Macros or Calories?

One of the most common questions I get is whether one should count macros or calories to facilitate weight (fat) loss or muscle gain. The answer? BOTH!!! The reason is because macronutrients (or macros) convert to caloric values! At the end of the day, each of us has a set amount of calories that we require to maintain , lose, or gain weight. So your macro needs will be a reflection of that particular caloric range. Remember, for weight loss, you need to create a consistent caloric deficit that is less than your body’s maintenance caloric needs and muscle gain should incorporate caloric intake that is slightly above weight maintenance calories.

For example, you are trying to lose weight and watch your fat intake at the same time. The general recommendation is typically 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, and 30% fat – note all these percentages add up to 100%😊. So on a fat “conscious” diet you may want to choose 40% carbohydrate , 35% protein, and 25% fat. You may have noticed that the decreased fat percentage of 5% means that extra five percent of calories needs to be added to protein or carbohydrate percentages so that your percentages always equal 💯 . For this example, the extra 5% went to protein. Here’s where calories come in. Each gram of macro has a caloric equivalent. So if you are also consuming 1600 calories per day to create a deficit below maintenance calories (say your maintenance is 2200), you have to make sure your macro targets are aligned with caloric targets. Here’s the math. 1 gram of protein or carbohydrate yields 4 calories. 1 gram of fat yields 9 calories. Using the 40, 35, 25% target example above for dietary fat limitation goals, the calculation looks like this:

40% carb =

0.40 x 1600 calories = 640 calories ; 640 calories /4 calories per gram of carb = 160 grams of carbs per day

35% protein =

0.35 x 1600 calories = 560 calories; 560 calories/ 4 calories per gram of protein = 140 grams of protein per day

25% fat =

0.25 x 1600 calories = 400 calories; 400 calories / 9 calories per gram of fat = 44.4 grams of fat per day

Now that you know the basic concepts above, you can customize your dietary goals as your needs or goals change!! Note: different starting body weights (fat vs lean mass) and individual energy expenditure will dictate different caloric needs to meet daily goals for calories . You can calculate total energy expenditure (TEE) needs through various tools online. Time to customize your plan for results!!

For personal questions about this concept or other health questions, contact Dr. Kris at:



Eating Higher Quality Foods When on a High Calorie or High Macronutrient Diet

It is important to keep in mind that you can achieve preferred body composition goals and do it in a healthy way while on a macronutrient based diet, even when targets are extremely high. Actually, that is when you have the most flexibility to eat a wider variety and volume of healthy foods. Note: all uses of the word diet in this blog are based on the assumption that diet is being used as a healthy and fit lifestyle strategy, not a temporary solution used to achieve a short-term goal…
Agree it is fine to eat primarily highly processed calorically dense “junk” when your only dietary goal is to meet caloric and macronutrient (macro) targets. However, the founders or science behind macro based dieting never said it was healthier or ideal to eat garbage or that you had to eat garbage to meet your targets and ultimately achieve results, but if you wanted to you could.  So there really is no advantage in eating junk in place of a healthier and more balanced diet to meet your targets aside from a personal preference to allow indulgence in your flexible dieting plan. And by the way, indulging in saturated fats, sugars, preservatives, and artificial colors is fine in moderation, but not ideal as the foundation of your eating plan. In fact, it can prove to be a disadvantage for some to eat a diet deficient in nutritional value by hindering certain physiological processes that support continued success in achieving results while on a macro based diet or any other diet for that matter.  There are several examples of how the poor nutrition route can be detrimental to weight maintenance goals as well as several other factors which can significantly (negatively) impact weight and health in general. These include the potential for a low quality diet to increase inflammation and water retention, compromise or “burden” liver function/performance, create nutrient deficiencies, raise unhealthy cholesterol levels, decrease immune function or ability to heal and recover, and/or promote gut microbiome imbalances.

