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Health / Fitness

The macro diet: what is it and why should you try it?

You may have heard about counting macros, but how do you do it and what foods can you eat?

The best part of macro-based dieting is that it is sustainable for the long run.

The macro diet refers to counting macros – that is your carbs, proteins and fats based on your goals and calorie needs.  Macro-based diets are extremely flexible, hence the alternative terms flexible dieting or IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros).

This diet is based on focusing more on the macronutrient number and less on the nutritional value of the food. 

However, that being said, the majority of the food you eat on a macro diet should be from “clean” sources, including whole natural fresh foods, and should be higher in fibre, while about 20 per cent can be from your favourite treats. The idea is that you can have those treats, as long as it fits into your macro needs.

Research has shown that those who follow more flexible diets find they eat less, lose more weight and generally have better moods and can sustain the diet for longer than those who are on more rigid diets such as keto.

The best part of macro-based dieting is that it is sustainable for the long run.

How do you use macro-based dieting? 

The first thing you need to do is determine how many calories you need based on your goal – weight loss, maintenance or building.  You can use a BMR (basal metabolic rate) calculator available from many fitness websites to help determine your basic calorie needs.

If you want to burn off extra fat, you will need to create an energy deficit of at least 500 calories per day via exercise and eating less. If you want to gain muscle, then you will need to eat more. 

The exact amount you need is ultimately determined by just how much you burn and how much extra weight you’re carrying. 

As a reference, consider using this simple calculation to determine your basic calorie needs. If you’re looking to lose weight, take your current weight in pounds and multiple it by 10 to 12; if you want to maintain your weight, multiply your current weight by 12 to 15; for weight gaining, multiply by 15 to 18 times.

The best part of macro-based dieting is that it is sustainable for the long run.

Macronutrients for muscle building or fat loss

Once you understand how many calories you need, you can break down those calories into the right macronutrients based on your goals.

While all macronutrients are essential, protein is really the most important and will make up the majority of your diet regardless of whether your goal is to burn off fat or build muscle.

Carbs, on the other hand, are the one macronutrient that can ultimately determine how you look.

To burn off extra fat, the best way to do that is by lowering your carb intake, forcing your body to access fat preferentially.

Fat is also important, but can make up the remaining of your calories once you determine the other two.

Consider building your meal plan using the following macronutrient breakdowns:

Macronutrients                                                                             Goals

40 per cent protein, 20 per cent carbs, 40 per cent fat      Weight loss/shredding

40 per cent protein, 30 per cent carbs, 30 per cent fat      Weight maintenance

40 per cent protein, 40 per cent carbs, 20 per cent fat      Weight gain

Choosing your foods and meal planning

The next step is choosing the foods that you want to build your meal plan.  Stick to about 80 to 90 per cent of your food choices from whole sources, including plenty of green vegetables, root vegetables, fruits such as berries and apples, good—for-you fats such as avocado, nuts and seeds, and lean sources of protein such as poultry, fish, lean cuts of meat and low-fat dairy.

The remaining 10 to 20% can be from not-so-good choices – your favourite treats or greasy guilty pleasures.

Plan to eat three to six meals each day, depending on your schedule, needs and just how much food you need to consume.\

Eating more frequently won’t do a thing for your metabolism but it will help keep your blood glucose levels balanced, which means less cravings and hunger throughout the day.

What can you expect?

The best part of macro-based dieting is that it is sustainable for the long run.  Providing small “treats” allows for not only psychological satisfaction, but also prevents you from having severe energy crashes or craving foods that you would normally abstain from on a diet. It also allows for flexibility based on your goals – you can easily switch from weight loss to weight maintenance once you’ve reached your goal.

The writer is nutritional director of UAE macro-focused meal-prep company Fuel-Up by Kcal

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