So what are macros?! Why are they so important?
Macros are simply the macronutrients that make up your food such as carbohydrates, protein and fat. It can also include minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. (source)
Before baby, I never thought much of it. I stuck with the idea that a calorie is a calorie and that’s that. After baby, wanting to provide the best nutrition possible to support weight loss and breastfeeding I began monitoring my macros as well as my calories using MyFitnessPal so that I could pick appropriate foods to balance my macros for the day. The result was shocking! Even though I was under calories for the day my macros were completely out of whack! Some days I would have 60% carbs and only 15% protein, which is definitely not a good balance for putting on muscle and losing weight.
So what is the right proportion of macronutrients?
Unfortunately this isn’t a one-size fits all approach. When suggesting target macros percentages for my clients I like to take into account many things. What are their goals? Are they trying to lose weight, gain muscle, and lose fat? I also take into account their nutritional needs if they are breastfeeding or have other conditions like diabetes or heart disease. Lastly, I take into account the type of activity they do and their activity level. For example, endurance athletes may need a greater percentage of carbs for days that they have long runs or endurance events.
A good starting point recommended by macrosdiet.com is 40/40/20 (40% carbohydrates, 40% protein, 20% fat). Personally I like to do 40/30/30 because I feel the added fat helps keep me full, and I have a difficult time eating 40% protein, even 30% is challenging! The best thing to do is track your food for one-week using MyFitnessPal app and analyze the distribution of calories for the week. If you find you are meeting the percentages without feeling hungry, tired or deprived. Great! Keep it that way. If you are struggling to meet your macros then make some changes and brainstorm what foods you can swap to help support a healthy distribution of macros in your diet.
But why increase fat?
So contrary to what we have grown up to believe…fat doesn’t make you fat! Fat is a necessary macronutrient for cell membrane health and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke as well as help ailments such as joint pain and hypertension. Fats help you stay full so that you are able to resist cravings and don’t fill up on empty calories like carbs and sweets. So what kind of fats should you eat in order to fill your day with good fats? Fats found in foods like fish, avocados, nuts, olive oil, and coconut oil are all good choices. (source) Its best to eat saturated fats in moderation, therefore try to find a healthy balance when choosing foods like bacon, fried food, and other meat products.
But isn’t a calorie a calorie?
“A calorie, by its simplest definition, is a unit of energy and is equivalent to 4.184 absolute J. In the popular press and in the labeling of food products in the United States, a food calorie actually refers to a kilocalorie, or 1000 cal. That is, 1 food cal equals 1 kcal, or the amount of energy needed to raise 1 kg water from 15 to 16 °C”
Pretty technical huh? So sure, from a thermodynamic standpoint a calorie is a calorie! But unfortunately the body isn’t a perfect machine. In a study by Andrea C Buchholz and Dale A Schoeller, 2004 they found that “Diets high in protein and/or low in carbohydrate produced an2.5-kg greater weight loss after 12 weeks of treatment. Neither macronutrient-specific differences in the availability of dietary energy nor changes in energy expenditure could explain these differences in weight loss” But when compared to other diets this only accounted to less than 1/3rd of the different of weight loss, so really it doesn’t make a HUGE difference.
But can I eat whatever I want IIFIYM (If it fits in your macros?)
Sure, technically you CAN, but I like to think that we feel much better, healthier, stronger, and happier when fueled by good, clean, whole, unprocessed foods! I like the idea of flexible dieting (having ‘bad’ foods occasionally if they fit in your macros) but I think it’s important to remember the 80/20 rule. If only 20% of your day is composed of ‘unclean’ foods then you are doing okay! This promotes greater compliance which leads to greater weight loss! Now if 80% of your day consists of pizza and Twinkies…. well, maybe you should make a few changes.
So what do I eat? Yes, ME, Natasha.
People often ask me what I eat. I get it all the time, “Oh you must only eat salads and chicken”! Yes, I do eat a lot of salads, but that’s because I truly do enjoy them! I’ve even had friends go so far as tell me to just bring my own food because I “couldn’t possible eat any of the foods that they like”. Uh, you’d be surprised! I most certainly follow the 80/20 rule (maybe even a 70/30 rule some days.haha) and I consider most of my diet a whole food diet. We eat a lot of vegetables, meat, dried fruit, nuts, eggs, sweet potatoes and carbs like rice and quinoa. My diet also includes some popcorn or ice cream and the occasional beer or glass of wine! Everything in moderation.
Do you need help with your diet and aren’t sure where to start? Check out my online services! I design workout plans specifically for each client and monitor food choices as well as provide daily accountability so that you can reach your health and wellness goals. I’d love to chat and tell you more so feel free to contact me if you are interested!
So do you IIFIYM? I’d love to hear more about what you think of this type of dieting! Comment below!