Health Benefits of the Macro Diet
Macros -or macronutrients- are the big food groups that supply our bodies with the energy we need to function.
This energy comes from the all-too-well-known calories. If you’ve ever attempted to lose weight, you are at least familiar with the term; calories in, calories out, meaning you want to lose weight, you have to eat less calories than your body needs, or use more calories (through exercise) than you eat.
Make’s sense, right?
Why clean eating diets fail
In short, clean eating diets fail because they starve you.
Many weight-loss diets are based on counting calories or drastically reducing the amount we ingest daily; and while they may be effective at first, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to follow them long-term.
Because these hypocaloric regimes usually leave us feeling hungry All. The. Time.
Such is the case of fad diets.
Fad diets are the weight-loss equivalent of viral content. They become popular really fast because they claim to help you lose weight quickly in record time.
And who doesn’t want to lose weight quickly?
But just like a viral video or meme, fad diets lack quality. Yes, you will lose those extra pounds, but, and this is a big BUT… (not a big butt like many of us are trying to get rid of).
The thing about fad diets, and all the get-thin-quick regimes is that they only work in the short term. They are not something that most people are able to follow for a long time, let alone forever. and chances are you will gain all that weight back once you return to your regular eating habits.
And that is not the only shortcoming of fad diets.
Even worse than gaining all that weight back is the fact that many of these diets can put your health at serious risk.
Among the harmful effects of fad diets, we can mention malnutrition, digestive problems, dehydration, and exhaustion.
Many of these get-thin-quick diets restrict or completely eliminate fats and/or carbs intake. But, as we will explain later, these food groups play a crucial role in our body’s function.
A low-carbs and low-fat diets will prevent your body from being able to synthesize all the compounds it needs for metabolic, catalytic, and communicative processes.
Fad diets often involve consuming a lot less calories than what your body needs, and calories, as dreaded as they are in the weight-loss world, are what allow the body to produce energy molecules, so losing weight quickly often comes at the price of feeling tired throughout the day.
They also tend to be based on a macro deprivation regime. What this means is that, in order for them to be effective, you need to give up your consumption of at least one group of macronutrients entirely.
However, all macronutrients are necessary for our wellbeing. Meaning that most fad diets have long term secondary effects in our organism as it cannot perform many essential functions due to the lack of certain nutritional compounds. Fad diets are not sustainable.
But there are effective ways to lose weight sustainably.
Flexible diets based on balanced consumption of macronutrients, on the other hand, ensure our bodies receive all the necessary elements to synthesize essential compounds for all its functions.
The 3 essential macros are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. And all of them provide energy and other valuable nutrients that our bodies need in regular doses.
It is true that everyone has different caloric needs, but we all get our calories from these food groups one way or another.
This is at the foundation of flexible diets based on macronutrients. Learning how much of each macro we need for our body to produce the necessary energy and nutrients to function, can help us achieve a well-balanced diet that will allow us to lose and stay at a healthy weight.
The thing that makes it such a radical idea is that it doesn’t involve eating plain and tasteless food. The macro diet has revolutionized dieting, by allowing those who follow it to eat what they love and still lose weight.
By keeping track of your macronutrients A.K.A. carbs, fat, and protein.
(spoiler alert: The answer is Tracking your macros)
Why is tracking macros important?
Because it is not restrictive and we can play a little with the food we love along with food that is good and nutritious for our bodies.
But losing weight without forgoing the food we love is only one of the benefits of following the macro diet.
As we mentioned before, each macronutrient has a role in our bodies.
The macro diet helps us make sure we eat enough of each macronutrient to provide our bodies with all the elements necessary to function properly and keep healthy.
This fact alone makes Macro Diets a healthier option right off the bat.
But what is it exactly that these macronutrients do once they are in our system?
Carbohydrates – Fuel for our body
Carbs are our primary source of energy.
