How can I make counting macros simple?
Mateo asked this in a comment on my previous post, and it’s a big one to start off with, but I wanted to dive right in. His exact comment was,
I find the macro counting to be so cumbersome and constrictive. I get it that when I eat the proper % of carbs, proteins, and fats that I will be less hungry, but it feels like calculus. I keep going back to weight watchers for its simplicity. How can I make macros simple?
Mateo, first, let me say I also found it cumbersome (at the beginning at least) but constrictive? Well, I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a jerk, but it’s supposed to be. For me, at least, I was looking for that structure and accountability again. When left to my own devices I tend to overeat and not know how much I’m consuming.
Back in the day, when Weight Watcher’s had two plans, Flex and Core, I always chose Flex. I wanted the point limit as a guide because “eating until satisfied” doesn’t work for me. I’ve gotten better at it, but I still struggle with overeating and probably always will.
The bottom line is if you are looking to drop a few pounds constricting comes par for the course, and I hate that (the collective) we keep looking for a solution that doesn’t require some compromise in that department.
As for your calculus comment, it totally cracked me up! Yes, I get overwhelmed by the numbers some days. I especially did in the beginning, but it does get easier with practice.
I used to love Weight Watchers was because of the points. Those handy-dandy “points” made it so damn easy to estimate and track.
I approach macro counting the same way I did points, but instead of one number to track I have three which does make things more complicated. Especially since some foods are proportionally more of one macro than another — this, however, is where I think the learning power of macro counting comes into play big time.
I hate to make the Weight Watchers correlation again, but I find it uncanny how much my experience with the two are similar, especially considering I was successful with both programs. Back in the day, when I did count points, I learned real fast that, say, steamed broccoli “costs” less than French fries, lean meats would easily save me 5 points over their fattier counterparts, and I could reduce the overall points of my burger by merely skipping the cheese. So in essence, the fact I had a constrictive, point goal to stay under helped me learn how I could best balance my food choices throughout the day and make different choices to reach my goals.
Well, and I hope you know where I’m going with this, macro counting has done the same thing for me in a more precise way. For example, I learned having protein with each meal makes it easier to hit my goal and keeps me way more satisfied.
So I think I know what you’re thinking now… this all sounds great but how do I do it without getting overwhelmed?
Don’t hate me but the only way I found that’s helped is to drop the yearly $49.99 on premium MyFitnessPal (MFP). This gives you access to their Macro goals and tools. I, again, know what you’re thinking and no, I don’t work for them, and I don’t have an affiliate account. I just really like their app and service and use it every day. There may be other tools out there that work as well, but MFP is the only one I have experience with.
Once you unlock the premium tools you can set your macro goals like this:
You can even set goals by meal and days of the week if you wanted to have different macro goals for training days versus non-training days.
Once you set your Macro goals, it tracks them for you when you enter food into your journal. Here you can see my food journal plan for the day and how my macro goals are shaking out.
Notice, I said “my food journal plan for the day” because yes, I pre-plan as much as possible. I did the same thing when I counted points.
Before I go to bed, I enter anywhere from 75-100% of my food plan for the next day. Sometimes I do some meals days in advance, for example on Sunday when I’m making lunches for the week.
This week, I started Friday’s plan about two days ago because I know I’m going to the movies (The Quiet Place is opening!!) and there’s no way I’m not getting popcorn, so I’ve already been trying to figure out how to balance the rest of the day. You can see my current plan here — that’s a bit of an extreme case since I’m still in my loss maco mode and the popcorn takes up most of my fat and carbs. I may end up changing it on the fly, but at least I have a loose plan and know how that popcorn affects the rest of the day.
I hope that helps a little, Mateo. I know it seems complicated in the beginning, but it does get easier. Especially once you start using a tool like MFP because it remembers your food and meal choices. Most of the time I’m just copying meals or grabbing a recent food choice out of my history and applying it to a new day.
How did you get that nifty weight chart?
Yesterday, I shared another celebratory image on IG. It was an image of my scale’s weight app telling me I hit my goal.
Small sidebar: I always set my weight goal to 149 lbs because — and this is totally unscientific and irrational — I never, since my pre-teen years, ever remember not being at least 150 lbs. It’s a very symbolic number for me. I used the same goal for Weight Watchers. It’s arbitrary and silly, but it makes me smile when I see a “4” on the scale.
