The Macro Diet

By Dr. Deb Rivera

My last two articles have focused on weight loss and diets. This month we will continue on that track, examining a weight loss method that veers from traditional (and fad) dieting. The macronutrient diet takes into account calorie intake and its effect on weight loss. Wait, you might say, doesn't most weight loss methods center upon reducing calories, therefore ridding pounds? Yes, but in order to understand the calorie and its role in weight loss (and weight gain), we need to know what it is.

Simply put, a calorie is a unit of energy (the scientific explanation: the amount of heat required to elevate the temperature of 1 kilogram of water from 0-1 degree Celsius) (Szalay, 2015). Calories are found in our food sources, whether it be in the form of sugars, fats, proteins, or carbohydrates. Since our body (primarily the cells, muscles, and brain) requires energy for optimal functioning, we need to feed it, and that's where the calorie comes in. Quick calculations regarding calories: One gram of protein equals 4 calories; one gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories, and fat contains about 9 calories per fat gram. While caloric requirements will depend on an individual's level of activity and other metabolic considerations, a rule of thumb is: 1,200 calories a day for women; 1,500 a day for men. Obviously, if we are trying to lose weight, there should be a reduction in the calories we ingest.

Now that you understand the calorie and its role, let's take a closer look at macronutrients. What are they? They're the nutrients you need in your diet--specifically, fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Yep, those same ones we discussed at the beginning of this article and that we now know are our fuel sources and contains units of energy--calories. If we look at macronutrients, then we must also define micronutrients--nutrients in the form of mineral and vitamins. They are just as important as their macro counterparts but are needed in smaller quantities. In a nutshell, macronutrients provide energy; micronutrients helps your body to use that energy (Downing, 2017).

According to LaRue (2016), instead of building a diet that focuses solely on counting calories, the macronutrient system breaks down the percentage of calories you should be getting daily from fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Weight Watchers (2011) reports that the acceptable macronutrient distribution ranges for adults (as a percentage of calories) will be: protein: 10-35%, fat: 20-35%, and carbohydrates: 45-65%. If you'd like a more detailed account on how to calculate macronutrients, there are many apps you can access, as well as the following link: This features an easy-to-use macronutrient calculator (Body Building, 2018).

From a metabolical perspective, when considering which is the most important macronutrient--carbs, fats, or proteins, foods that are dense in protein tend to make us feel full longer (as opposed to foods with a higher glycemic index, such as cookies, cake, and white bread). Foods on the high glycemic scale will generally raise blood sugar for short periods and give us a quick boost, but then leave us tired soon after (also known as "sugar crash.") (LaRue, 2016).

Proponents of the macro system recognize that not all calories are created equal. For example, while 100 calories of broccoli and 100 calories of candy will provide the same energy, the body will process them differently (guess which one contributes to a better macronutrient experience and weight loss!).

Since macro eating doesn't focus on just the calories, but rather the purpose of the kind of macronutrients you are ingesting (whether it is carbs, fats, or proteins), here is a breakdown: protein is our building blocks (for muscles, tissue, cells) and improves satiety; fats help to slow digestion, provide some essential vitamins, and generate anti-inflammatory properties; carbohydrates supply quick energy and slows the absorption of other nutrients (such as sugar) (LaRue, 2016; Astrup, 2018).

It should also be noted that while protein is the "macronutrient supreme" and high-protein diets are effective for reducing body fat and preserving lean muscle, dietary proteins can be more difficult to convert into energy than fat or carbohydrates (Connolly, 2015). As to high protein versus low protein, high protein diets create a greater thermogenic effect (amount of energy required to digest and process the food you eat), as well as expending more energy than lower protein diets (Connolly, 2015).

Weight Watchers (2011) states that effective weight loss systems should reduce risk of disease, promote healthy eating, and prevent deficiencies. Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) include nutrient-based values in order to evaluate how nutritious a diet is. DRI values recommendation: having the appropriate recommended dietary allowance, estimated average requirements, adequate intake, estimated energy requirements, acceptable macronutrient distribution range, and tolerable upper intake levels. Under these guidelines, it would appear that the macronutrient system meets those standards. Research supports the theory that if a diet is balanced in macronutrient distribution, it will overall contribute to lasting weight loss (Connolly, 2015; Weight Watchers, 2011).

Pros and cons of the macronutrient diet: the upside is that macro diets do not make any one food off limits, as opposed to other diets (such as low-fat or low-carb, which does create weight loss through caloric deficit but eliminates many food groups) (Miller, 2018). Macro eating is more flexible and allows you to eat your favorite foods. Indulging rather that prohibiting often spurs better results. However, the drawback would be excessive eating, therefore "blowing the diet."

Next month, we will delve into one more diet system, this one considered to be effective but controversial.

Until then, remember this: "Dieting is the only game where you win when you lose" (Karl Lagerfeld).


Astrup, a. (2006). Carbohydrates as macronutrients in relation to protein and fat for body weight control.International Journal of Obesity, 30, S4-S9. 1

Body Building (2018). Macronutrient calculator: Find your macro ratio for flexible dieting and IIFYM.

Connolly, K.M. (2015). Macronutrients part I - proteins.

Downing, S. (2017). What are macronutrients? Why you need to know them to hit your health goals.

LaRue, K. (2016). Ask the dietitian: What's more important for weight loss--calories or macros?

Miller, K. (2018). If it fits your macros diet—AKA 'IIFYM'—pros and cons.

Szalay, J. (2015). What are calories?

Weight Watchers (2011). Macronutrient recommendations--A diet that is balanced in its macronutrient distribution can help reduce the risk of disease and foster lasting weight loss.

Editor's Corner

By Jennifer Lawson

It's March and we at The New Floridian mourn the loss of lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which took place on Valentine's Day, 2018. While we may have differing views about gun regulations here at The New Floridian, we aim to have rational, adult conversations about it.

I have personally been invigorated by the many survivors who have come to speak out about gun violence. I have also made it a point to be an advocate for people with mental illness during this time.

It's my policy to not cover the details of the shooter but to instead focus on the victims and survivors.

As Spring approaches, I hope our state and our country can come together with sensible solutions to gun violence. I also hope we can have rational discussions about mental health.

If you are having a tough time getting through these events, you are not alone. During this time, not only can we come together as residents of Florida, we have mental health centers in nearly every community who can help you deal with tragic events, as well as advice from counselors and others on dealing with a mass shooting.

Check out our blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see updates throughout the month. As Florida and the country mourns and debates, we aim to be a shining light and offer support and reasonable discussion.