Weight Loss is Simple But Not Easy
Losing weight is not an easy proposition for a lot of people. It’s easy to say “eat less and move more” and when you boil weight loss down to its core it’s true that calories are the thing that really matters.
What many people forget is that humans are not robots. Most of us can’t just decide that they’re going to eat precisely 2,000 calories per day and exercise at medium intensity for 60 minutes a certain number of times per week.
We get tired, we get cravings, we get sick, and we are constantly bombarded with temptations at home, at work, and when we go to the store.
Even if we were able to simply ‘eat X number of calories’, over a given period of time we might lose weight, but will we get the body that we want? If we’re eating the wrong foods, then we could end up losing muscle as well as fat.
Losing weight in general might be useful for someone who is overweight or obese, but having a low (but still in the healthy range) body fat percentage and plenty of lean mass is better for health, well-being, and aesthetics.
Calories are important for weight loss, but calories aren’t the only thing that matters. Macros matter too!
By working out the right range of proteins, carbohydrates and fats for your lifestyle and body goals you can run a calorie deficit to lose fat while still feeling full, having energy, and holding on to muscle mass.
Is there A Perfect Macro Split?
You may be wondering if there’s one perfect macro ratio that will work for everyone. Unfortunately, there isn’t. Your macro ratio depends on a number of factors, including how active you are and what your goals are.
If you have a decent amount of muscle and you want to maintain it then you will want to eat lots of protein. Proteins are the building blocks of muscles, and if you are starved of protein then you will find that your body breaks down muscle tissue for energy and to repair other damaged muscle tissues.
Indeed, many bodybuilders, when trying to get super-lean, run what is known as a ‘protein sparing modified fast’ where they eat very few calories but consume most of their calories from protein.
It’s not a great idea for the average person to eat ‘only protein’, but upping your protein intake while you are running a calorie deficit can improve satiety and help you to maintain your strength and your lean body mass.
If you’re an endurance athlete or a performance athlete then you’ll want some carbohydrates in your diet, because carbs are a good source of ‘rapid energy’.
Complex carbohydrates are better than simple sugars for providing a steady source of energy while also avoiding the ‘sugar crash’.
Fats are vital for hormone production, and can also be used as a source of energy. Fats take longer to digest than carbohydrates and therefore can improve satiety too.
Some diets, such as the Keto diet and Atkins diet, use fats instead of carbohydrates for the primary energy source. While Keto advocates swear by this practice, it doesn’t work well for everyone’s lifestyle.
Once you’ve found the right balance of macronutrients, you can eat whatever you like as long as it fits your macros and your calorie allowance.
What is If It Fits Your Macros?
If it Fits Your Macros, or “IIFYM” is the idea that just because you’re on a diet it doesn’t mean you have to give up pizza or ice cream.
With this kind of diet, you might tell yourself that you absolutely must eat 150g of protein per day, and that you have a daily calorie allowance of 1800 (while running at a calorie deficit).
You might opt to eat tuna salad with a little oil to hit your protein and fat allowance, then, knowing you’ve hit those macros for the day decide that you are going to treat yourself to a big serving of ice cream at the cinema that night.
You made room for the ice cream by having no croutons or ranch dressing on your salad, and you can enjoy yourself because it fits your macros.
How Do You Know What Macro Ratio to Follow For Weight Loss?
Finding the right macronutrient ratio to follow depends on your lifestyle and fitness goals. You may want to try a few different macronutrient ratios to find out what helps you avoid cravings, and what works for your activity level.
It is important that you have a macro ratio in mind, though, since if you just count calories by themselves you could end up eating too little protein or too few healthy fats while running a calorie deficit.
There are macronutrient calculators on IIFYM.com that will help you to understand what works best for different lifestyles. The calculators will ask you for your age, weight, height and sex (women and men do have different needs in terms of nutrition), and will also ask for your activity level as well as how often you lift weights and how often you do cardiovascular exercises.
The calculator will also ask you for information about any medical conditions that might impact on your diet, as well as your weight loss goals, and the type of diet that you currently follow.
Based on this information, it will offer recommendations for macronutrients that will sustain your body while reducing cravings, promoting satiety, retaining lean muscle mass and allowing weight loss.
These recommendations are tailored to you based on the information that you enter, and it may be that a friend or relative will get a rather different recommendation because their lifestyle and goals are different.
Be sure to weigh, measure and track your food intake, and re-evaluate your macro and calorie goals every month or two based on your progress and how you are currently feeling. Weight loss takes patience and discipline, but it can be done!