Do Macros Matter?

Some people swear by macros. Is attention to that detail helpful?



1/21/20223 min read

Yes and No.

The term, "macros" is short for macronutrients, otherwise meaning carbohydrates, fats and proteins that you eat.

All have calories, different amounts per gram, and all get burned through existing and through activity.

Because of their ability to be eaten, their nutritients used for bodily functions and because they can be metabolised, on the surface, it doesn't matter as much as total calories eaten when it comes to weight loss.

So that can basically mean that, say you want to eat 1500 calories per day, you can basically eat whatever you want within those 1500 calories. If 1500 calories creates a calorie deficit for you, you'll lose weight. (Remember this can happen using exercise too!)

So YES. The science of how calories burned supports that you could eat an all-carb diet, and as long as you burn more than you ate each day, you will lose weight.

But here's where my answer changes.

Not all types of calories are created equal.

Carbs, fats and proteins all have different functions within your body. Proteins help build and maintain muscle mass, fats contribute to brain function and lubrication of joints and skin, among other necessary things. And carbs are your immediate source of energy.

And that's only the beginning. Each do more than that.

All of these types of foods also contain necessary vitamins and minerals that you ALSO need to exist. So you need them all.

And anyone that is a fan of keto may want to argue with me on that. But trust me, been there done that. There's a wrong way to do keto, and even the right way can lead to health problems. That's a story for another post.

So back to the original question. Do macros matter for weight loss?

Yes, but it really depends on the person.

With my clients, I start with finding out what they tend to eat first, and tweaking it to fit within the AMOUNT of CALORIES they should be eating.

Through tracking, we would get a macro breakdown anyway, and I'd be able to see if they are in healthy ranges.

If we find that they want to add strength training, we have to make sure there's enough protein. If we find that they have more energy with lower carbs, we do that. If we find that the current plan doesn't fill them up, we tweak again. It's all based on what their body tells them.

Because the ideal macronutrient breakdown is different from person to person because our lifestyles are different.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommends that, for example, a middle-aged woman should consume 130 grams of carbs, 46 grams of protein, 25 grams of fiber, and the amount of fat remained undetermined. I suspect that because of height, weight and activity level that amount needs to change.

To translate that into calories, that's 520 calories of carbs, 184 calories of protein (the fiber here is skipped because it should fall within the carbs), which equals 704 calories so far in the day.

If you're eating 1500 calories each day, as an example, that's 796 calories left of fat to eat, or 88 grams.

Whoa, that adds up fast, right?

So these numbers are based on the daily Dietary Reference Intakes that all numbers are supposed to come from.

Do you think most people follow that exactly? Nah.

Should you? Nah. But I wouldn't stray too far from that breakdown.

The percentage breakdown looks a bit different than these numbers. It's called the AMDR or "Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range". Protein is 10-35%, carbs is 45-65%, fat is 20-35%.

So if you track your calories online or on an app, even for one typical day, you can see if you fall within those ranges. There's a lot of wiggle room in there.

So back to if macros matter. Say you start with some recommended numbers. Factor in some lifestyle requests, like more protein or fewer carbs for example.

See how it feels. Your body will let you know if it's not liking your changes. It'll also make you not feel satisfied if it feels like it's lacking something. And THAT is what will tempt you into eating unhealthy stuff, or too much.

And regarding weight loss, as long as whatever numbers you choose all add up to that calorie goal in the end, you should lose weight.

Regardless of your macro percentages.

I know this was a rather scienc-ey post today. Apologies if the terms were a little much, but there's enough people here that already have a basic knowledge of nutrition that might appreciate it.

Macros are a little bit of a hot topic now, and it's hard to determine the level of importance for weight loss.

The bottom line is that there is no magic pie graph of percentages that causes weight loss. But there is a range of percentages for each nutritent that is YOUR magic breakdown to help you feel satisfied, energized, healthy and motivated to continue losing weight.

Hope this helps to clear some things up!