Once they enter the body, they are broken into smaller molecules and absorbed by our cells, which turn them into ATP (short for Adenosine triphosphate), the primary fuel molecule that powers many metabolic functions.
Ideally, you should get most of your carbs from fruits, whole grains, and fiber-rich vegetables, but thanks to the macro diet you can also indulge in delicious cookies and cream ice cream, or that pizza that you’ve been craving all week for… if it fits your macros.
Fiber, for example, is an essential carb. Why?
Besides keeping us regular, fiber also boosts our immune system and regulates our digestive system. Fad diets that restrict your carb intake may be inadvertently restricting your fiber intake.
Following the Macro Diet helps you eat the right portion of fiber on a daily basis, and in turn, your body will have the necessary intake to benefit from a fiber-rich diet.
Carbs also help you preserve muscle. This is extremely important because it is thanks to our muscles that we can burn any excess energy.
Some of the associated consequences of muscle atrophy include metabolic changes and a diminished capacity for fat oxidation.
And when your body needs energy and finds itself deprived of its primary source (carbohydrates stored in the form of glycogen), it turns to your muscles to get it.
Proteins – Helping us feel satisfied six ways from Sunday
Proteins play a crucial role in regenerating and repairing body tissues and cells, the production of hormones, and they strengthen the immune system.
Protein foods are rich in amino acids, which are the building blocks of every cell in our body. They also help build muscle and prevent muscle mass loss.
But there is more.
A group of proteins called enzymes trigger and regulate many biochemical reactions within our bodies. Some of the functions that depend on enzymes are food digestion, energy production, and muscle contraction.
Hormones are also proteins that act as messengers within and between cells, tissues, and organs.
Proteins also act as the body’s buffer system.
What does this mean?
It means that they help maintain appropriate pH values.
Additionally, proteins regulate fluids balance between blood and the tissues surrounding it by attracting and retaining water where and when necessary.
But as if all that wasn’t enough, ingesting your body’s precise requirements of protein helps you feel satisfied. Proteins keep you from feeling hungry often.
How is that possible? You are probably thinking that fiber does that. Fiber does help you feel fuller quicker, but proteins help you feel full for longer. According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, proteins activate the release of satiety hormone. This hormone signals the brain that you’re good in the hunger department.
Fat – They help cells communicate
Fat was, until no so long ago, considered the devil of food groups. Some nutritionist even removed it entirely from the diet of those looking to lose weight.
But the truth is the body needs fat, of the healthy kind, to lose weight.
Yes, you read right, the body NEEDS fat to lose fat.
Consuming fats increases your metabolism, and in turn, increase the fat-burning rate.
On the contrary, if you are on a low-fat diet, you are basically telling your body not to burn fat.
Fat and oils are essential for the human body to function efficiently, and as such, we need to consume certain types of fats on a daily basis.
There are even some of these compounds that we must source from our food because the body is not capable of producing them.
Such is the case of the linoleic and linolenic acids. These are called essential fatty acids, and they play vital roles in blood coagulation, brain development, and reducing blood cholesterol. Essential fatty acids help prevent heart disease.
Opting for a completely fat-free diet can be counterproductive for your overall health. Why? Many nutrients are fat-soluble, so the body needs fat to absorb and/or transport them. This is the case for carotenoids and vitamins K, A, D, and E. Not ingesting healthy fats can lead to micronutrient deficiency and thus, health problems.
Other roles of this macronutrient include regulating the compounds that go in and out of our cells, providing structure to cell membranes, helping keep skin and hair healthy, and aiding in cell communication, which is essential for the body to function correctly.
As you can see, the nutritional pyramid exists for a reason, and depriving ourselves of one or other group of macros will only have harmful effects on our health in the long run.
The health benefits of the Macro Diet lie in the fact that it helps us lead a balanced diet.
The advantage? It does so without keeping us from ingesting the food we love!
This makes “dieting” more manageable and more sustainable in the long run, because who doesn’t want to eat delicious food and still be able to lose those extra pounds and keep them gone?