So my recommendation is try not to sacrifice your hard work and health by consuming the majority of your calories from junk so that you may eat in accordance with your targets. It’s entirely possible to hit these calories and macros in a healthy and satisfying way. Here are some tips of what you can add to the mix:

Healthy fats: flax seeds, oil on salads, even flax seed crackers; natural nut butters (the kind you have to stir a little to mix in the oil – almond or peanut are great) , avocados, coconut, fish oil

Also, high fiber carbs are more calorically dense: whole grain breads, cereals, crackers , rolled oats, and pastas; yams, beans and legumes

Finally, still eat plenty of simple carbs and higher glycemic fruits: bananas, citrus, melons

And congrats on having such an awesome metabolism!

Choosing Organic Foods

When choosing an organic product, be sure to look for the USDA Certified Organic seal on the label. This certification shows that the product was grown/prepared without the use of pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics. Research continues to progress to relay a more current and accurate picture of the environmental and consumer impact of these issues. However, there are various health risks which may be associated with pesticide exposure and consumption including, but not limited to, cancer, nervous system disorders, thyroid dysfunction, and reproductive disorders.

Organic foods can be a bit more costly than their non-organic counterparts. However, being healthy is typically less costly than being sick and taking steps to improve your diet is well worth the investment. Another way to curb the impact on your budget while making improvements is to focus on switching to organic options for foods that you consume regularly. For example, if you eat an apple every day or several times weekly, make that an organic choice. Additionally, keep in mind that some produce is typically grown or processed with more chemicals than others. These are often referred to as the dirty dozen. Consider the dirty dozen list below on your trip to the produce aisle:

  1. celery
  2. peaches
  3. strawberries
  4. apples
  5. domestic blueberries
  6. nectarines
  7. sweet bell peppers
  8. spinach, kale and collard greens
  9. cherries
  10. potatoes
  11. imported grapes
  12. lettuce (not cabbage)

Alternatively, check out the Clean 15 which are grown with relatively lower amounts of pesticides:

  1. Onions
  2. Avocados
  3. Sweet corn
  4. Pineapples
  5. Mango
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Kiwi fruit
  9. Cabbage
  10. Eggplant
  11. Cantaloupe
  12. Watermelon
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Sweet potatoes
  15. Sweet onions



Weight Loss: Beyond Diet

I have had so many conversations around this lately that I am going to put a bit of my personal journey out there to show I do believe and practice what I preach. After only a week and a half of more consistently following my own long-standing advice called “just eat a reasonable amount of food and cut out processed and chemically-laden junk in your life”, I am down 3 pounds. Just using optimal timing for my eating schedule as well as decreasing my exposures to certain environmental nastiness. Feeling great! No extremes, no starving, didn’t change workout at all. It feels like I am not even trying, just being a little more conscious. Many of you may know that I have been a competitive figure athlete for more than 15 years now. However, my only supplements right now are a multivitamin and a fish oil. Keeping it simple for the time being. You may be saying, I want to try this! How long do I do it? 10 days, 21 days, a month or two? You do it for the long haul. Weight loss happens folks, but just need to remember to be honest with yourself and above all, be patient. Without extremes, healthy and permanent weight loss can take months to achieve (years depending on how much you are trying to lose). It is a journey and you must make it your lifestyle. So many things that we are exposed to impact the way our bodies react including water retention, inflammation, emotional health, energy levels, pain and “weight” gain. It is far beyond just calories in and out and. What we feel, breathe, apply, eat, and drink all can affect us profoundly, synergistically, and/or cumulatively. Below are a few basic principles to follow which can make a significant and positive difference in any of the conditions mentioned above and more:

1. Avoid microwaving food in plastic containers. Also, choose BPA Free plastic food storage containers and water bottles.

2. Avoid perfumes, additives, preservatives, and dyes which can be found in foods, drinks, cosmetics, soaps, lotions, hair products, dish or laundry detergents, cat litter, and other items (one way to do this is by choosing the “free and clear” labeled products)

3. When possible, choose foods that are organic, hormone free, uncured, and antibiotic free

4. If you are going to eat canned goods, choose BPA free cans

Will DIM interact with my Birth Control (OCP)?

