Calories Vs. Macros - Which one should you measure?
While reducing calorie intake is a proven way to reduce your weight, there's no shortage of eating styles promising the same results but with more flexibility.
One such popular diet is "If it fits your macros" (IIFYM), which offers people less restriction in what they eat, while still guaranteeing results!
Rather than counting calories, IIFYM counts the daily macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates, and proteins) found in the foods and drinks we consume.
Many people like the diet because it offers flexibility and allows them to consume any food as long as it fits into their daily macronutrient ("macro") requirements!
However, there's currently no scientific research that has specifically examined whether counting macros is as effective as other methods in achieving different weight goals.
Past research has looked into the effects of reducing or manipulating individual macros for weight loss, such as low fat vs low carb diets!
BUT, researchers found no significant, long-term difference between the diets on how much weight they helped people lose) – and all are difficult to adhere to in the long term!
And anyways, why should we cut carbs or fat out of our diets? We should be able to enjoy everything in moderation!
The basic principle to achieving weight loss is eat less energy than your body requires on a daily basis and you will lose weight!
Whether you're counting calories or macros, you still need this starting point to work from to keep within your targets.
While our actual energy requirements/caloric requirements are uncertain and can vary greatly depending on how active we are, our basic requirements for macronutrients are more certain, based on government guidelines.
An advantage of counting macros is that it ensures that some essential nutrients are incorporated into your diet, instead of focusing solely on calories. Counting calories takes no account of nutrients!!
While it seems obvious that choosing wholesome nutritious sources of calories is better than processed, high-sugar and saturated fat foods, you could hypothetically eat seven chocolate bars ((We do NOT recommend doing this))(each worth 228 calories, a total of 1,596 calories) and still lose weight if your total energy expenditure is around 2,000 calories a day! Crazy right!?
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you may be looking to gain weight or put on muscle mass.
Someone looking to would need to increase their basic daily protein intake to around 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight!
As well as protein, energy/carb requirements must also be met to ensure the body has enough fuel available to work out. This is where keeping track of macros, instead of counting calories, could be useful to ensure all protein and carbohydrate requirements are met!
Timings of macros are also important for muscle growth. Research shows regular protein intake throughout the day and after exercise, rather than large single doses, is recommended for muscle growth and refuelling.
Ultimately, which method you choose for altering body weight and composition depends on your goals and how motivated you are!
If you are keen to learn more about the nutrients in the food you are eating then counting macros may be for you.
For those who are looking to follow a basic weight loss regimen and lose weight slowly, calorie tracking may be more up your street!