A Day in Macros

What are macros anyway? Many of you have probably heard about them, especially in the fitness world. There are 3 macronutrients (macros) that make up most of our food: Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat. Some people keep track of their macro intake in grams to reach certain body composition goals, to improve their knowledge of portion size, or to make sure they are getting the right balance of foods in their diet for optimum health and performance. Macronutrients affect many processes in our body including the ability to digest food and absorb nutrients, hormone production, immune system health, cell structure and function, body composition, metabolic function, energy levels and much more.[1]  Each meal you consume should include a balance of the 3 macronutrients, whether you are tracking or not, because they all work in conjunction with one another! The ideal ratio (% or grams) of each macro will depend on your body type, weight, genetics, activity level and food preferences.

Why count macros?  Well, if you find that your body composition isn’t where you want it to be, or your progress is stagnant no matter how much you work out, then maybe your macro balance is off, and a simple adjustment or awareness to what you are fueling your body with could help!  I started counting macros because I wanted to see how it would affect my training, energy levels, injury prevention and recovery time after workouts.  Counting macros is definitely not for everyone. It requires a ton of work, dedication, patience, preparation, and math, but it works for me and I have seen many benefits from doing it.  Counting macros opened my eyes to much more than just the types of foods I am eating.  It showed me proper portion sizes, mindfulness, preparation skills and flexibility with my food choices.  It also brought an awareness to what foods I was overeating or under eating.  Coming from a strict paleo diet (which I still think has many great principles) I found that I was missing important food groups that are high in fiber and help with digestion, like whole grains, and the vitamins and probiotics found in some dairy.  I was overeating fats by huge quantities because I assumed that if they were healthy foods I could consume as much as I wanted – nuts, nut butters, and paleo 'treats' were my biggest pitfall – they were just so delicious. Over consumption of any one thing, even healthy or natural foods, can contribute to a nutritional imbalance, and a lack of ideal body composition and progress.

Now that I have a better understanding of foods and macro balance, I am much more flexible with my diet, and I do not have to exclude any specific food groups.  There is no more guilt associated with eating certain foods that were previously ‘off limits’.  Now I can enjoy my dad’s Italian risotto, have oatmeal for my pre-workout, or enjoy pancakes on the weekends...because pancakes!! 

The majority of my meals include lean proteins (chicken, turkey, white fish, prawns, eggs) non-starchy vegetables, fruits, minimally processed and mostly gluten-free grains, healthy fats, and a little bit of dairy.  I cook most of my meals at home so I know exactly what is in them, which eliminates the guessing game, but I make sure to go out occasionally and have date nights with my boyfriend or brunch with my friends, because you have to enjoy life too!   I make room for dessert most nights because I have a sweet tooth and I know that making it fit my macros is better than restricting and then ultimately losing control and overeating some day because of the deprivation I created.  If someone were to tell me I had to go the rest of my life without eating a cookie from the Colville Street Patisserie or a cinnamon roll from Bacon & Eggs, I know I wouldn’t be able to sustain that, so a diet recommendation like that would never work for me in the long run and I would fail. Nobody likes the feeling of failure and it can create a vicious cycle that negatively impacts your health and mindset.  To make sure I have a plan I can stick to, succeed with, and follow indefinitely, I am not going to deprive myself of those things; I just work them in a few times each month and am satisfied and happy.  It’s all about creating a balance that works for you, but the focus is still on eating mostly nutritious, whole, and unprocessed foods.  This method of creating balance without excluding specific foods is also known as ‘flexible dieting’. I read something in a book called The Lean Muscle Diet recently that made sense to me regarding balancing foods.  “A quality diet looks like this: 80% whole and minimally processed foods you like, 10% whole and minimally processed foods you don’t necessarily like, but don’t hate, and 10% whatever you want –pure junky goodness.”[2]

Since I get asked so often what I eat and how I make it all fit, I thought it would be fun to show everyone a typical day in macros for me, using photos.  I talk a little bit about each meal in the notes, and what substitutions or products I use to get it to work for my numbers.  I chose a day that used mostly simple meals rather than some of the elaborate meal prepping recipes I make, to show how you can take what you may have in your fridge or pantry and create something exciting and tasty.  If you are eating plain chicken and plain veggies every day, you are going to get bored really quick. Keeping things varied and interesting is the key to success, just like in our CrossFit workouts!  Another key to success in any nutrition plan is consistency, not perfection.

And now for the food...enjoy!  Coach Amy Locati

From largest photo clockwise: Breakfast, Mid-morning snack, Lunch, Pre-Workout snack, Dinner, Dessert.

From largest photo clockwise: Breakfast, Mid-morning snack, Lunch, Pre-Workout snack, Dinner, Dessert.

