Macros sound awesome! How do I start?

macros

First off- thank you all for not being totally scared off by my half-naked pictures I posted last week! Getting so much positive feedback and interest from these more personal/less pretty posts makes it easier to press the publish button on the next one. In case you missed it last week, I talked about a new way of eating that I have been doing for the last 12 weeks. It’s called macro dieting, and the name sounds fancy but the basis of it is super simple. Macro dieting is finding what your body needs to function its best, in terms of what percent of your diet needs to be carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Those are the macronutrients you pay attention to. You aren’t counting calories, just making sure that each day you get as close as possible to your goal % carbs, fat and protein. What those % carbs, fat and protein are depends on the individual, activity level, and body composition goals. One way to find out what your macros should be is to use an online calculator. If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) claims to be the most accurate online macro calculator out there. It is free to have your macros calculated and is a great place to use for getting started on macro dieting. Using the IIFYM calculator my macros are as follows:
Protein Grams: 110
Fat Grams: 55
Carbs Grams: 211
Fiber Grams: 24-24

In the post I wrote about my experience with macro dieting, I talked about the program called Working Against Gravity (WAG). WAG is an online nutrition program that uses macro dieting. As part of the program you are paired up with a nutrition coach who helps set your macros to a level that achieves your goals. You check in each week with your nutrition coach and let them know how you are feeling and any successes/setbacks you may be dealing with. Your coach is there to answer questions, change macros as needed, and help you achieve success. There also is a WAG group on Facebook that is open to members of the program and is a great resource for staying on track and help with making macro counting part of your lifestyle. While I was on my 12 week cut cycle with WAG my macros were as follows:
Protein Grams: 145
Fat Grams: 45
Carbs Grams: 180
Fiber Grams: 30

A cut cycle- what is that? A cut cycle simply means that my body composition goals during that time were to lose body fat. My macros were set at a level to optimize losing body fat while maintaining my muscle mass (and not gain any more muscle mass). If you compare what the IIFYM macros are set at vs. my WAG macros you’ll notice a few things.

  1. IIFYM had higher fat, less protein compared to WAG. With my nutrition coach at WAG we talked about my current work out schedule. I do Crossfit 5-6 days a week but I also do lifting sessions 4 days a week. To make sure that I was still maintaining my muscle strength with the lifting sessions I needed more protein that what IIFYM accounted for. And my WAG % fat was lower to help me lose body fat, but not muscle.
  2. My WAG carbs were lower than IIFYM. I think IIFYM tends to put carbs on the higher end. WAG is more realistic with how hard you are actually working out and how many carbs you really do need to fuel those workouts. While Crossfit workouts can be intense, they are short (sometimes only 6 minutes long) and your body doesn’t need as many carbs as someone who is putting in a solid 60 minutes of cardio. And really, 180 grams of carbs was a lot! If I was given more carbs I would have eaten things my body didn’t need, like sugary candy or alcohol.

All that being said- if you want to start counting macros I would encourage you to use the IIFYM calculator to have a starting point. Just know that the macro %’s may not be completely spot on for your goals because in the end the calculator is pretty standardized to work for everyone. Don’t be afraid to mess around a bit with your macros to see where you feel best. You shouldn’t be starving or overly tired with macros. If you start to feel weak during your workouts you might need to increase your carbs. Or if you start to lose muscular strength than up the protein. Play around with it and see what makes you feel best.

Ok- now you know what your macros are. How to you implement these into your life?

  1. BUY A FOOD SCALE!!!! You have to weigh your food in the beginning. Don’t trust your own estimates until you have weighed food enough to know how to eyeball 4 oz of meat, 30 grams of oatmeal, etc… I have this scale and it is inexpensive but totally does the trick.
  2. GET SOMETHING TO HELP YOU TRACK MACROS.  I use the My Fitness Pal (MFP) app on my iPhone. And I think this is the app most people use to track macros. I pay for the Premium version ($9.99 a month). I don’t know that you have to use the Premium version, and since I have this version I can’t see what functions the free version gives you. The Premium version lets you see your macronutrients by the gram, rather than just %. And the Premium version lets you set different macro goals for certain days. I need this because Sunday is always a rest day for me so my macros change on rest days (less carbs, more fat). There are other features in the Premium but truthfully I use the two I’ve listed and haven’t looked at the other features.
  3. In MFP to set your macro goals click on the lower right hand corner “More” button when at the home screen. From there you click on “Goals”.

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Then under Nutrient Goals you will click on “Calorie and Macronutrient Goals”.

