If you’ve spent any time browsing weight-loss websites and support groups, you’ve probably heard of macro-dieting — but do you know what it is? Before choosing your next diet plan, take a moment to learn more about this popular dieting strategy.
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Calorie-counting plans are a simple, easy way to lose weight, with years of research and proven results backing them up. However, they don’t account for the whole picture. Sure, sticking to a daily caloric limit will encourage you to choose foods that are more filling and nutritious — but you don’t have to do that. You can theoretically eat whatever you want and still lose weight, as long as you stay within a certain number of calories each day. However, the quality of your weight loss will vary. For instance, you might lose muscle instead of fat.
Recognizing that not all calories are created equal, macro-dieting takes things a step further. You still count calories when macro-dieting, but you also count three macronutrients, or macros: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. You break your caloric goal into three segments, aiming to maintain a certain ratio of macros. As an example, you might decide on a 20-45-35 ratio where 45 percent of your calories will come from carbs, 20 perfect from fat, and 35 percent from protein.
How It Works
Many people start with a calorie goal, then break it down into a macros by percentage. The best option is to work with a nutritionist to develop a customized plan. However, you can also find online tools and smartphone apps that help you set a ratio based on factors like your body type, your activity level, your medical history, and your goals. Athletes and bodybuilding, for instance, will require more protein than others, while people aiming to lose weight may want to cut back on carbs versus other macros.
Once you start counting your macros, you don’t really need to count calories any longer. As long as you hit your macro goals, you will meet whatever your goal was during your calorie-counting days. However, many of the tools people use to track their macros will automatically count calories as well, so it’s easy to keep an eye on both.
Weight Loss Results
Although a macro-based eating plan comes with several health benefits, many people start macro-dieting to lose weight. For healthy, sustainable weight loss, aim to lose weight at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week — which is totally doable when macro-dieting. When setting your calorie goal, figure out how many calories you need in a day to maintain your current weight, then subtract 10 to 20 percent to create a calorie deficit. Cutting back too much could push your body into starvation mode, stalling your weight loss.
If counting calories hasn’t given you the weight loss results you desire, macro-dieting could be the solution. Setting macronutrient goals will encourage you to make healthier food choices while staying within your ideal caloric range. Consider it the next level of calorie counting, where you focus on quality instead of just quantity.