“Macro,” or macronutrient, tracking has quickly become a diet fat that has taken on many different shapes. Some tout that macro-tracking is a replacement for calorie counting and others preach that certain macronutrient ratios are optimal for weight loss. Like many diet trends, it can be difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction—especially when there is a grain of truth imbedded in the “miracle” approach. When it comes to carbohydrates and other macronutrients, the guidance is clear and well-researched. Low-carb diets can be helpful in weight loss and long-term weight maintenance. However, just how low should you go when it comes to carbohydrates and how much fats and proteins should you be eating as well?
Carbs have long been vilified as major cause of obesity, and to an extent this is true. You should definitely limit added sugars and sugary beverages in your diet because they are a source of empty calories. A recent study by the University of Zurich found that the even modest consumption of added sugar doubles fat production in the body. Even though added sugars are detrimental for your health, you do need to eat complex carbohydrates as part of a healthy, balanced diet. A low-carb diet (such as the Mediterranean Diet) with 30% of your overall calories coming from carbohydrates has been proven to lower risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as aid in weight loss and weight maintenance. You should definitely limit your carbohydrate intake and pay close attention to the quality of carbohydrates you are eating in your diet.
The ketogenic diet, which consists of up to 90% of your daily calories coming from fats, has risen to prominence in the past few years as a revolutionary new tool for weight loss. However, the experts are not convinced this is the case. There has been limited research conducted on the short-term effectiveness of the ketogenic diet with mixed results. There are also no long term studies that prove if this diet is safe. This diet was originally created to help reduce epileptic seizures in children—not weight loss. The theory of the ketogenic diet is that by limiting carbs and increasing fats, the body relies on ketone bodies as fuel. However, many other physiological processes interfere with ketosis. This diet has been criticized as potentially dangerous due to the emphasis on fat consumption—which can lead to nutrient deficiencies, liver problems, kidney problems, constipation and mood swings. Healthy fats are definitely an important part of a balanced diet, but an overemphasis on consuming fats can lead to significant health risks long-term.
Proteins are arguably the most important macronutrient for weight loss. For every kilogram of body weight, you should eat 0.8 grams of protein. Proteins can be found in meat, eggs, beans, tofu, dairy, nuts, whole grain breads and pastas, and even some vegetables. Protein digests slowly and generates a greater feeling of fullness than simple carbs. However, eating too much protein and too little carbs has been linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis and can be particularly harmful for those with kidney disease or diabetes. Protein is crucial for satiety and overall health, but should be balanced with other macronutrients in order to form a healthy diet.
Should I Track Macros?
I track macros indirectly with the Lose It App and many other apps like My Fitness Pal have this feature as well. These apps calculate each percentage of calories from fat, protein and carbohydrates you are eating based on the foods you log in the app. Do I obsess about hitting each macronutrient percentage perfectly each day? Not at all—but I do like to review these percentages on a regular basis to see how I’m doing. If you have particular fitness goals, you will definitely need to actively hit all your macro percentages daily. However, if you are trying to lose weight, you should always make sure you are hitting your protein target every day. I don’t worry as much about hitting my macros because eating a balanced diet helps take care of that for me without really thinking about it.
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