Top 5 Tips for Tracking Macros

As many of you probably know, I currently track macros (and have been for about 7-8 months now). I started after my first visit with a sports nutritionist and have continued on ever since. While some days I give myself a break from it (it can get tough at stressful/busy times), I ultimately want to continue doing so because 1) it helps me reach my goals 2) it gives me consistency and 3) I can track my progress. For more of the truth behind macros, check out this post.

Now for you, whether or not you count macros I want to provide you with a list of my top 5 tips for tracking that you can then use and customize to fit your needs, lifestyle, goals, etc. These are just my opinion of the most important ones, the tips that really will help you start counting and continue doing so in a way that best fits your life. So without further ado here is tip #1….

#1: Read the nutrition labels

If you’re going to be tracking what you eat, then you probably should know what’s actually going into your bodies to make up those macro numbers. Not only that but it’s important to realize how a food is going to affect your macros and eating for the day. Maybe you didn’t realize a food was so high in fat-now would be a good time to see if it could realistically fit into your macros for the day or what kinds of switches you may need to make. For example, I only buy fat-free yogurt because I would rather spend my fats on other things such as nut butters, oils, avocado, etc. However, when my fats got higher, I tended to buy fattier meats such as 93/7 ground turkey (rather than 99/1) in order to better fit my macros in for the day.

#2: Get a Scale

First and foremost let me just say that a scale is not 100% necessary, but it is a big step in guaranteeing as much as accuracy as possible–which can be very important in most cases of tracking macros. This is especially crucial in the beginning, when you’re first getting started with weighing, measuring, counting, etc. Now that I’ve been doing it for a few months, there are some things I can decently eyeball (such as avocado, veggies, or cheese) when I have to (i.e. eating out or in a rush), but even now I aim to use my scale as much as possible to ensure that I am accurate in my food tracking.

#3: Plan/Prepare Ahead

This tip can be especially helpful to those with very busy lives like myself. I know some people that put their food into their trackers as they go, but for me, it is much easier to ensure that I hit my macros and don’t stress at the end of the day, if I plan my meals out the night before. Also, going off this tip is to find a way to track your macros whether that be through an app, excel, paper, etc. I suggest using myFitnessPal (MFP) app, but there are other options as well. To plan, I just add everything that I am going to eat the next day into MFP and then if need be I can easily rearrange or add/take away foods to hit my macros rather than stuffing random foods in or going over at the end of the day. Preparing your meals also helps so that you can have meals and snacks prepared to bring do that you know you have foods to keep you on track instead of worrying about finding something macro-friendly while out and about. (**But if on occasion you have to get something out and it isn’t perfect, don’t stress!)

#4: Find foods that work for you

This one is killer! I used to always try new foods and add random foods in each week and then stress about hitting my macros each time. Instead find the foods that works for your lifestyle, your preferences, your body, and your macros and stick to them! This does NOT mean you have to eat the same old boring chicken, rice and veggies for every meal like some people think–you can still enjoy foods, eating what you like and switching things up. But, it is much easier when you stick to the foods that you know are easy to fit into your macros and then change stuff up once your macros decrease, increase or change. For example, I love oatmeal and sweet potatoes, but when my carbs got very high, I had to eat less of these. Otherwise my fiber would be in the 45-55g range–which was way too high and was causing me issues! I still incorporate sweet potatoes and oatmeal into my diet; however, I use less amounts and instead eat more white rice, cream of rice, white bagels/english muffins, etc.

#5: Be patient

Patience is key! You cannot track macros for 2 days and expect instant results–like anything in life! It may take a few weeks of experimenting, trying different splits out, until you find what works best for your body, your activity level, your lifestyle, and your goals–the answer isn’t always easily found! But don’t get discouraged because over time you will find what works for you and it will be smooth sailing (for the most part) from there. Be determined to reach your goals, be patient, and be consistent–and I promise you macros will work for you just like they do for everybody!

The Truth Behind Counting and Measuring

While macros can be all fun and great when you start seeing results from following them, there is definitely a dark side to it all. At least at the beginning of tracking. I don’t say this to scare you away or discourage you from starting to count and track macros if you want–I just want to give a little warning of some of the frustrations and hassle you may feel at first. All this information is coming first hand from me and my experience, and although each person is different, I have read similar stories from other people about this too. So, the information seems pretty similar across the board for those just starting to track.

