The “Count Your Macros” Lie – Vegan Macros For Weight Loss

If you want to lose as much fat as possible and do so sustainably – by counting your macros…

… then hold on a second.

Often, counting your macros is precisely what NOT to do when you’re looking to lose weight with the least amount of effort and complexity.

In this article you’ll learn 3 things:

  1. What macros are (and spoiler alert: Most medical doctors don’t know this) [1]
  2. When counting your macros is the absolute last thing you should do
  3. And the rare occasions when counting your actually macros makes sense

About the author: I’m Florian, an award-winning personal trainer, published author and founder of fitvegans.com – the leading vegan fitness coaching service.

So let’s just dive right in:

1. What Are ‘Macros’?

Macros‘ stand for macronutrients. [2] Macronutrients are the nutrients our body needs in big amounts.

Because well, ‘macro’ stands for Greek ‘makros’ – and is translated to: “long, large”. An attribute that can be applied to nutrients but also to other, physical objects.

The macronutrients are the three following components in your nutrition:

  1. Fat
  2. Carbohydrates
  3. Protein

Now here’s what most people – including 62% of surveyed medical doctors [3] – don’t know: : The above 3 macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates and protein) are the 3 components that make up your total caloric intake.

  1. Fat, 1 gram contains 9 calories
  2. Carbohydrates, 1 gram contains 4 calories
  3. Protein, 1 gram contains 4 calories

If you know how many macros a food has, you can calculate the total caloric amount.

Let’s take a look at a Beyond Meat Burger:

We have 230 calories, and…

  • 14g of fat (which are 126 calories)
  • 7g of carbohydrates (which are 28 calories)
  • 20g of protein (which are 80 calories)

Totally, 126 + 28 + 80 is 234 calories. Which is pretty close to the 230 calories (sometimes these numbers are getting rounded).

So the macros are the constituent parts of the caloric content of your foods.

And the macros are the constituent parts of your total caloric intake. If you know how many macros you eat – you know how many calories you eat.

1.1 Your macros make up your total caloric intake

You can imagine your total caloric intake as a pie. And fat, carbohydrates and protein are these different constituent parts of the pie.

Now here’s where ‘count your macros’ lie comes in: For losing weight, the primary thing that matters is the size of the pie. Not the constituent parts.

You can have a no carb, no protein, 100% fat diet and as long as the pie – meaning caloric intake – is smaller than the maintenance caloric intake – you’ll lose weight.

It’s all about the calories. [4], [5]

2. Counting Macros For Fat Loss Does Not Make Sense

If you count your macros in the hopes of losing weight you add an unnecessary additional layer of complexity to the process.

  • Your counting macros to indirectly put you into a caloric deficit, which then makes you lose weight.
  • Instead of just counting the calories to lose weight.

It’s like you’re trying to learn how to ride a bicycle – and instead of learning how to ride a bicycle normally your instructor forces you to ride a bicycle no-handed. I mean – why?

girl, bicycle, bike

It’s easier to ride the bicycle with both hands on the handlebars. So you might as well put both hands on the handlebars to learn it.

So ‘counting your macros’ for weight loss, and any type of diet that basically promises that a change in your macronutrients is leading to weight loss, such as low carb, low fat, Atkins all that stuff…

… is a big lie.

Because the only reason they work is by getting you into a caloric deficit. So your macronutrients have absolutely nothing to do with the speed of you losing your weight.

diet, plate, food

3. Tracking Macros – Here’s When To Do It

In the beginning of your weight loss process, you should ignore the macros completely and just focus on your caloric intake and keep things simple.

As you get better at the skill of weight loss, and after losing the first 5-10lbs, you can pay some attention to macros.

Because while the right macronutrient ratio is not important to weight loss, it’s important for other reasons:

3.1. Sustainable Weight Loss

While it’s technically possible to lose weight on a Twinkie diet (by being in a caloric deficit):

The long-term sustainability of such diet endeavor is clearly questionable.

Hitting the right amount of macros is important to guarantee a sustainable lifestyle change.

2. Reduced Cravings And Hunger

While it’s possible to lose fat on a high-fat diet – the hunger and cravings you experience are going to be significantly higher than on a low fat diet.

This is because a low fat and high carbohydrate diet generally has a higher intake of fiber. Which is important to reduce cravings and hunger.

3. Prevention Of Chronic Diseases

The only diet that has ever been proven to reverse heart disease in a clinical setting is a low-fat vegan diet. [6]

The only diet that has ever proven to reduce the spread of cancer in the infamous China Study is a low-fat vegan diet. [7]

A multitude of the most impactful studies in nutrition clearly indicate that a high intake of protein and fat is not beneficial for long-term health.

