This theory Thursday we’re looking more closely at diet (as in what you eat, not as in lettuce leaves). It’s time to dive into the wonderful world of macros, or macronutrients. (Micronutrients are next week, we’re not prejudiced against smallness!)
Macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates and fat. They are the building blocks and calorie containing bits of your dietary intake:
The reason we are looking at this is because manipulating the ratio of macros in your diet can have extraordinary effects on your body composition – weight, fat and muscle percentage. There is no “rule” for the ratio, except you need 12% of your calories from protein and 10% from fat in the diet to avoid protein-calorie malnutrition (Kwashiorkor). (That would leave 78% of your cals from carbohydrate!)
You have read here about manipulating carbohydrates – the Atkins diet (don’t) and the blood sugar diet (do) and the LCHF diet (maybe) reduce carbs with an increase in fats to reduce body fat very successfully. But you could go further. You could adjust each macro depending on what you want to achieve at any given time.
Looking at macros has been the province of body builders with a dietary strategy called “if it fits your macros“. But you don’t have to be building Arnie’s biceps to benefit. Protein, carbs and fat are not inherently more or less healthy in themselves than each other.
So I don’t need to exercise to lose weight?
No, you don’t. “6-packs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym” is true. However, we absolutely want you to move more. We want you to get your 10,000 steps a day and do two strength workouts a week as a minimum. But this is because you will create a healthy, mobile, muscular frame to last you into a mobile old age. Plus, endorphins 😀😜. Plus, reduced cancer, dementia, diabetes etc etc etc.
Also there is increased insulin sensitivity with exercise, so if you DO want to eat carbohydrates without weight gain, exercise is the way forwards.
What should I do?
There is no one true answer. There are a lot of conflicting studies and opinions out there in the world of science. Where positivism has given way to post-positivism and a bit of constructionism. But this is because it’s not as simple as your three macros and their calorie content and insulin effect. There’s the body they go into – one with high insulin resistance (large waist) will process each macro differently to the lean person, to the “skinny fat” person who eats a busload of fruit and has fatty liver. Also, there is fibre and there are other hormones and factors at work and the body is a whole complex machine in a constant tug of war for “balance” (homeostasis). And also, the microbiome! Read Giulia Enders wondrous book about that, but we are only just beginning to understand that our gut flora functions as another organ and is possibly even part of our neuroanatomy.
So what should you do? Whatever works for you, what you can sustain (for at least two years to have a chance of keeping the weight off) and what fits most easily into your current lifestyle. Increasing protein, decreasing “junk” carbs and eating more vegetables are on the list, exercise is on the list. The rest, the fine detail, is up to you.