13 Mar So, What’s the Deal with Macros?
~Written by Rose Colleran~
In January I jumped on the “it’s a new year” bandwagon and started a new “diet”. I’m not referring to the type of restrictive diet that people go on to lose 5-10 lbs. quickly following a holiday season of indulgence. I wouldn’t really call it a resolution either since I already live a pretty healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise. This was more of an experiment with an entirely new way of eating. I started following a method called “Macros” or “Flexible Dieting” (learn more here). This approach involves counting your macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat) to help you achieve a specific body composition goal. I first started hearing about this practice toward the end of last year as a lot of CrossFit athletes began transitioning from Zone Blocks to Macros. What finally convinced me to give it a try was seeing my sister-in-law over the Thanksgiving holiday looking even more fabulous than usual. I asked her what she had been doing to lead to this change in her body and the answer was Macros. She had started tracking her daily macronutrient intake with the goal of hitting a certain ratio of each within her total daily caloric intake. Sign me up!
You may wonder why I would be interested in trying this new approach if I already eat well and wasn’t looking to lose weight per se. Well, there are several answers to that question. First, like many people I struggle to find balance in my diet. Balance to me means eating in a healthy manner the majority of the time with some flexibility for indulging on the weekends, holidays and vacations, etc. Some refer to this as the “80/20 rule”. I’m always looking for ways to achieve this ratio. Unfortunately, our culture and the pace of my family’s life doesn’t make it easy. Second, I’m routinely searching for successful tips and strategies to share with my clients. As I hear about new diets or ways of eating, I like to educate myself. The best way to do that is to try it firsthand so that I can share my own personal experience. I also felt like there was an opportunity to change my body composition of lean muscle mass vs. fat. For example, since I’ve started keeping track of my macros, I’ve lost 3 lbs., but more importantly and interesting to me is that I’ve gone from 23.5% body fat to 20.5% and from 54.7 lbs. skeletal muscle mass to 56 lbs. My body composition is completely changing. Pretty cool results!
Because there are many different ways to apply this approach and individuals have varied goals (weight loss, maintenance or gain), I won’t go into the particulars here about how a person would determine their daily caloric needs and macronutrient break down in this article. Instead, I would suggest that you do your own research or set up some time with me to learn more. If you decide to give it a try on your own, I would caution you on one thing. As part of my research I saw the acronym “IIFYM” a lot. IIFYM stands for “If it fits your macros”. This implies you can eat whatever you want as long as it fits into your macronutrient proportions. The concept here is that you can either have your carbohydrates come from a donut or a baked sweet potato, so long as the grams of carbs you consume at the end of the day fit within your daily requirements. While occasionally this philosophy could lend itself to supporting the “80/20 rule”, in general, I strongly disagree with the concept that a calorie is a calorie. Your body receives nothing but empty calories from a donut while it receives a plethora of nutrients from a sweet potato. Personally, I have been applying a Paleo-like way of eating to my Macro plan.
Based on my experience so far, I’m planning to stick with this new plan for a while longer. For how long exactly, I’m not sure. For now, however, it’s working for me and I like learning that it’s not the number of pounds that show up on the scale that’s most important. It’s the distribution of those pounds that really matters. Again, if you are curious and want to learn more, please reach out to me and I’d be happy to discuss it further with you.