If you have ever scrolled through any Instagram feed, you’ve probably heard of counting macros. Despite it’s trendiness the concept of counting macros is not a complex or novel one; it is actually based off of very foundational nutritional science. Before continuing I must admit that I am biased when it comes to nutrition, and since it can be a touchy subject nowadays, a disclaimer: I have my Bachelor’s in Nutritional Science and Public Health from Boston University, spent my 4 years at BU a D1 track athlete, am a personal trainer, and in my own life and career focus on lifestyle wellness. So, on to macros.
What are macros?
“Macros” are simply macronutrients. The three primary macronutrients that make up the diet are Carbohydrates, Fats, and Proteins. The human body requires all three at certain levels in order to maintain proper function. However, there is increasing evidence that adjusting the ratios consumed can aide in achieving fitness and composition goals.
What does “counting macros” mean?
Calorie counting is used to lose weight, gain weight, and also maintain weight. This very generic kind of nutritional tracking has been popularly used for decades. Counting macros differs from counting calories where the types of calories consumed are tracked. Counting macros is often combined with counting calories, or can be used independently.
Why do people count macros?
Counting macros is generally appealing because it allows a higher level of control over the diet, but at the same time is very flexible. Like counting calories, counting macros can help individuals achieve a variety of goals in a variety of settings: fat loss, muscle gain, weight gain, weight loss, bodybuilding, bikini competitions, athletics…etc. There are general macro guidelines depending on your goals, and then within those guidelines the macros will vary further depending on your progress and of course who is calculating your macros.
Things to Consider:
I personally am a big supporter of counting macros for a variety of reasons:
- Counting macros does not eliminate any food groups. It is one thing to eliminate a food or food group due to allergies or sensitivities, however many diets out there instruct participants to cut out entire food groups for the sake of the diet. In my professional opinion, this practice is irresponsible and un-supported. However, if you do choose to cut something out for whatever reason, you can still count macros!
- On that note, counting macros helps you to really learn about what you are eating and why. One thing I dislike about solely counting calories, is that you are not keeping track of the nutritional value of the food you are eating. Fats, carbohydrates, and proteins all play a crucial role in the functioning of the human body. Without the minimum of all three macronutrients, serious health consequences can follow. Whenever weight loss is the goal, there is a higher chance of macro- and micronutrient deficiencies. With macro counting, we are helping to protect against these deficiencies and create calorie deficits safely while making sure that all of your basic needs are being met.
- Counting macros keeps you accountable. A lot of people like calorie counting and tracking apps because of this reason. If you have to log it and track it, you are more likely to be more selective about what you are consuming. If your considering counting macros, I personally LOVE the app My Macros+.
- Counting macros helps to encourage a positive relationship with food. Because it is not based upon elimination, counting macros combines accountability with flexibility. If you really love ice cream and nachos (clearly referring to myself here), counting macros will help you to learn how to fit those foods into your diet. Instead of labeling foods as “good” and “bad”, we learn how to fit them in.
- Counting macros is highly personalized and can fit any lifestyle. Another pet peeve of mine is assuming that all diets are “right” for everyone. With any weight loss, gain, or fitness goal, there are a variety of factors that play a role. Sleep, hydration, medication, presence of disease or illness, environment, age, gender, genetics, stress, metabolism…all play important roles. So it is very common that one diet or pattern of eating may work for one person, but not another. I think that it’s important to experiment *safely* with our diets to figure out what it is that works best for us in the context of our unique lives.
After that plethora of information, I hope that the concept of macro counting is a little bit more clear! I find that diets and patterns of eating can be hard to discuss concisely because there are so many factors and so much information- it’s so easy to get lost. So if you’re thinking about counting macros (or starting any diet) and are not quite sure where to start, please free to contact me for further consultation and resources! Above all, please remember that before starting any diet or making any drastic changes to your intake, be wary and if possible consult with a health professional! Your body is a temple that should be nourished and loved ❤