I get asked by a lot of people if I count macros, should they count macros, does it work? how does it work?have I ever counted macros? What are my macros. Basically I get asked a hell of a lot about macros. This is a big subject and many people have different opinions on it.
My simple answer to all the above questions are, no I don’t strictly count macros, yes I have strictly counted them before, no I don’t think everyone should count them, yes counting them works.. for some people. Cloudy, and probably unhelpful in short – I know. I will explain why.
Firstly, what are macros?
I think the common issue here is most don’t actually know what macros are. In the simplest of terms possible. Nutrients are substances used for energy, growth, and bodily functions by organisms. Those that are needed in large amounts are called macronutrients ( macros in short).
The three macronutrients required by humans are carbohydrates (sugar), lipids (fats), and proteins. Each of these macronutrients provide the body with energy (otherwise known as calories) all calories, however are not created equal.
- In carbohydrates, there are 4 calories per gram
- In proteins, there are 4 calories per gram
- And in lipids, there are 9 calories per gram
Are you still with me? Essentially calorie counting is one thing – counting macros is how you split your daily calories (known as your BMR) into varying protein, fats and carb ratios . So a whole different ball game. I am not going to go into how to work your calories/macros and ratios down (however if you do want to know yours you can email me directly or I may do a post at a later date if there is a big request). There are different ways to split your macro ratios depending on what your goals are, what your body type is and what your stats are. Some ratios have low carbs (which will probably still be higher than most eat) some will be high carbs. It all depends on YOUR goals.
The mention of ‘YOUR GOALS’ there is the reason behind my vagueness and lack of wanting to give a definitive answer. You can’t argue, counting macro’s work. The simple rule is calorie deficit = weight loss. By figuring out your body’s calorie needs and breaking that down into macro ratios (using different methods based on different goals) you will inevitably lean out and lose the weight you wanted to. However, as I keep saying, every each one of us is different – we all have different goals, targets and journeys and all have different views on what body shape is deemed “ perfect” . I know you are screaming at the screen now because you just want a simple yes or no as to whether you should count them –There are benefits and drawbacks to either path. I have tried both, and depending on my fitness goals at the time, I have found success with both. The key is to determine which method best suits you and is the most sustainable. For some it is a no brainer and makes total sense, for others it is unthinkable. So should you count macros or not? Let’s look at it from your own perspective and not mine. .
You should consider counting macros if..
Your lean but want to get leaner, or your weight fluctuates by the day and by the cupcake.
You may be fairly lean but want to be leaner, this is where macro counting could be great for you. Some peoples weight fluctuates by a few pounds every day, and just a few hundred calories could take someone from being in a deficit to their maintenance requirements. By being flexible and not counting properly, those extra 40 calories yo may be adding on here there and everywhere with each meal may be what sends you over the edge and could counteract the hard work you have put in all day to be in a deficit. (By deficit I mean below your basal metabolic rate – ie the calories you should be eating each day). Following macros will allow you to ensure you don’t slip over the line.
You have no concept of what high protein, low carb or high fats mean or what a banana looks like in carbs/fats/proteins.
It can be a really educational process counting macros just to start to learn what is in foods. It’s common for people to totally underestimate their carb intake and overestimate their protein and fat consumption. – typically being down to a lack of knowledge. By counting macros, you start to learn the art of understanding how much protein you should be eating (and it will never be enough) and what foods have surprisingly hidden carbs/calories in. For example – most people think they are eating lots of protein by eating an egg at breakfast, chicken for lunch and fish for dinner. If you want to get super lean and speed up weight loss you scientifically need to be eating probably double that ( we tend to say 1lb of protein per lb you weigh) Equally, people have a general lack of understanding when it comes to carbs. Most people when they embark on counting macros are surprised when a ‘low carb’ ratio is provided and it is still higher than the carb intake they are currently having. Carbs are essential to any journey, it is just about knowing when and how to have them as well as what to have! On the flipside, there are foods that surprisingly contain carbs such as blueberries and bananas or even veggies -so you could be racking up the carbs from certain foods and would benefit more from just eating other carbs you may be shying away from like rice and potatoes for example. Another misconception is fats. We are now becoming more aware that fats help burn fats and it is fantastic that people are eating fats again. However, licking clean an entire peanut butter jar because you think you are getting protein and healthy fats and wondering why you aren’t getting lean – perhaps counting macros will be a very good thing for you! You will soon see why those abs aren’t popping haha.
