Does It Matter What You Eat as Long as You Hit Your Macros

Does It Matter What You Eat as Long as You Hit Your Macros?

‘Macros’ refers to macronutrients which are the three main nutrients that people need in large amounts for everyday bodily functions. These are protein, fat, and carbohydrates. All foods contain a different make-up of macros. 

When people talk about counting macros or hitting macros, they’re following a macros-based diet usually with the goal of losing weight, specifically fat, and gaining muscle. Counting macros is a proven popular approach.

This method does however lead to the thought process of does it matter what you eat as long as you hit macros?

Here, I’ve covered everything you need to know about what you can eat when you’re counting macros as it’s definitely not as simple as just hitting macros and achieving your dream body!

Does It Matter What You Eat as Long as You Hit Your Macros?

If you’re counting macros you start off by determining how many calories you should be consuming each day. This is slightly lower than the amount you’re using each day to enable you to lose weight. 

This calorie intake is then divided into your macros split or macros ratios. This split varies depending on what your goals are, but everything is split between protein, carbs, and fat.

One of the main advantages of counting macros and the reason this diet is so popular is that it isn’t restrictive. 

As you’re focusing on counting macros, rather than specific foods, you don’t have to eliminate foods like pizza and ice cream which you would if you were following a low carb or low fat diet.

Related – Can you eat ice cream when cutting

But a commonly asked question is whether you can actually just eat whatever you like so long as it fits into your macros?

When counting macros you can technically eat what you want so long as you hit your macros target each day. However, this shouldn’t be used as a justification for eating unhealthy junk food as having a healthy and balanced diet is crucial for your overall health. 

To expand on this some more, a lot of people prefer counting macros to other diets like low carb or low fat because you don’t have to cut out all of the foods you like such as pizza, burgers, or ice cream which come with a bad reputation for being “unhealthy”. 

You might have heard of ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ or ‘IIFYM’. This essentially means that if the food that you’re eating fits into your macros and you hit your macros target each day then you can technically eat whatever foods you like and still expect to see results. 

However, this idea of IIFYM is used as a justification for eating an unhealthy diet at times. 

Whilst you can technically eat whatever foods you like so long as you hit your macros, this isn’t an ideal approach for a couple of reasons, which I’ll explain:

Firstly, when counting macros you are looking at the makeup of a food’s macronutrients, specifically the amount of protein, carbs, and fats. Although macronutrients are important, only focusing on these ignores crucial micronutrients that come from your diet. 

Micronutrients include the vitamins and minerals within food which are essential for ensuring your overall health. Though you only need these in small amounts, being deficient in certain types of micronutrients such as iron or B12 can cause serious health problems.

This is because micronutrients have a critical role in ensuring the normal functioning of the body, from helping to regulate hormones to supporting enzyme production. 

As well as supporting your overall health, micronutrients have an important role in helping towards fitness goals. Micronutrients have an essential role in supporting the body’s energy level, as well as helping to build muscle and aid post-exercise recovery.

Therefore, if you’re not getting enough micronutrients you can find it difficult to build muscle, sustain energy during workouts and even recover after a workout.

To ensure that you’re getting enough micronutrients you need to be eating a healthy, nutritious, and well-balanced diet. So counting macros shouldn’t be used as a justification for eating unhealthily.

Secondly, when counting macros you’re only counting the protein, carbs, and fat content of foods. This overlooks the types of protein, carbs, and fats that you’re consuming. However, the types of macros you’re eating are important.

For example, eating 100 grams of white, refined, and heavily processed carbs is not the same as eating 100 grams of whole grain, brown carbs even though the macros are technically the same. 

White, refined carbs cause a spike in blood sugar levels after they’ve been consumed. Whilst this gives an initial boost in energy levels, these levels crash over time and your body starts to crave something else to spike these levels again. This is why high sugar foods are often associated with intense cravings.

In comparison, whole grain carbs don’t cause this same spike in blood sugar levels. They release energy more slowly, leading to a sustained level of energy that lasts for longer.

Whole-grain carbs are also higher in fiber which helps to keep you fuller for longer. As a result, they’re a better option when you’re consuming a calorie deficit as they reduce cravings making it easier to sustain eating a lower amount of calories than you would when counting macros.

Also, due to this higher fiber level, whole-grain carbs promote healthy digestion which again is important for your overall health.