4. What Are The Best Vegan Macros?

If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, the same principle for fat loss applies. There are no vegan or vegetarian macros for fat loss.

There are vegan or vegetarian macros to guarantee a well balanced vegan diet and healthy eating, but vegan macros are absolutely not important for fat loss.

4.1 The best macros for a plant-based diet: High carbohydrate intake

The best vegan macros for are anywhere between 60/10/10 to 80/10/10.

  • 60% to 80% carbohydrates
  • 10 to 20% vegan protein
  • 10 to 20% dietary fat

As a rule of thumb: You need enough protein, enough fat – and the rest carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are important to maintain physical and mental performance. Our central nervous system needs a baseline of carbohydrates to function properly – and so do our muscles. [8], [9]

4.1 What are the best macros on a vegan diet to gain muscle?

The key way to build muscle in the shortest amount of time, is exercise. If there is no load on the muscle, it generally does not grow. [10]

While diet plays a role in promoting a muscle growth to some degree, the effects are questionable:

  • In weight loss for example, you can increase the protein intake from 0.9g per kg of body weight – to 1.7g/ per kg of body weight and see zero results in muscle maintenance. [11]
  • Yet let people during weight loss workout regularly – and they prevent 90%+ of the weight loss associated muscle reduction. [12]

While the science is still on a not-so-solid footing, it does make sense to take in more protein if you’re looking to build the most amount of muscle.

Scientifically speaking, 1.6g to 2.2g of protein is sufficient. [13]

4.2 What about the essential amino acids in a vegan diet?

“What about the protein intake? Isn’t 10-20% protein too low?”

For a regular person that is not looking to rapidly gain muscle mass: No.

The recommended minimum dietary protein intake is 0.8g per kg of body weight according to Harvard University. [14]

10 – 20% of your total daily calories are more than enough to get the essential amino acids:

  • Especially since all plants contain all amino acids (just in varying proportions) [15]
  • And the bioavailability of the essential amino acids are similar in plant based protein vs. animal protein [16]

At this stage, it’s important to know that the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) always contains a safety margin. Meaning: Most people need even less than 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight to function properly.

4.3 Get enough healthy fats

One reason why protein should not be overconsumed are healthy fats.

Enough fat intake is still crucially important for healthy hormonal function. Those dietary fats should stem from whole foods, including nuts and seeds (not oils and avocado).

How would you like to re-wire your brain to make getting in shape as easy and effortless as possible?

The chances are high you knew before this blog post what you should do with your macros and your nutrition to lose weight…

… yet somehow you just can’t get yourself to do what you know you should.

We live in the information age, so if information alone is the solution – we should all be millionaires hanging around on yachts surrounded with supermodels that admire our rock-hard, well-tanned sixpack.

But more information isn’t the solution – the solution is knowing how to get yourself to do what you know you should do.

My free e-book ‘The Fit Vegans Secrets’ provides exactly that. It is the perfectly engineered change agent to help you do what you know you should do.

You can read through these 109 pages in a short afternoon and enjoy benefits for years and decades.

You can get the book for absolutely free by heading over to fitvegans.com/secrets.

References:

[1] Is continuing medical education sufficient? Assessing the clinical nutrition knowledge of medical doctors: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30153582/

[2] ‘Macronutrients’ by WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/diet/what-are-macronutrients

[3] Is continuing medical education sufficient? Assessing the clinical nutrition knowledge of medical doctors: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30153582/

[4] Body weight gain in free-living Pima Indians: effect of energy intake vs expenditure: https://www.nature.com/articles/0802469)

[5] Twinkie diet helps nutrition professor lose 27 pounds: http://edition.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/11/08/twinkie.diet.professor/index.html

[6] Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? The Lifestyle Heart Trial: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1973470/

[7] Atlas of cancer mortality in the People’s Republic of China. An aid for cancer control and research: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7287273/

[8] Diet, Muscle Glycogen and Physical Performance: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/5584523/

[9] Skeletal muscle respiratory capacity, endurance, and glycogen utilization.: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/165725/

[10] Progressive stretch overload of skeletal muscle results in hypertrophy before hyperplasia: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8226539/

[11] Protein intake and lean body mass preservation during energy intake restriction in overweight older adults: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26471344/

[12] Resistance Training Prevents Muscle Loss Induced by Caloric Restriction in Obese Elderly Individuals: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29596307/

[13] How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution: https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1

[14] Protein Intake According To Harvard Health: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096

[15] Maximizing the intersection of human health and the health of the environment with regard to the amount and type of protein produced and consumed in the United States: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6394758/

[16] Dietary Protein and Amino Acids in Vegetarian Diets—A Review: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6893534/