Ok, so having a specific goal for your protein, fats and carbs each day seems like the way to go, but how do you know the amounts of each that you will need?
There are a couple of ways. The easiest would be to get a coach, or someone to do it for you. You let them know roughly what you have been eating, and some other info like body weight, height, etc and they can calculate your macros. Online coaches are relatively inexpensive, and will also alter your macros as needed. I find I am more successful if I have someone I am answerable to. And as I am competing again then I like to have a coach to help me with this as well.
Paul Revelia (www.prophysique.com) does my nutrition and macros for me and I would definitely recommend him as a coach.
There are also some great online resources available www.melvfitness.blogspot.com.au and www.soheefit.com both have e-books on how to calculate your macros specifically. And www.nickcheadlefitness.com has a flexible dieting guide if you sign up to an online newsletter. I haven’t read these personally, but I do follow these guys on social media and like what they have to say about it all.
Alternatively you can work out your own macros, and there are a couple of ways to do this. One is that you track all of your food for a week then you simply average out the amount of fat/protein/carbs you are having each day. If you have been maintaining on this amount of food, then these would be your “maintenance macros” or, if you have been gaining/losing weight on this, then these are the macros that you would be using to gain/lose weight. It’s a good starting point at least.
The problem with doing it this way is that your total calorie intake may be about right, but your macronutrient split might not be. For example, if you lowered your fat intake and increased your carbs/protein but kept total cals the same, you may get quite different results. Although, still a good starting point and with a bit of trial and error it shouldn’t take too long to get it right.
The other way to calculate (easier) is to use an online macro calculator. This will be less personalised but again, is good as a starting point and you can change it as required. www.iifym.com/iifym-calculator It will calculate your TDEE as well. You need to add in your height, weight and some other information. You may need to guess a couple of things, some boxes have different options so either try a couple of different combinations and then work out an average of those, or I would suggest using the “Athletes formula” formula in the first section unless you know your body fat percentage.
In the second section if you are looking for fat loss I use “suggested” as I think its better to start off this way, and then if you find you aren’t getting the results you still have room to move. If you reduce too much too early then this gives you less room to move later on. Otherwise choose to maintain, or bulk etc.
In the third section use “IIFYM” and for protein I use 1-1.15g per lb of body weight (if you are used to eating less protein, use less but probably no less than 0.8g) and for fat I use 0.35-0.45g per lb of body weight. If you know you work better with higher fats then adjust this. I would say it is a safe assumption that a lot of females would be on a relatively low carb/cal/fat diet by default so around 0.35g could be a good place to start.
I also aim for 20-50g fibre each day.
I use the My Fitness Pal app to track my food. You can change the total calorie goal on the website (on the homepage go to Goals, Change Goals, check “custom” and Continue.)
To calculate your total daily calorie intake, you use your macro amounts:
1g of protein, and 1g of carb = 4 calories.
1g of fat = 9 calories.
So from this you can see how a small amount of fat can easily add up to a lot of calories.
After getting your macros set up, and utilising the Fitness Pal app to track, I would give it a good couple of weeks to see how its working. A great way to monitor progress is to take photos – so a before one, and then each week or every second week take progress photos to compare.
You may feel as though it isn’t working, but when you compare photos it makes it easier to see any differences. If you are looking and feeling better, and seem to be dropping weight (if fat loss is your goal) then once you are where you want to be, then you could look at doing a reverse diet and slowly adding calories each week.
Alternatively if it doesn’t seem to be working (fat loss) then drop your carbs and fats slightly. The smaller the drop, the slower weight loss will be and the LONGER you will keep the weight off. Remember this is not about a quick fix. Don’t get tempted to drop a whole lot of calories to lose weight faster. Slow and steady wins the race.
A total calorie drop of around 100-200 cals (depending on totals) would be a good deficit amount to begin with. Keep protein the same, and decrease calories using carbs and fats. Bear in mind that fats are important for weight loss so don’t use them for the majority of the decrease.
It can be a bit tricky working out what foods to have when you start off. If anything, to begin with it makes you more aware of what you are eating, and as you get better at it you will find it easier to hit your daily marcos more accurately. I am at a stage now where I know what I can fit in without having to go through the app to add it. You get a feel for it the more you do it, and some people eventually stop tracking and just go off intuitive eating, which is the same as IIFYM but you don’t have to physically track your food, you know what you should be eating each day without it.
If you aim to get within 5g of each macronutrient consistently each day, then you will be fine.
Also remember its not the end of the world if you have slip ups – this can happen especially to start with, and is not worth beating yourself up over. Its best to just not worry about it, move on and get back on track the next day. You will find this happens less and less as well, and if bingeing has been an issue in the past it should eventually stop with flexible dieting. Woo! Enjoy the pop tarts!