When following a flexible diet plan, there is more to think about than simply “If It Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM). The type of protein, fat, and carbohydrates you consume is just as important as the amounts you take in of each, which is why you should follow these tips to ensure you are counting macros the right way.
Micronutrient Content Matters
Michael Matthews, author of Bigger, Leaner, Stronger, notes that the carbs in processed baked goods convert into glycogen and glucose just like the carbohydrates in vegetables do. However, he also advises against eating too much junk food just because it “fits your macros.” Instead, he recommends eating nutritious foods that contain plenty of micronutrients in order to avoid developing some major health problems. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid junk food altogether, but it does mean that you should not consume too much of it on a regular basis.
Carbohydrates and their Glycemic Index
When counting macros, it’s also important to pay attention to the Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL) of carbs. A food’s glycemic index has to do with the rate at which it increases blood glucose levels. The glycemic load on the other hand measures how high your blood sugar could go after eating it. A study performed at the University of Sydney showed that consuming low GI/GL carbohydrates was associated with a reduced risk of certain diseases, including diabetes and heart disease. The glycemic index of food is usually listed on the package. Multiply that figure by the number of carbohydrate grams in a serving, then divide by 100 to come up with the glycemic load. For comparison purposes, you can see some examples in our “foods with a high glycemic index” article.
Quality of Protein
Another common mistake people make when counting macros is assuming that all sources of protein are the same. While Matthews admits that the amino acids found in a juicy burger are the same ones found in a lean piece of chicken, there is nonetheless a difference. For example, a study showed that eating processed meat can increase your risk of colorectal cancer by 20 to 50 percent. As such, you should avoid processed meat whenever possible and instead stick with quality sources of protein. Protein shakes are also good for supplementation, but they shouldn’t be relied upon as your sole means of getting protein. It’s also important (to better reach your goals) to use a protein blend, or focus on consuming faster acting protein after workouts such as whey, and slower-longer acting protein like casein before bed.
Avoid Trans Fats
When you are counting macros, it is also important to identify the type of fat you are consuming. The Institute of Medicine recommends consuming as little trans-fat as possible, as it is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, infertility, and diabetes. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are full of Omega-3 fatty acids, something the American Heart Association recommends for heart health. Polyunsaturated fats are also known to reduce triglyceride and blood cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated fat can be found in olive, peanut, or sesame seed oil, while polyunsaturated fats are often abundant in fatty fish such as mackerel and salmon.
Counting macros requires doing more than just using a macronutrient calculator to determine your amounts and then planning your meals accordingly. Choosing quality sources of protein, fats, and carbohydrates is also needed if you are to meet your weight loss and/or fitness goals and maintain optimum health.