Until very recently, I was completely unaware of the world domination of counting macros and yet another acronym, IIFYM. I’m all about longevity when it comes to my eating and exercise habits, so I don’t really follow any fads or extreme diets as I find they don’t work for me long-term. Also, if something appears too good to be true, then guess what? It probably is.
In case you are like me and have happily lived your life up to now macro-craze-free, then I’m about to shatter your naivety with some info about the recent trend that has taken over the health and fitness world, and I’ll let you make up your own mind (even though you may note a non-impartial tone between the lines, but that’s nothing to do with me… I swear…).
Just to be clear, I am not against the concept of being completely aware of what you eat. I think this is a very healthy mindset to have, and an understanding of what I still like to call a balanced diet (although that seems to be a dirty word in some areas these days) is definitely beneficial.
My biggest bugbear with the whole macro approach is that it is often adopted by average Joes or Josephines like you or me, who maybe want to lose some weight, tone up or gain muscle mass.
But often this is done almost in isolation within your lifestyle, as if counting grams of protein alone will transform your body. Or that believing it is a good idea to devour a whole plate of chips if you haven’t reached your carb macros by the end of the day. Or by going hell for leather into an eating-and-exercise routine that you have partially researched because you know @hot_fit_chick_with_ripped_abs_and_a_toned_posterior on Instagram counts her macros and look at her!!
From the reading I’ve done, it seems that counting macros is a very useful application if you work as one of the following:
- A waxed, spray-tanned and scantily clad body builder
- A waxed, spray-tanned and fully clothed jockey
- Some elite athletes (may or may not be waxed and/or spray-tanned)
So, I hear you say – you’ve given us your beefs with macro counting. Now can you please tell me what it’s all about?
Macros is the catchy abbreviation for Macronutrients. The three main macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates and fats. Getting the right amount of each of these nutrients is done using calculations, weight measurements and the conversion of each of these within food into calories.
Are you still with me?
Ok, so a good example is the following, which is taken from an article in bodybuilding.com (a site for body builders – see the first entry in my list above – body builders!)
In this example, your daily calorie intake is 2,000 grams.
Question: How can you calculate your daily macros so that you meet your calorific intake with the correct combination of macronutrients?
Answer: There are a couple of ways.
In the example from bodybuilding.com, Vince (a good, strong name) explains that you can go with a basic 40/40/20 plan. That converts to 800 calories of protein, 800 calories of carbs and 400 calories of fats daily.
But how many calories are in a gram of each of these nutrients? Here’s a handy rhyme to help you remember:
For protein and carb here’s the lot
1 gram is 4 cals
And for fat is is 9 cals
Should never be forgot”*
*Apologies if that rhyme has now replaced the valuable space in your brain that used to house your favourite quote from Top Gun. But it is pretty catchy.
So back to the example – you then use this info to plan your food intake for the day. You do this by reading the nutritional information from food labels, or using some kind of conversion chart or book if you are purchasing whole foods that do not have labeling.
The 40/40/20 plan is just one simple approach – you can change the variables to whatever suits your current bodybuilding (there it is again, bodybuilding) targets are, in combination with a correct workout and weights regime to achieve optimum results. If you take a look at the article, you will see that Vince works with what he calls “naturally skinny guys”, and he works with clients like that to help them bulk up using a combination of food plans, workout routines and support. And it appears he has success.
What I want to do with this blog post is not pick on the strong, biceped and protein-powered macro kid in school – for me, this is just an example of the many fad diets and popular eating regimes out there that people believe are a cure-all to their issues with weight/muscle building/healthy eating. And that are often extolled by semi-celebrity figures in the social media arena, which people like you and me admire and sometimes follow no-questions-asked in our quest to achieve an amazing body, ripped abs, or more often than not, that seemingly amazing online life that we would love to have. But let me GUARANTEE you, that getting your kitchen scales and calculator out and number-crunching your way through your dinner is not the way to do it.
Enjoy your life – enjoy your food – count your macros if you have done your research and know that it will work to help you achieve your goals when combined with other lifestyle changes – try to always eat in a mindful way so that you know what you are putting in your body (even if it’s bad sometimes 😉 )
And remember – we can’t all be @hot_fit_chick_with_ripped_abs_and_a_toned_posterior on Instagram!