“Low carb for weight loss”
“Eating fats make you fat”
“High protein is the only way to build muscle”
“I’ve gotta hit my macros”
I’m sure you’ve heard at least one statement like this before, maybe you’re trying out for yourself, maybe your trainer told you to cut the carbs. Maybe your new to tracking calories or macro-nutrients and don’t know where to set your numbers.
Today I’ll be cutting through the nonsense and leaning on the evidence to explain that the old term “everything in moderation” is pretty true after all.
Firstly, what are Macro-nutrients?
These are the energy giving nutrients that we need to eat in large amounts. These are your carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
How much do we need?
All of the macro-nutrients were, in short, studied in terms of health risk when both under consumed and over consumed, then calculated into an Acceptable Macro-nutrient Distribution Range (AMDR). This range is in percentage of energy, so going over in one, will decrease the others. Thus, the moderation balance is needed.
Carbohydrates are the most needed, they are the primary fuel source for your brain, muscles, and body cells. For that reason, the AMDR is between 45-65%.
Fats are required nutrient transport, hormone production, brain functioning and for healthy hair, skin, and nails. The AMDR is between 20-35%.
Proteins make up 50% of the body, but also are needed for growth, development and repair of every cell in the body. The AMDR is between 15-25%.
So what about low carb diets and low fat diets and eating high protein for fat loss?
Firstly, I will always recommend putting your HEALTH first, as many of these diets cause unnecessary restriction of essential nutrients.
Secondly, research has shown that it is not the ratio of Carbohydrates:Fats that cause weight loss, it is the healthy energy restrictions that do. A randomised control trial with around 600 participants allocated to either a healthy low-carbohydrate diet or a healthy low fat diet were given 12 months on this weight loss program . Afterwards, they showed no significant difference in terms of weight loss between the groups, meaning that both groups lost a similar amount of weight, and that no diet was better than the other.
Take home message, going to extremes and cutting out an entire macro-nutrient is highly unnecessary and potentially dangerous. Play around with the ranges of macros, and if you get stuck at any point, the Eat For Health Australian Guide to Healthy Eating is an easy place to start .
1. Table 2. Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges for macronutrients to reduce chronic disease risk whilst still ensuring adequate micronutrient status. https://www.nrv.gov.au/chronic-disease/summary
2. Christopher D. Gardner, PhD1; John F. Trepanowski, PhD1; Liana C. Del Gobbo, PhD1; et al Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin Secretion
The DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial.
3. Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Eat for Health. https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines/australian-guide-healthy-eating
Image from: https://www.canadianprotein.com/lifestyle/whats-worse-for-fat-gain-carbs-or-fats-6029