The fitness industry runs wild with bulls**t myths.
And one of the most popular myths is that “it’s all about your macronutrients, bro.”
Yes, muscle building magazines and websites will lead you to believe calories don’t matter and there exists a magical formula of protein, carbohydrates and fat which will begin to suck body fat into the space time continuum, and all you have to do is figure out that equation.
Well, check this:
When it comes to losing weight, your macronutrient split means d**k. Calories are king.
Allow me to explain…
I’m not saying your macronutrients are an unimportant factor.
It’s not something which should be completely disregarded.
But if you are trying to lose weight, the top priority needs to be a reduction in calories.
The Macro Myth
Time for the cold hard truth.
There is no split of protein, carbohydrates and fat that will help you lose weight if you are still eating too many calories.
That is not just my opinion.
It is the law of thermodynamics. (1)
There isn’t one piece of evidence to support the notion that over-eating leads to weight loss.
So the next time your gym pal says, “Bro, you can eat however many calories you want, just track your macros!” feel free to correct them.
If you maintain your weight at 2500 calories, consuming 4000 calories will inevitably lead to you gaining weight. Yes, even if you changed your macronutrient split and those 4000 calories consumed enough protein, carbohydrates and fat.
Not only is this false information to support the idea that calories don’t matter, but it also kick-starts another common problem with diets…
I find that too many people start weight loss attempts the wrong way; going from a stage of simply eating too much junk food, to over-complicating everything and trying to overhaul their entire life.
Suddenly, instead of just trying to eat a bit less junk food, they’re worrying about individual ingredients.
And the net result for most people is analysis paralysis.
(Meaning there are too many things, so they end up doing nothing at all.)
The idea that calories don’t matter, and you should only track your macros, is absurd.
Calories are literally everything.
Those macronutrients you’re tracking add up to make your total calorie intake.
And there is not a magic macro formula that will automatically make you lose weight, unless it also reduces your total calorie input.
A guy currently eating 3000 calories consisting of 130g protein, 350g carbohydrates and 120g fat is given advice by his friend at the gym to switch his macro split to more protein, less carbohydrates and less fat.
So he goes with 180g protein, 200g carbohydrates and 108g fat.
Does he lose weight because he’s found the golden macronutrient split which puts his body into Rambo mode?
No. He loses weight because he’s now consuming 2500 calories.
Studies actually show when total calories and total protein are controlled, there is no significant difference in weight loss regardless of taking a higher carbohydrate/lower fat macro split or a lower carbohydrate/higher fat approach, as shown here. (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
So the real secret to a successful weight loss diet is to get your calories in check, ensure you are getting enough protein to support lean muscle growth (which is around 1g per lb of body weight), and then find something you can stick to regarding the rest of your calorie intake. (8)
If you’ve enjoyed my article “Macros Don’t Matter. Calories Are King.” give it a share, and jump on my email list at the bottom of the post for future training tips, straight out of the gym!
- Howell, S., et al. “Calories in, calories out” and macronutrient intake: the hope, hype, and science of calories. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2017.
- Leibel, R.L., et al. Energy intake required to maintain body weight is not affected by wide variation in diet composition . Am J Clin Nutr. 1992.
- Golay, A., et al. Similar weight loss with low- or high-carbohydrate diets . Am J Clin Nutr. 1996.
- Golay, A., et al. Weight-loss with low or high carbohydrate diet . Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1996.
- Luscombe-Marsh, N. D., et al. Carbohydrate-restricted diets high in either monounsaturated fat or protein are equally effective at promoting fat loss and improving blood lipids . Am J Clin Nutr. 2005.
- Raatz, S. K., et al. Reduced Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Diets Do Not Increase the Effects of Energy Restriction on Weight Loss and Insulin Sensitivity in Obese Men and Women. J Nut. 2005.
- Johnston, C. S., et al. Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006.
- Bandegan, A., et al. Indicator Amino Acid-Derived Estimate of Dietary Protein Requirement for Male Bodybuilders on a Nontraining Day Is Several-Fold Greater than the Current Recommended Dietary Allowance. J Nutr. 2017.