As I wrote in my post about Flexible Dieting, I’ve been dabbling with macro targets recently. It’s a much higher learning curve than I initially anticipated. Originally I was all like, “Cool, no big deal, just eat ____g protein, ____g fat, and ____ carbs. Easy!” Oh boy… is it not.
Here are 4 things I’ve learned so far:
(1.) Think of most foods as a combination of macros — not a single macro
Chicken is a protein. Oatmeal is a carb. Peanut butter is a fat.
I don’t know if it was doing the 21 day fix, where each food is considered a carb OR a protein OR a fat, etc… but I was shocked how some foods I’d held as protein were filled with just at many carbs (looking at you greek yogurt). It made more sense to me to kind of organize foods in three main categories, foods that are primarily one macro, which foods are more of a balance of two macros, and which foods are a combination of many macros. In any case, checking the macro count has become a habit — gotta make sure it fits!
(2.) If you don’t plan around your treats, you won’t be able to fit them in
As a person who likes their fair share of all treats, this was an important one. On days when I didn’t think ahead, I would eat up all my macros with mindless snacking and not have room to fit the snacks I really want. To combat this, I’ve starting planning in my treats first! It’s such a nice mindset!
First, I’ll ask myself what I’m in the mood for — as a treat or a treat-like meal. I’ll program it in and then fill in the meals I don’t really care about around it. Usually I want a sweet treat so to balance that out I’ll have fewer carbs throughout the day.
For example, yesterday — I wanted a Dairy Queen Caramel Sundae as my treat which is pretty heavy in carbs and fat. To balance it out, I had a dinner of chicken with zucchini and salad — which was still damn delicious, but had less carbs and fat than a pasta with meat sauce. Boom!
I found that I would have rather had the ice cream than a starchy dinner, so I was happy with the swap!
(3.) Start protein early!
My nutritionist has me on a macro target that’s 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat. It’s never hard for me to hit the carb and fat targets — cuz rice, fruit and nuts, duh! — but getting that protein in is tricky some days. If I ignore protein completely, I’ll find my macros at the end of the day are closer to 50% carbs, 30% fat, and 20% protein — which I think is fine on same days. It’s about living life, after all! But if I want to hit my goals physically, I can tell I’m going to need to hit my 40-30-30 targets in the kitchen on the regular.
This was something a friend from work actually told me. There’s this unwritten rule of 10%… basically some days you’re just hungrier than others. After a hard workout, if you’re feeling sick, if you’re just moody, or if you’re out and about and don’t have your at home healthier options readily available- whatever the case may be. To allow for sanity, there’s a 10% grace on either side of your calorie/macro target that you can play with without jeopardizing your goals.
Obviously, it’s better to be as close to your targets as you can on the day today — but a difference of 10% on either side of that target isn’t enough to derail you from your goals. So instead of a rigid goal number, it’s more like a spectrum that you want to fall between. Here’s my target numbers and their accompanying spectrum for example:
- Calories: 1700
- 1530 —— 1700 ——1870
- Protein: 128
- 115 ——– 128 ——– 141
- Carbs: 170
- 153 ——– 170 ——– 187
- Fat: 52
- 47 ———- 52 ———- 57
- Sugar (excluding sugars from unsweetened fruit & dairy): 24
- 22 ———- 24 ———-26
As you can see, there’s a bit more wiggle room. This is especially handy when you’ve had a long day of “perfect” eating — everything is in balance and you’re right at 1700 calories — but then you’re STARVING before bed.
I find that the extra 170 calories in the 10% makes a mighty fine protein shake with some fruit/nuts/protein that will (1) keep me full and (2) keep me in the 40-30-30 macro balance!
“Good” calories \ “Bad” Calories?
While I’m able to plan in my treats and make them work — I will say that eating “good foods” makes it so much easier to eat a LOT more. I’m really not trying to villanize foods — because i heard somewhere that in doing so, you give food way more power over you than is sane. Food is food. What I am saying is that simpler foods, foods that are closer to one ingredient, are easier to track and therefore make fit in a balanced way. In my experience, foods with few ingredients and limited processing have less sodium, sugar, sometimes calories, and weird surprise macros. This all adds up to being able to eat more in a day.
Here’s the example I try to remember when I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to cook… Grilled Chicken breast.
If I grill it at home, even from an already prepped Tyson frozen situation, the macros for about 4 oz are 100 calories, 22g protein, 0g carbs, and 1g fat.
**This picture was taken from MyFitnessPal to use as an example **
If I went to Wendy’s and just ate the grilled chicken breast — nothing else — the macros would be 130 calories, 27g protein, 3g carbs, and 2g fat.
Why would I waste carbs and extra fat on being lazy? I could just have more homemade grilled chicken and hit my protein goals — and use my carbs on RICE!!!
Also — can you take a look at the huge difference in sodium? 190mg at home versus 470mg — more than two times the at home version! And I would argue that prepping your own fresh chicken breast is even better!
How do you track your intake?
Do you track your macros? Why/Why not?
Do you track calories?