What is the Macro Diet?
A macro diet goes a step further than typical calorie counting. For it, you count the macronutrients—grams of proteins, carbs and fats—you’re eating within your calorie goal, and in what ratios.
Counting macros can help you make smart food choices. For example, instead of a 200-calorie snack of Oreos, you’d need to choose a protein- and healthy-carb packed snack to meet your macros—one that wouldn’t just help you restrict your calories but will help give your body the fuel it needs.
Plus, it’s totally customizable for your goals and body type, and adjustable according to the macro diet results you’re seeing. (That’s why it’s also called flexible dieting.)
“Becoming aware of macronutrients allows one to figure out the tipping point at which the body creates the desired changes,” says Hundt. “Everyone’s different, but when macros are customized, one can lose between 2% and 5% body fat in a month and an average of 10 pounds in the first month.”
Not only that, a successful macro diet promises to keep hunger at bay, balance your energy levels and curb sugar cravings. Sounds pretty amazing, right?
How is a macro diet similar to—and different from—other diets?
The macro diet is similar to the caveman or Paleo diet because it emphasizes the value of whole foods, rather than processed foods. Additionally, it shares some commonality with Weight Watchers and calorie counting because you do need to track your intake and stay within certain ranges.
On the other hand, the macro diet is different from other diets because it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to dieting. Everyone starts with a target macro ratio (for example, a macro ratio of 50% carbohydrates, 25% protein and 25% fat). An online calculator—or better yet, a nutritionist—will help you determine your macro ratio based on your body type, goals, activity level and medical history. As you aim for your specific macro ratio, you might adjust it based on what’s happening with your body. (See below for more info on that.)
With a macro diet, you’re not meant to be depriving your body; you’re meant to be feeding it ideal nutrition that makes it more efficient.
What Exactly Are Macronutrients?
So what are macronutrients exactly? Plain and simple, macronutrients are the three categories of nutrients you eat most and provide you with most of your energy: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. What is not a macronutrient? The other aspects of your foods—micronutrients—are the vitamins and minerals your body needs in smaller amounts.
“It’s important to understand that are versions of each of the macronutrients that are healthier than others,” says Lauren Kelly, a registered dietitian in New York City. “It’s best to stick with the less processed foods, and instead choose whole, fresh food. The fewer ingredients, the better!” says Kelly. So for example, the following would be excellent choices for each of the macro categories, according to Hundt.
Macronutrient #1: Carbohydrates
Fill your plate with healthy carbs, including leafy greens, whole grains, and root veggies. A few good picks: broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, squash, dark leafy greens, green beans, onions, cucumbers, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and quinoa.
Macronutrient #2: Protein
You need plenty of protein but don’t go crazy ordering greasy burgers and wings. Instead, choose fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring), cod, lean grass-fed beef, turkey, eggs, and nuts.
Macronutrient #3: Fat
Getting plenty of healthy fats is important for healthy hormone levels, metabolism, mood vitamin absorption. Foods high in essential fatty acids include coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, almonds, brazil nuts and macadamia nuts.