Maybe to some, the image above may not seem that drastic, but for me their is so much change. Not in the physical, but in the mentality between where I was at in August vs where I am today. Since I have started counting macros, I have received numerous questions regarding macros. There is a lot of science, planning, and commitment to tracking and it most definitely is NOT for everyone. I thought I would do a long blog post explaining macros, why they are working for me, as well as highlight some on Instagram. Here are some of my detailed responses to the most common questions I receive. Remember, everything I know and share is from personal experience and research. I am not a macro expert and have no nutrition qualifications. It is always advised to continue further educating yourself beyond what you see not just in my posts, but anything on social media! A lot of things you see online are a matter of opinion, and I try to have a scientific backed approach to my methods! My methods may not be “right” and some may disagree in my approach, but what I am doing works for me and I hope this “brief” haha intro can give you a little more insight and help as well 🙂
What is a macro?
Macros is an abbreviation for macronutrients. The most important macros are carbs (energy), fats (regulate hormones), and protein (build and repair muscles). The amounts of each of these you consume add up to your daily intake of calories. Every carb and protein gram equates to 4 calories and every gram of fat equates to 9 calories. So a diet high in fat is consequently also high in calories.
Do I need to track macros to lose weight?
NO! Weight loss is relatively simple. To lose weight, you must eat less calories than you naturally consume. When I started counting macros, my starting weight was roughly 177 pounds. My maintenance calories at that time was 2100 calories. HOWEVER, when I was not tracking, I was either “intuitively” eating, or having binge episodes, which resulted in me eating in a surplus close to 3000-3500 calories, which is WAY over my maintenance levels. Once I realized that, it made sense why I was in a plateau for so long and no longer seeing the results I was wanting to see. I was not gaining a lot of weight though, because I was exercising regularly and intensely, but I was still unknowingly eating in a surplus. To lose weight, calories are the most important thing to keep in mind. It really is as simple as calories in versus out. This does NOT mean eat very little. The biggest goal in weight loss is to eat as much as you can and still lose weight. If you do not eat enough, this will shock your body and probably do opposite of your goals. I do not share my macros, because they are very specific to me, but I will admit I eat close to 1900 calories (give or take, depending on the day), and have still seen a little over a pound lost each week at this calorie intake. My macros are very high! And this calorie goal may not work for you. It works for me because, again, I was eating close to 3000 calories without truly knowing it, so I have knocked my calories back by over 1000 calories! As my body adjusts, my calories will decrease and eating in a deficit will become harder. You do not want to “diet” for too long because you will physically and mentally burnout. You really want to target a pound a week for healthy and lasting weight loss.
Why count macros then to lose weight?
For me this is simple. This may not be the right or best solution for you so please keep that in mind. When I was not tracking, I was unknowingly eating far more than I realized from predominantly fat based sources. Because fat grams equate to 9 calories per gram, I had a high calorie diet. Fats, however, are not bad. They are important for hormonal levels. But a diet high in fat and low in protein is not very satisfying or sustaining. It leads to crashes, for me at least, and often lead to binges because I was not fueling myself properly. My body was not satisfied or sustained. I used to think my body craved carbs, but now that I have a better understanding of macros, looking at the things I often binged on, I actually was craving fats. So for me, tracking macros is helpful because I know I am fueling my body properly. I am eating enough carbs to keep me energized, protein to keep me full, and fats to keep my hormones in check. I will admit, since counting macros, my period has been a bit wacky. I learned, and will confirm this with my doctor at my annual visit, that rapid weight loss and a drastic change in diet can affect your period. But my diet and fat intake changed drastically since counting macros, so this would make sense. Ill be sure to updated once I have confirmation from my doctor 🙂
What is a surplus vs a deficit?
A surplus is eating over maintenance calories and a deficit is eating under maintenance calories. Other terms you may hear for surplus is a “bulk” or essentially you’re gaining weight. A deficit is also referred to a “cut” where you’re trying to lose weight. Maintenance means you are neither trying to gain or lose, simply maintain the weight you are at. Something to keep in mind is you CANNOT build muscle and lose fat at the same time! Why? Because they are opposite processes!!! To build muscle, you must eat in a surplus or “bulk”. During a bulk, you are building muscle, but please keep in mind that you will also gain fat during a bulk as well. During a cut, you are losing fat. You can also lose weight from muscle though, so it is important during a cut that you continue lifting weights to maintain the muscle mass you currently have and minimize weight loss from the muscle you currently have.
