In my recent article on a discussion of the pros and cons of the If It Fit Your Macros movement, it was discussed in depth the profound nutritive difference that can be had in two macro nutritionally identical food choices.
The purpose of this article will be to drill down further into not just calorie counting and macro tracking, but rather, how to make smarter food choices to enhance our daily nutrient intake of both vitamins and minerals to see which will result in the greatest gains.
Is it tracking Macros or tracking Micros?
Let’s take a look at a quick snapshot of the typical bodybuilders diet….Carbs. Fats. Protein.
This is all you must concern yourself with in order to gain some serious tissue, or get shredded, according to a 5 minute visit to your favourite bodybuilding forum.
So armed with your new diet plan from your 5 minute forum visit, ‘@SHREDLORD1993’ heads to the local supermarket, walking straight past the fresh produce, straight past the kombucha, past the raw nuts, past the fresh leafy vegetables and past the sauerkraut.
Instead, he begins filling his basket with the staples the pros on the forum said he needs:
- Rice - White, or if feeling like clean eating, brown.
- Chicken Breast
- Eggs - Buy as cheap and as nasty as you can find. Battery cage coming right up!
Meal prep commences and your daily 5 meals are portioned out from these 3 foods in bulk quantity.
Weeks go by, your scale weight increases but you start getting bad skin, your digestion is less than ideal, you are bloated, lethargic and you feel terrible…But you’re getting heavier brah!
Your old training niggles are flaring up more and more and you are starting to question whether this sport is for you.
Freeze frame - Let’s look closer at why this approach to this sport isn’t for you, or in fact, for anyone, and how this approach to nutrition will leave you a bloated mess who is more likely to have Scurvy than a well-developed Serratus!
The Missing Link
Given training intensity, sleep and supplementation are on point, it is safe to assume that a lot of progress is being missed out on by the general lifting population due to lack of attention to the finer detail.
The small print of the nutritional world…And it’s easy to see why.
It is far easier to track 100 grams of carbohydrates than 30 micrograms of Vit B12, or the amount of protein in a 300g chicken breast than the amount of Riboflavin in a grapefruit.
But why does it matter?
Almost every single metabolic process in your body is catalysed, regulated or dependent upon Vitamins, Minerals, Phytonutrients and cofactors to occur. Whether that is building muscle, losing fat or just breathing, every chain reaction requires the missing links in your diet to be carried out.
A diet devoid of micronutrient dense food choices in the pursuit of macros will eventually leave you sick, tired and without a chance to build an inspiring physique.
Let’s look at an example to help facilitate this point in the case of vitamins a little more.
For the Thyroid to produce T4 and then be converted to T3 and T2 at the nuclear receptor sites of cells, the following vitamins are required:
|Vit B2||Vit A||Vit C||Vit B6||Vit K||Magnesium|
|Vit B12||Tyrosine||Zinc||Iodine||Vit D||Selenium|
Now imagine how many of these vitamins and minerals are NOT present in the prior described ‘Bro Diet’ and therefore how much harder your body must function to facilitate our production of cellular energy/metabolic function.
Very quickly, in a very basic example, it becomes very easy to see why we start having issues when our diet is only in the pursuit of macros over the micros. If you do not have adequate vitamins, minerals and overall nutrient content of that which you consume, put simply, many biochemical processes will struggle to occur optimally.
A chronic lack of nutrients may lead to a sluggish thyroid function, gut health issues, hormonal imbalances and a range of nutrient deficiencies. Of which, many of these predicaments can then lead to symptoms that will impair not just progress in the gym, but overall health and well being.
Now that we have established that to pursue one approach to dieting is at the detriment of the other, we must find the middle ground that will allow you to maximise your training progress without having to buy shares in your local organic produce store!
To this end, let us demonstrate an example of a diet, which will hit the macros for your average 3000 calorie bodybuilding style diet, but it will also consider and hit your vitamin and mineral intake as well.
For this example, we will be using a macronutrient breakdown of approximately 40% Protein (250-300g), 40% Carbs (250-300g) and 20% Fat (70g).
As you can see, it is not that hard to both consider and implement a diet strategy that focuses on both macro and micronutrients.
A diet based purely on supplying your body with macronutrients with no regard for micronutrients will always result in less than optimal results, and in a chronic scenario, even health implications if severe.
To this end, to maximise your progress you must ensure an abundance of calorie AND nutrient dense food choices with a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, poultry, fish, grains, nuts and seeds to hit both your macro and micro goals are available in your diet.
As you can see from the above example meal plan, this doesn’t require much additional effort for a lot in return. It was largely a regular bodybuilding meal plan, tweaked to swap out rice, bread, pasta etc for sweet potato as the main carb source and some additional fruit and veggies thrown in on the side.
These are easy additions to make and they increase your over all nutrient intake for the day massively.
So before smashing down your next bland meal of Chicken and rice, throw in some fruit or veg and see if you don’t feel the world better for it!