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5 Tips to Count Macros
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5 Tips to Count Macros

Written by
Juli Albright
Updated
Juli is our patient advocate and community connection. She balances work, life and family with grace.
Juli is our patient advocate and community connection. She balances work, life and family with grace.

5 Tips to Count Macros

A little about the author...

As with most girls, I looked to my mother for advice on healthy eating. Her main advice was to eat vegetables and eat in moderation. If you feel that you put on a few pounds, cut back on food intake until you lose the weight. This seemed to work well for her, but not for me...

Why did I start counting macros (macronutrients)?

Okay, so to be honest, the popularity of a 'macro' diet is what drew me to it. For the last few years, I have seen advertisements on 'how to get shredded' with macros, high protein intake and occasional 'refeed' days. Concurrently, at the gym, my coach was stressing the importance of nutrition in changing one's body composition. Why do I want to change my body composition? For sport performance...? No, really because I thought my butt was slowly starting to sag. The old adage of consistent exercise and traditional healthy eating to limit the effects of body aging may not be effective for everyone.

How Did I Count Macros?

Use my Fitness Pal to track, weigh food, and setting macro goals (protein, fat, carbohydrates).

After much research (okay an impulse inquiry late one night), I had a phone consultation with a nutritionist and fitness trainer, Lisa Franz at Boom Boom Performance & Nutrition. Since my family and I were planning to move across the country and I wouldn't be able to consistently get into a gym for a couple of months during the transition, I wanted to speak to her about a diet and an at-home training regimen. She convinced me to try nutrition coaching and had me sign up for My Fitness Pal. Within the App, I added her as a friend so she can see everything I logged and hold me accountable. I sent her a "before" picture in a sports bra. She set my diet parameters and I started weighing my food.

  1. My Fitness Pal- This little app is brilliant! You simply set up your account using your e-mail address and start logging your food. It remembers food and portions you eat frequently and will calculate your daily calorie and nutrition count (scroll to bottom of daily food log for nutrition data). When logging food, you can hit the bar code scanner to enter the nutrition information instantly with one click! Also you can add friends which means you can share your day with a nutrition coach for accountability. Through the actual website (not the app), you can set your macro goals for total calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Use my Fitness Pal to track, weigh food, and setting macro goals (calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates). It will also allow you to plan and log future days so you easily see if foods fit within your macro plan. Because I often try to plan my meals in advance, I loved this feature! It also limited how much daily logging I had to do. And the best part is... My Fitness Pal is free!
  2. Set Body Composition Goals- First Lisa had me write down my goals. Basically I wanted to look good in a bikini. She then had me take some dreaded before pictures. I have seen tons of before and after photos for plastic surgery so I knew what she needed. I, however, was a little scared. It is hard to see your body in the harsh light of the bathroom. Also the mechanics were sort of difficult. I should have asked my husband for help, but I definitely didn't want to draw any attention to my problem areas. Although he may see them, I wanted his rose-colored glasses to stay on! Finally I figured out how to use my reflection in the mirror to capture the selfie. It still looked awkward...my selfie skills need a little work.
  3. Weigh Food- So to be accurate with tracking food, my trainer said it was critical to weigh the food using a food scale. This is something I have never really done before. In the past, I kept food journals and estimated my food based on normal serving sizes. Whoa was I off on many of my normal serving sizes?! That small "sprinkle" of granola I added to my yogurt was like 4 serving sizes!!!
  4. Set Macro Goals- This is where Lisa really helped. There are tons of calculators online and I didn't which one would be right for me. Initially she gave me 1750 calories, 145 g of protein (mirroring my body weight approximately), 175 g carbohydrates, and 50 g of fat. At first, the protein target was really hard for me to hit. I think in my normal day before I maybe had ~80 grams of protein as I was trying to eat ~25g at each meal or a 4 oz serving. Almost doubling the protein was hard to adjust to. At some meals, I needed almost 8 oz of protein! I had never eaten that much before. The carbohydrates I am still trying to figure out. Since carbs have had such a bad reputation, I had really only planned to eat them after a work out. What would end up happening, however, is I would binge on cookies or the kids' leftover mac and cheese. Having more carbs to plan into my diet was a game changer. The fat was not too difficult to avoid as long as I ate my own prepared meals and did not "eat out". I can usually have one small unhealthy item a day, but I can't eat a whole bowl of queso anymore. At the beginning, it seemed like so much food. I realized I was under eating in my normal diet and then making the calorie deficit back up with unhealthy foods at night and on the weekends.
  5. Measure Bio Feedback- Every day Lisa had me rate and write down a number from 1-5 on sleeping, motivation, gym performance, hunger, cravings, recovery, motivation, stress, and mood. This helped me appreciate how external inputs can influence my internal well-being.