If you truly want to be accurate when tracking, the first thing it comes down to is weighing and measuring everything. If you don’t have a food scale already, investing in a good one is going to be very important. Oftentimes, food will have serving sizes in terms of measuring cups (like 1/2 cup or 2 tbsp.) which is fine for some things such as maybe peanut butter; however, those measurements don’t always take into account things like air space so a scale is going to be much more accurate.For example, my walnuts box says a serving is 1/4 cup or about 28 g. Whenever I used to measure 1/8 a cup (half serving) I would get 2-3 walnuts, but when I measured out 14 g I would get about 4-5 walnuts depending on size. You can see there is a difference and when you want to be accurate, the scale is going to be the better place to go.

For those of you saying, do I really need to be accurate, that depends. If you’re just wearily counting macros then accuracy isn’t the biggest concern. But, if you want to count macros, and track them and reach them every day, then accuracy is ver important, especially in the beginning. Do not eye-ball or rough estimate things because our perception of measurements and amounts can be way off. I’ve heard that once you’ve been tracking for a few months, you get used to the right amounts and how much your body needs so strictly measuring isn’t as important…but it still is important for tracking macros.

To be honest, this is where the annoyance and frustrations come in: measuring and weighing everything There are times where I feel like it takes more time for me to measure my oatmeal, protein powder, banana, walnuts, blueberries, and almond butter than it does to actually eat my breakfast. (Probably slight exaggeration, but it seems like it sometimes). A good thing to remember here is that it is important and helping you reach your goals and your macros. After a few days, for me, it seems almost satisfying to know exactly how much is going into my body because I know I am helping it by doing this. I’ve been at it about 2.5 weeks now and it is still annoying and timely at times, but I just keep working at it and doing so because I know the benefits of it. Now, even then I’m not perfect every time. Sometimes I forget to measure before I throw the banana in my protein shake or I measure out my oatmeal with a cup rather than weighing it, but even when I do forget to, I don’t give it up completely. I just start back on track with my next meal.

Hopefully, this information has helped prepare you if you  want to start tracking. Don’t be intimated by counting and tracking macros or all the time and “frustrations” that may seem to come with it. It’s just like starting anything new, it will be difficult at first, but within time you will get the hang of it–meanwhile reaping the many benefits of doing so. I would encourage people who have a fitness goal and are very serious about reaching it (especially for muscle gain or fat loss), to get your macros calculated if possible and start tracking your food. There are even great apps online (such as My Fitness Pal or Myplate) that help you! It may not seem like much, but slowly and surely you will see and feel the difference it will make. And that is the best part of it all!

What are your thoughts? Do you have an ideas on tracking and counting?

My Macros and Day of Eating

If you missed my past two Sports Nutritionist experience blogs you can check out Part 1 and Part 2 here. Today’s post is the last leg of the my nutritionist experience (until more updates, which let’s be real, there will be updates). I’m slightly hesitant on sharing some of this information and not just because it’s personal…but, because it is personal, everybody is going to be different and what works for one person (me) may not work for others (you). However, I think this can help you get an idea of what my macro goals are currently and why as well as an example days this week of what I’ve eaten.

First, I’ll say this again: everybody is different. Calories and macros are going to differ based on body type, body composition, metabolism, RMR (resting metabolic rate), body goals (lose fat, gain muscle, etc.), activity level, previous issues (restricting your metabolism), and much more. So keep in this mind as you look at my diet and macros and compare them to your life. I hope this helps people understand some basics and how attainable it is, but also that no lie it is a struggle at times. If you want to start tracking macros for yourself, I would suggest you meet with a dietician or nutritionist of some sort or another trainer who can calculate your personal numbers for you! With that, here I go…

For me, my goal to aim for hitting each day is 140 g protein, 70 g fat, and 300 g carbohydrates–which gives me a total of around 2400 calories a day (technically 2390 when you do the math). Yes, this is a lot of carbs, but as mentioned before, I am trying to gain weight and gain muscle so this phase I am on is “bulking” (versus a cutting phase). The nutritionist said I actually need to be eating around 3000 calories to boost my metabolism and increase my RMR, but if I increased it to 3000 right away, I would put on fat which I definitely don’t want. So the nutritionist stuck me with 2400 a day.

The biggest thing people probably think when I need to gain muscle and weight is that I can fill my diet with junk food or processed food or added sugar, but in actuality, I fill my diet with whole, nutritious food most of the time. The only time there will be more processed food is right after a workout because this is the time you need those fast acting carbs (pretzels, goldfish, Ritz crackers, etc.) For me, reaching my carb and fat goal has been difficult whereas I tend to go over in protein. I am working hard to try and switch things around to correct this (because you want to get right onto your macros as possible and not go over). So with that here is one example day of what I ate!

