My first experiences with macros involved growing up and being falsely educated during the “low fat” era. The macronutrient, fat, was demonized by bad science, medicine, and ultimately the entire food industry. It was a Low Fat = Good world and I fully bought in. I’m sure it had an impact on my health. I’m also quite sure it had an impact on my athletic performance. However, that is a story for another day.
The notion of defining your diet based on macronutrients, macros, is currently very popular. Fat, protein, and carbohydrate are the three macronutrients that make up the food we eat. To be clear though, these macros are not food. Actual food has varying combinations of these building blocks. So to structure your diet around them adds significant complexity to the process. However, this obstacle didn’t stop me from continuing to try.
My next foray into macros guiding my own diet and advice came around 2007. A friend and colleague turned me on to the book, The Metabolic Typing Diet
written in 1986 by William Wolcott and Trish Fahey. A fairly progressive publication at the time, its guidelines were based on individualizing macro intake according to your oxidization or metabolic rate and the tendencies of your autonomic nervous system. Wolcott
wrote that those who are sympathetic nervous system dominant are typically slow oxidizers of food. These were called Extreme Carbohydrate Types
. In contrast, Extreme Protein Types
were parasympathetic dominant and fast oxidizers. Extreme Carb types needed and could tolerate more starchy foods and did better on leaner protein sources. Extreme Protein types would thrive on less starchy vegetables and higher fat protein sources. These types were determined by a, now mostly antiquated, survey questionnaire. I got away from this nutrition platform because, as mentioned, macros are not food, so it was hard to follow. Also, I found most people fell into a “Mixed Type” category only tending slightly one way or another, so the goal of individualization was hard to nail down.
In spite of what I perceived as flaws of using Metabolic Typing, I now think it was on the right track in many ways. Diet individualization is key. However, breaking that down by macros may not be the way to go. It is too difficult and does not account for food quality in any way. Just as not all calories are the same, so too are not all fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
Further, the ratios for optimizing your macro intake are all over the map if you look at existing guidelines. I think there is a good reason for this global indecisiveness. Again, we are all different.
So what guidelines should you use when trying to eat healthy? As many know, I eat (or don’t eat) to minimize inflammation. It doesn’t mean it’s right for you, but here are a few things I try to do.
- Minimize refined starches, sugar (of any kind), cow dairy, processed or factory meat and fish, processed “foods” in general, and alcohol
- Predominate eating with a wide variety of whole vegetables
- Eat whole food healthy fat and protein sources based on your own ethics and how your body responds including olives, avocados, raw nuts, wild fish, pastured poultry and eggs, wild meat, and grassfed & grass finished beef
- Drink water in abundance
- Monitor and adjust your eating according to YOUR body’s response to changes