Why You Should Probably Stop Counting Your Macros, From A Weight Loss Surgeon
Oh, macros—where mealtime meets math. Perhaps you count your macronutrients (aka, the three primary nutrients that make up a healthy diet, broken down into carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) based on the number of calories you eat a day. Oftentimes, eating plans will suggest various percentage ratios—like the Mediterranean diet, keto diet, and so on—so that you can keep track of your specific macronutrient goals.
Many experts believe counting macronutrients can help you build a balanced, healthy plate. But for bariatric surgeon Garth Davis, M.D.? "I cannot stand macronutrients," he shares on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast. Quite the controversial statement from a weight loss surgeon, wouldn't you think?
Actually, says Davis, hyper-tracking your macros isn't necessary at all—in fact, implementing a top-down perspective on food is likely better in the long run.
Why counting macronutrients isn't so necessary.
According to Davis, macronutrients don't necessarily offer a big picture for food. "Food is not macronutrients. Food's got everything in it," he says. Essentially: It's time to stop calculating all the numbers and measurements and enjoy food for its simplicity. "Let's say you're eating beans," Davis adds. "What is that? Is that a carb? Is it protein?" The answer, he says, is a lot simpler: It's food. And it's good for you!
If you look at the Blue Zones (aka, the areas in the world where people have been shown to live the longest, healthiest lives), "Whether it's Okinawa, where they're eating soybeans; or whether it's Icaria, where it's a cannellini white bean; or Sardinia, where it's lentils; or Costa Rica, where it's black beans, it's all these different kinds of beans." The Blue Zones aren't meticulously counting their macros and making sure they're clocking the right nutrients. They're just eating, and they're living—longer, might we add. As Davis says, "The Blue Zones aren't concentrating on living longer." Meaning, they aren't putting too much focus on the specific macros themselves.
But that doesn't mean macros themselves don't matter.
Now, that's not to say macros themselves aren't important. It's still a good idea to get a balance of protein, fat, and whole carbs on your plate. However, Davis notes that it's not too difficult to get those nutrients in your diet, even if you aren't tracking the numbers, per se. Our society especially emphasizes protein, when Davis notes we already get ample amounts: "The good thing is that [protein is] in just about everything that we eat, and it is very difficult to not get enough protein in the diet," he says. That's why he doesn't talk about protein with his weight loss patients: "I never mentioned the word protein. We don't talk about protein."
As long as you're eating whole, nutritious foods, he notes, you should be A-OK on the macronutrient front—even with protein. No need to track your entire plate! Of course, if your diet is filled with ultra-processed foods, that's a different story. "Food with zero nutritional benefit and, at the same time, zero satiety—you eat these foods, and you're hungry again a few hours later," he notes. If your diet consists of these blood-sugar-spiking selects, perhaps you might fare well with some specific measurements.
The other caveat, he notes, is with fiber: "We are not getting enough fiber, and we're getting way too much protein." That's the one nutrient he says it's beneficial to track because it's crucial to get enough fiber in your diet. "It's going to be very hard for someone to get fiber from fruits and vegetables alone. There's just not enough." That’s why he emphasizes plant-based sources of protein, which oftentimes are chock-full of fiber as well—think legumes, beans, and whole grains.
While macronutrients are important to have on your plate, meticulously measuring each meal isn't so necessary, says Davis. As long as you're eating whole, nutritious, and diverse foods—you should be golden.
Enjoy this episode sponsored by CVS! And don't forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or Spotify!
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.