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On this page “Calories and Macros” you can set up the macro goals you have.

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So now you have your macro goals and a program that you can use to track them. You are ready to roll. In MFP there are daily diaries that you put your food intake in. One feature I love on MFP is the UPC scanner. If I am going to have some yogurt for breakfast I just scan the UPC code on the yogurt and that food gets added to my daily diary. Super easy! Now some really die hard macro counters would tell you to weigh out the yogurt in that prepackaged container because most of the time the actual contents don’t match what the UPC code says for the food. But I have never done that because it seems overboard to me and it didn’t fit into the lifestyle I wanted to have. So I just go with what the UPC code says. MFP also stores all of the foods you have logged so next time when you are ready to log yogurt you won’t have to scan the barcode, instead you can do a quick search in the program and the food will come up.

There is a great database of foods in the program that you can search for foods you need to log. Another cool thing on MFP is the recipe function. If you are making chili and want to log it then adding each individual ingredient to your daily diary is a major pain in the ass. Instead, if I’m following a recipe I found online I can import that recipe into MFP and it will calculate the macros for a serving of that recipe. There are a lot of good tutorials online for using MFP if you download the program and feel lost. It takes a bit of time to get the hang of it but after you’ve built up a good database of the foods you eat and get the hang of weighing everything then MFP becomes a fun game to see how much food you can fit into your day and still hit your macros.

Ok, now I’ll share a few “macro hacks” that I use and which helped me find success with macros.

  1. Lowfat Greek yogurt. A great source of protein without carbs or fat. I usually eat this once a day either as a snack or for breakfast.
  2. Halo Top ice cream. AMAZING!!! It’s ice cream (first two ingredients are milk and eggs) but it’s low in fat and carbs, while being high in protein. It just fits macros really, really well. And I find room for it almost everyday as my dessert.
  3. PB2 powder. This is powdered peanut butter. Basically they press peanuts down to remove the fat which leaves a powder that tastes like peanut butter. And I say like, because it does not taste exactly like peanut butter (less sweet). You can sprinkle this powder onto your Greek yogurt or mix the powder with some water to make a peanut butter. I also make a peanut sauce out of this that I use with ground turkey and vegetables for a stir-fry.
  4. Egg whites mixed into oatmeal. This may sound gross but I love it now. When I make my oatmeal (which I make on the stove) I add 1/2 cup of egg whites towards the end of cooking. The egg whites cook and give the oatmeal a creamy texture while adding a whole bunch of protein to your oatmeal. In fact egg whites are another source of protein without fat or carbs that I use a lot.
  5. EAT REAL SOURCES OF PROTEIN, NOT SHAKES OR BARS!!! The first couple of days when I was doing macros I could not figure out how to get enough protein without going over my fat for the day. I started just doing protein shakes to get protein without fat. And- I WAS STARVING!!! I asked my coach what to do and she made the suggestion that I ditch the shakes and bars and eat food for my protein so that my stomach had more volume in it, which would help me feel full. That’s when I learned that Greek yogurt and egg whites were my best friends. And lean sources of meat would get me the protein I needed without going over on fat. Trial and error but now I rarely eat a protein shake unless I’m running short on time at breakfast and I find that I am not experiencing the hunger pains like I was at the beginning.
  6. Gourmet Gains. This really only applies to those readers who are in Fort Collins. When I was starting on macros I was overwhelmed with tracking recipes. I found Gourmet Gains, which is a local company that prepares healthy meals with real food (not frozen) and does all the macro calculating for you. I did a few weeks of their meals in the beginning to give me one meal that was already all calculated for me. This is a great resource for those who work outside of the house as you could bring these meals with you for lunch. And the meals are really tasty!

I hope this post gives you enough information to feel ready to start macros. The internet of course is a great source of information on macros. And I have started to find podcasts a nice way to get more information. I love the Girls Gone WOD podcast for all things Crossfit but they also have a few episodes dedicated to macros. They  interviewed the founder of WAG (Adee Zukier, episode 131) for one episode and also have another nutrition coach (Sarah Pierce, episode 156) that talks more about macros. Both of these ladies have done the macro and WAG diet and if you check out their Instagram you can see some progress pictures. Also, there are a bunch of options for nutrition coaching and macros besides WAG. Hit me up if you want a referral for that, as I think WAG is back on a waiting list again. And if you want to see what I eat on a daily basis you can add me as a friend on MFP (my user name is erinhatzis). Happy eating!!!

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