The phrase "If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM)" is popping up everywhere these days. Sites claim the Macro diet will allow you to, "eat the food you love and trigger immediate fat loss" without deprivation (no hunger, no dietary restrictions); and with exercise being entirely optional. Popsugar Fitness describes it as the diet that "lets you eat pizza."
Well, that sounds magical.
It's an alluring description, and one that likely has you thinking somewhere along the lines of…
Pizza?! Sounds like my kind of diet. Sign me up.
This sounds too good to be true; what's the catch?
Err, what is the Macro diet?
Whatever the case may be, you're likely as intrigued as I was the first time someone asked for my opinion of the Macro diet (PS I had no clue what it was at the time). So let's explore the Macro diet from a dietitian's perspective. I'll cover what it is, and what pros and cons I can see. Then I'll leave the decision making up to you!
What is the Macro Diet?
Macro is short for the word macronutrients. If we break down that term, we see "macro" means large and well, nutrients means nutrients! Carbohydrates, protein, fat, and water are the nutrients required in large amounts by our bodies, thus they are called our macronutrients.
Essentially this diet was designed to dictate the amounts of macronutrients you should have to create "balance" in your diet and promote weight loss. It doesn't outline which foods you should choose or avoid. Anything can fit so long as it falls within your allotted calories and percentage of carbs, protein, and fat. Although it may sound simple enough to you now, the devil is in the details.
1. Freedom to be flexible.
I'm an advocate of ditching good food/bad food mentality and can appreciate a diet that encourages liberation. After all, we deserve the freedom to sink our teeth into a piece of cheese, chocolate, or other beloved food without feeling guilty for it! I think the reason this diet caught on in the first place is because we crave that freedom and unfortunately we don't give ourselves the permission to have it very often.
2. Carbs, fat, and protein are all included. Can I get an amen?!
No dietitian ever wants to hear the words "I don't eat carbs." A) That's probably not true, and B) If it is, it's flat out dangerous. Diets that lack relative balance are frustratingly restrictive at best, and can really be quite dangerous -- putting you at an increased risk for nutrient deficiencies and/or toxicities. Although the Macro diet may restrict carbs and fat more than your dietitian would recommend (see cons below) at least they are all invited to the party!
This diet may be too low in carbs and fat to keep you full and energized. And all that protein? Well here's what happens when you consume protein in excess:
Consuming protein in excess of your body's needs can stress your kidneys and liver, interfere with your body's absorption of calcium, and even work against your weight goals. That's because excess protein does not get stored as protein in the body. Usually, it’s stored as fat.
And contrary to popular belief, it's actually carbs (not protein) that are the primary source of energy for working muscles. Generally, 45% to 65% of your calories should come from carbohydrates. If you're an athlete or active person, that percentage gets even higher -- rising to 55% to 70%. But the Macro diet requires you limit carbohydrates to 40% of your calories. For many folks, this may not be enough.
Finally, while it may seem like a lot, 20% to 35% of your total calories should come from dietary fat. The Macro diet hovers at the lower end of that range. Many of us fear fat without realizing what beneficial roles it plays as a source of energy, as a vehicle for absorbing other nutrients, and as a protector of our cells. Depending on your body and lifestyle, the Macro diet may provide the right amount, or too little, fat for optimal health.
My closing thoughts on the Macro diet? It may work better for some than others. There's definitely an element of over-simplification that leaves room for error. Oh yeah, and all this talk about it has me craving pizza.
Have questions? I'd love to hear from you! Here's where you can reach me.