Are you under eating? Are you over eating? Are you tired all the time? Do you want to change how your body looks? Do you want to change how your body feels? Do you want to be able to train harder and recover faster? Do you want more energy to get your day accomplished?
If you said yes to one or all of those questions you should track your macronutrients. The makeup of the macronutrients (or macros) in food is protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, while fat is 9 calories per gram. When you add all these together you get your total calorie intake for the day.
How to Figure Out if You Are Over Eating or Under Eating
First you need to know how much you’re eating in the first place, and how much of each macronutrient (see How To Track it All below). Once you have those numbers you may want to do multiple days to see the average. The safe bet is to do an entire week, including the weekends, to get the full picture of what you are really consuming.
How to Calculate Your Energy Needs
You body is a machine. It needs fuel, calories, to operate efficiently and effectively. To figure out how much fuel is needed use the following equation:
(Body weight in pounds. x 10) x activity level = calories needed to maintain weight
Use the following chart to determine your activity level:
Sedentary plus 3-6 days of weight lifting -- 1.3-1.6
Light active plus 3-6 days of weight lifting -- 1.6-1.8
Active plus 3-6 days of weight lifting -- 1.7-2.0
Very Active plus 3-6 days of weight lifting -- 1.9-2.2
Gain Weight or Loose Weight
In order to gain or loose weight you must eat in a caloric surplus or deficit. The best way to do that is using 250-500 calories above or below your maintenance calories. You are going to gain some fat if you eat in a surplus, and you are going to loose some muscle if you eat in a deficit. But the type of weight training you do will help limit those effects.
What The Macronutrients Should Be
Once you have your daily calorie requirements you can now figure out how many proteins, carbs, and fats to consume to hit that requirement. This is the part that you will be adjusting until you feel comfortable. In general a good baseline to start with is a 40-40-20 split. That means 40% from protein and carbs, and 20% from fat.
For example a 150-pound light active person will require 1,900 calories a day to loose a pound of fat each week. 190 grams will come from protein ((1,900 x 0.4)/4). 190 grams will come from carbs ((1,900 x 0.4)/4). 42 grams will come from fat ((1,900 x 0.2)/9).
If you want to get more specific you can find the amount of grams of protein you should use by multiplying your body weight in pounds by 0.8-1.2. Use the following chart to determine:
2-3 days of weight lifting -- 0.8-0.9
3-4 days of weight lifting -- 0.9-1.0
4-5 days of weight lifting -- 1.0-1.1
5-7 days of weight lifting -- 1.1-1.2
After you have determined you protein needs you can subtract those needs from your total calories and you can split up the rest into carbs and fats.
For example a 150-pound light active person will require 1,900 calories a day to loose a pound of fat each week. They weight lift 3-4 days so 135 grams will come from protein ((150 x 0.9)/4). That leaves 1,360 calories left ((1,900-(135x4). Now take 40% for carbs and 20% for fat of 1,360. 136 grams will come from carbs ((1,360 x 0.4)/4). 30 grams will come from fat ((1,360 x 0.2)/9).
How To Track It All
Now that you have your macros on lock down you need a system to track them on a daily bases. Myfitnesspal is a free app that you can download to your phone. If you would like more options within the app you are prompted to pay a monthly fee for those services around $10. Some of the key features of Myfitnesspal are the ability to scan anything with a barcode, create your own meals to save, and find local restaurants that include the macro breakdown of their meals. There are many other apps out there that do this. But from trail and error, Myfitnesspal is the way to go. You can also access it online: https://www.myfitnesspal.com/
Ready to Go
You have figured everything out. You downloaded Myfitnesspal and plugged everything in. Stick with it for at least 2 weeks. Start taking note of how you feel. Then make the following adjustments:
Sluggish -- Higher carb percentage
Not recovering from lifts -- More protein
Joints hurt -- More fat
Gaining weight (when in deficit) -- Less calories
Loosing weight (when in surplus) -- More calories
- Look up the restaurant on the app to see the macros of the meals. If it’s not listed request the menu and then look it up on Google. If you find it on Google you can enter it in manually.
- If you are using the free version you can enter in the amount of calories you want to hit. When figuring out your macros, it will only allow you to change the percentage of them. Just get as close as you can.
- There is a progress section where you can weigh in and take a picture of yourself if you choose. Only do this once a week. Do it first thing in the morning after you go to the bathroom.
- Enter in your meal before you eat it. If you do it afterward it may be too late and you will go over your macro levels.
-Get a food scale. They are cheap and easy to use. Don’t just guess how much rice you have on your plate. Measure out how many grams.
-Hit your macros. Over or under about 10grams is acceptable. Everything else is failure.
-If you know you’re going out to dinner, then plan your day accordingly so you can eat at the restaurant you’re going to.
-Eat quality food to hit your macros and you’ll feel great. Eat crappy food to hit your macros and that’s exactly how you’ll feel.