Differences between micro and macronutrients — and how they help with weight loss

You’ve heard the terms – macro and micronutrients. But what are they? Should I be eating more of one or the other?

You’ve probably heard these terms thrown around in the fitness and nutrition industry — but what are micro and macronutrients, exactly?

Abbey Sharp, Toronto registered dietitian at Abbey’s Kitchen, says macronutrients are needed in large quantities and include carbohydrates, fats and protein.

“They’re energy-containing… that is, they have calories,” she tells Global News. “Micronutrients are those that we require in smaller amounts and include vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, phytochemical and antioxidants.”

And these terms become important when people consider macros diets — one that followers say will help you lose weight, Health.com reports.

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“The diet requires you to count the total amounts of fat, carbs and protein in your diet instead of a specific number of calories,” she explains “For example, your allotted macro distribution may be 30 per cent protein, 30 per cent fat and 40 per cent carbs as an example, so your meals would need to fit into that structure.”

Counting macros

According to Prevention, the diet is also associated with hashtags like #IIFYM, which refers to “If It Fits Your Macros.”

And Health adds you can easily find online tools to calculate how many macros you are eating.

“The calculator you use should ask for factors like your age, gender, activity level, and goal weight or your current weight, if you’re trying to maintain it. It will estimate how many calories you need in a day to hit your target,” the site notes.

Sharp explains someone often assigns a seemingly arbitrary macronutrient distribution (she says arbitrary because there hasn’t been enough research to support some of these structures), and people stick to the routine.

“Then each food you would eat, you would need to either look up or use an app to calculate how many grams of carbs, how many grams of protein and how many grams of fat you ate. Then you would add these up over the course of the day, making sure you stayed under your total protein, fat and carb counts for the day.”

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But people get fixated on some macronutritents being good and others are being bad, including carbohydrates.

“Carbs have gotten the short end of the stick these days, especially with the popularity of diets like Paleo, whole 30 and Keto,” she says. “I think it’s also attractive for people to think that they can eat whatever they want, as long as it fits within their macro distribution.”

And with large following on social media sites like Instagram, Sharp says there are often images of men with six-pack abs eating Pop Tarts “because they made it fit within their macro distribution.”

“Ultimately the diet is just another form of calorie counting, only instead of counting one number, you’re counting three.”

But will it work?

She says for people who can stick to a routine or structure, this diet is attractive.

“But I do often worry that people use a macros diet to ignore quality while focusing only on quantity,” she says.

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She also fears people may ignore the nutrients they really need.

“It also often means that you’re ignoring your body’s true needs, and your hunger and satiety cues in favour of just eating by the numbers.”

But experts at Self argue the diet can work because it’s less restrictive than others, making no foods off limits. And if you stick to a balanced diet, you will lose weight.

“Done right, IIFYM can support a balanced diet that leaves room for your favorite less-healthy foods, in moderation,” the site notes. 

arti.patel@globalnews.ca

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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