Demystifying Macros...How to Figure Out your Numbers and What to do Next!
Is macro tracking right for you? How about Keto? Or Atkins or South Beach? The answer is YES and it depends. However, I can be more specific and give you some usable advice but I should warn you, it involves math. There really isn’t a mystery when it comes to figuring out your total daily calorie expenditure, in fact there are two ways to do it. One way is guaranteed to be accurate and give you a true number to work from when it comes to daily energy expenditure. The other one is an educated guess and it requires a little math but it gives you a starting point.
Enough with all the suspense, here is method #1 to figure out your macros.
For one week (10 days is even better) weigh and measure everything you eat and drink. If it has a calorie and you put it into your body, track it. You need to know how much you are putting in your body during the week and weekend. It needs to be a “normal” week of your life so you get a true picture of how many calories you are getting. Don’t change how you are eating because that will screw up your numbers...as hard as it will be don’t change your habits, just track. Here is what you will need.
A digital kitchen scale so you can weigh things in ounces and grams.
Download MyFitnessPal (MFP) or some comparable macro tracking app. There are literally dozens of them out there.
Dry measuring cups, spoons and liquid measuring cups.
Quality storage containers like these. I like glass snapware so you can reheat directly in the container.
The other things that would be helpful to track are water intake and caffeine intake. Non nutrition related things would be sleep, stress, exercise, and recovery.
What does tracking mean? It means weighing everything to the gram and recording it in an app. Take the numbers and put them in a spreadsheet so you can see the average over 7-10 days. You need to know total daily calories, total protein, total carbs and total fat as well as water. With the average of those numbers you now have your macros. If you are maintaining your current weight then those are your maintenance numbers. If you are gaining weight then you are in a surplus and if you are losing weight then you are in a deficit. Now you can make adjustments from there to achieve your goals. I will give you this warning one last time, you must track everything and don’t change the way you have been eating! It will be tough at first and time consuming but if you really want to know, you have to track everything.
Method #2: will reveal numbers much quicker but you are still going to have to figure out what they mean and make adjustments to get the results you want.
Here are two FREE resources that can get you to a pretty decent estimation of your body fat and total daily caloric expenditure. From there I can provide you a quick blueprint on how to get your MACROS.
1. FIRST ESTIMATE YOUR BODY FAT %
2. NEXT, GET YOUR BASELINE CALORIES FOR MAINTAINING
*Activity Level - be conservative here. Most people overestimate how much they train.
3. CALCULATE YOUR TARGET CALS FOR LOSS/GAIN/RECOMP
Loss - 10-25% reduction from baseline
Recomp - eat maintenance calories
Gain - 10-25% increase from baseline
4. LASTLY, COMPUTE YOUR MACROS BASED OFF TOTAL CALORIC GOAL
Protein - start with 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight (Total Protein x 4 = calories from protein)
Fat - .35g/lb body weight is baseline. Depends on overall mass, training/lifestyle, goals, and metabolic health.
Carbs - The remaining calories come from carbs. (Total Cals - ProteinCals - FatCals = CarbCals/4 = Grams of Carbs) 30-40% of total calories is a decent place to start (Total Calories x .3 = Calories from Carbs/4 = Grams of Carbs)
*20% if you are trying to lose fat
*40-50% if you are training for performance
That’s it. If that seems completely overwhelming then take 45 minutes to watch the webinar I did on setting up your numbers and getting started with macro tracking.
Ok, It’s time to put these numbers to the test. It all comes back to tracking what you are putting into your body. Weigh and measure everything you eat and the quicker and more consistently you hit the numbers you calculated, the quicker you will know if what you are doing is working. Of course you can go off what your weight is doing by weighing yourself everyday and tracking it over time. Other helpful tracking tools are circumferential tape measurements at different points on your body, standardized photos, InBody scans and caliper measurements from an experienced coach/trainer.
The real progress is what you do with those numbers now that you have them. How do you get better? How do you navigate obstacles? How do you learn to troubleshoot nutrition in your life so you can actually find a sustainable way to hit the numbers not just now, when you are highly motivated, but when you are down and out and hitting a low point in your health and fitness journey?
Here are a few nutritional obstacles that challenge everyone’s long term success:
Emotional Health and Well Being
Environment and Social Circles
Economic Obstacles to Quality Food
Quality Food Hierarchy in Any Situation
Stress Impacts on Food Cravings
Sleep Impacts on Food Cravings
Digestive Health and Food Hygiene
Training Impacts on Food Cravings
Movement and Lifestyle Interactions with Energy Balance
Here is what I Propose?
Begin the JOURNEY of raising your food IQ. Know that you will never figure out all of the answers and that there is NOT a singular solution to nutrition. I have spent the last 25 years of my life and I continue to search for the solution to my optimal nutrition. What do I eat to look, feel, and perform optimally forever? To some degree we all have these questions and as frustrating as it is..it’s different for everyone and changes over time. This is where I will make a pitch for hiring a nutrition coach to help you figure it all out and answer questions like:
What about when the seasons change and my daily behaviors fluctuate so I can't be as active and my NEPA (non-exercise physical activity) decreases?
What about when my work season ramps up and my stress is elevated, causing me to sleep less and therefore have more sugar cravings than I used to - and want to eat more carbs by virtue of powerful physiology?
What about when a worldwide PANDEMIC hits and my gym shuts down? Then I have to stay home to work, causing me to eat more and move less.
What about when I go through a breakup and my emotions are all over the place and the person that used to help me stay accountable is now a source of pain that I medicate through weekly indulgences with pizza?
The philosophy I follow at Nutrition1st Coaching is: life isn't going to be the same forever, so we better work on developing a wider and broader toolset for navigating nourishment - one where you can trust your own skills and knowledge, understand how to determine what works for you, and not have to be told what to do in every situation. This takes time and education beginning from where you are at right now. If you want to start this journey on your own, here is my advice. You have to pick something to focus on. Really embed that deep into your habits. Don't take your eyes off the prize. Then once you've learned what works for you in most situations, it’s time to tackle the next thing and build on that habit.
Get your numbers. Learn how to calculate food daily and learn lessons of how to track macros and calories in a variety of situations.
Focus on food quality. Make sure everything you eat at the beginning of this journey is minimalist in nature, lacks processed foods, and is REAL in that each food is an ingredient itself. Think protein, carbs and a fat.
Track more than just your food. Track sleep, weight, stress, emotions regarding food/eating, and when you eat. This will reveal valuable patterns in your habits and psychology pertaining to food.
Your assignment should you choose to accept it- get your numbers using whichever method you prefer. Track them very closely for a few weeks. Then dig a little deeper. What else do you need to gain confidence with your nutrition? Do you feel like you're making progress and learning along the way? If it all feels too overwhelming to you, give us a call. It’s free and I love to talk about nutrition!