Shayna Schmidt | March 5, 2018
It’s no secret that exercise alone does not work miracles: solid nutrition is just as important when it comes to achieving health and fitness goals. Two current trends on the nutrition front are tracking macronutrients and intuitive eating. To discuss what each entails as well as some of the pros and cons, we turned to #fitchick Lindsey Baker, and this thoughtful blog post she wrote on her own trials and tribulations with the two trends.
We want to highlight how important it is to remember that what works for one person regarding nutrition may not work for another. Each individual must choose what suits his or her goals best. If that shredded dude you’re following on Instagram tracks his macros but you hate counting numbers, it doesn't mean you won't be able to see results.
Tracking macronutrients, or “macros,” means you are calculating the number of grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats that your specific body needs. You may have seen the #iifym (“if it fits your macros") hashtag on Instagram-- now you know what it means! The method promotes the notion that the quality of your food, not the quantity of your food, is what matters. Understanding what's in your calories instead of fixating on a specific daily caloric number can have a greater impact on your physique.
In regards to her experience tracking macros, Lindsey says, “I saw the results I had been so desperately trying to achieve for so long. I finally felt like I understood how my body was using the food I was eating.” She also adds, “I had the freedom to not restrict myself out of fear of eating too much and I had room for the foods I used to binge on.”
Tracking macros also works wonders in terms of teaching people proper portion sizes, as you begin to pay much more attention to a) what a recommended portion size of a certain food is, and b) what numbers are recommended for you to hit in order to achieve your goals. Lindsey says, “I learned to eat in correct portions and that weighing your food gives you a much more accurate portion size than eyeballing a certain fraction of a package.”
In order to track macros, most people either use a food scale to weigh their food to make sure it’s the number of grams they want, or they download an app like MyFitnessPal which assigns you your numbers based on your goals and does the counting for you. While you can do this on your own, we definitely recommend working with one of our nutrition-certified trainers. Being able to talk to someone who actually understands your activity level and dietary needs is very important.
The amount of each macronutrient you need daily is dependent upon where you are currently in your journey, your goals, level of activity and training, and basal metabolic rate (BMR).
A good standard ratio for which we recommend aiming is 35% protein, 35% carbs, 30% fat. The famous “Zone” diet ratio is 30% protein, 40% carbs, 30% fat. For someone really wanting to lean out we recommend aiming for 40% protein. In general, we find that most Americans do not eat enough protein. When trying to achieve health and fitness goals, protein is the key player because it allows for satiety and it also helps us retain muscle.
Intuitive eating is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s a nutrition philosophy that promotes dietary intake based on internal cues of hunger and fullness, body acceptance, and making behavior choices based on health as well as enjoyment. It does not impose guidelines or restrictions on what type of food to eat or when to eat it.
The intuitive eating approach takes into account the failure rate of traditional diets. We’ve all experienced it: a new diet starts out with excitement and enthusiasm, but somehow after the first week or two we end up going back to our old eating habits. What’s worse is we blame ourselves for not being able to stick to the diet when in reality these fad diets are simply not sustainable in the long term!
A 2014 review published in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics evaluated 20 different peer-reviewed intuitive eating studies to examine the physical and psychological effects of these programs. Overall, the authors of the review concluded that study participants who were encouraged to eat intuitively were able to abandon unhealthy weight control behaviors, improve metabolic fitness, increase body satisfaction, and improve psychological distress.
This answer is going to be different for everyone, certainly. We are born intuitive eaters. It isn't until rules and restrictions are set around food that we lose our inner intuitive eater. We learn to finish the entire plate. We learn that dessert has to be earned, or can be taken away if we misbehave. We learn that we have to eat our vegetables before eating cookies. The list goes on.
The intuitive eating approach to nutrition is great for those who want to develop a healthy relationship with food but don’t have a particular reason to lose weight other than being healthy. Since it focuses on eating what you feel like eating when you feel hungry, it works very well in preventing people from reaching the point of excessive hunger that often leads to overeating.
The question rings out: won’t people be tempted to eat junk food if they’re basically told to eat whatever they feel like eating? Of course. However, if you are at a point in your health and fitness journey where you can trust your body to tell you what it needs, then intuitive eating may be a great choice for you. Lindsey notes that IE cannot be “an excuse just to eat all the burgers and fries and milkshakes and call it satisfying to your taste buds.” Just as counting macros is not intended to be a “free for all with just hitting numbers.”
Of course it’s possible to abuse both of these nutrition ideologies. The point of both is to enable an individual to meet his or her goals, which is why each person must figure out which works better for him or her. Lindsey has transitioned to intuitive eating because right now she wants to ask herself, “What is my body telling me it wants?” instead of “What can I fit into MyFitnessPal?” But for a beginner, it may be smarter to learn about the nutrients and what benefits they provide before launching into IE. Each person must decide for him or herself.
Ultimately, in the debate of counting macros vs. intuitive eating, there is no definitive answer as to which is more effective. It all comes down to what health and fitness goals you want to achieve and which approach helps you to feel your best both inside and out. Whether you wish to count macros or eat based on your intuition, your Livekick trainer will support you on your journey. Sign up with a Livekick trainer today!