WTF is a Macro and Why is Everyone Counting Them?
But seriously though, what’s the deal? What happened to everyone just eating food? Why do we have to weigh and measure stuff or track on an app? This is crazy talk!
Maybe a little, but it works when you are actively trying to lose or gain weight. It’s also a great way to still live life here and there while you are attempting to shed a few pounds. Ever heard of flexible dieting? It’s the same thing- macro counting, “If It Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM), etc. The idea is to eat a diet consisting mainly of whole, nutrient dense foods, (AKA meat, nuts, fruits, healthy oils, vegetables, and whole grains) but to also give you the freedom to fit in “fun” foods when life calls for it. Let’s break it down.
So what the heck is a macro?
“Macro” is shorthand for macronutrient, which are required in large amounts (hence “macro”) by the body. The three major macros are proteins, carbs, and fats. Alcohol is also considered a separate macronutrient but is not required by the body…sorry guys! Let’s look at the 3 big ones:
Protein: Think meat, fish, eggs, whey, Protein’s main function in the body is to help build and repair muscle. Although protein is the last macro that the body will draw from for energy, it is imperative to supply our body with adequate amounts. With a lack of adequate protein during a calorie deficit, your body will start to catabolize (AKA break down) your muscle mass. Don’t let that happen. Muscle is good. Eat meat :).
Carbohydrates: Everyone loves carbs. These are your breads, potatoes, rice, sugars, fruits, vegetables, and starches. Carbs are your body’s primary source of energy. It will always take from your body’s glycogen (stored carbohydrate) storage first for energy. This isn’t just for a workout. This is for every single thing you do during the day, including digesting the food you eat. We use carbs for everything. I’m here to tell you that healthy carbs are not the enemy! Yay! Celebrate by eating a sweet potato for dinner tonight!
Fats: Fats include oils, nuts and seeds, avocados, egg yolks, butter, full-fat dairy, and nut butters. Some meats can also have a very high fat content, i.e bacon and certain cuts of beef such as ribeyes. Fats are the body’s secondary fuel source. When there are not enough carbs to provide energy, the body will draw from the body’s fat supply. Fat also helps our body absorb certain vitamins and minerals, allows us to maintain healthy skin and hair, and provides a layer of protection to our organs and joints. Fat does not make you fat when you consume the right kinds in a healthy amount!
Ok, so what exactly is macro counting/IIFYM/flexible dieting?
Counting your macros is a way of tracking your food intake by sticking to a set number of carb, fat, and protein grams, derived from a daily calorie goal. If you are trying to lose weight, the goal would be to create a calorie deficit, yet also allow you to consume the largest amount of food to still achieve weight loss. Flip that for weight gain, and you want to create a calorie surplus while eating the least amount of food to achieve weight gain.
So now that we know what macros and macro counting are, why are we doing it?
Super low calorie diets, or hyper-restrictive diets that cut out almost an entire macro group (or certain types of foods) are not sustainable over a long period of time. They are also difficult to stick to, because life. Who wants to sit out of every party, social gathering, and holiday feast forever?? Not me! I like mimosas…and dessert. Macro counting works because it allows you to essentially have your cake and eat it too. You can lose weight by consistently tracking your macros day to day.
The purpose of counting macros is to help you understand proper portion sizes, gain consistency with your diet, and to give you a sustainable approach to dieting over the long term. Over time, the weighing and measuring part of macro counting may not be necessary, because you start to learn how to eyeball proper portion sizes. The eventual goal is that you would be able to roughly track your macros all in your head!
Apps like MyFitnessPal just allow you a freedom from having to do all that math and guesswork on your own. They have a huge database with most major restaurants in their system as well. Once you have your particular breakdown of macros, you can set your goals in the app, and track through the day or pre-enter it all for the next day, so you know you are consistently hitting those numbers!
Still have more questions? Let me know in the comments section, OR book a nutrition consultation with me (you can do this in the services tab above), where we can talk more about macro counting and figure out a plan that works for you!
Happy Hump Day y'all!