I don’t care what your macros are
Last week I wrote about my disillusionment with the prevalent macronutrient-centric approach to nutrition. For me, we should be thinking much, much more about food quality and balance of micronutrients. We should focus on how to nourish ourselves. We should not waste time debating whether 200g of carbs are better than 250g. We should not develop any further the compulsion to track and target macros to the point of scanning barcodes and updating MyFitnessPal when you’re out to dinner with your wife / husband / mum / dad / friend.
My priority for myself and my clients is to promote health, fitness and the optimal conditions for a happy and fulfilled life. I’m not about getting people from 8% body fat to 6%. I couldn’t care less. If your only goal is to build a booty, I’m sure there are much more enthused experts elsewhere. The micro-max approach is all about optimising how you feel and function, in the gym and outside, and it’s about maximising your chances of warding off chronic disease well into old-age.
To be clear, I realise and accept that achieving an appropriate balance of macronutrients is important. I just happen to think that this balance can easily be created by prioritising nutrient density and food quality first. Listen, most of us are concerned about keeping fat in check and staying lean and fit. The micro-max approach is perfect in this case. After all, show me someone who drastically overshot their macros eating tons of fibrous veg, fruit, nuts and seeds, and organic, naturally reared meat and wild-caught fish…
So the principle is simple: maximise your micronutrients first. THEN think about secondary issues like fine-tuning your macronutrient balance.
How to maximise your micros
Alright, if you’re still reading I assume you are on board with this. So, how do you actually go about implementing a micro-max diet?
Step 1: Sign-up with an organic food-delivery service
I personally use Abel and Cole and I couldn’t recommend them more highly. They are amazing and just to be clear, I have absolutely no affiliation. Nonetheless, I spend roughly £200 per week on their produce. If you think that’s crazy… Well, shit, maybe you’re right. But a man’s got to eat.
Why do you need to use a service like Abel and Cole? There are 3 important reasons: food quality, seasonality and ease of buying fruit and vegetables in bulk. The produce is all organic and generally locally sourced from specialist farmers and producers. Seasonality is also critical and something I think about increasingly. Eating seasonally ensures that you get a diverse range of vegetables and fruits across the year. This means you ingest a wide variety of micronutrients and fibres promoting a solid micro-biome and decreasing the likelihood of being deficient in something. Broccoli, kale and french beans are wonderful, but if those are your only sources of veg you will be lacking in certain critical areas of your nutrient profile. Finally, using a service like Abel and Cole reduces the number of decisions you need to make in order to get hold of a large quantity of vegetables and fruit because they have tons of usefully selected boxes you can utilise. See below…
Step 2: Load up on vegetable and fruit boxes
Vegetables form the basis of the micro-max diet which is, for lack of a better term, ‘plant-based’ though it is not plant exclusive.
If you’re using Abel and Cole and assuming you’re shopping for just yourself, start with a large veggie box and a large fruit box . Usefully, you can swap out things you don’t like so have a look and make any changes you need
Then go into the individual vegetables section and get 2-3 items more than weren’t in the box but look good. There are always amazing new things to try. For example, at the moment you can get hold of broccoli sprouts which have become all the rage because they contain large quantities of sulfurophane, a hermetic compound that is believed to have powerful health protecting properties. I’m currently obsessed with sea purslane. It’s also artichoke and asparagus season for God’s sake. What more could you ask for?!
Step 3: Avocados and nuts are your friend
Buy lots of avocados and a variety of nuts. These are rich in lots of vitamins and minerals as well as good unsaturated fats. These are helpful for adding some more bulk and fat content to veg-based meals. If you don’t like avocados, please unsubscribe from my newsletter…
Step 4: be ready for an emergency smoothie
Below I am going to detail how I prepare vegetables to make sure I have ample delicious, nutrient-dense foods for the week. However, you will occasionally find yourself at a loss, deprived of readily available vegetables and desperate for your next hit of micros. Don’t despair! Make sure you have some ingredients suitable for juicing / smoothie making and all will be ok. Generally speaking you will need things like apples, lemon, carrots, celery, cucumber, spinach, broccoli, chard etc. Herbs like mint and parsley, some roots like turmeric and ginger and sprout varieties are also a good idea. If you are at a loss, pick up one of Abel and Cole’s juicing boxes which are excellent. This way, if you are really strapped for options, you just need to throw a load of stuff in a blender and hit GO.
Step 4: Prepare your veg
Vegetables form the basis of the micro-max diet and this is where you will spend the bulk of your effort. I like to use 3 cooking methods simultaneously to get lots of veg prepared all at once. If you have a few tupperware boxes of delicious veg in the fridge, you will be hard pressed to go wrong.
But, there are some vegetables that I save to cook right before eating. These are things like asparagus or spring greens that (a) take just a few minutes to sauté and (b) are just so damn good warm that it seems a shame to eat them cold.
Leaving those items aside organise your veg into 3 categories:
- Veg to roast
- Veg to boil
- Veg to sauté or prepare raw
Veg to roast would be things like root veg, mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomatoes, courgettes and aubergine. Take all this stuff, chop it up and throw it in to roast at 175 degrees with a load of olive oil, salt, pepper and mixed herbs. 45-50 mins should do the trick. You can roast just about anything and it will taste good. Use this method liberally. It’s a super easy way to prepare a huge amount of veg and the greater the variety of veg you are roasting, the better it will taste. I almost always get some tomatoes to roast because they create a lovely sauce.
Veg to boil would be things like broccoli, green beans and, depending on your taste, spring greens and kale etc. (I prefer these sautéed). Boil all this stuff. Most veg like broccoli will need only 4-5 mins in boiling water. Don’t overdo it. A little bit of crunch is nice!
Veg to sauté would be greens like cabbage, kale, spring greens etc. You can sauté all this stuff with some olive oil and salt after you’ve taken the boiled veg off.
I like to dress the boiled and sautéed veg with good quality olive oil, apple cider vinegar and salt.
This should give you a LOT of pre-prepared vegetables and this will form the basis of your diet. Remember: the micro-max approach is plant-based but not restricted to plants.
Plating up and eat some fruit
From here it is simple. Each meal will consist of somewhere between half a plate and a full plate of veg. Mix and match and keep it interesting. After that you should think about adding some lean meat or wild fish for at least 2-3 meals a day. If you’re vegan, consider adding some plant-based protein sources like lentils, beans etc. You can then add extras like avocado (which I like cubed and dressed in olive oil and salt), nuts, fruit or, if you’re training, some starchy carbs. Eat fruit liberally. Yeah I said it. Never mind the haters. Eat some damn fruit. Fructose directly from fruit will NOT kill you. Large quantities of high-fructose corn syrup from soft-drinks absolutely WILL kill you.
Yes, I know… I am talking about macros now. But notice how this has become a secondary consideration. First you need to make sure you are set up to eat plenty of vegetables throughout the week. THEN you think about balancing out the macros by adding protein, some fats and carbs. But you know what? If you end up occasionally missing out on the protein or forgetting the extras, you will still be eating incredibly well and this is the beauty of maximising your micros first.
If you’ve read this far, I think I can safely assume you are pretty committed to creating an optimally healthy lifestyle. Good on you! Put these directives into practice and please let me know how you get on. I’d love to see the things you come up with: tag your photos on insta with #IfItFitsYourMicros or #micromaxfood See you on the socials!
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