*Note I have more added sugar in my diet today that I normally like or have*

Breakfast: 1 Siggi’s 0% yogurt (Acai and Mixed berries) and 2 pieces of Rudi’s Sprouted Honey Wheat Bread–1 with 1/2 tbsp natural peanut butter and 100 g banana, and 1 piece with little less than 1 tsp. whipped butter

Snack 1 (after workout): 1 oz. Original Beef Jerky and 24 Pretzel snaps

Lunch: 133 g of sweet potato mashed (about and mixed with 4 oz. rotisserie chicken, 2 cups of kale and 90 g of butternut squash (both sautéed in a little olive oil)

Snack 2: 100 calorie pack almonds, 1 clementine, 1 ultra thin slice Sargento provolone cheese

Snack 3: Oatmega Protein Bar

Dinner: 2 oz. Banza Chickpea Pasta with spinach, broccoli, and tomatoes mixed in, side of steamed yellow squash/zucchini slices, 1 honeycrisp apple, 6 oz. glass of 1% milk

Snack 4: Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain English muffin topped with 1.25 tbsp. Justin’s Classic Almond Butter, 1/4 cup blueberries and 1/4 cup strawberries (mini dessert pizzas)

If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear from you and help answer them! I plan to do more “days of eating” in the future if they are helpful, so let me know!

Sports Nutritionist: The Basics

So, last week I posted about this new change that was happening in my life–I had visited a sports nutritionist to make eating changes as well as get my macros calculated. Today I thought I would share just a little bit of the basics like what things we talked about, why macros and basically what I was given to do and eat. I won’t go deep into detail because some of it is personal, but I think it is good to be real and as transparent as I can to a) possibly help others in similar situations and b) allow readers to understand this situation.

The reason I wanted to go to a sports nutritionist started off over Christmas break after I had DexaFit testing done. DexaFit basically does different body tests and scans to tell you your body fat %, body composition (how much fat and muscle and where), max heart rate, etc. I really enjoyed finding out my results, but I knew that the one big thing was I needed (and wanted) to gain weight, but I wanted it to be mostly all lean muscle. I knew I would have to gain some fat back to recover from my weight loss, but I wanted to focus on building back that muscle, which mean eating enough and eating the right things–something I couldn’t manage to do with my “restrictive eating”. This is where finding a sports nutritionist came into play. I knew she would be able to help me with my macros, what kinds of foods to eat, etc. to help me in my growth. Especially because she works heavily with athletes and would understand my situation a lot better than some others would.

Before the appointment, I had to fill out papers on my eating and lifestyle habits as well as keep a food log (this wasn’t an issue as I already track everything I eat in Livestrong’s Myplate app). After understanding my background and how I got to my current situation, she was able to look over my eating and suggest things. For example, she upped my carbs really high so on a day when I had a chicken/sweet potato/veggie mexican bowl dish that I created for lunch, she wanted me to add a piece of fruit and whole-grain crackers to my meal to add more carbs that I wasn’t getting. Now, before I was getting plenty of carbs, but as an athlete carbs are the main source of energy for our activities so I definitely need more than the average.

Before I go into what the macros she calculated for me, I want to explain why I like macros and tracking them. I know there are plenty of people out there who only track calories or who say don’t track anything because its bad mentally and just go with how you feel. Either of those work, but for me, especially when I have my goal of building lots of strong, lean muscle to gain weight (without gaining a lot of fat), macros are super helpful. By setting a certain goal for macros, I know I am eating enough calories because that is how you track macros in the first place. 1 gram of carbs, proteins and fats equal different a certain amount of calories; so with a quick calculation finding my macros therefore means I am eating the right number of calories. I also see a lot of people associate IIFYM (if it fits your macros) with flexible dieting, which is true, it does give you a little flexibility with your eating. You can still enjoy that dessert of some chips or popcorn as long as you plan your other eating around those macro numbers in your treat so that at the end of the day you still stay within your limits. For example, last night I had a banana split sundae with a large banana and Ben and Jerry’s half-baked ice cream all while staying within my carb and fat macros limits.

One big thing I want to mention here though, is that  flexible does not mean give up fueling your body with clean, healthy foods and go for the junk all the time “as long as it fits.” When I met with the nutritionist, she didn’t tell me to get my extra calories and carbs from sugary treats, processed foods, greasy fries and chips, she still told me to eat lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbs (think sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat products, etc.). But the good thing about the macros is that if you want that treat every now and then, you can still have it while knowing you are staying on track for your goals.

So, that’s some of the basics of my first visit. Next week, I’ll post about my specific macros and how my tracking and IIFYM lifestyle is going! If you have any comments or questions I would be happy to answer them!!