First of all, the metabolism of estrogen and other hormones in the body varies between individuals for a number of reasons. That said, the evidence is inconclusive as to whether DIM interacts with OCP or YAZ specifically (and other medications that use the same metabolic pathway – there are many) . Current literature suggests dosages of 200-300mg per day to be relatively low risk for interactions and possibly efficacious for various claims for which DIM is marketed. However, lack of evidence does not mean there cannot be an inhibitive effect or competitive absorption. For example,  both DIM and YAZ are metabolized primarily by the liver, but so are cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts. The active ingredient in DIM is an extract from a constituent found in cruciferous vegetables. So given the consumption of these vegetables in the population at large, it is not likely a concern. In fact, I cannot think of a medication offhand that warns against potential interactions with broccoli or the likes😊… On the other hand, if avoiding pregnancy is your primary concern, do not take DIM – better safe than sorry and for that matter, it is not likely the end all be all solution to the issue for which you are taking it, so probably not worth the uncertainty in your contraception methods. If you are really wanting to include DIM in your regular supplement regimen, then you may want to consider other options for contraception in the future. None are without risk, but non-hormone secreting IUD is one of the least risky (save for a very low percentage who experience displacement of their IUD. Although the percentage is much lower than risks associated with other major complications and OCP use).

Macro Based Diets During Pregnancy and While Breastfeeding

Pregnancy is a very unique time for a woman and each experience can be very different from a health perspective, let alone what the respective dietary needs may be for each. Many woman want to ensure that they maintain healthy weight gain goals during pregnancy. Counting or tracking dietary macronutrients is a common dietary strategy. On one hand, the current tools and references used in popular diet trends which determine individual macronutrient needs for weight management are not based on expectant or breastfeeding populations. Therefore, the approach may not be appropriate for expectant mothers without some modifications. However, you can count macronutrients provided that you are maintaining an adequate caloric intake to support healthy weight and blood glucose levels for the duration of your pregnancy and that these goals are aligned with your health provider’s recommendations. Weight gain, glucose levels, and several other clinical markers will be monitored frequently throughout pregnancy. Some of these outcomes may be cause for modifications to the recommended diet for a patient at various points throughout their pregnancy. For example, some women may be prescribed a lower protein diet if they present with certain risk factors for a health condition. Additionally, your recommended weight gain is going to vary based on how much weight you are carrying when you become pregnant.

Dr. Kris, ND – Let’s Talk Weight Loss and “Set Point”

We all recognize the first thing I am about to say, but I feel compelled to mention it anyway – none of the weight loss “rules” exist independently. That is, there are so many factors that can affect weight even on an hourly or daily basis. So it is important to be honest with yourself and be able to correctly identify what are truly transient weight fluctuations (and what causes them for you individually) and what are actual longer term increases. The good news is that time is on your side in regard to creating a new weight set point, but the bad news is that time can also work against you!! Here’s the key. Many of us say – oh I can get down to that reunion weight or wedding weight in “x” weeks . When we do that and then try to go back to a more flexible diet and exercise routine, we automatically tell our body that it cannot expect to be at the new weight for long, it just has to “survive” under the conditions, and pretty soon it will be fatter and happier again. So the body is already laying the foundation to return to your current set point. That said, if you gain weight very gradually over a chronic duration (6 months, a year, multiple years), you also solidify that higher set point making it harder to come down. If you have ever heard of the 6 month behavior change rule, it is generally true for the physiology that determines your metabolic activity as well. In fact, this makes perfect sense if you think about it because to change behavior, you also have to change cognitive patterns and all the associated biochemical processes that go with that. Survival is an important concept too. Once you tell your body that you are in any extreme pattern of change it will go into survival mode to do anything and everything it can to maintain homeostasis. Dehydrate, the body works to retain water. Starve (or lose weight too quickly), the body works to adjust metabolism down and prepares to store fat.
So my long winded background explanation for achieving a new weight set point actually brings me to two simpler points. 1. Use a 10% rule for change (only lose 10% of your body weight at a time) 2. Any new weight/body composition should then be maintained for at least 6 months to tell your body it is not in survival mode and it needs to support the new homeostatic targets before you pursue the next 10% drop.