Tracking your macros can help you increase calories and carbohydrates to achieve not only a leaner physique but also experience increased levels of athletic performance and strength.
All of those things are what every all-natural athlete is looking to achieve right? Two of the ABOUT TIME AThletes are here to help our readers figure out this whole “IIFYM” (if it fits your macros) and tracking your macros world.
Macros, stands for macronutrients, which are your carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. All essential for the body to perform at optimal levels – so why have certain diets over the years popped up advocating the removal of one or more of them? Thanks to Corrie and Luke our readers can now start to see why these diets are merely short-term options and not long-term sustainable dietary plans.
Here’s what I’ve been doing the past four months! Eating. Tracking. Eating some more. Tracking some more.
And look at my results: (the top photo is June 2014 and the bottom photo is October 2014)
Do you see a difference? There might not be too much physical change in the pictures, but here is the progress.
Row 1 – 1500 calories (daily average) and 110g carbs
Row 2 – 2100 calories (daily average) and 230g carbs
Row 1 – 124.5 LBS / waist 26in. (I am 5’4)
Row 2 – 125.5 LBS / waist 26in. (still 5’4)
Row 1 – Body Fat Percentage: no idea
Row 2 – Body Fat Percentage: no idea
I’ve increased strength in every single lift, I feel great, and my metabolism is kicking into high gear.
Do you see that? I have increased my food intake by 40%, carbs by over 100%, and look the SAME, if not better! And I am still increasing my intake about every two weeks. It’s been a gradual process, and I’m still a work in progress.
Earlier this year I realized I had been in maintenance mode for so long, and I was ready to make physique changes again. The first thing I started doing was actually tracking my food and macronutrients, (upon my friend Luke’s recommendation) and realized I was eating WAY TOO LITTLE for how much activity I do. (Normally I never wasted the time tracking my food!)
Now Corrie & Luke are here to answer all the questions that just came to you after seeing her stats:
What Do You Eat?
Essentially, you eat whatever you want and no food is off limits, as long as it fits your macros. For me, I usually stick with “cleaner” foods like lean meats, veggies, starches, etc. about 80% of the time and fill in the rest with pita chips and dessert. (Depends on the day – sometimes that’s more like 60%! :-) )
How Do I Know What My Macros Are?
Corrie: For me, this was a lot of trial and error to figure out. You do need to do your research.
Luke: My recommendation would be to find a starting point. I generally have clients track for a week (WITHOUT CHANGING EATING HABITS) to determine what they have been consuming and then also look at if they have been maintaining, losing, or gaining weight. This offers the benefit of being very individualized due to metabolic adaptation. If you are able to maintain your weight at a large caloric intake you are sitting pretty, meaning if you want to lose weight you could still eat a lot, just less. I determine this amount on an individual basis depending on what the individual’s goals are.
You could also figure out your starting caloric intake by multiplying your body weight by a set value, which will differ based on activity level and type of training.
For example, if you are 200 pounds and use a starting value of 12 calories/pound. This would equate to 2,400 calories. Consume this calorie amount for 2 weeks and see if you lose, gain, or maintain weight.
Again, depending on your goal is where you go from here. If you lost weight and that’s your goal, keep consuming that amount. If you gained weight and you wanted to lose, cut back the calories. If you maintained and wanted to lose, cut back calories.
You also need a percentage of carbohydrate, fat, protein. I like starting with 40:30:30.
.4 x 2400 = 960 / 4 = 240g Carbs
.3 x 2400 = 720 / 4 = 180g Protein
.3 x 2400 = 720 / 9 = 80g Fat
How Do I Track My Macros?
We both use an app called My Macros +. There’s also My Fitness Pal, or plenty of others you can find online. You need a food scale and a good set of measuring cups to help you calculate the correct amounts.
Wanna Know More About IIFYM?
There are many sites out there with macro calculators, blogs, and tons of info. We both recommend watching Dr. Layne Norton’s videos on macros HERE.
So are they’re telling us that we can eat whatever we want….If it fits?? Not exactly
IIFYM does not stand for if it fits your mouth.
First, you need to determine an adequate amount of calories for yourself and your goal. If you are trying to gain mass, you’re going to be in a SLIGHT surplus, let’s not turn bulking into just getting obese here (as we all have seen it and maybe experienced it ourselves, I know I have.) If you’re happy where you are and are just looking to fuel your training you need to make sure you are getting enough calories and if you are looking to lose fat, you obviously have to be in the red and be in a caloric deficit. This is determined a few ways but is based on the individual.
Once you know how many calories you need for your goal you can play around with your diet to see how many carbohydrates you perform optimally with and when you want to consume them. I personally start out with 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein and 30% fat and adjust from there. Right now I am sitting at 45% carbohydrate, 30% protein and 25% fat.
There are many diets that work. I have done low carb, Carb Nite, bodybuilding style eating 6 meals/ day and they have all helped me and numerous others shed pounds. The benefit of #IIFYM or Flexible Dieting is that it fits YOUR lifestyle. I generally eat 3-4 meals per day and ensure each one has an appropriate amount of quality protein.
The most important take away is be comfortable with your diet, eat whole foods but don’t be afraid to have that piece of birthday cake, just track it.
Do you know someone who is trying to lose fat, gain muscle, or doesn’t know where to start nutritionally? Share this blog with them and connect them with our knowledgable athletes below. Or connect if you have additional questions for them – they would be happy to help you!
Thanks Corrie and Luke!