A beginner’s guide to macro dieting

23.06.17 Nutrition

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You only really begin to see and feel the benefits of a good exercise routine when it’s paired with a good diet. The hard work that you put in at the gym can easily be undone by a “cheat day” takeaway, and, without the right meal plan, it will take you longer to reach your fitness goals by not fuelling your body correctly.

With so many diets and so much conflicting information available, just what is the right diet to follow? Here we explore the macro diet, and discover exactly what it is and what its benefits are…

What is the macro diet?

The ‘macro’ in macro diet is shorthand for macronutrients. This is a term used to describe the three key food groups that our bodies need to be able to function:

Proteins (to build and repair muscle)
Carbohydrates (to fuel energy)
Fats (to keep us full)

The diet is an advanced level of calorie counting, where you drill down into the nutrients found in each of the calories you eat, with the aim to fuel your body with precise levels of the proteins, carbs and fats; cutting out anything that isn’t beneficial in the process.

What are the benefits of macro dieting?

By looking at where you’re getting your calories from, and not just the calories themselves, you might not only find it easier to stay lean, but your body should be more effective at burning fat and building lean muscle too.

So, how does it work?

The diet is based on calculating how much energy your body requires to maintain itself.

Rather than just simply counting calories, where you could be reaching your target amount with a diet high in fatty foods, the macro diet aims to readdress the balance of your intake. The percentage of each macro you need is tailored to your body, but most who follow a macro diet intake around 50% carbohydrates, 25% protein and 25% fat per day. By fuelling your body this way, your body will be able to maintain muscle mass while shifting any excess fat, leaving you leaner and stronger.

In terms of how a macro diet translates in to actual meals, the diet is high in whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, and proteins in the form of beans, pulses, seeds and nuts. Processed foods are a no-no, with the focus on freshly prepared, wholesome food, and many who are macro-converts follow a vegan diet, cutting out all meat and dairy products as well.

Does it have any downsides?

If you cherish your cheat day then you might struggle with the macro diet. Not only will a junk food binge ruin your macronutrient ratios, but it will probably be banned under the diet’s ‘no processed food’ rule too. The diet itself will take consistent effort, especially as you have to log all of your exercise and calorie intake, but if you are already a calorie counter and have a fairly healthy diet already, then it’s not much of a stretch.

How can I track my macronutrient intake?

Great apps to help you monitor and track your daily meals, nutrient intake and calorie consumption include ‘My FitnessPal’, ‘My Macro’s and ‘Lose It!’. The different apps vary in what they track, and also how they serve you info, so it’s probably best to download a few before starting the diet and having a play around. Find one that you find easy to use and that you find easy to understand too!

Do bear in mind…

Fad diets and quick-win (or quick lose!) diets aren’t a healthy way to reach your fitness goals. Embarking on the macro diet is all about making sure your body gets the exact nutrients it needs to function well, but do be aware that it might not be for everyone.

 If you’re looking for tasty but healthy recipe ideas, which are perfect for everyday, discover our Fitness First Recipe Book.

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