What Counting Macros Can Teach You About Nutrition

What are Macros?

Short for Macronutrients referring to Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat. Each plays an important function in the body.
Some prefer to just eat whole foods and follow a more intuitive approach while others can feel a little lost (especially when they have a specific goal like fat loss and/or muscle gain).  If you are feeling lost, you will benefit from gaining a better understanding of what a well balanced vegan diet looks like and how to eat to reach their goals.
[When wanting to get ‘toned’ and gain muscle and/lose fat, remember nutrition alongside resistance training using progressive overload are key]

Let’s use some examples to show two people who may benefit from counting Macros:

Person A) Male, physically active busy job feels like he eats lots but struggling to gain weight. When logging his food could find out that although his meals are large in size they are predominately lower in calories and protein as they are largely made up of fruit and vegetables. Understanding this, he could add higher calorie nutrient-dense options like nuts, avos, vegan burger or lentil spaghetti and include more snacks to increase overall calorie and protein content for the day.
Person B) Female, sedentary desk job. Feels like she is eating healthy, makes home-made bliss balls to snack on at work and splurges on the weekend on dinners and drinks regularly.  After tracking her habits for a few weeks has discovered she is sabotaging herself on the weekends and those bliss balls and other ‘healthy snacks’ are actually very high in calories leading to eating more calories than she thought and ruining her healthy habits during the week, taking her out of a calorie deficit [remember a calorie deficit is required to lose weight and eating adequate protein to preserve muscle].
Both people would benefit from logging, analysing current habits and making changes to their nutrition to help reach their goals.

WHAT COUNTING MACROS TAUGHT ME ABOUT NUTRITION:

  • How to balance meals better (having a good protein content, carb source and not overdoing fat).
  • If you’re not counting your guessing. Even if it’s not 100% accurate it is still better to get an indication of what you’re eating then to wing it and wondering what you’re doing wrong. It’s also only really 5min commitment out of your day in the scheme of things.
  • How to eat more intuitively. People online talk a lot about ‘intuitively eating’, stopping when you’re full etc. But when first wanting to lose weight I felt lost with what to eat and didn’t have the self-control to wing it. Logging my meals to see if I was over/under eating for a long period of time helped me learn recipes, portion sizes and flexibility around diet when macros are manipulated that mean I can do this long term as I have developed healthy habits around food and exercise.
  • Understanding macro/micronutrients sources, types and function better. This has now changed the way I think of food, thinking of it more as ‘fuel’ for my day/workouts (focusing on its importance and making time to meal prep) rather than just something that tastes good (it’s both).
  • How to read food labels and understanding junk food (even though delicious) has little to no nutritional value and is high in calories (so dieting Mon-Fri and eating whatever you want on the weekend is what’s stopping you from losing weight).
  • That you don’t need to eat strictly ‘clean’ to reach your goals. You can eat burgers (and make healthier versions by reading food labels and choosing better options) or just go out for dinner/brunch and still lose weight (just be more conservative with your meals throughout the day/smaller meals/fewer snacks etc) consistency long term is what matters, you still want to enjoy yourself.
  • Focus on macronutrients rather than only calories. You could eat 1700 calories of a poor diet (little to no protein, high fat/low carb from poor sources) whereas macros focus on getting adequate protein, carbs, fat dependant on your goals.
  • Lastly, when I want to lose weight and still want to eat big meals I could bulk up the volume by adding more vegetables which are low in calories. (Eg. cauliflower rice, greens etc) or when I want to gain muscle (resistance training) and increasing food opting for high-calorie options and larger portion sizes, more fats (peanut/avo) and more snacks.

However…

People are usually terrible at writing down what they eat (forgetting snacks or understating portion sizes). Using an app like MyFitnessPal is good for increased accuracy so you can log as you go (rather than relying on your memory at the end of the day). It still won’t be 100% but as mentioned before this is one tool for accountability. And, a better understanding of your food habits/room for improvement. 
Logging your meals is not a long term solution, rather a tool for accountability and to better understanding what you’re eating.  If you need any in-depth nutritional advice I would recommend seeing a dietitian. I recommend Lucy from Bloom Nutrition in Melbourne (she is vegan and amazing at what she does).

How to figure out your macros?

Well, the ratio to which you choose is largely dependent on YOU specifically (your goals, activity level, muscle mass etc). It should be less about the ratios % overall and more about setting your protein and fat target first.  Then manipulating your carbs dependent on your goals and preferences. You can use a Macro calculator to get an approx target, which can be used as a guide and adjusted as you go (it is not about being perfect and obsessing over the numbers, is it about getting an understanding of how to reach your goals in a long term sustainable way). The habits you can learn about cooking, meal prep and portion sizes are useful skills to ensure you’re getting the most out of you nutrition!
P.s Macronutrients are one part of the puzzle. We can’t forget Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), which I will be writing about in my next blog so stay tuned

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