Let’s help 1) explain and 2) put into action a nutrition topic that’s all about flexible eating to help get you the results you want.
It works whether you want to gain weight, lose weight, maintain your weight, or try clean eating – without following a strict menu plan.
It’s called macro-based eating. It might seem a little complicated at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s AMAZING!
This is going to walk you through finding YOUR macro numbers below, but first let’s talk about why it works so well.
The term “macro” refers to macronutrients – protein, carbs, and fats. It’s also helpful to include fiber because when you’re getting enough fiber, you probably are eating healthier carbs. 🙂
Each macro gives you different benefits, so it can be helpful to know you’re getting enough of them. Plus, you get to see how your body responds to different macro breakdowns. For example, some people feel better with more carbs and some with less.
Planning and tracking your macros lets you get really TACTICAL about choosing the foods you eat to get you the results you want.
It gives you real data, vs. “guestimating” what you’re actually eating.
Note: you DEFINITELY are going to want to use an online food journal to do this – check out MyFitnessPal, Cronometer, FitBit’s food journal, or other online resource. It will save you tons of time and effort.
HOW TO CALCULATE YOUR MACROS:
STEP #1: Set your “daily target calorie intake amount” since all your calculations will depend on it.
Here is a good one: https://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html
STEP #2: Calculate how much of each MACRONUTRIENT you want to consume.
Protein: This macronutrient helps you build, repair, and maintain your muscle mass. Not only that, but it also helps rev your metabolism AND it’s known as the most satiating macro, keeping you feeling full for hours after eating it. Shoot for 10% to 35% of your calories from protein.
Tip: People who work out more generally need more protein to help with recovery.
Fat: Your body needs fat to be healthy. Among other things, fat helps your body convert and use several vitamins and minerals. Experts recommend getting between 20% and 35% of your daily calories from fat.
Carbohydrates: The remaining percentage should come from carbs. Major health organizations recommend you get between 45% and 65% of your total calories a day.
Fiber: This is another number you will want to keep in mind. It’s recommended you get between 25 to 30 grams of fiber from food sources each day.
EXAMPLE: Let’s say you calculated you need 2,000 calories a day, and you work out 4-5 days a week and have a goal of losing fat/maintaining muscle – so you decide to eat 30% from protein, 25% from fat, and 45% from carbs.
30% x 2000 = 600 calories from protein
25% x 2000 = 500 calories from fat
45% x 2000 = 900 calories from carbohydrates
But wait! There’s more! You definitely can stick with looking at just your calorie targets, but most macro-based programs actually take it a step farther and break those calorie targets into grams for each macronutrient.
Breaking it down into grams helps you be more precise. Hang with me here because there’s another step of math involved …
4 calories of protein = 1 gram
4 calories of carbohydrates = 1 gram
9 calories of fats = 1 gram
So, in order to figure your gram totals, you simply divide the calories by the appropriate macro number.
From our example above,
600 protein calories ÷ 4 = 150 grams of protein a day
500 fat calories ÷ 9 = 55 grams of fat a day
900 carb calories ÷ 4 = 225 grams of carbs a day
Those are your MACROS!
The awesome thing is that once you calculate your macros, that job is DONE!
Stick with a macro breakdown for at least a month or so to see how it works, and then changing it up a little if results stall or you feel hungry/tired/etc.
Right now you might be wondering what this all actually means and how to put it into action once you know your numbers.
Knowing and tracking your macros can be game-changing for your metabolism … and will not only accelerate your results, but help you to feel and look AMAZING!
Before we get started, some tips:
TIP 1: Don’t stress about getting your macros exactly right. Use them as ballpark figures vs. trying to be perfect and hitting them exactly. Think of this as a PROCESS of learning, vs. something you have to master right out of the gate.
TIP 2: If you don’t already have an online food journal, you’ll want to create an account at one of the free sites (like MyFitnessPal, Cronometer, FitBit) since they have databases of nutrition info for almost any food.
TIP 3: It’s easier to plan your meals/macros AHEAD OF TIME. Otherwise you can be left with a weird configuration at the end of the day, wondering what you can eat to hit your numbers.
Ready? It’s time to open up your food journal and map out a day’s worth of eating!
The first few times you do this, it will take a little while but it won’t be long before you can whip up an entire day in just a couple of minutes.
So, we calculated the macros for someone who is trying to hit 2,000 calories a day and who has a goal of losing fat/gaining muscle:
150 grams of protein a day
55 grams of fat a day
225 grams of carbs a day
In a nutshell, first you’ll layer in the protein-rich foods for all your meals, then your carbohydrates, and finally add in fats (like salad dressing, butter, etc.), and adjust the amounts once you’ve plugged in all your meals.
As an example, for protein: at breakfast you would enter “eggs,” at lunch, “tuna,” and for dinner, “chicken breast.” If you use protein powder to make a shake for a snack/post-workout meal, enter that, too!
Then, look at how many protein grams that adds up to for the day and see if you’re near the 150 gram mark – but don’t worry about it if you aren’t!
Next it’s time for the carbs – “starchy” carbs like legumes, quinoa, oats, potatoes, etc. get added in. You’ll find some of your carbs will even bump up your protein number!
Next up it’s veggies & fruits. It can be helpful to shoot for at least one serving at every meal.
Once you’re done with that, it’s time to finetune your plan to get closer to your target macro numbers for the day!
TWEAKING YOUR PLAN:
A lot of people struggle at first with their protein numbers – they get too little – or their fat numbers – they get too much! The fix: adjust your portion sizes or upgrade your food choices.
NOTE: You’ll get the most benefit out from protein you eat if you spread it out over the course of the day in fairly equal amounts.
It’s helpful to track fiber. According to the USDA, women under the age of 50 should aim for 25 grams a day and men, 38 grams. Women over 50 should try for 21 and men, 30 grams.
If your fiber is low, check your fruit and veggie choices, and also your starchy carbs – adding a ½ cup of legumes (like black beans) can really help.
If your fat number is low, try adding some healthy oil like olive oil to a salad or your veggies, or some healthy fats like nuts and seeds.
What if you want to make a recipe? Many food journals (like MyFitnessPal) let you create recipes and break them down into portion sizes!