Any fitness enthusiast looking to gain muscle or lose bodyweight has probably heard about macro dieting or tracking macros. But, do you know what a macro diet is?
Within the past few years, there’s been a lot of talk about flexible dieting and the macro approach versus following a strict meal plan. Macro dieting, or a flexible meal plan, allows you to be versatile with the food you eat; you just need to eat it in the right proportions.
What Is A Macro Diet?
While macro dieting has revolutionized the entire process of body transformation thanks to its ease and sustainability, the macro diet is the regimental component made up of three fundamental elements:
- Establishing daily caloric needs
- Journaling & tracking caloric intake
- Consuming macros in the right proportion
Establishing daily caloric needs has always been the primary step towards achieving weight-loss or weight-gain goals.
Why do you need to establish daily caloric needs?
The number of calories you consume determines whether you will gain weight or lose weight. If you want to gain muscle mass, you need to consume more calories than your daily requirements, and if you hope to lose weight, you have to create a calorie deficit.
Once you know your body’s daily calorie requirement, you can adjust the calories to reduce or gain weight. With this understanding, it’s time to split the calories between three macronutrients.
What are Macronutrients?
Macronutrients are nutrients that provide energy in the form of calories. Macro means large, and macronutrients are the nutrients that your body requires in substantial quantity.
There are three types of macronutrients on which you should focus:
- Protein: Contains 4 Calories per gram
- Carbohydrates: Contains 4 Calories per gram
- Fat: Contains 9 Calories per gram
Proteins serve as a building block of the skeletal muscle system and help in preserving lean muscle mass. Proteins also play a crucial role in promoting the immune system and cell signaling.
You’ll find protein in meats, poultry, fish, milk, beans, and vegetables. When we consume these food items, our body breaks the protein down into amino acids, which later helps in many crucial functions.
Amino acids are further classified into two categories:
- Essential amino acids: These are the amino acids that the body cannot produce, so we need to find them in the foods we eat.
- Non essential amino acids: These are amino acids that the body can produce according to what it needs.
Daily protein recommendations usually depend on your age, body composition, and desired body goals. Your body might require 0.5 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Fats get a bad rap, but they are essential for maintaining good cognitive ability and organ cushioning, healthy cell membranes, balanced hormones, and other vital functions.
Fats are the most concentrated form of energy, vitamins, and minerals.
Fun fact! Your brain is the fattiest organ in the human body, and 60% of it is fat. Eating good fats, like salmon, olive oil, avocado, cheese, and coconut, can provide the brain with the fuel it needs for better cognitive functioning.
Carbohydrates are the quickest and most accessible source of fuel for the body. Foods like fruits, vegetables, bread, pasta, rice, soda, sweets, and beans, among others, all contain carbohydrates.
Not all carbs are the same. Generally, they fall into one of two categories:
- Simple carbs: These are the carbs that you should be avoiding. As the name suggests, simple carbs can be easily broken down by the body to meet your energy requirements. However, this type of carb does not provide sustained energy. Also, it can cause a sudden spike in insulin levels. Examples of simple carbohydrates include soda, pasta, cereal, and candy.
- Complex carbs: As their name suggests, these carbs are more complex to digest, thus providing sustained energy over a more extended period. Complex carbohydrates not only prevent a sudden spike in insulin levels but also make you feel satiated for a longer time. Examples of these include oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potato, and whole wheat bread.
How To Track Macros
It’s always best to get advice from a registered dietitian to help you determine your daily calorie requirements.
Once you know your daily caloric requirement and established your ideal macronutrient breakdown, it’s time to track them.
Technology has made macro tracking a lot easier. You can journal your daily calories by installing mobile apps, like MyFitnessPal or Lose It. Macro tracking apps act like a food journal that will notify you about the calories you have consumed daily.
Benefits Of A Macro Diet
Compared with conventional diets, a macro diet has multiple benefits.
Easy to Follow
You don’t need to eat the same food week after week.
Macro based diets are easy to follow because of their flexible approach to food selection. All you need to worry about is having the right ratio of macros on your plate.
Unlike strict diet patterns, a macro diet promotes good eating habits, prioritizing optimum portion size for each of the three macronutrients.
Flexibility in food selection makes it an ideal choice for anyone, no matter whether you are a bodybuilder, elite athlete, housewife, or senior citizen.
Prevents Eating Pattern Chaos
Where conventional diets can be effective in the short term, they are not always sustainable over time.
A macro diet allows the body to transform in a healthier and more sustainable way.
No Need to Completely Cutdown Sweets
Sugar cravings (also considered addictions, in some circles) are real, and many people find it quite challenging to cut down on sugar completely.
With a macro diet, you don’t need to eliminate sweets; however, you need to make sure that they don’t interfere with your macro requirements.