While any diet can help you lose weight, calculating macros to attain a balanced diet is the key to an effective long-term lifestyle. So what are macros, how do they contribute to weight loss and optimal health, and why is a balanced macro diet more effective than other diets in the long run?
What Are Macros?
Macros (short for macronutrients) are one of two types of nutrients found in food. While micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals feeding your individual cells, macronutrients provide energy to our bodies through calories. There are 3 categories of macronutrients – protein, dietary fats, and carbohydrates. Each are essentially different types of calories providing unique benefits to your body.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of each macro!
4 Benefits of Protein
- Eating protein assists in maintaining muscle mass, strength, and helps the body repair itself after injury. Muscle tissue requires more energy than fat tissue. Once your body converts fat molecules into glucose, your muscle tissues use it for fuel. Thus, the higher your muscle-to-fat ratio, the better you will be at burning calories, aka a higher metabolism.
- Digesting food itself requires calories. You burn more calories from digesting protein than the other two macronutrients. Therefore replacing some carb and fat calories with protein can also boost your metabolism.
- One major cause of diet failures is constant cravings. Increasing your protein intake can reduce cravings, allowing you to stick to more regular and optimal eating times.
- Protein also comes with a range of other health benefits like lower blood pressure, increased bone density, and reduced age-related muscle deterioration.
3 Benefits of Dietary Fat
- Not to be confused with body fat, dietary fats are a necessary component in nutrient absorption. They play a crucial role in your body’s daily functions.
- Consuming dietary fat helps you feel fuller longer because it slows digestion. This makes it easier to wait for your next meal without reaching towards the snack drawer!
- Dietary fat helps support healthy cholesterol levels, optimal brain function, good sleep, and can help improve inflammation pathways.
3 Benefits of Carbohydrates
- Carbohydrates often get a bad rap, but they are an essential energy source that provides fuel for your brain. Most people associate carbs with pasta, rice, and bread – but grains, fruits, and vegetables are also carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide the body with the majority of your daily vitamins and minerals.
- Carbs add fiber to your diet, which may lower your risk for heart disease, obesity, colon and rectal cancers, and Type 2 diabetes.
- Carbohydrates can also boost your mood!
What’s The Relationship Between Macros and Weight Loss?
Since macros represent different types of calories, reducing or increasing a specific macronutrient will result in weight changes because your overall calories are affected. This is the aim of most fad diets, which typically reduce either fat or carbs. (Few diets tackle weight loss through protein reductions.) However, when people reduce a specific macro they often unknowingly replace those calories with another, resulting in no overall calorie change.
Macronutrients and Meal Frequency
As highlighted above, each macro provides its own unique benefits. By combining all three macros your body can perform at its optimal level. Higher energy and overall greater satisfaction allows people to wait longer between meals or needing snacks. This alone can reduce your daily calories since you’ll experience fewer cravings and energy fluctuations throughout your day.
Macronutrients and Meal Size
Similarly, combining macros can also support you to eat less. Greater energy and increased satisfaction can also help you experience fullness quicker, leading to smaller meals over time.
The combination of less frequent and smaller meals helps people consume less calories overall, leading to weight loss. Without the positive effects that each macro provides, maintaining a calorie deficiency becomes increasingly difficult over time. That is why fad diets typically don’t work long-term.
Side Effects of Fad Diets
Fad diets typically involve lowering carb or fat intake, but reducing a macronutrient may result in an excess of another. Too much dietary fat is often associated with ailments like heart disease and some dangerous cancers. Excess carbs can lead to blood sugar spikes. Even if weight loss can be achieved through low fat or low carb diets, the possible harmful effects are reason enough to seek greater balance.
Though most diets work for short time periods, the long-term success rate and health benefits associated with balance is most favorable for the average person. Balanced macronutrient ratios means you’re getting enough variety from every meal that your body can operate at its most efficient levels. Without balanced nutrition, your body is more prone to disease, infection, fatigue, and low performance.
So where do you begin in calculating macros?
Well that’s where things become complicated.
One gram of each macro represents a certain number of calories, but the amount varies. One gram of protein or carbs is 4 calories each, and one gram of fat is 9 calories. Therefore to achieve perfect balance, one would have to eat more than twice the grams of carbohydrates and protein than fat to achieve a 1:1:1 calorie ratio.
In theory, if one’s goal was a perfectly balanced 2,000 calorie day, they would have to consume about 166 grams of protein, 166 grams of carbohydrates, and 74 grams of fat each day. The issue with this theory is the existence of “hidden” macros within most foods. For example, peanut butter is predominantly fat calories, but it also contains protein AND carbohydrate calories. This is where most people get confused (and in trouble) calculating macros.
Is perfect balance right for me?
Not necessarily. Everyone is unique. We all have different bodies, in different states of fitness, with different goals in mind. Each circumstance requires a different ratio of macronutrients in order to be most effective. Yes, each ratio falls within the “balanced range,” but everyone varies within that range depending on their circumstances.
It’s true that no single diet or meal plan works for everyone, but a diet that varies its macronutrient ratio according to the individual is the best chance for success. A balanced macronutrient approach can support anyone regardless of their goal.
How can I calculate my macros?
Professionals are best at correctly calculating macros. Balanced Habits™ identifies 11-specific body metrics and a lifestyle analysis to determine an accurate recommendation backed by our on-staff R.D.N., Nutritionist, and Certified Fitness Experts. We recommend our most in-depth macronutrient analysis through our 4 or 12-week programs.
Your health goals are within reach and we believe in your ability to achieve them! Feel free to reach out if you need help today.
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You can also get a basic recommendation of macronutrients by taking this quiz.