Macros! You’ve heard this term everywhere, but maybe you’re not EXACTLY sure what people are talking about when they refer to tracking macros. This post should help clear it up.
First, “macros” is short for Macronutrients, which refers to the 3 basic components needed in the human diet. These 3 components are protein, carbs and fat.
Since our diet has changed from eating a variety of healthy, unprocessed foods to eating the complete opposite, our plate doesn’t quite look like it should. Getting back to eating whole, unprocessed foods is definitely the #1 goal, but after you get there, is there a next step?
I think so. After coaching many people through leaving their processed food diet behind, they almost always have the question, “how do I know if I am eating enough?” I used to recommend the Whole30 meal template (or something similar) to start, but the template is very generic for how individual our bodies are. I would also recommend that once they stopped eating so much sugar/processed foods that their hunger signals would let them know how much to eat because that’s generally what science says, however I found that’s not always true even when you are eating a whole foods diet.
Secondly, even if we are eating whole, unprocessed foods – how do we know how much of each macro group to eat? There are basic guidelines out there, but we each require a different macro breakdown based on our individual needs.
I am not saying that everyone has to count macros to be healthy. In fact, tracking macros can be extremely detrimental to your health if you’ve had an ED or any OCD tendencies in your past. What I am saying is that if you were like me – eating a whole foods diet but still struggling to get stronger, recovering from workouts slowly, and unsure on how much to eat of each macro for your activity level, this is as great solution!
If you’ve been following me on Instagram for a while, you know I have struggled with orthorexia in the past so I was VERY hesitant to start tracking, but so far, so good! I have been focusing on getting stronger and reminding myself this is a tool to help nourish my body, help me feel and look my best and NOT about the number on the scale.
So let’s get into how to track macros…
Tracking macros refers to calculating how much your body needs of each macronutrient.
There are many ways to track macros, some more complex than others, but I’m aiming for simplicity in this post for those that are starting out or looking for the basics.
For someone who is trying to lose fat and not doing an intense workout program, here’s an estimate of where to start…
Protein per day = .75 x body weight
Carbohydrates = 1 x body weight (if you weigh more than 200lbs, keep it to 200 or less)
Fat= .5 x body weight (slightly less is ok, just make sure you’re getting it from healthy sources like olive oil/avocados, etc…)
For example, if you weighed 128 lbs, you would be eating 96 grams of protein, around 128 grams of carbs on low intensity or no exercise days and around 192 grams of carbs on days that you work out. Your fat would be around 64g.
Right now I have a personal coach through RP strength and my macro breakdown during the day is much more detailed than this, but this is a great place to start if you aren’t in the market to hire a coach.
Every 2 weeks, weigh yourself and you should see your weight decreasing. If not, slightly lower the carbs and/or fat and repeat the process the next 2 weeks. Also track how you’re feeling. If you’re hitting all your goals, but still feel hungry, up the lean protein. If after a few 2-week periods you’re starting to feel really tired/weak during workouts, maybe you cut your carbs too low and you can slowly start increasing them to find a good balance of weight loss while still having energy. This is definitely trial and error and takes some practice and patience.
If you feel like you’re having a hard time hitting your protein, try having a protein shake post workout. I personally use an egg-white protein, but grass-fed whey protein is awesome if you can tolerate it. Whey is great because it’s fast absorbing so having it after a workout is great. I also use this casein protein at night which is slow absorbing. Research suggests that drinking casein protein before bed could benefit muscle breakdown so it’s great for someone who is trying to build/retain muscle – I mean, who isn’t amirite? 🙂
Can I eat whatever I want?
Technically, yes, but if you think about the amount of carbs in a donut vs. a sweet potato, you will notice that you will be able to have a lot less of a donut than you will of a sweet potato. Also, you’ll probably be left feeling hungry if you don’t focus on the healthy carbs. I personally don’t buy into “if it fits in your macros” because even though eating crap within your macro goals might not make you gain weight (arguable because of inflammation), I believe the focus should be less about weight and more about being healthy. You can be skinny and unhealthy.
On that note, if you want a cookie, have the cookie. It’s not a problem if it’s not making you spiral out of control and eat an entire box of them. Ideally, you will have your sugar cravings under control so you can enjoy treats in a healthy manner. If you want more info on breaking your sugar addiction, you can read my blog post on sugar here .
What’s the best way to track?
There are a ton of resources out there to track your macros. If you want to track on your phone and plug in your macros as you go, you can the MyFitnessPal or cronometer app. With both of these apps, you can plug in food ahead of time to figure out what you need to eat to hit your macro goals.
Personally, I only use cronometer a few times a week to make sure I am hitting my vitamin goals, but I don’t track my macros in an app. I have mine written out for each meal and use this scale to get an accurate read on carbs/fats/protein.
This seems overwhelming…
If you’re already eating a whole foods diet, want to make a change, but this feels overwhelming, then start by adding protein to each of your meals to eventually hit your protein goal. If you’re trying to cut fat, stick to leaner meats like chicken breast and skinless thighs for most of your protein. Protein helps keep you full and curb any cravings you might have.
Once you have your protein in check, start paying attention to your carbs. Remember complex carbs (ex: fruits, veggies) break down slower than simple carbs (ex: candy, coke) so focus on eating complex carbs if you feel like you’re eating enough protein and you’re still craving junk food.
Finally, start paying attention to where you’re getting your servings of fat. Coconut oil, Olive oil, Avocado oil, and nuts and seeds are good ways of easily adding healthy fat to your diet. Healthy fats will also help curb cravings and keep you feeling full!