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Diet Trends: What’s with Macro Counting?

Exercise and Nutrition
Author name: Ashley Lovetere, Lee Health Registered Dietitian

Have you heard of If it Fits Your Macro (IIFYM)? It’s the latest diet making the rounds, and you’ll find lots of information about it online including testimonials from people singing its praises.

But it’s always important to get the facts from your doctor or a registered dietitian before you dive into a new diet, so let’s explore the specifics of IIFYM – what it is, how it works, and its advantages and disadvantages.

What are macros?

Much like counting your calories, IIFYM focuses on counting your macronutrients or “macros” instead. The diet boasts weight loss, improved body composition and hormone balance.

Macronutrients are carbohydrates, protein and fat – energy-yielding nutrients that are essential for fueling our body. In fact, carbohydrates are our body’s number one fuel source. They also aid in digestion and help regulate our hormones.

Protein helps build and maintain cell and body structure, fat helps with cell signaling, insulation and temperature regulation. Vitamins A, D, E and K are also stored in fat.

How does the diet work?

Basically, you count or calculate how many grams of protein, carbs, and fat you need each day to reach your weight goals. Once you know what you are aiming for, you track your food each day and stay within those parameters.

There are a variety of ways to set your macronutrient percentages.

Depending on where you are looking, the percentages will change based on your personal goal. The recommended macronutrient breakdown by the Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine is 45-65 percent carbohydrate, 10-35 percent protein and 20-35 percent fat.

What are the benefits?

If you enjoy structured guidelines, this may be easy to follow. IIFYM can help teach you about portion control and reducing the risk of overconsumption. The diet allows for a variety of foods and can be flexible so you can still enjoy some of your favorites.

What are the disadvantages?

The problem is that percentages you choose are not always adequate. “Macro Coaches” often push supplements to meet protein goals. This can be unnecessary and leave out what you need for nutrition.

Remember, it is important not to rely on supplements and try to meet your needs through food. People tend to automatically cut back on carbohydrates in an effort to lose weight. But if you cut back on carbohydrates, you lose significant amounts of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Without proper nutrition education by a registered dietitian, there is a risk of inadequate micronutrients. For example, if you have 55 percent of your diet from carbohydrates and you choose to eat cookies to meet those needs, you are missing out on nutrients you need.

Simply put, maintaining this kind of diet may be difficult every day. This diet is not recommended for those with a poor relationship with food. For these individuals, food becomes only a number and no longer an enjoyable meal.

So what should you do?

If done properly, IIFYM can help you see results. But be sure you use evidence-based resources to calculate your percentages. A registered dietitian will be the best tool in helping you achieve balanced meals.

Remember, food is meant to be enjoyed while nourishing our body. Do not let the stress of counting macronutrients take away the joy of eating.

Bonus Healthy Recipe

Enchilada Casserole

1 lb of chicken, baked and shredded (for a vegetarian or plant-based meal, replace with another 15 oz can of black beans)

2 cups cooked brown rice

1.5 cup enchilada sauce

15 oz can low sodium black beans

7 oz can of low sodium corn

2 bell peppers chopped. If you like heat, choose one jalapeno and one bell pepper

Optional cheese to garnish

  1. Preheat oven for 375F.
  2. Cook brown rice according to instructions.
  3. Bake chicken for 20 min or until internal temperature reaches 165F. Shred chicken.
  4. In a large bowl, mix shredded chicken, rice, peppers, beans, corn and enchilada sauce.
  5. Pour into a large baking dish. Top with cheese if desired.
  6. Bake for 25 min.

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