About five months ago I began tracking my macros, I did it for three months and loved it but then the holidays hit and I put it on hold. Starting in January I will be picking it back up again since I really loved it and saw amazing results from doing it. I have received SO many questions about this and since it can be a little overwhelming and complicated (it was for me initially too!) I thought I would write an easy-to-read and compartmentalized post about it for those of you who are interested in trying it.
Before I started tracking my macros my understanding of food and how the body used it was totally warped. I used to eat hardly any protein and ate mostly carbs. I aimed to intake an average of about 1200-1400 calories a day. To hit that goal I would try and eat as little as possible, snacking throughout the day, then eat a huge dinner, and yet I was always hungry and feeling guilty about what I would eat.
Once I started tracking my macros my whole perspective on food changed and the goal became to nourish and fill my body with exactly what it needed while still getting to eat my favourite foods, if not able to eat even more of those foods. #allthecarbs
Here it is… Macro Tracking:
Flexible dieting aka ‘if it fits your macros’ (iifym). Despite what every fad diet/wrap/juice cleanse etc says, evidence has shown that the main determining factor for weight loss is ‘calories in vs calories out’ and with macro tracking you can still achieve your “dream bod” while eating foods generally off limits to dieters (like ice cream and cookies!), given that you hit your macronutrient targets.
So, what are macros?
Macronutrients are the protein, carbohydrates and fats that make up the calories in all foods. When you count calories to lose weight you are just limiting the number of calories you take to create an energy deficit and your body will shrink in size to adapt to this energy deficit. When you are mindful of your macronutrient intake you will be more effective at burning fat and building lean muscle (not bulking).
1 gram of protein = 4 calories
1 gram carbs = 4 calories
1 gram fat = 9 calories
1 gram alcohol = 7 calories
As you can see above, not all calories are created equally since 20 grams of fat will be used very differently then 20 grams of carbohydrates. The general rule of thumb is to eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. So if you weight 130lbs you need to intake 130 grams of protein/day.
Why Track Macros?
When you track your macros you eat in a way to feed your body exactly what it needs for optimal performance and definition. It ensures that the calories you take in go to all the right places in your body, preserving lean muscle mass and helps to get rid of unwanted body fat. Tracking your macros and eating the proper amounts of protein, fat and carbs for your body and activity level can make all the difference in toning up your body and helping to get that definition you always wanted. This has made a huge difference for me, not only in leaning out and with muscle definition but also in my energy levels, how I feel, and to help curb hunger throughout the day.
IIFYM is not a diet. There are no set foods or meal plans to follow and you can track your macros whether you eat clean, vegan, paleo, vegetarian etc. You may have seen photos of people who track macros eating foods that are considered off limits to most, such as ice cream and highly processed sugary treats. To clear the air on this… This is not how they eat most of the time. If you have calorie and macro goals you cannot eat that way and hit your target goals and numbers. Most people who track their macros eat clean with a lean protein and lots of veg at any given meal. Unlike strict diets or clean eating plans, macro tracking simply allows people to occasionally include treats and discretionary foods while still hitting their macro targets and calorie goals for the day.
For example: My current calorie intake is 2100 calories a day (since I am still breastfeeding I add 300 extra calories a day) and my macros are at 142g protein, 61g fat, 239g carbs or 28% protein, 25% fat, 46% carbs. I currently weigh 123lbs.
I was so nervous to increase my daily calorie intake from 1400 to 2100 since I had no interest in bulking up or gaining weight - after all, the goal was to lose the baby weight! But I can attest to the fact that when you give your body the exact nutrients it needs to produce lean muscle mass, your body responds by leaning out and giving definition in places you’ve never seen definition before!
My favourite macros:
Chicken (breasts, thighs, legs)
Extra-lean ground turkey
Low Fat Cottage Cheese
Greek Yogurt (Non-fat and plain)
Extra-Firm Tofu marinated in tamari, apple cider vinegar and a bit of water
Protein powder (my favourites are Canadian Protein’s 100% Whey Isolate and ...)
Veg (especially dark leafy greens and sweet potatoes!)
Pasta (yes, I eat pasta at least once a week)
Oatmeal and Steel Cut Oats
Ezekiel 4:9 bread, or Homemade Oat Bread
Peanut Butter (all the praise hands!)
To help with my protein intake (because it can be hard to get protein into your diet without all the additional fat) I usually have two scoops of protein powder at different points of the day. At 30g protein each scoop that takes care of 60g of protein without any additional fat. Sometimes this looks like a scoop of protein in a smoothie or overnight oats in the morning, sometimes it is just mixing it into water and drinking it like that.
How to do it:
- Here is a link to a macro tracking calculator that I found helpful, they email you your results but I would recommend editing your protein intake to 1gram protein per pound of bodyweight on the results page. Here's how I did it --> I selected the “Total Body Weight Formula”, at “Light Activity” … Sadly BBG girls even though you feel like you are killing yourself it is considered light activity. I said my intensity was moderate and in the goals section I set it at 10% textbook increase for bulking.
- If you want to figure out your numbers manually, I found this page helpful
- If you are still nursing you will need to add about 300 calories to your TDEE. (Here is a really helpful article on tracking your macros while nursing.)
- I track my macros with the MyFitnessPal app. The nice thing is that if you eat the same foods most of the time, after about two weeks you will have most of your meals and foods in your phone and you won’t have to spend as much time inputting it since you can save it as one of your meals.
It can feel really overwhelming to start tracking your macros, but, as with anything it gets less stressful as it becomes a part of your regular routine overtime. You’ll need a scale, this one is great - small and cheap! And I highly recommend downloading an app to help you, since it makes the whole process a lot easier.
If you have any questions feel free to ask them below!