Calories or macros?

Which calories do you choose on a regular basis?

Whether you are looking to lose weight or you have established a healthy eating lifestyle, do you focus on macros or calories and how has it influenced how you choosewhat you eat?

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Calories may be the most commonly used word in explaining and justifying why we eat or avoid certain foods. It is common to hear someone say, “I’m not going to eat that, it has too many calories”. Or another person may say, “I can have one more of that, it has fewer calories”. While it’s rarer to hear, ” What macros are in that?”, when it comes to diet and healthy eating, most people focus on food quality and calories consumed.
What are calories anyway? Calories are a measure of energy. In reference to food and drinks, calories are a measure of energy in the foods we consume. Calories do not always mean nutrients. A candy bar may have high calories and very low nutrients, while veggies may have fewer calories and high amounts of nutrients.
Nutrients can be divided into two categories; macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are the nutrients our body needs in high amounts. The main macros are carbohydrates, protein, and fats. On the other hand, we need other nutrients in fewer amounts like vitamins and minerals. These are referred to as micronutrients.
We all need calories to survive but we need to choose the right macronutrients to thrive. Macronutrients have varying calories, and the body uses up these calories differently.According to the FDA, the calories listed on our food packages are actually in kilocalories. 1 kilocalorie is equal to 1 Calorie, with a capital C. 1 gram of carbohydrate has 4 Calories,1 gram of protein has 4 Calories and 1 gram of fat has 9 Calories. Whether we are aware of it or not, we all consume different ratios of micro and macronutrients, and at the end of the day, what we eat and drink make up total calories consumed.The of the quality calories we consume is determined by the macros we choose to consume.


Growing up, we had no clue what calories were. We did, however, know which foods were healthier for us. Most of the food we ate came directly from the farms or from the farmers market, and without food packaging, no one cared how much calories were in a head of cabbage or a pound of carrots. Instead, my parents talked a lot about eating a balanced diet, which comprised of vitamins, carbs, and protein. Fats were included in our diet by default as we used them to saute or cook our food with and also as they were naturally found in the foods we ate.That said, I never paid attention to calories or macros until I started on my the ketogenic diet, almost 4 years into my weight loss journey. During the first 3 years of my weight loss journey, I was mainly figuring out how to eat less and move more. At first, I was not ready to change my eating habits, so I focused more on working out and hoped I would burn the calories I ate. This was not very effective and I found myself frustrated that my efforts resulted in a little weight loss the first year. Working on burning enough calories to lose weight without paying attention and choosing the right macros resulted in working hard at the gym only to go home and undo all the hard work.


The second phase of my weight loss journey started when I got professional help. I hired a personal trainer, who was great. He taught me the workout skills I still use today. He suggested not to focus on calories but reduce my carb intake and eat more lean protein.Basically, looking back, what he described was basically low fat, moderate carbs, and high protein diet. After 6 months, I was leaner and had lost 20 pounds. However, when I started working out less, the weight loss slowed down, plateaued and eventually I started gaining weight again.


I like to say the third phase of my weight loss journey was the keto phase. One of the main things that astonished me was how effective the body is at burning fat, especially belly fat when on the fat burning mode. On the ketogenic diet, a high amount of calories comes from the fat, moderate amount of calories from protein and very few from carbs. I always heard that eating too much fat will get you fat because fat has a lot of calories. This did not prove to be true in my experience. With the right macro ratios, weight loss is more efficient. I lost more weight on the ketogenic diet, with less physical activity as compared to the physical activity during phase one and phase two of my weight loss journey.


A couple of reasons why I think the ketogenic diet was more effective for me were, I started focusing on nutrition and not calories. With only 20 grams of carbs per day, I could not afford to eat high carb foods and stay within the macros. I choose to eat more low carb, high nutrient veggies. I also focused on high-quality protein and fats. The calories I ate were nutritionally dense and I found myself not eating as much food as I once did before the keto diet. This was mainly because I had no cravings and I was able to take control of what I ate by learning the correct food portions.
Fat burning on the ketogenic diet does not rely heavily on high activity level as compared to a low-fat diet. When you consume a low-fat diet, by default, you will consume more carbs and protein in order to feed your body the required calories to live. Depending on what you choose to eat, you may eat more carbs and less protein or more protein and fewer carbs. Either way, based on your lifestyle, the excess calories, if any will be stored in the body for future use.What I have found out during my weight loss journey is that you require less physical activity to burn fat when the body is in fat burning mode than when in glucose burning mode. This meant that I did not need to work out as much as I did before starting on the keto diet in order to lose weight. I was able to continue using stored fat for energy even when at rest.


It has been almost a year since I got on the ketogenic diet and I’ve been able to maintain my weight by paying attention to the macronutrients instead of the calories.
Whether you are looking to lose weight or you have established a healthy eating lifestyle, do you focus on macros or calories and how has it influenced how you choose what you eat?

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