- May 13, 2016
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What Are “Macros”Before we go any further, the first step is to learn the basics. Macros in a nutritional sense, is short for Macronutrients which are Protein, Carbohydrate, and Fat. These are the three nutrients that provide energy in the form of calories.
Protein, carbohydrates and fat add up to your overall caloric intake.
Protein – 4kcal/g
Carbohydrate – 4kcal/g
Fat – 9kcal/g
*Note: although not a “macro”, alcohol does contain around 7 cal/g…just keep that in mind.
Everything we eat has a numeric value of macros and calories. In essence, this is the backbone of flexible dieting.
Flexible dieting is not a diet – it’s a nutritional concept. The basic rundown is simple: You have a daily calorie, macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein, fat), and fiber target to hit and as long as those specific numbers are achieved, then food selection is left up to your personal preference.
A flexible diet is all about numbers. The key is to stop thinking there are “clean” and “dirty” foods and starting thinking of foods in terms of their nutrient values. A Pop Tart is no longer a dirty food, it is now 200 calories, 5g fat, 37g carbohydrate and 2g of protein. Don’t worry, a math degree is not required to do this.
Does Food Quality Matter / Micronutrients
Food quality is a natural question that is sure to come up. Society has told us that specific foods are the culprit of the obesity epidemic. We single out specific foods and make claims that the reason for all our health problems lies in eating those foods. The fact is it’s a lot easier to blame processed foods for being overweight than it is to take the responsibility yourself and understand it’s not the food, you are just eating too many calories.
With all that being said, food quality does matter. There is more to nutrition than just macros and hitting specific numbers. Two other big factors we need to think about are fiber and micronutrients.
Fiber helps with digestion, preventing constipation, maintaining healthy bowl health, improving a feeling of fullness, lowering cholesterol, and helping control blood sugar amongst other things. Bottom line – fiber is great and we need it!
However, just like anything else there is a specific prescription that is most optimal. Too low of a fiber intake and you do not benefit from any of the things I just listed. On the flip side if you consume too much fiber there is a chance of gastrointestinal track issues and poor nutrient absorption. Fiber is another number we need to track in addition to protein, carbs and fat.
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. Micronutrients are needed in smaller amounts then Macronutrients, hence “micro” but they are important nonetheless. The best way to make sure you are hitting the recommended amount of daily micronutrients is to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. It doesn’t matter what type of “diet” you are following, one thing we all can agree on is more fruits and veggies is good.
Aside from the micronutrient benefit, eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables will make it a lot easier to hit your daily fiber intake – win win scenario.
Although I highly recommend trying to get all of your vitamins and minerals through whole foods, I recognize this is very difficult. To make sure you have all your bases covered, I recommend using a multivitamin and/or a greens drink. Is it as good as whole foods? I honestly don’t know but I do know it is better than being deficient in any vitamin or mineral. My favorite product for that is MTS Nutrition Machine Greens + Multi. It is exactly what it says, a greens drink combined with a multivitamin.
If you don’t want to go the supplement route, I highly recommend making a daily fruit/veggies smoothy in a blender. A lot of my clients have had amazing results doing this. Email me if you are interested in finding some good recipes –> KyleHuntFitness@gmail.com
Another point I want to make is, eating the same thing every day is NOT the best way to hit all of your vitamins and minerals. In fact, in order to get a wide range of micronutrients, a wide range of foods need to be consumed. Mix and match your food choices to ensure you cover a wide spectrum of nutrients.
How Do you Determine Your Macros Now we are into the important stuff, I know this is what you REALLY want to know. I wrote a very detailed article on this topic a while back. I highly suggest you go check that out below:
==>How to Calculate Calorie and Macronutrient Requirements
However, since I know many of you won’t do that lol, here are the cliff notes:
There are many ways to determine your macros. The easiest way is to just use a formula, most of which do a crappy job of actually giving you macros that work. The human metabolism is very complex and a formula often can’t provide accurate numbers. With that being said, using a formula can be a good starting point.
In the article I broke down a couple different formulas, some I like more than others. The formulas provide your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Your BMR is the total amount of energy (calories) your body requires daily just to maintain normal bodily functions – including digestion, circulation, respiration, temperature regulation, cell construction and every other process in your body.
BMR is the total of all the energy you use for basic bodily functions at REST. This does not include physical activity. After you find your BMR you have to multiply it by an activity factor to determine how many calories you require to maintain your weight – maintenance intake. The activity factor takes into account everything you do in a day not just training.
An example of how this would work.
BMR x 1.2: Sedentary (You don’t move much. No exercise, desk job, lots of TV
BMR x 1.3-1.4: Lightly Active (Active a few days a week, exercise 1-3 days)
BMR x 1.5-1.6: Moderately Active (Where I would assume most people are at. Train 4-5 days a week and active lifestyle)
BMR x 1.7-1.8: Very Active (Training hard for a specific sport or purpose 5-6 hours a week. Typically one with a hard labor job as well)
BMR x 1.9-2.2: Extremely Active (Endurance training or hard charging athlete who spends 10 or more hours training a week and/or lots of activity outside of training. Can require more calories than this as well depending on ones metabolic capacity)
After you do that you have to either add or subtract calories depending on your goal. If you want to lose weight subtract calories, if you want to gain weight then add calories. Determining what your specific macros should be can be a little tricky. This is where you will need to go read some of my other articles and learn what determining macros consists of…or hire a coach.
How Do you Track Macros Trust me, this seems A LOT harder than it actually is. With apps such as My Fitness Pal and others it has become very easy to track your macronutrient intake. Once you have the amount of calories and macronutrient targets figured out all that is left is to start tracking your macros and fitting foods into them. This WILL be a learning experience. You might not get it 100% on point day one, but you will in due time. It just takes a little practice.
Here is the process:
Step 1- Determine what food you want to eat.
Step 2- Track it.
If your food has a bar code My Fitness Pal will allow you to just scan it with a smart phone. If your food doesn’t have a bar code or you don’t have a smart phone you can just type it in. For example, you type in “apple” and then boom, it gives you options of a bunch of different apples to choose from. Pick one and then you will have your first item tracked.
Step 3- Do this all day and try to stay within your guidelines. Remember it is not a free for all. If you eat a bunch of higher calorie, high fat foods in the beginning of the day you will have to make up for that by going low calorie at the end of the day. Balance is key here.
Weighing and measuring is important. When you first start flexible dieting weigh and measure everything you eat. Do this for at least 2-3 weeks. At that point you will probably be able to eye ball serving sizes. If you want to be 100% on point at all times, continue to weigh and measure everything. Also if you are in contest prep I recommend weighing and measuring everything at all times.