What Is A Macro Plan And Do You Need One?
Let’s start of by defining what a macro diet is. The word macro is short for macronutrients. Macronutrients are, as the name suggests, large components of the nutritional value of foods, protein, fatty acids and carbohydrates are the main macronutrients and alcohol is a non-essential macronutrient. Most whole foods contain a combination of these ‘macros’ but some contain more than others. To get a better understanding of this simply click on this article which gives you a fairly comprehensive breakdown of which foods contain which macros.
How The Macro Plan Works
A macro plan is designed to split your food into macro groups to ensure that everything is meticulously weighed out. The reason for this is that it helps you to stay within your calories targets, you can be certain that you are getting the right split of macronutrients to match your fitness goals and you get to take pictures of your tupperware batch cooked meals and share them on social media.
Here’s how you work out your macros. You use a predictive equation to work out your calories.
Or, if you are more experienced you can track a week’s worth of food to determine your true TDEE and then you work out your macros in grams using the following method.
For this example we are assuming the individual weighs 85kg, has a TDEE of 3,000kcals per day and is training with weights 4 times per week.
Protein 2g per kg = 170kg x 4 = 680kcal
Fats 1g per kg = 85g x 9 = 765kcal
680 + 765 = 1,445kcal
3,000 – 1,445 = 1,555kcal
1,555/4 = 388g CHO
Therefore, their macros are Pro: 170g Fat: 85g CHO: 388g
Don’t worry, you don’t have to do this and you only need to know how to do this if you are training like an athlete for a specific goal. For members of the general population who just want to lose a few kilos or drop a dress size or two you mosrly just have to be in an energy deficit. You can do that by tracking kcals on an app or using some form of portion control, whichever suits you best.
Why Grams and Not Percentages?
The macros are set in grams because this relates directly to food volume but it requires a good understanding of the composition of food and you literally have to weigh everything you eat. This method suits some people if they are very conscientious and systematic in their approach to life. Most people find this restrictive and confusing. If you do desire this approach for whatever reason it’s probably best to do this under one-to-one guidance with a nutrition coach or sports dietician.
At GymCube we use percentages as a starting point to help our members get a better visual understanding of what a balanced diet looks like. See here for more.
But, the trouble with percentages is the inconsistency. Looking at the image here you can see that some sources of protein also contain fats or carbs. This means that if you eat, say, a handful of nuts to increase your protein intake you’ll likely see your protein percentage reduce and your fat percentage increase and this is where a lot of people get confused. That’s why, as explained in the article above, we encourage you to set yourself a protein target in grams once you have got to grips with tracking your food. This is simply to ensure that you are getting enough protein to reduce the chances of muscle catabolism and to keep your metabolism high.
Should You Count Macros?
We’ve kind of answered this one already but it depends on a few factors so ask yourself the following questions and if you can’t answer them this probably isn’t right for you.
Do you have a clear understanding of the composition of foods and know a protein dense food from a carb or fat dense food?
Do you like spreadsheets and micro managing your diet to the closest decimal point?
Are you an athlete or do you like training like one?
Are you a physique competitor or dieting for a professional photoshoot?
Do you have a completely normal relationship with food?
Does this approach fit in well with your goals and other lifestyle factors?
It’s also important to note that if you have any form of obsessive compulsive disorders, suffer with perfectionism, disordered eating or anxiety disorders this might just tip you over the edge.
If you can’t see yourself happily counting macros for the rest of your active life then it really isn’t necessary. Remember, for fat loss to happen you need to be in an energy deficit and this will occur regardless of what your macro balance is, it’s just made easier by getting that balance right, or at least getting close to that.
So, what other option are there? It’s simple, use a portion control method, this one is quite good.
Or, use smaller plates and remove all forms of indulgent snacking temptations from your cupboards. Or, use an online app to track your calories and, ideally, have a portion of protein food at each meal. If you want to go deeper you can but only if it fits your life, your goals and makes you happy.
If you haven’t already started your GymCube lifestyle why not start now? We have all the exercise options and nutrition advice you need to become the healthiest version of you that you can be.