The term macros has been bandied around the fitness industry for a while now. Trainers often talk about them in relation to weight loss and body building. This week I decipher what macros really are and whether they’re worth counting on to help you build your health and fitness goals.
Macros is short for macronutrients. These are nutrients that are required in large amounts in your diet. The three main macronutrients are carbohydrate, fat and protein. Some foods contain all of these macronutrients, but most consist of predominantly one or two. Micronutrients are nutrients that are only needed in small amounts. These consist of vitamins and minerals
There are general macronutrient guidelines provided for the Australian population. Carbohydrate should make up 45 to 65 percent; protein 15 to 25 percent and fat 20 to 35 percent. Every individual requires different amounts of macronutrients depending on their genetic profile, lifestyle, activity levels and goals.
You can work out your daily kilojoule intake and adapt your ratio of macronutrients according to what you want to achieve. There are many apps out there that you can utilise if maths isn’t your strong point. To ensure you have precise measurements many people also weigh their food to calculate and track their macro intake.
Tracking macros can easily become an unhealthy obsession and definitely fits into the fad diet basket. It’s not a practical or sustainable practice and research shows that it exacerbates eating disorders. Unless you’re an elite athlete that needs to accurately know the breakdown of carbohydrate to protein or have a chronic illness like diabetes, your body doesn’t need you to track its macros.
It also matters where your macronutrients come from. Choosing foods simply because they fit into the ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ app doesn’t mean foods are full of all the nutrients you require. Simple carbohydrates like sugar are going to have a very different effect on your body than complex carbohydrate which is high in fibre. Our energy needs also fluctuate throughout the day and attempting to control a consistent macro intake is futile.
Sometimes a little knowledge can be dangerous. It may seem a simple message to consume more protein to aid weight loss and muscle gain but in fact eating protein in excess levels can put strain on your kidneys and liver and interfere with your absorption of calcium. It can even work against your weight loss goals. Excess protein like any macronutrient in large amounts will be stored as fat.
Restrictive diets followed by cheat days are just not a healthy way physically or mentally to exist. There are so many Western countries that don’t dwell on these diets but aren’t overweight. Our bodies need carbohydrate for energy and healthy fats for our immune system. Compromise them and you’ll soon find yourself vulnerable to illness and fatigue.
Macro diets over simplify your diet which is a complex area that needs to be tailored to an individual’s medical and genetic profile. The price is high for both your wallet and your body. These diets are simply too good to be true in the long term. I recommend more of a focus on a balanced healthy plate and less emphasis on trending diet hashtags.