May 2016 – 132lbs
May 2017 – 126
4 months of consistent macro tracking and 4-5 days a week of working out at home
Youve either heard about it, or read about it somewhere. Macros. So, you searched “how to calculate your macros,” used an online calculator or the donut chart, and now have no clue what these numbers mean, or what to do with them. Its ok. Ive got you! Below, we will cover the very basics to help you get started!
To begin, I just want to say that I am not a nutritionist or dietitian. This is all information, tips, and tricks Ive learned since I started tracking macros. Before starting any new diet, you should consult with your physician. If you find something incorrect, please feel free to kindly educate me WITH facts.
You can jump around this post here:
Let’s start first and foremost with what Macros are. Macronutrients are the building blocks that create your calories. Calories are actually a unit of energy. Did you know that? I never knew what it was until I took a nutrition course for nursing school. When you look at a nutrition label, you see the total calories listed, followed by a bunch of things like fats, sugars, proteins, sodium, carbohydrates, etc and a bunch of numbers. The 3 that make up the total calories listed on your label are: Proteins, Fats and Carbohydrates. Alcohol is in the mix too, however, for the beginners sake, we will acknowledge that on another post.
Protein helps aid in building muscle, but also helps prevent muscle loss.
Great Sources of Proteins: Fish, Lean Meats, some Dairy, Eggs and more
Carbohydrates are a main source for energy. There are 2 different kinds: Simple and Complex.
Simple Carbs are fast absorbing, meaning, itll give you a boost of energy, quickly.
Examples of Simple Carbs: Fruits, Sodas, Milk, Candies
Complex Carbs tend to have more fiber and keep you feeling full, longer.
Examples of Complex Carbs: Whole Grains, Potatoes, Beans
Fats help with vitamin absorption, are essential to hormone balance, and are also an energy source.
Good Fats to consume: Avocados, EVOO & Coconut Oil, Nuts, and some Fish
Why Should I Follow A Macros Based Diet? The idea behind a macros based diet is to give you more flexibility with your meals. With Macros, theres no “cheating” because as long as you stay within your macro numbers, you arent cheating. Macros allow you to enjoy the foods you love, without the guilty feeling afterwards. Going out to lunch tomorrow? Plan your meals for tomorrow based around your lunch. Want ice cream every night? Plan that in every night ahead of time so youre guaranteed to have it. Input all your meals, but went off track mid morning? No big deal. Readjust your portion sizes or meals for the rest of the day to make your numbers work.
Why would you put yourself in a position to eat foods you dont like, or limit/restrict yourself from the foods you love? When I restrict myself from food, it becomes a vice. I need it, all of it, now. And thats when my binges occur. Thats when theres no longer any control over my food intake.
Any kind of diet can work. Its just that the most successful diet is one that you can keep long term. And to keep something going for an extended period of time, youve got to enjoy. I mean, why do it then, right??
IIFYM/Macros has been nicknamed the pop tart diet or the dirty food diet. Why? because you can literally eat what you want, pop tart, twinkies, McDonalds, etc….as long as it all fits in your daily allotted calories. People (I was one of these people) for the longest time believed that clean eating was the only way to go. However, a calorie is a calorie…Thats it. 1 green bean carb is still the same as 1 twinkie carb. Its a carb. Its 4 calories. Now, how you feel after eating that carb may differ.
Which do you think will positively affect your performance? Which one will negatively impact how you feel that day? Let’s say youre going to workout after work. Are you more likely to actually make it to the gym and give it your all if you a lunch of a McDonalds Burger and Fries or if you had a lunch of Chicken, potatoes, and veggies? I can easily workout after one. The other, I feel like a slug 😛
I like the 80/20 rule. Have about 80% of your daily intake be from wholesome and nutritious foods. Allow 20% to be what some people consider, unhealthy or bad for you. Meh, sometimes its 70/30 😛
There is a gray area where you can swap out some macros for others, but I wont put that in now. I’ll include that and alcohol tracking in a more advanced post.
