Why Macro Counting is Meaningless (in isolation)

Now is the time of year where we have most athletes coming on board who have tried to follow an online meal plan, or followed a fad diet pulled off the internet and have realised it isn’t working for them.

They begin by setting a disgusting energy intake target simply because they don’t understand the consequences of low energy availability or because they think an aggressive energy deficit will help them lose body fat faster.

Now they’ve lost muscle mass and are seeing a dip in strength, their metabolism is trying to conserve precious calories so is going into energy saving mode, sleep gets distrubed, they’re irritable, preoccupied with food, fatigued, experiencing low libido and/or irregular menstrual cycles.

The number one statement we’ll hear from new clients is “I eat a good diet but….” or “I’m hitting my macros but….”

Endurance athletes, whether they train 6 hours or 30 hours a week, cannot simply look at counting macros if they want to perform and recover.

When it comes to setting out a nutrition plan for endurance athletes the most important three factors are Total, Type and Timing – together – not in isolation.

Let’s start with protein

You could think your daily requirement for protein is 85g and eat that spread across two meals – at lunch and at dinner for example. What you don’t realise is that your body will be in a negative protein balance for the remainder of the day (and night) 

You’ll be breaking down protein more often than you’ll be building it – that might be fine for a recreational athlete who just wants to maintain fitness – but if you want to build strength and power this has to be a factor, your muscles are made from proteins. This is of particular concern for masters athletes and athletes in a calorie deficit who need to avoid losing muscle mass.

Then this irrational fear that some athletes have of fats 

Some fats are essential for our health – Omega 3’s for example. We need to get them from our diet – and when it comes to the benefit of Omegs 3’s promoting recovery – unfortunately – most athletes we take on board aren’t getting enough from their diet.

When it comes to the timing of ingesting high fat meals – if glycogen replenishment is your priority because you’ve completed a demanding session and have another in less than 24hours then a high fat intake will slow down that refueling process. 

Likewise eating a high fat meal too close to training is one of the leading causes of digestive upset in endurance athletes.

And last but by no means least – carbohydrates

The undisputed king of high intensity endurance training. In our eyes – there is a time and place for all kinds of carbs, if you can tolerate them. Unfortunately this still hasn’t sunk in with the majority of athletes we see. And due to the popularity of fad diets – their avoidance is usually the reason why athletes will see a dip in performance.

Get the total, type and timing of your carbohydrate intake correct and you’ll begin each session optimally fuelled and energized enough to smash through your high intensity intervals. 

Get it wrong – delay your post training intake for example (intentionally or unintentionally) – you’ll likely end up with empty legs the following day unable to complete your session and probably be left dealing with sugar cravings later in the day.

What do our programs offer

This is the beauty of our endurance nutrition program – it FOLLOWS YOUR TRAINING PROGRAM – whatever you’re doing in training we’ll show you how to fuel around it.

They say you can’t out train and bad diet – we believe it’s very difficult to out fuel a bad training plan

Via the online platform SENPRO we use a colour coded meal planner alongside recipes categorized by the demands of the training. Making it even easier to understand the principles of nutrient timing

Get in touch now to arrange a consultation with one of the Nutrition Team and start making those gains.