If you missed part 1, check it out here!
What is “counting macros”
Counting macros is a form of counting calories, but the focus is shifted towards where those calories are coming from (grams of carbs, protein and fat). It is a highly popular method of tracking intake by athletes, particularly body-builders, as it allows you to fine tune your nutrition by manipulating timing and quantity of each macronutrient to meet your goals. For example, to support maximal muscle growth you can consume the majority of your carbohydrates for pre-and post-workout to fuel and recover from your training with higher proportion of protein and fats at other times of the day.
Counting macros is undeniably very effective, but you have to weigh out every gram of food and drink to make sure you’re hitting the numbers. Counting is not for everyone, and it is not recommended in people who have had an unhealthy relationship with food in the past. Some people find they can track for a few weeks and work out what the macros are in their common food choices and then judge it by eyeballing.
What is “clean eating”
Clean eating refers to eating wholefoods in their simple natural forms that are rich in micronutrients, such as vegetables, organic free-range meat and eggs, whole grains, nuts and cutting back on processed/refined foods that have added preservatives, sugar fats or pesticides. Basically if you look at a food label and there’s a word that you’d need a scientist in a lab to pronounce, its probably not ‘clean’.
There was a major media hype about ‘clean eating’ being the way to lose weight. The reason this can be true is because wholefoods tend to be lower calories (as they don’t have extra sugar/fat added) so it’s easier to eat more of them and remain in a calorie deficit. But too many ‘clean’ foods can still cause you to gain weight. I find a 100% clean approach too restrictive and I end up craving all of the ‘bad’ stuff, so I recommend an 80:20 rule to my clients: where 80% of their meals are rich in micronutrients and whole grains (‘clean’) and 20% of the time they can be more free with their choices and have their favourite treats such as chocolate, as long as they don’t consume excess calories.
What is “Intermittent Fasting”
Intermittent fasting can take several forms such as only eating between set hours (such as 12pm-8pm) or the 5:2 diet. Both of these options can cause weight loss because they lead to an overall calorie reduction over the week, not because they are some secret miracle. (and no, eating carbs past 8pm will not cause you to gain weight * eye roll *) Again, the concept I keep emphasising is total calorie intake over the day or total in the week.
What is the “Keto Diet”
A ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet (<50g per day). As I mentioned before, carbohydrates (glucose) Is the body’s preferred energy source, if you deprive it of carbohydrates, after a few days it has to use alternative mechanisms to produce energy for the cells. One of those is through metabolising fat stores into ketones in a process called ‘ketogenesis’.
Some people love the keto diet as it can bring about quick fat loss results, but its definitely not for everyone. I would recommend consulting with your doctor before even considering this lifestyle, especially If you are on certain medications or breast feeding.
What is “Intuitive eating”
Intuitive eating is an approach to nutrition where you aim to become more attuned to your body’s natural hunger signals to achieve a healthy weight, rather than keeping track of calories/macros in food. This is what most people do on a daily basis. For example, if they feel their jeans are getting tighter they may decide to swap the biscuit for a piece of fruit and aim to lose weight that way. Some people do this and their weight fluctuates, but other people can gauge the calories/macros content in their regular foods and don’t need to count anymore. Other people find that eating ‘intuitively’ means cutting out all the crap, whereas other approaches to nutrition may show there is a place for your favourite food in your diet here and there i.e. taking an IIFYM (if it fits your macros) approach means you could factor in a slice of birthday cake at the office into your daily totals. An intuitive approach can also prevent the development of an unhealthy relationship with food, termed ‘orthorexia’.
So which one is for you?
The perfect nutrition style for you is the one you can best fit into your life and succeed with. There is no point attempting a diet style such as macro counting or keto if you are going to rebound after a few weeks and gain excess weight because you felt restricted. I would recommend assessing your current nutrition and asking yourself: “am I fuelling my body correctly for the style of training I’m doing” then making the necessary adjustments such as increasing your carbohydrate or protein intake. Then ask “am I getting enough micronutrients” and maybe adding in an extra couple of portions of veg into your day.
There is no secret to success, many of us have had to trial a few different approaches to find one that works best for us. Be aware that your circumstances will change and you may need to adapt your eating habits. For example, if you suddenly take up powerlifting, your body is going to need more carbohydrates and protein to fuel the intense training sessions, and if you suddenly get a new job where you’re out of the house for 12 hours a day, you may need to consider prepping your meals to ensure you are giving your body the nutrition it deserves!
But please remember, just because your biggest Instagram idol is going tracking macros, going vegan or ‘bulking’ doesn’t mean that it is what you should be doing. So keep reading up and find what works for YOU!
Well done for getting to the end, I could write a book on this…