Macros and Fat-loss – Fat-loss will only occur when you eat in a caloric deficit, meaning, youre eating less calories than it takes to maintain its current state. The amount of energy (remember, food is fuel) coming in, has to be less than the amount leaving your body.
DO NOT ADD YOUR EXERCISE back into your MFP or whatever tracking app you use. If you do so, then you end up eating all those calories back, and therefore are no longer in your deficit.
Lets say your FitBit tells you that you burned 1500 calories during Zumba and you log it into MFP. Your Food tracker will add those calories back into your daily intake, making you think you have that much more food to eat. But doing so, will take you out of your deficit and put you in a caloric surplus, which is only good if youre wanting to build muscle, not lose fat.
Macro tracking isnt magic. Its amazing, yes, but it takes more than just a couple days to work. One of the most repeated questions Ive seen is, “Ive been tracking macros for 3 days, and nothing! Why!?” Did you put all that weight on in 3 days? NOPE. Patience my friend. It was 2 months of 100% consistency before I noticed change, and I tend to be someone that can gain and lose FAST.
All the lifting and cardio wont do a thing if you arent eating in a caloric deficit. Abs are built in the gym, yes, but revealed through diet. Remember, you cant spot reduce fat. You dont do pushups to get rid of armpit fat. You dont do lunges to lose fat on your thighs. You do these exercises to build the muscle, and you eat in a caloric deficit to lose fat, and unfortunately, it comes off when it wants, where ever it wants.
Muscle is more dense than fat, therefore 1lb of muscle takes up much less space than 1lb of fat. 1lb of feathers is still equal to 1lb of bricks. Youre just going to have a heck of a lot more feathers than you will bricks.
Dont focus on the scale through all this. It can play mind games that can really offset your journey. Use progress photos and measurements to track progress.
Want the science behind all this? I plan on posting it soon once I organize all the references. Until then, you can comment below for some links, and Ill shoot them your way.
Read this and all the other articles on his site (if you dont mind cuss-words 😛 ) http://physiqonomics.com/8-reasons-calorie-deficit/
Ladies, check this one out too: The Unspoken Elements of Female Fat Loss
If youve never tracked your food before, I would suggest you take a week or so tracking everything that you eat and drink. So if I already have my numbers, why should I wait a week? Okay, maybe not a full week, but at least a couple of days just getting used to the app that youve chosen to use. Take a couple days to ease into tracking, and scan/enter anything you eat or drink. Next, take a day or two to practice reading labels and weighing your food.
I wont sugar coat it. It can be very overwhelming when you start. People dive in 150% and are ready to quit by day 2 or 3. They calculate their numbers and try to plan all their meals for a week. Then, they try to make all their meals for one week, and at this point, realize they really have to pay attention to serving sizes, which means figuring out how to properly weigh/portion their ingredients, and adding them all together to create a meal and a days worth of meals. Add in trying to get all their workouts in and eat their meals accordingly, while working at their job, going to school, and or taking care of their families. All that alone is exhausting, and when you throw in a new task like tracking macros, its frustrating to say the least. EASE INTO IT. Taking a few extra days to be more prepared is better than diving right in and being frustrated and ready to give up before youve given it a real chance.
What do I use to track?? Most people use MyFitnessPal, My Macros +, or Lose It. These are all accessible on a laptop/desktop or you can download the app to your phone. Having the app is highly recommended, that way you have it at all times. Personally, I use My Fitness Pal (MFP). It has a few kinks, but all in all, its a great free app.
Download the app, or apps, and play with them. Start entering or scanning items as you eat/drink them. Once you get the hang of tracking every bite and sip that enters your mouth, slowly start weighing everything. You want a food scale that weighs in grams. Ounces are good, but grams will be more accurate.
To input your personal macro numbers, click on the 3 dots in the bottom right corner. Click “goals” then “calorie & macronutrient goals.” First, enter your calories, then tap on one of the macros to adjust the percentages. With the free version of MFP, you can only adjust your numbers in increments of 5%. Get as close as you can on each. To adjust by grams, you’ll need to pay or look up the “MFP hack.” This will show you how to change the macros by grams, but it must be done on a desktop.
