November 15, 2020 Jacob Watts

Whaddup you guys! Just a fair warning, I expect this post to ruffle some feathers but please keep a few things in mind:

  1. I am not personally attacking anybody here. I know we have a handful of members who have used or currently are using a Macros-based system to guide their eating. This is merely meant to express my opinion of what Macros do for you.
  2. Keep in mind why I am working here, why I am coaching in the first place, why I am bothering writing 50 blogs in 50 weeks. I want to help you all be the happiest, healthiest, fittest, most resilient versions of yourselves possible. When I say I’m not a big fan of something, it’s only because I’ve seen people try it and not get the results they wanted. I think really hard about why that might be, and then try to form a recommendation.
  3. If you like Macros and feel that it works for you, great! I just ask people to be very honest with themselves when determining whether something is “working” or not.
  4.  I am just a wild-card, bad-boy who likes to ruffle feathers so it’s just in my nature. I mean, I am a firm believer that Aiden was the best man for Carrie, NOT BIG. But I’m not going to change who I am. Not for anyone!

First thing, if you’re not familiar, “Macros” refers to using the number of macronutrients in one’s diet to guide how much of each one they are eating in a given day. Your macronutrients are carbs, fat, and protein. Carbs and protein both have about 4 calories per gram and fat has about 9 calories per gram.

The idea for most people following a Macros diet is that they will either pay for a template online or pay a coach to give them their numbers. They will usually input some information to work with like height, weight, body fat %, maybe their goals like whether they want to gain muscle, lose fat, athletic performance, etc. Now that might sound like an extensive amount of information for somebody to use to create a program. A coach should be able to nail it with all that, right? Not really.

I’m 100% positive that there are lots of people out there who had good experiences with Macros. Maybe it helped get them on the right track, got them to eat healthier food, made them feel better than they’ve ever felt. But my question is, was it the Macros that did that? Or was it that you actually stopped drinking soda, started drinking water, eating vegetables, and making better decisions overall?

The vast majority of the stories I’ve heard from people using Macros have been that it was not fun or helpful. Most people I’ve talked to choose Macros because it seems like a simple solution. Of course it is very appealing when it looks like all you have to do is give this stranger (who you’ll likely never meet or talk to face to face) some information and they’ll give you these magical numbers that will get you exactly what you want. IN THEORY this should work. If a Macros coach knows their stuff well, and a lot of them do, they should be able to tweak and manipulate these numbers and give you exactly the outcomes you’re looking for.

Before I get into why I don’t think Macros really works for most people, I need to define what “works” means. On a recent StrongFit podcast, Julien started talking about the idea that people treat their bodies like an object, not a subject. Meaning, they think of their bodies as this hunk of machinery that is controlled by a smart computer (the brain) and if they just manipulate inputs they should be able to build this machine into exactly what they want. But your body the subject is literally the most complicated thing that has ever existed and there’s still a lot we don’t know about ourselves.

In my opinion, a nutrition plan that truly works for somebody is something that serves them as a whole being. If you are successfully getting leaner but you are miserable and hungry is it worth it? Is that serving you as a whole person? What if your lifts are going up but you feel bloated and achy all the time because your body is more inflamed? What if your performance in WOD’s is improving but you have digestive issues because you’re forcing your body to process too much food?

Again, in my opinion, Macros as an eating generally doesn’t work for people for a few huge reasons.

  1. It tends to give people permission, whether intentionally on not, to eat lower quality foods. There’s an entire fitness/nutrition movement called #IIFYM (if it fits your macros). This approach literally means that if something fits within your numbers for the day, you can eat it.
  2. It takes the focus off of how you feel and puts it all into the numbers. Even when you and your coach manipulate your numbers, what you are really trying to do is get you to a place where you FEEL better, right? Unfortunately anybody who ignores their feelings with something as important as eating is taking an approach similar to people who train solely based on weights and times. They disregard how they feel and make it all about how much they’re lifting and how fast they’re going.
  3.  This is probably the biggest one. I’m going to go back to the whole “thinking the body is a machine” thing. And this isn’t exclusive to people doing Macros but it approaches eating in a way that suggests it doesn’t matter when you eat what you are eating, it will all be digested the same.

I want to talk a little more about that third point. I wrote a blog a while back about eating based on the state of your nervous system. If you want to know more, check out any of the StrongFit Podcast episodes about their Nutrition Protocol. The idea is that your body doesn’t digest food the same at all times of the day during all activities. I could give you the whole breakdown of what states your nervous system is in when you’re doing X activity and whatever but the easiest way for you to grasp what I’m talking about is to either think about your experiences or try it for yourself. The basic premise is that your body has a natural circadian rhythm. During the day you are more in an action state. You are up and moving and doing things. During the night you are relaxed, socializing, etc. When you are up and moving you are using resources for doing that stuff, not as much towards digesting food. But at night you aren’t active doing as much so you can dedicate more towards digestion. Protein requires a lot more energy to digest (hello meat-sweats). So do you think that if you were to take in 50 grams of protein at night while you are sitting around the dinner table relaxing that you are actually absorbing and using the same amount of protein as if you just finished a WOD, slammed a protein shake, eat a chicken breast, and then rush off to your kid’s little league game? If you subscribe to the Macros school of thought, you would digest them both the same.

I have a quick anecdote and then I’ll end this because it’s getting pretty long. When I was in college there was a place near campus that did half-price burritos on Wednesdays and I’d go there basically every wednesday. Usually I just took my burrito back to my apartment and ate it. I felt nothing of note when I did this because I was usually in for the evening. One time I had a meeting that I was running late for but I still HAD to get my burrito. So I literally ate that thing while speed-walking across campus. I finished by the time I got where I was going but maaaaaaaaan oh man did I have some serious gas about an hour later.

I’m not saying don’t do Macros. Explore. Try things. Figure out what works best for you. But all I ask is that you guys REALLY think about whether your habits are truly serving you the best they could be. If you want some help figuring out a better way to do things, reach out to me or one of the other coaches and we’ll help you out!