According to the most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control, over 17 percent of American adults follow a special diet. If you've experienced bad luck from your previous attempts to regulate your food intake, you may wonder whether you can eat good, solid food and still feel and look your best without counting every last calorie that goes into your mouth. If so, a macro diet may appeal to you. Take a look at what this kind of diet involves and how it can help meet specific needs and goals.
What Are Macros?
When you think of nutrients, you must consider two major categories: micro-nutrients and macro-nutrients. Micro-nutrients (or micros) include all the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids necessary to support countless biological processes. Macro-nutrients (or macros) have the essential chemical substances found in the foods you eat. Proteins, carbohydrates, and fats all count as macro-nutrients. Since macro-nutrients typically contain a wide range of micro-nutrients, a healthy, balanced diet should enable you to cover both of these categories handily.
Different macros offer different physical benefits. Proteins play crucial roles in tissue regeneration and muscle strength. Carbohydrates provide the body with energy for its everyday tasks and functions. Fats insulate nerves and serve as a backup fuel supply. It would be best if you had consistent amounts of all three macros to sustain optimal wellness.
How a Macro Diet Works
Traditionally, diets have focused on one specific aspect of food intake or choices. Some fad diets limit the dieter's available foods to a very narrow range, which may reduce food intake but at the cost of balanced nutrition. Other diets focus on calorie counting, primarily as a weight-loss strategy, emphasizing keeping the total daily calorie intake lower than the body's baseline calorie-burning level.
The macro diet dispenses with highly restrictive food choices and calorie counting. Instead, it attempts to simplify things by allowing you to focus on consuming the right amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats every day, allotting a percentage range to each macro. The careful balance of macros you need will depend on your age, sex, and activity level. However, the current version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults make protein 10 to 35 percent of their total caloric intake, with 45 to 65 percent consisting of carbs and fat providing 20 percent.
Use any popular calorie-counting app to determine the total number of daily calories you should eat based on your health factors. Once you have that number, do some simple math to figure out how many of those calories each macro should supply. For instance, if you want to get 30 percent of your calories from protein and consume 2,100 calories per day, dividing 2,100 by 30 will give you 700 calories in protein.
Since the body requires the proper daily intake of macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients, you'll want to make sure that the macros you eat provide these critical nutrients by reading labels carefully and devising your menus accordingly. Consider employing a fitness tracker to make your meal planning and preparation as simple, thorough, and accurate as possible.
Macros and Weight Management
Many people only turn to diets after developing unattractive and unhealthy conditions such as obesity. If you need or want to lose weight without starving yourself or engaging in other harmful methods, you may find the macro diet a practical means of achieving your goals.
Controlled medical studies indicate that individuals will lose weight on restricted-calorie diets, no matter how much of each macro-nutrient they consume in those diets. However, in the unsupervised world of everyday meal preparation and dining, macro-nutrient content can make a practical difference if you need to shed pounds. For instance, by eating enough protein and fiber daily, you may stave off long-term hunger pangs that fast-burning carbs may either fail to address or encourage. The attention you must pay to what you eat may also lead you to select healthier natural foods as opposed to highly processed "junk food."
Macros and Other Health Benefits
Consumption of macros in the right proportions can do more for you than help you lose unwanted pounds. Research shows that athletes whose diets consist of 10 to 35 percent protein (the Institute of Medicine's Acceptable Macro-nutrient Distribution Range for this macro) can build skeletal muscle and connective tissue more effectively after they work out, which in turn may lead to improved athletic performance.
Potential Concerns With a Macro Diet
For all a micro diet's potential benefits, this way of eating can also create potential problems if you don't follow it carefully. One primary concern among dieticians revolves around that, while a macro diet can help individuals think more carefully about their dietary choices, it also opens the door for poor eating habits because it doesn't specify what sources you derive your macros from. For instance, a food that serves as a great source of protein could also harbor unacceptable amounts of unhealthy fat, salt, or sugar.
Although you may prefer counting macros to counting calories, bear in mind that you must still make your share of calculations with this diet. If you seek simplicity above all else in your dietary routine, you might find yourself frustrated with the demands of a macro diet. You may also struggle to apply your new diet to social dining situations such as restaurant meals (where you'll more likely see menu items' calorie counts than specific macro information).
The switch to a macro diet won't free you from the physics of calorie intake and energy usage. No matter how carefully you balance your macros, you'll still gain weight and potentially damage your health if you eat too many calories per day. In the end, you might find yourself counting calories, after all, adjusting your menu choices as needed to keep yourself under the recommended total.
If you struggle with an underlying metabolic condition, you may need more precise macro-control than the broad ranges of the macro diet specify. For example, diabetic individuals may need to stick to the extreme low end of a macro diet's recommended carb range. They may also need to restrict their protein levels more narrowly than the macro diet suggests. In a European study, participants whose diets feature more than 22 percent protein (an allowable percentage in a typical macro diet) faced a 24 percent higher chance of growing overweight or obese.
No matter the stated benefits of a given diet, you should always discuss the diet with your family doctor or another primary care provider before committing to it. Each human body has its own particular dietary and nutritional needs, changing according to age, lifestyle, and overall health. Your doctor may agree that a macro diet will work well for you if you adhere to certain modifications or restrictions.
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