The Breakdown of Macros and Calories:
1 Gram of Fats = 9 Calories
1 Gram of Carbs = 4 Calories
1 Gram of Protein = 4 Calories
So, lets do the math with this Quest Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Protein bar:
Fat: 8g x 9 calories = 72 calories
Carbs: 21g x 4 calories = 96 calories
Protein: 21g x 4 calories = 96 calories
In total, equals 264 calories. But then, why does the total calories on the label show 190? Here’s why:
The Quest label is only including the Net Carbs in their calculation. They’ve excluded all the dietary fiber and are reporting calories for 3g of Carbs vs all 21.
This is a big thing to watch for when you scan/enter your own information into your tracking device. Fiber = Carbs, therefore, we track the total number of carbohydrates.
Sometimes the numbers will add up to be a few + or – the total calories listed on the package. The FDA has actually created a rounding guideline for nutrition labels. You can read about that HERE. So, just like we learned in elementary math: 0-4, round down, 5-9 round up. You’ll need to pay attention to your tracking app to make sure your macros are properly recorded. I know that MFP will incorrectly track at times. Make sure your item, whether scanned or pulled from the data base, has the correct macros listed on the label. Focus on macros, not the total calories on your app. If you’re macros are correct, your calories will be correct, despite what the app says.
Most people grab a cookie and look at just the macros. SWEET! This huge cookie is only 190 calories and has 8g protein, 30g of carbs, and only 4g of fat!! WRONG! The serving size shows that its 2 oz (and just holding the cookie, you know its more than 2oz), then below that it says 2 servings in that 1 package! That means if you want to eat the whole cookie, you double all the numbers. You’d get 380cals, 16g of protein, 60 carbs, and 80 fat! When you enter this cookie into MFP, you have to change the servings to 2. I’m usually in a deficit, so 380 cals is a meal and a snack. That’s a lot of macros for just one cookie compared to what I can create with the same amount of calories. Maybe when I bulk…. 🙂
Once in a while, youll notice that one package of cookies ends up being more or less than whats described on the package nutrition label. For example I LOVE Josephs Flax Pitas. The package states that the serving size is 1 pita (28g). Not one pita has ever weighed 28g. Instead, theyve been 38g and over. I think 46g is the highest Ive ever come across. Is that really a big deal?? For someone in competition prep, ya. For someone trying to lose weight? It can be depending on your numbers and if it becomes a habit. But for the most part, once in a while, a few grams isnt going to destroy your deficit if youre just loosely tracking for fat loss. Just dont expect exceptional results without consistency.
Weighing Food and Liquid: Weigh your food according to the product label. The nutritional information on the label is usually intended for the product in its current state. Sometimes though, youll come across something that says “Serving Size 2 slices cooked.” In all honesty though, I cant think of a single item Ive had that has said that! For raw meat, measure it before you cook it. If you buy frozen meats like chicken breast, you measure it as frozen, then cook it. Frozen veggies are measured while frozen. Fresh produce is measured fresh and pre cooked. When I pull from the data base for produce, I always type my item and follow with g usda. For example, ” green beans g usda.” This means I want the info for green beans per gram, with the USDA information. Its as accurate as you can get with the database.
Sometimes though, youre not in charge of cooking or you eat out. If you weigh your food raw, be sure to log it as raw. If you weigh it cooked, be sure to log it as cooked. Raw is the most accurate way.
This ground turkey says 1 serving size is 4 oz/113g. Measure in Grams to be as accurate as possible. That means it is 4oz of ground turkey in the state you purchased it, which of course is raw. As you cook meats, you lose a lot of water which reduces the weight of the food. So, when you weigh out 4oz of raw meat, and cook it, it ends up being around the 3oz range after losing its water.
