Clean eating vs. Macro counting

Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and festivities. I know most people are getting back into health and fitness routines, myself included. From experience, that first session back is always the hardest, so try and get it done and dusted as soon as you can and before you know it, you'll be feeling back to yourself. If training is one aspect of feeling healthy and fit, well then nutruition is the other side of the coin. 

So, today, let's talk about the difference between clean eating and macro counting. Both of these are popular nutrition methods, but let's break it down and see what they involve and if either of them are actually worthwhile. I have used both of these options for myself, as well as with clients, so I'll give you the good and the bad from my own experience. 

Clean Eating

In my opinion, clean eating refers to the removal of processed foods from the diet as much as possible. It prioritises ogranic food when available. Clean food simply means food in its natural state e.g. fruit, veg, nuts, organic meat etc. Or as close to its natural state as possible. This is a relatively simple idea, but actually finding whole, unprocessed foods can be quite challenging. 

So why would someone eat clean food? Whole, unprocessed foods tend to be rich in nutrients and low in chemicals. By eating 'clean' foods you will automatically reduce the amount of refined sugar in your diet which is always a plus. In terms of health, clean eating is great. But if your goal is fat loss, would I recommend clean eating as a way of getting lean?....Probably not! Or at least not on it's own.   

Clean eating, on its own,  doesn't really look at the calorie content of food. So although you may be eating the best quality food, loaded with health benefits you will not lose body fat if you are eating more calories than you burn. For example, eating lots of raw nuts will bring lots of nutrients and health benefits to your body, but as nuts are a calorie dense food it is very easy to over eat them and end up having a surplus of calories for the day. 

Also, from my own experience I found that when I was strictly adhering to clean eating it was far more difficult to socialise. I didn't know what was in the food in a restaurant or when I went to someone's house. It can be hard to draw the line when it comes to clean eating as there are lots of things outside our control- for instance water has chemicals added to it; but equally water in plastic bottles has chemicals added too so you end up searching for pure water in glass bottles- this level of clean eating is hard to do. From what I know it's impossible to be completely clean with what you eat and so if your expectations of clean eating are too high, then you are setting yourself up to fail. 

Macro Counting

Macro counting refers to the process of counting the amount of carbs, fats and proteins entering the body. It doesn't require food to be organic or unprocessed, although it can be. Typically, people will have calculated their own body's requirement for carbs, fats and protein. Your body's daily requirements will depend on a variety of factors including activity levels and goals. 

Macro counting is more felexible than clean eating. If example, if you want a bar of chocolate you simply account for it in your macros and you fit the rest of the day around it. You can still hit your daily goals. This flexibility is what makes counting macros so attractive to people.

By complying with your macro goals you are also hitting a certain calorie intake each day. And at the end of the day, the ONLY way to drop body fat is to eat less calories than you burn. This is a fact.  

Macro counting has a reputation for being unhealthy as people have a perception that it means that you can eat anything as long as it fit your macros - and while this is technically true, you will find that in order to feel full and satisified, you will more often choose to eat real, whole foods.

Do these two methods need to exist in isolation from each other? No, absolutely not. In fact, if you combine clean eating with macro counting you would have a pretty good recipe for success when it comes to fat loss. Of course our body needs whole, nutrient dense foods; but it also needs to be in a calorie deficit to drop body fat. And let's face it, we all need to have a take-away, crisps, chocolate and nights on the beer every now and again.

There should be no feelings of deprivation. Depriving yourself only creates a binge- purge cycle and creates a very poor head space. The whole point of being fit and healthy is to feel good and be able to live life to the fullest.  Any long term nutrition plan needs to have this level of flexibility in order to be sustainable. Ultimately, long term compliance is the greatest detemining factor of sucess in any nutrition plan. What can you see yourself doing forever? 

So, this new year, instead of saying we're giving up chocolate, sugar, carbs or whatever it may be, why don't we make healthy choices as much as we can and know that you can have anything you like AND still achieve your goals. Does it sound too good to be true?! Well, you'll be glad to know it's not and that's the beauty of counting macros. 

If you would like more information on nutrition or training please get in touch. We are here to help!

Nigel 

My top 10 foods for micro-nutrients

When all is said and done, our health is the primary reason for eating good food.

We can get so caught up in counting macros, calories etc. that sometimes we don't think about the nutritional value of food. 

So with that in mind, I have compiled a list of MY top 10 foods (pretty hard to pick only 10!). I decided not to include any meats or fish on the list so that I could keep things simple - anyone who comes to the PFP knows how much I love my meat! The foods that I have picked are nutritional powerhouses, easily available and can be included in our daily diet. How many do you eat regularly?

1. Apples - great source of fiber, potassium and anti-oxidants. Also a good source of boron, which is a mineral with bone-building properties so aids with arthritis and osteoporosis prevention. 

2. Spinach - Low calorie and nutrient dense. High in potassium, magnesium, folate and iron among other vitamin and minerals. Can help to lower blood pressure and to keep skin and hair healthy. 

3. Onions - believed to have protective effects against stomach and esophageal cancer. Onions contain anti-oxidants and are anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibiotic - which will help to improve your immune system. The type of onion impacts on the health-promoting properties - the stronger the taste the more the potent the properties of it. 

4. Turmeric - also has natural anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Very good for supporting any liver conditions.

5. Eggs (organic) - perfect source of protein. Make sure to include the yolk as the whole egg contains all nine essential amino acids. Contains choline which is vital for heart and brain health. Eggs provide decent amounts of vitamin B2, vitamin B12 and selenium. Best eaten poached or boiled and with a soft yolk. 

6. Nuts - raw nuts of any kind provide are great sources of fiber, anti-oxidants and vitamin E. Also important for heart health. 

7. Berries - berries are great sources of anti-oxidants and help to lower cholesterol levels. Believed to have protective properties against degenerative diseases. 

8. Sauerkraut - a big favourite of mine - but make sure it is truly fermented and not just a commercially processed impostor. The process of fermenting food creates 'live cultures' which have a tonne of health benefits such as feeding the good gut bacteria. A good balance of gut bacteria will result in improved digestion, absorption of nutrients and greater immune health. Sauerkraut is high in vitamin K and C as well as iron, potassium and calcium. Cabbage in itself has strong anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties while also being high in fiber and low in calories. 

9. Avocado  - high in mono-saturated fat which is believed to reduce the risk of both diabetes and cancer as well as being important for a healthy heart. Contains lutein which is important for eyes and skin. Great source of fiber, potassium and vitamin A. 

10. Raw milk / cream - raw, organic milk and cream are one of my favourite things to eat. Besides tasting great, raw dairy is full of vitamins A and D as well as calcium.  Raw milk is also high in omega 3s. It contains lots of healthy enzymes. Find raw milk here from Crawford's Farm with a list of stockists including the Fruit and Nut in Portlaoise. Even if you are lactose intolerant you may be able to tolerate raw milk with no issues so it's worth checking out. 

So there you have it - my top 10 foods (at the moment!) for micro-nutrients. 

What would you add in  / take out? I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Nigel