You’ve probably heard about the macro diet from a friend at the gym or on a tv segment, as the macro diet is a trending dietary approach to losing weight and staying fit. The truth is, however, that even if weight loss is not your primary goal, the macro diet can get you to think smarter about the way you’re choosing your foods and what you’re consuming throughout the day.
Macro Diet Plan: What Is It?
The macro diet is the concept of counting the macronutrients — carbs, protein, and fats —you’re consuming throughout the day. Someone on a traditional calorie-counting diet would only concern themselves with reading the calorie count on a food label, whereas someone on a macro diet not only looks at the calorie count, but they also look at how many grams of carbs, protein, and fat there are in a food.
The best way to display just how different this extended dietary thought process is is to use the example of a pack of cookies. A snack-size bag of chocolate chip cookies may contain somewhere around 200 calories. If you’re simply counting calories, then the bag of cookies may very well be within your allowed calorie allotment for a snack during the day.
If you are following the macro diet plan, however, you would want to look at what nutritional value the cookies are offering you. The cookies likely lack any decent amount of protein, making them a snack that’s probably more empty calories than anything that is going to fuel your body.
Macro Diet Benefits
A macro diet can get you thinking healthier about the food choices you make and what foods you actually turn to when you’re hungry and looking to truly nourish your body. Some of the benefits of following a macro diet plan are the following:
- Educational: Following a macro diet can be an eye-opening experience, educating you about what is in the foods you are eating and what those foods are nutritionally offering your body.
- Weight Loss: While more studies are needed, there is some research that suggests eating more protein, which the macro diet encourages, can help individuals lose more weight and maintain the weight loss.
- Not As Restrictive as Other Diets: Other diets like a vegan diet or paleo diet can be restrictive in regards to eliminating certain food groups from the diet. The macro diet doesn’t eliminate or forbid any particular foods. As long as you fulfill your macros for the day, you can eat what you want.
- Flexibility: Because the macro diet is not as restrictive as some of the other diets, it is considered pretty flexible and easy to adapt to any lifestyle. For instance, if you are planning to go out to dinner with friends, you can look up the menu online ahead of time and choose what you will order. Then, you can plan out your macros for the day to ensure you accommodate your dinner out.
Macro Diet Foods
The plus side of a macro diet plan is that there are no forbidden foods on a macro diet. Instead, your goal will be to ensure you are getting an adequate amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats in your diet each day. A qualified nutritionist can help you calculate how many grams of each macronutrient you should be consuming based on your weight, height, activity level, and weight goals.
Once you’ve established what your macros are, you can focus on getting enough protein, carbs, and fat from a variety of healthy foods.
- Animal meats (i.e. beef, chicken, lamb, pork, turkey)
- Dairy (i.e. cheese, milk, whey protein, yogurt)
- Legumes (i.e. beans, lentils, peas, peanuts, and soy)
- Grains (i.e. oat, wheat, barley, rye, rice)
- Legumes (i.e. beans, lentils, peas, peanuts, and soy)
- Fruit (i.e. bananas, plantains, apples, mangoes)
- Starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes, potatoes, winter squash, and corn)
- Non-grasses (i.e. buckwheat, amaranth, millet, quinoa, teff, and wild rice)
- Egg yolks
- Fatty fish (i.e. salmon, anchovies, sardines)
- Full-fat dairy (i.e. whole milk, cream, full-fat cheese/yogurt)
- Nuts and nut butter
- Chia and flax seeds
Macro Diet Side Effects
Unlike other diets, where some food groups may be completely eliminated, the macro diet does not have harmful side effects. Because nothing is being forbidden from an individual’s diet, the fear of nutritional deficiencies that normally might exist when certain foods are completely taken out of the diet is not there.
There are some downsides to the macro diet, however, and certain cases where individuals need to be cautious when adopting this diet plan. One of the potentially negative effects of following a macro diet is becoming too consumed with the dietary nature of the plan and what one is consuming, in general.
Individuals who have struggled with or could potentially suffer from eating disorders need to be careful with any kind of diet plan, including the macro diet, where food is carefully being evaluated and counted throughout the day.
There are also certain health conditions that need to be taken into consideration when planning proper macros for an individual. This is why it is important to formulate the macro diet per individual basis under the consideration of a qualified nutritionist and healthcare professional. Someone suffering from diabetes, for example, may aim for a different amount of carbs to consume each day than someone who does not suffer from diabetes.
Is the Macro Diet Right for You?
For many, the macro diet is an exciting way to approach weight loss and accomplish specific weight goals. The idea that no food is forbidden on this diet plan is appealing to many. The macro diet can also be a very eye-opening experience, educating those who follow the plan about what nutrients are available in the foods they are eating and help them make better choices.
At the end of the day, however, a macro diet is a diet. It requires conscious thought, consideration, and dedication to follow and maintain, which can be difficult for some. There are also certain health conditions that need to be taken into consideration when planning a macro diet, making it impossible to say that a macro diet is suitable for everyone.
If you are considering trying the macro diet plan, be sure to speak with your health care professional first and go over any health conditions you may be suffering from and discuss what you hope to get out of the diet.