If you were to weigh out 4oz of cooked chicken, theres a lot of math (that I dont remember off the top of my head) out there that can help you figure out what you need to track raw. You can even type into MFP “4 oz cooked chicken breast,” and youll get a whole bunch of results, but the accuracy is questionable. If you really want to, you can visit the USDAs Page and look up the nutrients of the food, raw or cooked. t remember that you dont cook your chicken as long as as your neighbor does. The more you cook it, the more water escapes, and less it weighs. So even using all this math, wont be as simple or as accurate as weighing it raw.
Liquid is pretty simple. Fluid ounces and ounces are not the same. Use a measuring cup/spoon for liquids.
Here are a couple simple videos on weighing your food:
Why we weigh vs eyeball: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVjWPclrWVY
How to use the scale: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ottZL0UZvDY
How Do I Input/Track My Food? I will put a post out about figuring macros for large portions like, homemade lasagna or chicken and dumplings. It comes down to inputting all the ingredients into a recipe on your tracker and measuring out servings sizes. It can be more difficult that it sounds. Thats why I say to ease into it and start simple.
Say I want to track my breakfast for tomorrow. Youll need to either scan your items or search the database. After using it for a while, your items will be stored in “recently used” or your personal database, and will be easy to find. When you scan in your items, be sure to check the app has the correct numbers as the nutrition label. If it doesnt, youll need to manually input them.
TO SCAN YOUR ITEMS:
Click on the Round Blue Button with the White + at the bottom of the screen
Tap which meal you want to enter
Click the black bar-code at the top right
TO SEARCH THE DATABASE:
Click on the Round Blue Button with the White + at the bottom of the screen
Tap which meal you want to enter.
At the top where is says “Search for a food,” enter the item you are wanting to track. Be as specific as you can. Instead of typing in just “bread,” type in the brand names or # of calories like “Sara Lee 45 cal.” This will help narrow down the item to what youre looking for. Tap on it, then select it with the check mark in the upper right corner
EATING OUT AT A PRETTY POPULAR RESTAURANT:
Click on the Round Blue Button with the White + at the bottom of the screen
Tap which meal you want to enter
If youre close to the restaurant, tap on the Location Pin (upside down tear drop) in the search bar at the top (youll need to enable the location permissions in settings) and it will come up.
If you are planning ahead, and not near the location, just type the restaurant name at the top
Let’s say, Panera. All restaurants are out of my range (hello country living), so I typed it in and clicked on it. Itll then pull up the “verified” menu for that restaurant. You can scroll through and see the items and nutrition information, or type what you know you want in the top search bar.
Tap whatever food item you want.
Tap the white check mark in the top right corner to add it to your diary
To See Everything Entered For The Day:
Tap the DIARY button at the bottom of the screen
From the HOME screen, Tap the GREEN numbers (calories remaining) at the top right
Heres what a typical breakfast will look like for me. Ill add: 1 egg, 2 bacon, 1 laughing cow wedge, and one thin bagel. Heres what it looks like in my app:
Calories of each item are listed to the right. The daily total will change at the top: Total allowance – Food youve entered = Remaining calories
IGNORE the pie charts, or at least until the end of the night. Youll come across it when you are in your diary and scroll down to nutrition and tap Calories or Macros. People really freak out over this. What they dont realize is the pie slices change as the day goes on. So after one meal, NO, you didnt already hit 29% of your daily carbohydrates, 44% of your daily fat, and 27% of your daily protein. The percentages are from all the food entered for the day and it will change as you continue to enter food for the day. Under Nutrients, it w1ill show you exactly where you are and what you have left….I like numbers better than pie charts anyways
Do I have to hit my numbers exactly? If youre a numbers person or OCD like me, ya. If youre more normal than I am 😛 then you want to hit your numbers within 3-5g. Even if you were a little more off, youre still in a deficit, which is what we want for weight loss. Just remember, consistency is key.
What else is there to know about macros? Did I give you enough to get started? If I forgot something, what is it? Tell me in the comments and Ill be sure to add it on!
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