Food for a Typical Day of Counting Macros

My baseline macros were 1750 calories, 145 grams protein, 170 grams carbohydrates, and 50 grams of fat. Although my days were constantly changing, I tried to have a very healthy breakfast and lunch followed by a small "treat" for a snack or dinner. Typical meals with the macros are listed below. We will post this on Instagram. Please feel free to ask questions or comment:

Breakfast (412 calories with 37 g protein, 34 g carbs, and 10 g fat) - 56 grams of oatmeal  with1 teaspoon of honey / Coffee with 2 T of milk and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar / 5 egg whites and 1 egg with spinach and salsa

Lunch (484 calories with 47 g protein, 50 g carbs, and 13 g fat) - 1 cup of Quinoa / 7 oz of quinoa / 1 cup of roasted brussel sprouts

Snacks (280 calories with 18 g protein, 32 g carbs, and 8 g fat) - Siggis non fat yogurt and 1/2 cup icecream

Dinner (516 calories with 50 g protein, 55 g carbs, and 12 g fat) - 7 oz Chicken breast / 1 cup quinoa / Salad with bell peppers and cucumbers and salad dressing)

Total - 1682 calories with 148 g protein, 173 g carbs, and 42 g fat

Sometimes it is hard to have lean protein for every meal so my snack sometimes is a protein shake or something healthier. The meal portions are huge, however, so you definitely feel very satisfied!

Was Counting Macros Hard?

It was exciting to try something new. And I feel like I actually had some results. Month 1 was fun to try out new foods and recipes, and I was so full from overall food quantity that it was relatively easy to stay consistent. Then we moved, and my husband stayed behind to finish work so I was in new places alone with two kids. It was difficult to feed them much less myself some days. To still stay on track, I would often get a roasted chicken and raw vegetables for lunch and then let dinner be flexible. To hit the protein diet, sometimes I would just have a protein shake or collagen powder at night after the kids went to bed. After two months, I had some promising results (lost ~8 lbs body weight without losing much muscle mass). After the two months, I became less motivated to weigh and track my food. Therefore it was not too surprising when I didn't see much progress after the third month.

Counting Macros Forces you to Eat Lots of Healthy Foods

Great way to control eating in a very healthy yet flexible way!

My life is still crazy with the move and starting a business and I will probably take a break from macros until I have a more predictable routine again. Perhaps this is just a convenient excuse...? Regardless I have learned much from trying this new way of thinking about my nutrition. I should be eating more protein, drinking more water, and eating more healthy carbs in my normal diet. This alone makes the three months well worth it. I also definitely made gains during a particularly stressful time in my life when I would have normally packed on fat and weight to cope with the stress.

Who Counts Macros?

Bikini models, body builders, and most athletes track macros in some way or another to ensure they are getting the nutrition needed to fuel their bodies and sports activities. In Crossfit, it s fairly common among athletes to "Eat to Perform." If you aren't eating carbs or low on protein for extended periods, it is difficult to maximize power output. It is a great way to build muscle mass, and lose fat.

Did Counting Macros Work?

It definitely worked for me when I was being diligent weighing and tracking food. It also helped set me on the right path to more intuitive eating. Online there are many success stories over a longer time period. I think it is a great technique to assist in body composition changes and weight loss.

What I didn't like about Counting Macros?

Besides the inconvenience of weighing food, I ended up eating fewer vegetables than I normally would because I was so focused on eating protein. This was still within healthy guidelines, but I did notice my bowel habits were not as regular without the fiber. Once I realized this, I have started making sure to eat vegetables and oatmeal!

References

- Detailed guide to Count Macros

- Gym Lifestyle of Counting Macros

- Macro Calculator

Written by
Juli Albright
Updated

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