If It Fits Your Macros, will it fit your Micros?
Lately counting your macros is all the rage. If it fits into your daily allotment of carbohydrates, fats and protein then you can eat it. Want a pop-tart? If it fits your macros! Donut? If it fits your diet, have at it (wait, but please don’t really do that).
While I am not here to bash the movement, I want to shed some light on the matter and give my two cents, for what it’s worth.
Ever since I took my first nutrition class in college, I was a macros expert. Is that even a thing, you ask?
Probably not. (Well, maybe it is….now…)
Regardless, when you are learning about all things nutrition it is almost impossible to pass over carbs, fats and proteins. They are the major or should I say “macro” nutrients that fuel the body. Apart from water they are what you need to exist and to have the energy to read this post and get PRs in the gym, but that’s neither here nor there.
As my classes progressed, we learned more and more about how macronutrients were made from a food science perspective all the way to how they were metabolized in the body through a tangled web of metabolic charts that I used to have memorized by heart. We then had the chance to put it all into play by learning how to calculate how many macronutrients and calories are needed given a certain person and their unique situation. If some one was stressed, bam we knew what they needed, if they were a runner, voila! Calories counted. If it was a sedentary couch potato? Macros figured out!
Needless to say, if you are in school to be a dietitian, your life IS macros. So, when I started hearing all the buzz that was Macro counting, I chuckled a bit. Put a new name on something; show some pictures of abs and BAM! It’s an overnight success.
But let’s back up for a second and learn what macro vs. micro nutrients are, shall we?
What are Macros?
Carbohydrates, proteins and fats. I should probably get into each one of them separately in a blog series as each is very unique. For whatever reason, the media and the powers that be love to demonize one of these nutrients at all times. One day carbs are bad next they are fine and fat is bad, next protein will give you kidney issues, next day they are all you need to gain muscle.
It is exhausting for most to read all the headlines and sort through what they really need to be healthy. I get it. One of my missions in life is to help others understand what is healthy for them, not necessarily the masses. Macronutrients are essential for all. A good meal should have some of each. Some do better with more of one than the other and so on. Don’t abuse macros, instead embrace them and focus on quality.
What are Micros?
I thought you would never ask! Afterall, I did title this post “But Do You Count Your Micros?” Micronutrients are your vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, etc. They are much more complex and vast than your macronutrients. No wonder people do not focus on them.
The good news? Micronutrients are everywhere. The bad news? All of us (yes ALL of us) are lacking in some way. It is near impossible for anyone to eat enough food in one day to meet their needs for every vitamin and mineral unless they supplement, and even then it’s a toss up.
Micronutrients are what give us energy, keep our immune system up and running and calm us down after a long, stressful day. They help us see, help us think and even lower our blood pressure. There is no way I can go into detail into all the micronutrients, heck I cannot even go into detail of one in this post (they each need their own post, believe me).
Without going into detail, micronutrients are just as, if not more important to your health than your macronutrients. Sure, you could kind of count them by entering all your data into MyFitnessPal but if you are anything like me, you are not a food tracker and like to eat to nourish and eat when you are hungry. Food shouldn’t be a game, it should be a lifestyle. You could of course track your blood, but trust me, your micros need more attention.
Without going into detail, micronutrients are just as, if not more important to your health than… Click To Tweet
Why it’s working?
Well, first off most people never report if a diet failed them. Would you post a before and after that was worse? Of course not! However, for those that it does work for, they are being extremely conscious of WHAT they are putting in their body as far as a quantitative perspective and they are being consistent.
There’s the name of the game, consistency. While you do not need to eat the same thing every day all day, and your days vary greatly, consistency is WAY better than forgetting to eat and then bingeing the next day. Why? Because your hormones THAT IS why. When we confuse them, they get angry and fight back. Angry hormones can lead to weight gain, trouble sleeping, exhaustion and oh so much more.
Why else does it work? Well, there is plenty of research and science to back up your basal metabolic rates (i.e. calorie needs) and activity levels/stress factors to account for differences in lifestyle/situations. Simple as that, we are humans and we have nourishment needs. If you start focusing on portion control, it can work.
Of course, if you take a really good selfie and post in social it could also work…
Why it’s not working?
Quality and long term health. While yes, in the meantime you are most likely feeding your body the right QUANTITY of macronutrients, I can guarantee sprinkle covered pastries and cheese like product covered chips do NOT have your micronutrients nor are they healthy for you. I speak about Qualories and the need to eat real food and I do not think I will sway from that any time soon. So go ahead, count your macros but please consider the long term health consequences of loading up on sugar, processed food and cheese-like products.
The major take away here is that while one diet or one way of thinking may be a hit and may be giving your social media news feed abs of steel, it is usually missing the point. There is more to eating than just hitting your macros or your calorie goal. Food is meant to nourish, and fuel you and give you energy to conquer your life.
Remember, six packs are fleeting but your health does not have to be. Pick health over just a good selfie because after all, no one can see that six pack under your new fall sweater 😉