Current Daily Macros – 115P, 165C, 48F  25g Fiber                                          

Breakfast 7:00-8:00am 15.5P, 17.9C, 5.2F

Egg white scramble with red and green bell peppers, sweet onions, green onions, fresh parsley and salsa verde.  Beverages include a coconut-lime kombucha and black coffee. 

A decent amount of protein is good after your nightly fast (sleeping) to get your metabolism going and keep you full and satiated until your next meal, so I usually make a scramble each morning. Since I work out in the evenings I add non-starchy Carbs like colorful veggies so that I can place my starchier Carbs closer to my workout times to get the most out of them.

Snack 11:00-11:30am 14.1P, 15.7C, 0.3F

Siggi’s Dairy Vanilla Bean Skyr (Icelandic yogurt) with raspberries. 

I like Siggi’s brand yogurt because it is high in protein and doesn’t contain any weird ingredients or refined sugars. I choose raspberries most often because they are one of the highest in fiber content per serving as far as fruit goes.  Occasionally I will sprinkle Kashi Go Lean cereal on the top for added crunch and fiber content. I try to rotate my fruits so I am not always eating the same things, but berries are what I focus on because of all the great anti-oxidants.

Lunch 1:00-1:30pm 35.9P, 30.3C, 12.1F  

Slow Cooker Adobo Chicken from SkinnyTaste Fast and Slow Cookbook

I meal prep a lot of recipes from the SkinnyTaste cookbooks and blog because all the nutritional information and macros are listed, so I can flip through and find what meals work for me.  I added a side of brown rice with cilantro, and some pan roasted Brussel sprouts to ensure I have a nice balance of Protein, Carb, and Fat.

Pre-workout 3:30-4:00pm 10.3P, 34.2C, 10.1F  

Gluten Free Quick Oats with PB2, Banana, Pecans and Cinnamon

I use PB2 (powdered peanut butter) because it has about 85% less fat than regular nut butters, that way I can still enjoy one of my favorite things without blowing all my fats in one meal. The banana and oats give me great energy for my workout and are slow digesting, keeping me full until dinner time.  Pecans are high in Vitamin E, monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants, and cinnamon adds a nice spice and contains great anti-inflammatory properties.

Dinner 7:30-8:00pm 30P, 29.9C, 7.3F

Wild-caught Atlantic Cod, Sautéed Sweet Potato, and Roasted Beet Salad with red onions, oranges, baby kale, blue cheese and lemon squeezed over the top.    

Wild-Caught fish is a great lean protein and a healthy source of Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamins such as B-12. Some cod can have high levels of sodium, so always look for wild-caught, and read your nutritional labels if buying frozen.  Yams or sweet potatoes are a good starchy Carb to eat post workout to replace muscle glycogen and enhance the role of insulin in transporting nutrients into cells.[3] The salad gives a nice balance of micronutrients. Each vegetable and fruit brings different nutrients with it, so variety (and color) is key to ensuring all types of vitamins and minerals are consumed.

Dessert 9:00pm 13.1P, 36.7C, 11.8F

Homemade Black Bean Brownie, PB2 and Vanilla Bean Halo Top Ice Cream

The black bean brownies are from a recipe I adapted from a blog called Chocolate Covered Katie. She creates some healthier versions of treats and lists out the nutritional information for each recipe online, but I often still modify the recipes a bit to make them work for me.  I try to consume any sweets or treats at the end of the day so I have something to look forward to, and only if I earned them (worked out). This also helps me from caving in to other temptations throughout the day because I know it is waiting for me later. I like Halo Top ice cream because it has a higher protein/lower fat/lower sugar content than most ice creams, but I am mindful to stick to 1 serving of 66g (about a half cup). Treats should always be consumed in moderation and only after getting the most nutritious foods in first.

Disclaimer:  My macro numbers are individualized based on my body type, weight, goals and activity level.  They will likely not be suitable for anyone else. My macro numbers have been revised 5-6 times in the past 6 months by my coach (yes I have a coach too!) as my body, weight and training have evolved and changed. I mention this just to show that there is no single method or number that always works indefinitely – change is constant. I aim for +/- 5g of Protein and Carb and +/- 2g Fat when trying to hit my numbers each day.

[1] Berardi, John M. The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. Second ed. N.p., 2016. Print.

[2] Schuler, Lou, and Alan Aragon. The Lean Muscle Diet. New York: Rodale, 2015. Print.

[3] Berardi, John M. "All About Post-Workout Nutrition." Precision Nutrition. N.p., 05 July 2016. Web. 29 Mar. 2017. <http://www.precisionnutrition.com/about-post-workout-nutrition>.