By now most people have heard of “the macro diet” or “if it fits my macros”. Even if you haven’t, fear not, I am here to explain the ins and outs of this maintainable way of living (notice how I didn’t say “diet”).
Macro-nutrients are what gives our food calories, or kcals, as we call them in the business.
3 Macros: Protein, Fat, Carb
Everything we eat can be broken down into these components and from their we can determine how many kcals we are getting.
1 gram protein = 4kcals
1 gram fat = 9 kcals
1 gram carbohydrate = 4 kcals
The first thing to do is get a baseline of where you are currently. I recommend using MyFitnessPal.com, which is also an app on iphone and android, to track what you eat for three days. This app isn’t the only one out there, but is the most convenient one I’ve found to use that has almost all of the foods I have eaten in it. Make sure you weight yourself before you start and after you finish tracking. This way, no matter what numbers we get for an average after the three days, we can figure out a starting point based on your tracked macros, and if your weight went up, down, or stayed the same.
For example, if today was my third day of tracking and my weight didn’t change over the past 3 days, I know that my macros at least equaled a kcal number that kept me at a baseline. That is how we get a baseline kcal intake. If I had gained weight, depending on how much, I would take that into consideration and calculate a baseline kcals first to maintain my weight, then come up with macros based on this number. Same thing goes for losing weight. I always start trying to establish a “baseline” macro that will maintain your current weight and activity level. This helps minimize variables and keeps things cleaner.
Now to figure out if you are getting enough protein.
After the 3 day track, and determining maintenance kcals, we can see based on your weight and goal weight (or body composition goal) what we should change first. I always ADD protein first. Most people think that we always “take away” foods and kcals first, but this almost never works. I always ADD food first, trypically protein, which depending on goals will actually tend to decrease your total kcal intake for the day when you see how much protein you should actually be consuming. The amount of protein varies widely, but generally I find 0.8g – 1.5g per lbs of bodyweight to be a good window to work in. This number also depends on available protein, time of year, diet considerations (special diets for diabetes, blood pressure, vegan, vegetarian, etc.). I typically like to see activate people who are new to macros start at 0.8g per lbs of body weight, and slowly ramp up based on how they accomplish this minimum goal first. So using this logic, 0.8g x 150lbs person = 120g protein per day.
From here it gets fun! Now we can play around with fat and carbs. Typically this is based on where these numbers were for the three day track. If we find you need more protein, I will add protein, then based on how this affects total kcals, adjust fat first because 1g of fat = 9kcals, so this would give us a bigger kcal change with minimal food change. If protein is already spot on, we start with carbs typically and adjust those, again depending on goals, to reflect activity level for the day. Fat is usually changed after we play around with protein and fat for a few weeks and see how this affects satiation (ability to feel full), workout performance, day to day feel and mood, and ability to be consistent with the tracking and macro plan. If everything looks good but you are feeling hungry, we can take a way carbs and add fat to make you feel full, if everything looks good but you are feeling tired, we can take away fat and add carbs. As long as the kcal number stays the same and protein stays the same.
As confusing as this may sound, after practicing this a few times, its actually quite easy to make changes as needed.
Typically my macros for in-season bodybuilding are: 270g protein, 250g carbs, and 50g fat. These change based on day, activity level, weight change, etc. I tend to carb cycle: low carb, moderate, low, moderate, high, low, moderate based on my workouts, job, life. On lower carb days I add more fat. If the end goal is losing 1lbs per week, my end goal for the week is 3500kcal deficit, or 500kcal deficit per day. So if I’m used to eating 3500 kcals in the off-season to maintain, I will cut down to 3000kcal to lose 1lbs per week.
If you are ready to take the leap and try it out, contact us!