Macro eating plans help you reach your health goals while enjoying some of your favorite foods (of which tomatoes are NOT one of Emily's!). In this episode, we take you through, step by step, creating a personalized macro eating plan.
Starting with a quick “what are the macros” review:
Carbs are the body’s go-to source of energy. A few good picks: oatmeal, sweet potatoes, fruit and brown rice. Non starchy vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, squash, dark leafy greens, green beans and onions have a small amount of carbs. Each gram of carb is 4 calories.
You need plenty of protein to maintain and build lean muscle mass, keep your immune system up and running and make enzymes and hormones. Good options are chicken, fish, lean beef, turkey, eggs and a protein powder supplement
Dietary fat is essential for healthy hormone levels, metabolism, mood and vitamin absorption. Foods that are mostly pure fat are oils, butter, lard, coconut and avocado.
Many foods are a combo of two or more of these macros. Milk for example is a natural source of carbs, fat and protein. When processed into skim milk, the fat is left behind and just the carbs and protein remain. Nuts are another example of a food that has all three macros, but is mostly comprised of fat. And of course, there's the fourth macro, alcohol, but that's a macro further discussed in episode 43 Spirited Holidays.
How do you calculate and keep track of your macronutrients?
The tricky thing about macronutrients is that the amount of each you should be eating can vary drastically from person to person. Your perfect amount is called your “macronutrient ratio.” Ideal macro ratios depend on your height and weight, your activity level, your age, current maintenance calorie level and your goal. A dietitian can help you determine the best macronutrient ratio for you, or you can try an online planner if you feel pretty comfortable knowing what foods have which macros. You can try an online macro diet calculator can help guide you along the way, by giving you an easy place to log the foods you’re eating and to calculate how many macros are them. Here are a few popular macro diet apps to try:
That being said, for more personalized planning, we highly recommend John Gormans book The Flexible Fat Loss Solution.
As you begin your macro diet plan, a food scale is a MUST, so you can see exactly how big your portions are. Once you’ve used the food scale for a while, you’ll probably get good at eyeballing your favorite foods to log portion size into your tracking app, but if your goals start to slip, pull the scale back out.
Macro Ratios: How Much of This and That
Generally for adults, the macronutrient breakdown recommendation is 40-60% calories from carbohydrates, 20-35% from protein, and 20-35% from fat.
To figure out your macros, first, calculate your personal calorie goal. A great way to do that is to track your calories for a week and see what your average intake is. From there, add or subtract about 500 calories (or 10-20%) depending on if your goal is to gain or lose weight. If you just want to maintain and follow a macro plan, you can calculate based on your average calories from that week. Healthy weight loss is about one to two pounds weekly.
Here’s an example of this macro math.
Estimated calorie goal for maintenance = 2,000 calories
For weight loss, reduce that by 20%, so your daily goal = 1,600 calories
Macronutrient ratio: 50-25-25
50% carbohydrates: 1,600 calories/day x .50 (or 50%) = 800 calories/day. Divide 800 by 4gm to get 200 grams of carbs daily.
25% protein: 1,600 calories/day x .25 (or 25%) = 400 calories/day. Divide 400 calories by 4gm to get 100 gm protein daily.
25% fat: 1,600 calories/day x .25 (or 25%) = 400 calories/day. Divide 400 calories by 9gm to get ~44.5 gm fat daily.
As you continue your macro diet, adjust your ratio according to how you are feeling. For instance, if you are not losing weight and that's your goal, reduce your carb intake by 5 to 10% and make sure you're not going over on your fat grams.
Sticking to a macro diet depends on having a good meal plan in place, but even if you dine out, you can find most restaurant meals within macro calculator apps or something similar. Piece apart your meal to add ingredients into your macros. For instance, if you order a cheeseburger, add a large bun to your app, then a 6 ounce burger patty, slice of cheese, condiments and side dish, if any. By using a food scale at home, you'll be well-practiced to estimate your portions at restaurants.
Eating a balanced meal every 3 ½ to 4 hours will help keep your blood sugar steady, which helps prevent you from getting too hungry. This will help you stick to your plan.
Find a treat that fits your macros. It might be single serving ice cream, small bags of popcorn, or dark chocolate squares. There are plenty of options and that’s the beauty of a macro plan. You can enjoy the foods you love and reach your health goals.
Listen to the full episode here for more tips on using a macro meal plan to reach specific goals like bodybuilding and ketosis.