Beyond Macros: What's wrong with macro counting
You know you have heard of it. If it fits your macros? Calorie counting. Protein counting.
Let's start out with the good. The law of thermodynamics tells us that by ensuring that we take in less calories than we put out we will lose weight. Beyond this most of us understand that there is a certain amount of protein and carbohydrates that we should be taking in. It also considers that you should limit the amount of sugar that you should take in. These four markers are considered to be your macro nutrients and this is a great start to understanding your diet. However simply macro counting isn't enough. In this article I'm going to highlight the shortfalls of macro counting and offer simple solutions to take your nutrition to the next level, as well as sum up with an alternative way to think about food that should set you down a better path.
The first problem with macro counting is it doesn't consider the nutrient density or the food quality. Let's break down the most common example of macros pizza. Everyone loves pizza and you can set up your macros to fit this into your diet. Pizza consists of roughly 310 Calories, 13 grams of Fat, 33 grams of Carbohydrates, 4 grams of Sugar, and 13 grams of Protein based off of a quick google search. Now when we apply that to many macro protocols that easily fits a 1,200 - 2,000 calorie a day diet, gets you below the often recommended 100 grams of carbohydrates, and gets you on your way to the .5-1 gram of protein recommended in many macro calculations. So the macro nutrients in pizza isn't why you shouldn't eat it. The truth is pizza is extraordinarily nutrient poor. The National Cancer Institute defines nutrient dense food as: "Food that is high in nutrients but relatively low in calories. Nutrient-dense foods contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. Examples of nutrient-dense foods include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free milk products, seafood, lean meats, eggs, peas, beans, and nuts." National Cancer Institue While, you can see that pizza can include these foods generally speaking it does not. This is the concept of making something that isn't typically healthy healthy for you. So the first problem with macro counting or only focusing on your macros is that it doesn't consider how nutrient dense any food is. Generally speaking the more nutrient dense your diet is the more satisfying it is and the healthier it is for you.
The second problem with only focusing on your macros is that it does not consider how your body specifically responds to the food you eat. It is true that you can eat perfectly to your macros, but be extremely lacking due to your body not absorbing what you are eating. This is of course an extreme case. However, on a smaller scale you can consider how your body responds to the food eat. You most likely refer to the post thanksgiving day dinner nap. Where the food you eat literally causes lethargy. Or the variety of food that you eat that causes bloating or gas. Both of these are signs that your body isn't absorbing the nutrients that is in the foods. If we look at if it fits your macros it does not take into consideration if your body is actually taking in the nutrients that you are putting in it.
Finally it doesn't take into account you. Let's just take a look at some of the common dietary trends that all work for some people and realize that you might just be that special little snowflake that your mom told you, you are. Some of these are in complete contradiction of each other (Vegan : Carnivore). In all of these cases some people feel great on this and others get nearly completely sick. Why is this? The truth is simple. Some people's body utilizes some foods differently then other people's body. So there is NO set dietary protocol that is universally applicable.
So now we need to look forward. You can determine the exact correct diet for you without going insane. We are going to break it down into a three step process. First doing a cleanse is a great start this will remove inflammation from your system. This is the preparation process to begin to understand the way your body responds to food. From there you will slowly reintroduce foods into your diet, one ingredient at a time. If you have a negative reaction to a food then it doesn't agree with your system and you should consider cutting it out. Ensure that your foods are centered around nutrient dense foods.
Finally, you will track your macro nutrients paying attention to weight, energy level, and bloating. If you are gaining weight and looking to lose cut 500 calories a day and weigh yourself again in a week. If you are staying at the same weight and looking to lose weight decrease your daily caloric intake by 250 calories, and reweigh yourself in a week. This will have you in control of your diet, making small adjustments that will lead you to a sustainable nutrient dense diet that agrees with your system.