So, this comparison illustrates the importance of choosing healthy types of your macros as whilst they’re technically the same amount of macros, different sources of macros come with different benefits

The bottom line then is this: while you might still see results from eating whatever you like as long as you hit your macros target, it isn’t an ideal approach because it overlooks important micronutrients as well as the types of macros you’re eating.

Can I Eat Pizza if It Fits My Macros?

To demonstrate the above, let’s look at one of the most common foods that people opt for on IIFYM – pizza. 

Yes, you can eat pizza when counting macros so long as it fits into your macros. One of the advantages of counting macros is that it isn’t a restrictive diet where your favorite foods are cut out. However, you should still aim to have a balanced and nutritious diet.

Foods like pizza which have a bad reputation for being unhealthy can still be eaten when counting macros so long as they fit into your macros. This is one of the best things about counting macros as foods you enjoy that would usually be cut out of your diet when trying to lose weight can still be eaten.

Eating foods you enjoy, such as pizza, in moderation can also help to make dieting more sustainable in the long term. You’re probably familiar with food cravings and know that depriving yourself of something you enjoy eating can just make you want it more. 

So an advantage of counting macros is that you can still include foods like pizza in your diet, so long as they are counted in your macros. If you’re accounting for it in your macros you should still see results.

However, although you can still enjoy these foods they should still be eaten in moderation and as part of a healthy, balanced diet. 

As I mentioned before, this idea of if it fits your macros you can eat anything isn’t sustainable in the long term as it doesn’t take into account micronutrients or the types of macros (carbs, proteins, and fats) you’re eating.

Pizza is high in fat, carbs, and overall calories meaning that the more you consume, the more unbalanced your daily macros will be and the more difficult it will be to hit your macro splits. 

Do Macros Matter So Long as You’re in a Calorie Deficit?

Macros matter even if you’re in a calorie deficit because by counting macros you can prioritize a high protein diet which has been shown to aid weight loss. It has also been shown to aid muscle growth, which is beneficial when trying to lose fat and bulk.

Counting calories is a way of losing weight, as by consuming fewer calories than you’re using your body has to burn ‘reserves’ like body fat.

Some people think that if they’re in a calorie deficit they don’t need to count macros. However, counting macros is still important as it can help to maximize the results you see from a calorie deficit.

See also – Do macros matter when cutting

This is because when counting macros you can prioritize having a high protein diet. Protein has many benefits and has been shown to keep people fuller for longer, which helps to reduce cravings. That’s why high protein foods are a great choice when dieting.

Having a calorie deficit that includes high amounts of protein in your diet has been shown to maximize weight loss results.

Counting macros and prioritizing protein intake also have huge benefits for muscle gain. If you’re looking to lose fat but gain muscle then you should count macros while you’re consuming a calorie deficit. 

This is because you can prioritize high protein intake. As protein is crucial for the building of muscle, having a high protein diet supports fat loss and muscle gain.

Can You Eat Anything as Long as It Fits Your Calories?

When counting macros and consuming a calorie deficit you can technically eat whatever you like and still expect to see results. However, this approach isn’t ideal as it overlooks the nutritional makeup of the calories you’re consuming.

To expand on this some more, when counting macros you can technically eat what you like so long as you hit your macros and it fits into your daily calorie limit.

If you’re consistently hitting your calorie target then you should still see results in the long term regardless of what foods you’re eating.

However, whilst you’ll probably still see results this approach isn’t ideal as it doesn’t consider the nutrient breakdown of the foods you’re eating. 

For example, you could eat 500 calories worth of donuts and cake or 500 calories worth of steak and vegetables.

Which do you think would be the better option for any dieting goal? 

The steak and vegetables are obviously the healthier choice, as whilst the calorie content is the same the makeup of these foods is hugely different and so is the impact that they have on the body.

Final Thoughts

IIFYM started a craze that meant people were eating whatever they wanted and as long as it was being tracked (usually on MyFitnessPal), there was the belief that you could hit your physique goals. 

This is true to an extent. 

Energy balance is always going to be the main equation when it comes to fat loss and as long as you maintain a calorie deficit and hit your macros, you’ll see progress. 

The issue is that this isn’t good for long-term health and your progress will be far from optimal. Certain food groups are significantly more beneficial for muscle growth and fat loss when compared with junk food – that’s just a fact. 

Therefore, while you can get away with eating what you want, hitting macros, and seeing progress for a short period of time you really need to be consuming nutrient-dense foods for optimal, long-term results. 

You might also like:
Hitting calories but not macros
What happens if you go over your macros

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