That is the question! There are so many apps around now that allow us to count our macros but is it worth our time?
First of all, let’s define macros. Macros is a shortened term for the word macronutrients and include carbohydrates, protein and fats. We usually need to consume them as the main components of our diet (macro means large). They are essential nutrients that your body needs to function correctly.
So why do people want to count them? In the UK we use reference intakes as a guide for the population. This indicates how much we should be consuming each of these nutrients. With the idea that if this is being consumed then the person can sustain a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, it can be assumed that if they are being counted, the person is conscious of what they’re consuming and hitting their training goals.
What Are The Benefits?
Here are some reasons why it can beneficial to count each nutrient concerning training. Inadequate consumption of carbohydrates can mean less energy and which as a result will affect performance. When consuming the correct amount of protein, benefits include being able to exercise for longer, and at higher intensities, delay fatigue, greater alertness and attention. For these reasons, if you are training to reach certain goals it is important that you are consuming enough carbohydrates. It is also important to note that the longer and more intense you exercise the more carbohydrates you need to replenish your stores. So your carbohydrate intake will need to be adapted to your training intensity.
Protein is needed for growth and synthesis. However, it is not as easy as consuming lots of protein to then gain lots of muscle. Your body can only absorb around 20g of protein in one sitting. Therefore, it can be good to monitor and track how much you are having. It is generally recommended that you consume 20g servings of protein in infrequent sittings, so, for example, every 4 hours.
Generally, people don’t usually pay that much attention to fats when training or think that they need to avoid them. They can be useful for protecting and cushioning joints. As well as being an energy supply and aid in digesting fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K). Try and opt for healthier fats ‘non-saturated’ like oily fish and vegetable oils.
What Are The Negatives?
There may be some negatives to counting macronutrients, such as focusing too much on one food group. Say you wanted to specifically look at fat and how to reduce it in your diet. Just because a food is low in fat may not mean it is the healthiest option, it could have a high sugar or salt content for example. Therefore, if counting macronutrients it good to look at food as a whole and in balance to what you’re consuming regularly.
Another downside may be that you get into a cycle of restrictive eating and build an unhealthy relationship with your food. This may be denying yourself a certain food group, for example, carbohydrates. By restricting foods, it can make you feel quite low or even dread mealtimes. Usually, it is not sustainable, leading people to ‘binge’ on what they have restricted and go through a cycle of guilt and punishment. By doing this is can build a toxic relationship with your diet.
Overall, it can be beneficial to be aware of what you’re consuming if you need to achieve certain fitness goals and if you feel like counting macro’s works for you then go for it. On the other hand, if you feel like it’s difficult to count macros or it leads you to unhealthy habits with food, then maybe avoid counting macros. And just focus on consuming a healthy balanced diet.
Guest Blog Written by – Francesca Bracken @ The _Nutrinerds