Reach Your Goals with Macro Tracking
Many of us have been dieting, or at least trying to, for years. The ultimate consensus to lose weight has been to burn more calories than you eat. Although this may make sense, it takes much more input than that. Consuming 500 calories of chocolate cake does not treat the body the same as 500 calories of broccoli. Due to the different reactions of the macronutrients—carbs, protein, and fat, calories are not all created equal. It may seem time-consuming to not only count your calories, but also every single gram of the macros, but it will end up being extremely useful if you are looking to lose weight or improve your fitness.
Athletes especially are one group who will benefit the most from counting their macronutrients, as the amount of protein and carbs significantly impacts their performance and recovery. Endurance athletes are at the greatest risk of injury and burnout if they do not consume enough carbs and protein at specific times surrounding their workouts. Proteins are known to be the building blocks of muscle, so it is obvious why those who exercise should consume a sufficient amount. High protein diets have been studied and seem to be the way to go for weight loss as well. In order to understand what ratio of macronutrients you should be eating you need to take a look at your goals.
As mentioned, weight loss comes from eating less than you burn. Of course, a mixture of cutting calories and exercising more is the ideal plan, but most people have the hardest time with the diet part. When trying to lower calorie intake enough to make a difference, many dieters become irritable, develop uncontrollable cravings, and end up with barely any energy to get them through a workout. These are reasons why many people cannot stick to a strict diet.
When incorporating macro tracking into a weight loss diet, you can be sure your body is getting all of the nutrients it needs. Keeping protein high means you will stay full for a longer period of time. Enough carbs should keep your energy levels up. Some dieters get used to trying to cut out carbs completely and end up getting scared to add them back into their routines. Keeping tabs on macros shows how a higher carb diet than what you are used to, say 40-50% carbs, will not contribute to weight gain. This is because you will be more aware of what you are putting into your body. Remember, a 1200 calorie-a-day diet of just bacon and eggs will not let you reach your goals like 1200 calories of lean meats, low-glycemic carbs, and healthy fats will.
When trying to get stronger and leaner, putting the time in the weight room is generally the way to go. In reality, if you do not eat a proper diet for this specific goal than gaining muscle will either be almost impossible or take a very long time. Macronutrient ratios will be different if your goal is to gain muscle rather than to lose weight. Protein intake must be higher as this macronutrient is the building block of muscle. But keeping carbs high is also important, as your body will require sufficient energy levels for weightlifting.
Now, gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time (which is most people’s dream!) can be tricky. Thankfully with a macronutrient tracking diet, you can achieve this goal. The key here is to be in a calorie deficit but not too drastic, in order to keep up with muscle building. A deficit of 10% is a good place to start but must be adjusted along the way. It is especially important to look at your protein ratios to make sure the building of muscle outweighs protein breakdown. Being in a calorie deficit with not enough protein will lead to muscle loss along with dropping pounds.
Improving Fitness Performance
Runners, particularly those who race, are vulnerable to becoming “skinny fat”. This means they easily lose weight but all of the running basically eats away at their muscle. This means their macronutrients are out of order. Runners must make sure to be consuming enough carbs, around 60% of total calories, to fuel their bodies for endurance training. Keeping protein at a higher ratio is useful to maintain as much of their muscle as possible. The stronger the body, the faster the paces! Fats also have to be accounted for as they help regulate hormones and keep us feeling full throughout the day. A good ratio of macros for a marathon runner is 60% carbs, 25% protein, and 15% fats.
Although this sounds like extra work besides counting calories, it easily becomes habitual. When you realize how well your body responds by keeping within these ratios, you will want to stick with it. Of course, consuming quality foods as the majority of your diet is most beneficial, but macronutrient dieting allows you more freedom and flexibility. As long as you stick to your carb/protein/fat ratios you can feel free to enjoy foods that you love more often and will not feel guilty when cheating a bit. This type of macro diet is popularly known as the “IIFYM” (If it fits your macros) diet. To make things easier there are plenty of applications for macro tracking that allow you to just plug in the meals you eat and it will show you whether those meals fall within your ratios. Once you see quicker results from macro dieting, you won’t go back to your old ways!