As a vegetarian, where do you get your protein from?
Prior to starting my fitness journey, I would only ever buy and eat eggs if I was making a cake or brownies haha! So, when I started working out and changing my eating habits, one of the first things I added back in was egg whites. I only added whole eggs back into my diet just a few weeks ago! One way I like to get protein is I will have 2 eggs and add another 100 grams of egg whites to it which is roughly 24 grams of protein and low carb and fat (because lets be honest, we all want our carbs and fats to come from bread and peanut butter. You know I am right lol!). I also eat Greek yogurt and cottage cheese. Yoplait 100 is a great source of protein and is low carbs. Be cautious with yogurt because many brand are both high in fat and carbs, so just check the labels before you purchase! Siggis is also a great brand for high protein and lower carb and no fat option. Fat free cottage cheese is probably the least exciting food on the planet, but for zero fat, 1 gram of carbs, and 15 grams of protein: worth it! Cheese is another great source, but I always use low fat or fat free. I know fat free cheese is pretty awful, but for again zero fat, 2 carbs, and 9 grams of protein: worth it! I also do take protein supplements. My favorite brand is PeScience. The snickerdoodle and white chocolate mint are da bomb! But protein powder is really personal, so try sample packs until you find brand you love. I use it in oatmeal, baked goods, or as a shake. I do often also have a protein bar. I avoid them if possible, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Just be careful with protein bars because some have lots of carbs and fats. Just last night I grabbed a protein bar and was stoked it had 14 grams of protein and only 9 carbs! I paid NO attention to the fat content, and after I had already started eating it and began to log it, I realized it had 13 grams of fat. OUCH!
How do you hit your macro targets?
PLANNING is key! The whole point of tracking macros or “flexible dieting” as it is often called, is to be able to eat whatever you want. You want that pizza? AWEOME! Eat it! Just so long as it fits. If you know you are going out or planning a cheat meal, log that first and then figure out what you have to eat prior to those meals to stay on track for the day. Struggling to get your carbs but have used up all your fats and proteins? Fruits and veggies are your friends!! Over in fat but still have to hit carbs and protein goals? See what is highest in fat and reduce the portion size or omit it all together. Somedays you have to give up peanut butter (always a sad day!) but it does not mean you can never have it again, you just can’t have it today because you’ve consumed too much fat from other sources. If this is the case then no fat greek yogurt is a great solution. Need more protein but are close to hitting your fat and carb goals? Protein powder and egg whites are the most common things I use to help supplement my protein needs.
How do you get started with macros?
Honestly, if you are new to any sort of nutrition, I would not start with macros. They are tricky, cumbersome, and really frustrating at times. If you are trying to lose weight, you can simply search any online calculator that would give you your daily maintenance calories. Lets just say your maintenance calories are 2100 calories. I would start by simply lowering your intake by about 100 calories. YOU DO NOT WANT TO CUT YOUR CALORIES TOO QUICKLY! This will not only shock your system, but in my experience, cause you to binge because your body is not accustomed to lower calories and it begs to be fed and it is so easy to over do it really quickly if you cut your calories too quickly. Before getting started in macros, I would advice research and educating yourself. Macro counting is NOT for everyone and you want to make sure it is something you can commit to. If you are not new to nutrition and have a strong understand in what does and doesn’t work for you, there are many online sources to help set your macros. But I would highly advice using a coach. A calculator doesn’t take into account binge/ restrict habits you may have or any other dietary needs you may experience. Working with a professional and someone who can really understand your dietary habits and needs is the best and most effective way to set macros targets that will work best for you. And working with someone really helps with remaining accountable to staying on target.
How did I get stated with macros?
