I get this question A LOT! What is the difference between counting calories and counting macros? Can I just count calories? Do I have to worry about getting the perfect little balance and grams?
The answer is yes and no.
Our bodies need two things:
- A balance of many different macros and micros to get all of the needs to help our bodies function in an optimal healthy way
Those macros and micros make up the calories and on a cellular level the body doesn't know the difference and we all know that at the end of the day, calories in vs calories out are going to get you where you want to be for weight loss, weight gain or weight maintainence.
However, I am a firm believer that there is a big difference in calorie counting vs macro counting, and here are some reasons why:
1. It teaches you SO much about the actual nutrition in ALL foods
We tend to aim towards certain groups of foods when calorie counting. When you start looking at labels and macros, you recognize that anything and everything is not off limits. It seriously happens to everyone, and is a new form of liberation. There's the WOW factor on a lot of different items like "WOW this has a lot of carbs or fat that I didn't realize" or "WOW this is a lot better than I would have ever thought."
2. It allows you to get a balance in your diet
I think that there are few people that would be able to do this if they were counting macros. MOST of the time girls lend towards eating mostly protein fearing carbs and fat and don't recognize that they really can have both of those in their diet and then on the other extreme, if you are just counting calories, then you might not realize that you are eating VERY little protein and may need to get more of it. Those are typically the two ends of the spectrum, and there's rarely the in between person that has never counted and somehow ends up with a great balance of macros.
Your body DOES respond to the balance. If you are eating a diet in 100% carb and you switch that to a balanced split then your physique will change. You want to learn what that looks like for you.
3. You will never learn the best ratio of macronutrients that works best for you.
There are many different bioindividualities that come into play with this one. The place that you are from and your genetics can determine whether you metabolize carbs well or if you do better with a high fat diet. You won't know any of these things until you try them out. I heard once that there are about 15 different diets, and you should try them all before you decide what works for you and that it's something that you can sustain to remain healthy in the long term and I think that's the truth. I find Whole 30 and paleo to be extremely restrictive and those diets do not work for me and my lifestyle. Macros did, and so it stuck. However, there are many that don't want to count a thing and it makes them crazy and obsessive and that's okay. However, my point of this article is just to state that until you track for the first time you will never be able to know how your body does with one vs the other.
I also want to plug the fact that there are MANY that don't also give certain diets a chance. Tons and tons of women add lots of carbs into their diet after restricting them for a long period of time, and freak out because they feel puffy and like they are gaining weight overnight. There has to be an adjustment period for this, and it's highly encouraged that you stick this out while your metabolism adapts to what you are doing.
4. It's easier to make manipulations and get progress.
In my coaching experience, it allows the client to reduce carbs while maybe keeping protein higher while dieting and still get results with calories remaining higher because protein is the most thermogenic macronutrient (burning more calories during consumption). While I don't think that people need an exorbitant amount of protein that is pushed to the masses (aka I don't think that we need 1g/lb but more like 0.8g/kg body weight but that's another blog post), I do think however that it's okay to supplement calories back in protein to make up calories. For example, if I was to do 0.8g/kg for myself, then I would be eating 38g protein! HAHAA! I eat way more than that. That's the minimum to maintain the muscle mass that I currently have, but I definitely have more than that.
All of these reasons are reasons that I would choose for a client to count macros over calories when trying to progress however, I don't think that means that someone should force themselves to do macros if it's not working for them. If you are feeling obsessive and like this doesn't work for your lifestyle and that you are going out to eat and not able to pick anything on the menu because you are obsessing on making it work to hit those numbers perfectly then that's no way to live. You have to pick something that is going to be sustainable for you, and that's what it's all about folks!
If you have any thoughts on any of these topics, feel free to share in the comments below as well! :) I'd love to hear what has worked or not worked for you. I'm not here just to talk to myself if you'd like to join ;)