Restricting your favourite foods makes you crave them more
If you just cannot live without your choccy fix then macro counting effectively allows you to factor in your favourite foods. By counting macros, you can ensure you get your square of dark chocolate or packet of crisps a day and work the rest of your macros around it. For me, this is where the line starts to blur between positive and negative and your own individuality. I am a massive advocate that balance and not being restrictive will allow you to lead a healthier lifestyle for longer so yes macro counting is great for allowing this balance to come in to play. Where the line blurs, is where people just fuel themselves with unhealthy foods because “it fits in their macros.” It is important to nourish your body with clean ( organic if possible) foods and while there is always room for treats and they are completely deserved, starving yourself all day so you can eat a massive bowl of chips or chocolate and ice cream in the evening because it fits in your macros is not sustainable.
You have a deadline
When devising client plans I often use macros when they have a deadline. By deadline I don’t mean a last minute two week panic to lose two stone for a holiday. By deadline I mean they are competing in a sport where a required weight is necessary, a photoshoot, a wedding etc. For some people, their physique is ultimately there job – therefore every gram of protein they eat will have an effect on their success. By being able to calculate your macros over a period of time you can work out how long you have and that will define how you split your ratios.
You are following a restrictive low calorie diet and then become overwhelmed with the urge to binge. Or find yourself saying “well I have been good all day so I can have a takeaway tonight”
For most of us we now know what a healthy balanced daily diet looks like. However, there are still some of you out there that eat far too little throughout the day, hoping to aid your weightloss that by the evening you are overwhelmed with the urge to be naughty. This goes with the points above. Counting macros may help you to regulate your intake with concrete numbers to overcome this binging beast.
You perhaps shouldn’t count macros if..
You suffer from iBS, digestive issues and a sluggish digestive system
If you struggle with stomach issues from constipation to IBS and digestive issues then macro counting may not be for you. most macro breakdowns will request a high (very high) amount of protein to be eaten. Protein is a very compile nutrient to break down and those of us with digestive disorders tend to digest protein very slowly. Clogging yourself up on this high protein content could make your symptoms worse.
You are complete neurosis. Have suffered from eating disorders or get food guilt often
Counting macros involves literally counting food. It can completely take over your life – especially whilst you are learning the art. Most of my clients come to me and have severe guilt/stress/pressure surrounding what they are eating as it is. One could look at counting macros as a way to help you keep on top of what you are eating to factor in other foods without having any guilt, however I look at it as all that does is play in to your neurosis. You could go the other way and become completely obsessed with ensuring you hit your macros to the to the point that the guilt of not getting it right may take over.
You are a bit of a macro veteran, a creature of habit or enjoy eating clean and balanced.
For someone like me, you may have an understanding of macros look like, therefore can pull together a healthy day roughly knowing that you are hitting your deficit/maintenance calories and your macro splits without worrying if you are hitting them to a T. Some of you may be an absolute pro ( and hats off to you as it literally takes years) and could literally look at a chicken and know that it is 80 grams. If this is the case then of course macro counting maybe isn’t needed.
You are happy with your current lifestyle, aren’t looking to drastically change body shape and know the basics of a balanced, healthy diet and more importantly, what works for your body.
If you understand what a healthy diet looks like and are currently happy following it then I wouldn’t get yourself started on counting macros.
Your idea of healthy is a lettuce leaf on a Macdonald burger, or a bowl of 4 strawberry’s for breakfast
If you are at the beginning stages of your journey into leading a healthier balanced lifestyle with a better diet then counting macros may be a little advanced for you and you are probably not ready yet. That’s ok! It is important to understand the bascis before you jump right in. Let’s maybe look at things like are you getting enough water? Are you eating enough meals, what are good sources of carbs, proteins and fats. Maybe when you have a little better of an understanding you can start manipulating your rations.
You’re a total socialite, lead an extremely busy lifestyle and…. hate carrying bags around.
If you are a little social bee and are out on the town or have a job that requires lots of lunches, brekkies, juices and coffee meetings or if you hate being bag lady, cant organise a doctor’s appointment let alone a week of meals – MACRO COUNTING IS NOT FOR YOU – I REPEAT. Macro counting involves planning, prepping and being a total Tupperware queen. Nobody, literally nobody wants to be that girl turning up to dinner with friends and getting their 99p wilko plastic box with carefully measured rice beans and chickens out.
So there it is. My vague/simple/complex way of answering if you should count macros. Whatever it is you chose, be patient and consistent with it and make sure you chose it based on YOU.