A common approach when losing weight is to simply reduce the calories. After all, if the amount you take in is less than the amount you burn you’ve got to start using those fat reserves right?
Wrong. Not all calories are “equal” in nutrition terms. 100 calories from table sugar isn’t the same as 100 calories from fruit (it’s about what a piece of fruit like an apple or banana contains).
Our bodies need three macro-nutrients (macros for short) to function: fat, carbohydrate and protein. Ensure you get the balance of those nutrients right and you will lose weight, gain muscles and have a diet plan you can stick to for life. You can have your cake and eat it – literally!
Let’s have a closer look at each type of macro.
Fat gets a bad press but it’s actually present in every single cell in your body. There are certain nutrients your body needs that it can only obtain from fat. Healthy fats, such as those in nuts, avocado and seeds are an essential part of a healthy diet.
Your body will utilise carbohydrate as a fuel when it needs to burn energy quickly – on days when you’re exercising for example. You should be aiming to get most of your carbs from slow-burn sources such as wholewheat pasta, brown rice and other starchy foods rather than from sugars.
Often called the building blocks of the body. Protein is what your body needs to make muscles and keep them in tip-top condition. It’s found in meat, fish, eggs as complete protein (containing everything your body needs) and beans, grains, nuts and seeds as incomplete protein (meaning you need to eat different sources to get everything your body needs – for example lentil dhal with rice).
Keep it balanced
To start counting macros you essentially share your calorie intake across the three macro groups. A “starter” balance could be 40% protein, 40% carbs and 20% fat. On exercise days you might increase the carb percentage giving you something more like 50% carbs, 30% protein and 20% fat or for weight loss, you might want to increase the protein percentage giving a balance more like 45% protein, 30% carbs and 25% fat. You can then translate that into what weight of each macro you need to eat.
What you actually eat is up to you so if you fancy a pizza and a glass of wine that’s fine as long as the balance adds up across the rest of the day. You still need to keep the bulk of your diet (at least 80%) as nutritious foods but literally, nothing is off the menu which many fans of macro counting say makes it easier to adhere to.
Weighing everything might seem like a chore but there are plenty of tracking apps out there to make it easier that let you enter your details and what you’ve eaten so you know whether or not you’re on target.