What Are Macros And How Do You Count Them?

BY Harper's BAZAAR U.K. / Nov 24 2019 / 16:26 PM

How to count your macros and eat a well balanced and healthy diet

What Are Macros And How Do You Count Them?
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From fasting to juicing to paleo, restricted diets are a dime a dozen; whether you’re aiming to drop a few pounds or simply overhaul your eating, many fad diets claim to be the lifestyle change you need. High on the list at the moment is macro counting, which sounds scientific, but in reality is quite simple.

Lisa Borg, nutritionist at Pulse Light Clinic, explains the ins and outs of macros and how to balance your diet to get the best from your health:

What are macros?

Macros are the three important elements of a balanced plate of food and, when portioned correctly, help you maintain a healthy diet without having to subscribe to measuring, eliminating or supplementing your foods throughout the day. For example, protein, fats and carbohydrates.

Why do we worry about macros?

Looking at macros is really about going back to basics, thinking about the fundamental qualities of the food we eat, so why does it feel like we’re only just starting to worry about balance in our diet?

Borg believes it might be something to do with the nation’s failing health: "A possible reason for macros becoming a buzz word in recent years is the prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes which is strongly related to a diet that is not balanced in favour of carbohydrates and especially the refined type."

"Fats and proteins take longer to digest and balanced meals release glucose much more slowly," she explains. "Carbohydrate-dense meals and snacks tend to raise blood sugar levels rapidly, which is an internal stress and which stimulates all manner of non-optimum hormonal responses and inflammation."

How to count your macros

If you’re thinking about looking more closely at your diet from a macro perspective, it’s easy to get bogged down with calculations and scales, but Borg doesn’t believe this is helpful. Instead, she believes that you should simply look at making sure you eat a variety of whole foods with the greatest potential to supply you with the right nutrients most efficiently.

We can hit the right levels without getting out the scales or complicating things with calculations. "The rule of thumb is that all meals and snacks must provide some of each macro nutrient including protein, carbohydrate and fat," says Borg. "Visually, once the meal is served one can look at the ratio of protein and carbohydrates."

The perfect macros balance

According to Borg to achieve the ideal macros balance your plate should consist of the following:

  •  60 per cent carbohydrates

Of which 2/3 should be vegetables and 1/3 starch - grains or potatoes for example.

  • 30 per cent protein
  • 10 per cent fats

The fat percentage is where macros counting can get tricky. "Fats are not easy to observe and are required in much smaller quantity," says Borg. "For any protein of animal origin the fat content is taken care of, for vegan meals that do not include nuts or seeds, one needs to add a fat like coconut oil or olive oil."

It seems pretty straightforward, and a lot of people are probably already hitting the right balance without even thinking about it. But what about when we just eat what’s quickest or what makes us feel good? Is this going to negatively impact our health?

Yes, if that food is really out of balance, says Borg. "My advice would be to keep in mind that the food we eat can be likened to a machine," she says. "If we put diesel in a petrol engine we're going to experience problems."

Balanced macros = balanced diet

If, as a general rule, we are eating approximately the right amount of different macros per meal, cravings for the wrong types of foods and the negative side-effects that they come with shouldn’t occur much, if at all, argues Borg.

"Balanced meals keep you fuller for longer, and help to maintain blood glucose levels within reference range thereby stimulating the satiety hormone which is a preventative measure against overeating, weight gain, internal stress, hormonal imbalances, inflammation and subsequent disease development."

So, if you’re overwhelmed by the all the so-called ‘healthy’ diet fads out there, maybe it’s time to take it back to basics. Feed your body the macros it needs and you will most likely find this is the easiest way to stay happy as well as healthy.

From Harper's BAZAAR U.K.