About 10 or so weeks before my fitness year anniversary, I was really frustrated with not seeing further results. I was about 4 months into a plateau and really wanted to see changes for a family vacation that was a week after my fitness anniversary. At the time, I had no knowledge of macros other than a very basic understanding. I was completely unaware that my “intuitive” eating at the time was way over my maintenance goals. I hired a macro coach to work with me for 8 weeks, but because I did not know my current calorie intake was so high, I was initially set at too low of a deficit (around 1500 cals or so). This in turn caused me to binge and I became very unorganized in my thoughts about what I wanted my goals to be. I went back and fourth between wanting to bulk or wanting to cut when in reality I was consuming too little and not truly ready for the mindset commitment it required to track macros. This was around April/May of 2016. Fast forward to October of 2016. I am still stuck in a plateau and going back and fourth between all these “diets” and not sure how to make effective changes. I went on a girls weekend trip where I met a dear friend (via Instagram) who really began to teach me a thing or two about macros. She has a very blunt, tough love, and realistic approach to macros and I asked her to help me. So as a favor she and I have worked together and have realized my triggers, my issues, and found a balance that has FINALLY made not just macros work, but seeing really positive progress again. When I started working with her, I was eating 2000 calories and losing 2 pounds a week!! Which is honestly really too fast of weight loss… But then my body adjusted and I had a few slow weeks before dropping down again. And I have only adjusted my macros once in the 12ish weeks I have been working with her. I still eat a LOT, and I am losing a pound (sometimes more) a week. As my body adjusts again, she will help me lower the in an appropriate manner.
Do I count ratios for macros?
NO! NO! NO! Everyone has a difference of opinion for this (as most opinions differ greatly in the fitness and health industry) my opinion is that ratios are not measurable. So eating 40% carbs, 30% fat, 30% protein means nothing. I target grams, not percentages, because you can weigh a gram, you cannot weigh a ratio. Yes this means I have a scale and I measure out things like oats, egg whites, protein powder, cheese, salad dressing, etc. I do not weigh out veggies though because most of the veggies I eat are not macro dense and don’t really “make or break” my macros. Unless its something like potatoes where the carbs are high! Fruits I tend to stick to apples, pears, and berries so those are just a standard measurement to me. I will weigh out a banana or pineapple since those tend to have the most carbs and it so easy for me to eat a lot of pineapple because it is like candy! You can easily over do it with healthy things. But I have to be realistic in my approach and measuring every. single. thing. is just not practical for me.
Do I carb cycle?
No, I don’t! Im still new to counting and don’t want to overwhelm myself haha. I do feel more confident in my macro counting abilities though so I probably could handle it now if I wanted to. But what I am doing currently is working so why change, you know? Carb cycling is when you intentionally have a higher carb day on a more intense training day (like leg day) and you would have a lower carb day on say a rest day.
Do I count any other nutrients?
Nope 🙂 Some people try to keep sugar or sodium low, but I do not keep those into consideration. Carbs, fats, and proteins are enough as is haha. I do tend to have a high sodium diet, so I make sure I remain hydrated to keep my system flushed out.
Where do you track your macros?
I use MyFitness Pal. I upgraded my app so that I could utilize the gram function (unless you upgrade you can only set your macros in percentages :/ ) MyFitness Pal can help set up goals for you, but always be weary of online calculators because they only take into consideration a small portion of your lifestyle. This is why talking with a coach could be far more beneficial because they can tap into where you’re truly struggling and help set effective and manageable macro goals.
Can you help me set my macros?
Sadly, I cannot :/ I am not certified or qualified. Maybe one day I can! But not today. That also being said, always make sure you educate yourself from qualified professionals. I am confident in what I have learned and shared here, but there is always more to know, especially in regards to YOUR body and what you need.
Where did you learn about macros? Do you have sources you can recommend?
As mentioned in how I got started with macros, my friend Emma (@em_wizzfit on Instagram) had taught me everything I know! She got her info from her previous coach, Nick Cheadle, who has an incredible macro “bible” that I highly recommend! You can find that here. It is about $20 and well worth the info! He debunks diet myths about different dieting styles. Maybe he is a bit biased about flexible dieting, but I think he has a balanced and reasonable approach for eating as a lifestyle and the results from his clients speak for themselves. I would also suggest following him on Instagram (@nickcheadlefitness) as well because he shares lots of good info on his page and snapchat! Eric Helms also is a great resource for macro information. His is a bit pricier and FAR more scientific based, but if you’re into that kind of education it is worth checking out here.
Hope this helps! I will be updating this page as I learn more and as I receive more common questions 🙂