We’ll cut to the chase: it’s both.
Counting your calorie intake is essential for your weight loss plan, but so is taking into account what those calories are made of. Two bananas, for example, can be composed of the same number of calories as a slice of chocolate cake, but they each do very different things for your body.
CALORIES VS. MACROS
Calories are energy units of food, and macro-nutrients (macros) are the contents of those energy units. They’re primarily composed of the following:
Macros contain these three basic nutrients in varying proportions. Think of it this way: 100 calories of Food A can be 6g carbs, 10g protein, 4g fat, while 100 calories of Food B can be comprised of 7.5g carbs, 4g protein, and 6g fat.
This difference matters.
A healthy weight loss plan involves boosting your metabolism. To do that, you want to lose fat while retaining or increasing your muscle mass. The type of food you digest must have the right composition of macros to accomplish that.
In this case, it means eating meals rich in protein (for building muscle) and fiber (a type of carb that doesn’t affect your sugar levels). You can eat just junk food for an entire day and stay within your allocated calorie intake, but that doesn’t mean you’ll lose weight! In fact, you’ll probably accomplish the opposite.
Remember: while calories measure how much you eat, macros tell you what you’re eating—and whether they’re good for you or not.
HOW DO YOU COUNT CALORIES & MACROS?
Counting calories is pretty straightforward. These days, you can easily rev up your search engine and figure out how many calories are in your food. Determining your BMR (basal metabolic rate) will help you determine the daily number of calories you should be consuming to lose weight.
On the other hand, counting macros is slightly trickier. After you determine your recommended daily calorie intake, you decide the proportions of macros you’d like to incorporate into your diet.
If you have to consume 1,800 calories a day, for example, and decide to stick to a 40% carbs, 40% protein, and 20% fat ratio, ideally you would have to consume 180g of carbs, 180g of protein, and 40g of fat a day.
Traditionally, you use a kitchen scale to count your macros. This gives you more precise numbers and it’s a good way of encouraging you to have more control of your meals. Alternatively, packaged food typically come with helpful nutrition information so all you have to do is check the label. For food like vegetables and fruits, you’ll find everything you need to know on Google. Look ‘em up!
If you need more of a leg-up, you’ll be pleased to know that there are apps for everything. Track your food with apps like MyMacros+, MyPlate, and MyFitnessPal. There are tons of handy options now that let you know what your calorie and macro intakes are when you log in your food. Just make sure you’ve keyed in all the correct measurements for accuracy.
BUT THERE’S A CATCH…
While it’s not impossible to keep track of both your calories and macros, it’s often not feasible in real life to stay within both. It’s very difficult to achieve the exact macronutrient ratios while keeping track of your calorie intake daily.
When you focus on your macro count, going over your allocated daily calorie intake is practically inevitable. When you focus on your calories, you’re not likely achieve that perfect nutrient ratio. So manage your expectations, and don’t beat yourself up over little hiccups!
WHICH ONE SHOULD YOU COUNT?
IF YOU WANT TO TAKE IT EASY, TRACK YOUR CALORIES
It’s simple and straightforward. Calories measure how much you eat, no if’s or but’s about it. The con here is that you risk having an unbalanced diet, so be sure to stay away from refined sugar, processed foods, and junk food—no matter how low in calories they may be.
IF YOU WANT A BALANCED DIET, TRACK YOUR MACROS
Counting your macros is evidently more complicated. While it does risk you consuming over your calorie intake, it also forces you to look at your nutritional intake. It encourages you to be more conscious of getting enough of the good stuff.
IF IT’S TOO TEDIOUS TO DO EITHER, TAKE IT SLOW
Eat clean and just track your daily consumption. Tracking what you eat will give you an idea of what you have to change in your diet to reach your goal. For example, you might be eating healthy and meeting your calorie count, but you might be consuming more carbs and fat than protein. You’ll only know how to change that if you track your food.
WHERE DO YOU START?
CHANGE UP YOUR SNACKS. Opt for an almond butter nut bar over crackers, kale chips over potato chips, or carrot sticks over chocolate wafers. Have you ever tried bringing a bag of granola as ‘popcorn’ to the cinema? It’s just as satisfying!
TRY: Lifestyle Gourmet Almond Butter Nut Bar, P75, Take Root Vegan Cheeze Kale Chips, P176, Veganola PH Classic Granola: Original, P200
FOLLOW THIS UP WITH A HEALTHY SHIFT IN YOUR MEALS, TOO. Switch your white rice to brown, or your regular pasta to protein-packed noodles. Fair warning: it will taste different and it might take a while to adjust to. But trust us: when you start eating clean, you’ll want to keep doing it.
TRY: Fresh Start Organics Red Rice (2kg), P331, 7Grains Company Yellow Soybean Protein Pasta, P160
In a nutshell: if you’re trying to lose weight, you have to mind the food you’re eating. To what degree you do is up to you. The bottomline is you’re the one working towards your personal fitness goals, and you’ll have to dictate your own path. Treat these tips as guidelines and choose what works for you—whether that means tracking every morsel you eat, or giving yourself more wiggle room. You do you!
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