Since this site was only recently born, I thought it would be best to incorporate a post about the basics of counting macro-nutrients (or “macros”). This is the foundation of a flexible approach to dieting and can be extremely helpful in attaining your fitness goals.
Before we begin, I would like to make it clear that counting your macros is not the only way to achieve your goals. It’s what I am doing currently and what’s working for me, so I want to share it with you in hopes that it might work for you too.
In this post, I’ll be explaining what macros are, how counting macros can help you achieve your goals, and the first steps toward starting a flexible diet!
what are macros?
Macro-nutrients refer to the three main components that make up food: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. All three of these are essential components needed by your body to function and thrive. Key word: essential. Meaning you should not remove any of these from your diet.
If you want to learn more about each macro-nutrient and how it contributes to a healthy body, check out this link.
How can counting macros help me achieve my goals?
We’ve all been there. Your strict “clean eating” diet is going strong, you’re killing it in the gym, and you are seeing great results in the mirror. And then somehow by magic, you find yourself digging for gold in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s with nothing but guilt looming ahead.
“All of my hard work is going to be ruined!!!”
Cue downward spiral.
But that doesn’t have to happen anymore because flexible dieting is here to help! Now you can reach your goals and still enjoy your favorite foods. The idea behind flexible dieting is fairly simple: you can eat whatever you want so long as it fits within your carbohydrate, protein, and fat allotment for the day. This approach, also known as IIFYM (if it fits your macros), has totally changed the dieting game!
Before you start counting your macros, you need to determine if this lifestyle is for you. This article from Bodybuilding.com does a great job of explaining if you are a good contender for IIFYM/flexible dieting.
Where do i begin?
1. Buy a food scale
This is a crucial piece of kitchen equipment needed for this lifestyle! You can pick one up in our store (we use the red Escali food scale) or at your local Target or Walmart.
2. Download the MyFitnessPal app
Once you weigh your food, you need a place to keep track of everything. This app not only has the ability to log all your food for the day, it also has the nutritional information of basically every food on the planet and allows you to set daily goals. You can organize your food by meal or even create recipes. Best of all: it has a barcode scanner to make finding nutrition information a breeze and even remembers your most frequently inputted foods! All in all, this is a must-have app to make flexible dieting easy!
3. Determine your goals
Just when you thought calorie counting was a thing of the past, it’s back and better than ever! Even though you will be counting macros rather than calories, the overall calories you consume throughout the day matters.
If you are trying to lean out, you will want to be in a slight calorie deficit.
If you are trying to build muscle, you will want to be in a slight calorie surplus.
It’s extremely important to remember that your goals should fluctuate. You can do some serious metabolic damage if you are always in a calorie deficit (Ladies, I’m talking to you). Personally, I like to focus on building muscle in the Fall and Winter (hellooooo Thanksgiving dinner!) and lean out during the Spring and Summer. I must also note that if you are trying to put on quite a bit of muscle, you will need to embrace the idea that you might be in a surplus for a long period of time (possibly a year or longer).
Important note: A surplus or deficit does not have to be changed by adjusting food alone. Cardiovascular activity can be incorporated or removed depending on your goals.
4. Calculate your macros
If you are a numbers person like me, you can calculate your macros all by hand. However, if you want someone else to do the work for you, click here to calculate your macros using the online tool.
This tool will tell you the amount of calories you are estimated to burn based on your daily energy expenditure (TDEE). Then, based on your chosen goals, it will determine how you can break down your macro-nutrients. I personally recommend adjusting your calories no more than 15% of TDEE based on your goals. Slow and steady wins the race!
This will give you a great starting point, but do not feel limited by what the tool generates for you. You can adjust according to your preferences! Also, I would suggest keeping the same macros for about 2-3 weeks before determining if changes need to be made.
5. Track everything you eat!
Now that you know how many carbs, proteins, and fats you should eat in a day to reach your goals, start weighing your food with your new scale and logging your meals into MyFitnessPal. It will be tedious at first, but you will get faster with practice! Also, it doesn’t have to be perfect – you can be off by a few grams here or there!
Meal Prepping – Preparing meals in advance makes tracking macros even simpler! Once all my meals are cooked and packed for the week, I can go ahead and input them into the app for each day I plan on eating them.
Tracking in advance – One of the things I like to do each night is plan for the day ahead. I’ll input my largest meals first and then build in my snacks around that to make them fit within my numbers. For me, this makes the day so much easier because I know exactly how much to eat of everything without having to think. Planning the night before generally only takes about 5 minutes but saves me a lot of hassle during the day.
Meal Plans – This is like the first two hints had a baby…so long as you don’t mind eating the same things every day. Take a little time on the weekend to create your daily meal plan, then cook and prep enough of everything to last the whole week! Then, you can input everything on one day and just copy all the meals over into the following days.
Know your foods – If you like everyday to be different as I do, you’ll sometimes find yourself in a pinch when you’ve hit your numbers for some macros and haven’t for others. Knowledge of the foods you consume will help you a lot when this happens! This can be done with all types of food, even processed foods. However, a general rule of thumb is that whole “clean” foods are usually composed of only one macro-nutrient. For example, an apple or banana is a great source of carbs without any protein or fat. Chicken breast is an easy way to increase your protein intake for the day and coconut oil is a great fat source. Once you become more familiar with all the foods you like, you can plug and play when needed!
Volume – Long story short: unprocessed, natural foods will give you much more bang for your buck than processed foods. This can be a lifesaver when you’re trying to lean out and in a calorie deficit! A plate full of potatoes with butter will leave you fuller for longer than a Poptart – the choice is yours!
Readjust as needed – Once you stop seeing results, it might be time to readjust. Keeping track of your weight or taking photos can help in determining your progress.
I hope this lengthy article helps you as you start this new lifestyle! A little preparation will go a long way and don’t forget the importance of choosing wholesome foods for your long-term health and wellness. But if you want to have some ice cream after dinner, I won’t judge you.