Nutritional approaches are a widely debated and often polarising topic in the health and fitness industry. There are endless diets and lifestyle approaches on offer. As a result, it can become overwhelming when you’re deciding what’s going to be right for you.
Essentially, that’s the bottom line. There will be philosophies that will work for you and others that won’t. There will be some that may work for you in the short term but aren’t a sustainable option in the long term. Maybe they’re not enjoyable or practical for your lifestyle, or they’re just not right for your body.
Today we’ll take a look at two commonly used nutritional approaches, calorie, and macro counting. First, let’s define what they are. Then we’ll look at the instances where they can be useful versus the reasons you might opt out of them altogether.
You have probably noticed that the calorie content is listed on food and beverage products. It’s a way to measure the energy in these items.
Your body uses calories for everyday functioning such as walking and talking. There is a baseline number of calories that your body will burn at rest, without doing anything. This number varies between people. There are a number of apps and calculators that will estimate your daily calorie requirements based on simple statistics such as your body weight, gender, and activity levels.
People who want to lose weight sometimes opt for a calorie counting approach. This is because (in a basic sense) if you consistently eat more calories than you burn off, you’re likely to gain weight. If you create a calorie deficit on the other hand (eat less than you burn off), in theory, you should lose weight.
There are numerous apps that have been designed to help you count your calories and work towards weight loss goals. We’ll soon look at the reasons this may be helpful, and contrarily why it might be best avoided altogether.
All food is made up of one or more macronutrients, which you’ve no doubt heard plenty about:
Some foods are primarily made up of one macronutrient. Others have a mix of two or all three macronutrients. Alcohol, water, and fibre can also be considered as macronutrients. Let’s keep it simple by looking at carbs, protein and fat, especially since water and fibre don’t have an energy value.
Macro counting involves tracking how many calories come from each of the three main macronutrients. Some people use a “low-carb” approach to count their macros. This means that the ratio of carbohydrates they eat will be lower than what is considered to be a standard intake.
Others may use a “low-fat” or “high-protein” approach to counting macros, depending on their goals. Overall, the percentage of each macronutrient is adjusted accordingly. Again, there are many apps available to accurately track your macros.
When you’re counting macros you’re essentially counting calories, with an extra layer added. You’ll first work out your overall calorie requirement and then fit your macro needs into that equation.
You might go with a traditional recommendation of macronutrient ratios, or an adjusted recommendation. It’s still based on an overall calorie approach. This is because if you eat more calories from one macronutrient you’ll eat less from others to achieve the desired number of calories overall.
Carbohydrates and protein both contain 4 calories per gram, and fat contains 9 calories per gram. This is perhaps one of the reasons that the “low-fat” approach was popularized a few decades ago.
Calorie and/or macro counting may work well for some people, as a short term approach. Overall, focusing on high-quality whole foods and finding an approach that is both enjoyable and sustainable in the long term is extremely important.
Try these healthy lunch ideas as well as these healthy eating tips for busy people. And be sure to contact one of our at-home personal trainers for more healthy eating tips and accountability towards your goals.
Have you tried calorie and/or macro counting? Did it work for you? Please leave a comment below!