Anyway, after I posted that a few folks asked where the chart was from so, I thought I’d share a link to my favorite scale.
This thing is fantastic! Both the Husband and I have profiles on it. I step on first thing in the morning, it records my weight, shoots it to my phone, and shares it with MFP.
I also just learned you could enable it to connect to your Echo too!
The Husband and I bought it about four months ago and have no complaints.
Oh! And I love that you can access your weight data online too because I’m old and I actually still use and love my computer.
How in the world do you eat that much protein?
Okay, this is my favorite question because when I first started, I struggled in the protein department and now I wish my protein goal was higher!
I mentioned above that I spread my protein out through the day and that does help. I’ll use today’s food journal as an example again. Here’s how my protein is shaking out…
This includes my pre-workout aminos which I take as a supplement because I go to the gym at 5:30 a.m. and there’s no way I’m eating that early. The rest of the protein comes post-workout where I usually make a smoothie with banana, peanut butter flour, greens, carton egg whites and sometimes whey. If I don’t have a smoothie, then I make eggs or have a sandwich of some sort like I did yesterday.
Mid Morning “Snack”: 8g
I fear calling this a snack because it’s really just a habit I started since going back to work to remember to take my supplements. There are two things I take daily that have protein and, yes, I do track supplements as part of my overall macros.
- Two servings of these Fiber Supplements — I’ve been taking this for over a year, and it’s helped clear up all my gut issues. I had a Gastroenterologist recommend it for my *cough* loose problem. At first, it didn’t make any sense to take what’s marketed as a laxative, but I’m telling you, I rarely have any issues anymore.
- One serving of this collagen — I’m not getting younger and this may be a placebo effect but I’ve been taking these for over a year as well, and my skin, nails, and hair have never been healthier.
My lunch is usually a protein and a veggie. I either make my lunches ahead of time on Sunday’s like this or I use leftovers from dinner and pull them together throughout the week. Today I had leftover lamb from Eater, leftover beans from Taco Tuesday and tossed the two together with a bit of salsa and cardamom. Sounds weird but it was tasty. I love my homemade lunches. I’m saving a ton of money, and it’s much easier to plan and track. I usually have at least 30g of protein for lunch.
Mid Afternoon Snack: 3g
Today I brought Blackberries, and this is when I’ll chime in to tell you fruit and vegetables always have way more protein then I expect!
Dinner is always pretty easy to hit the protein because I usually cook for the family using the traditional meat-starch-veggie approach. For example, we’ll have Salisbury steak with mashed potatoes, mushrooms and Brussels sprouts, a family favorite. Or I’ll make Shrimp Pasta with Broccoli. Another night would be pork chops with asparagus and corn. It’s always something like that, so it’s pretty easy to get protein in.
After Dinner: 25g
I try to always save some macros for after dinner. Before I started tracking most of my snacks were very carb and fat heavy (popcorn, cheese and crackers, things like that) now I usually eat jerky, nuts, or my favorite new go-to casein protein.
I added Casein protein as before bed snack to not only help with hitting my protein goal but I wanted to see if it would help me sleep as well. I often mix it with a half a mashed banana and almond milk to make my quick “pudding.” It tastes great, and it helps with post-dinner, pre-bed stomach rumbles.
Some of my current other go-toes (based on what macros I have left) are Coconut Clusters, Somersaults, and ham pickle roll-ups which are precisely what they sound like, ham rolled around a kosher pickle.
Nighttime snacks all depend on my mood and what I need to hit my macros.
Today was a 149 protein gram day. That’s 1 gram under my goal. I was, however, over carbs by 7 and fat by 2. My goal is to be with five of each macro every day, so I’ll take it. As with anything, I TRY not to let perfection get in my way. I’ve been RARELY perfect since counting. I even take a day or two off from journaling now and then when I need a break and I’m still making tons of progress — 23 pounds in 16 weeks!
I hope that helps guys. If you have any other questions, leave them in the comments, and I’ll try to answer them when I can!
*Featured Post Image modified from https://shapescale.com/blog/health/nutrition/why-macronutrients-are-important/