If you’ve followed my fitness journey over the years (especially my WBFF journey) you’ve probably heard me throw the word “macros” around – and you may have wondered what I’m harping on about – well let me explain! “Macros” is basically short for macronutrients, the nutrients that make up our food. Macros consist of three types – protein, carbohydrates and fats.
So when I say that I’m counting my macros, well I’m doing precisely that; I’m tracking and counting every gram of protein (1g protein = 4 calories), fat (1g carbs = 9 calories) and carbs (1g carbs = 4 calories) that I consume on a daily basis.
So why would anyone go through this process of weighing, measuring and tracking every single thing they put in their mouth?
Counting Macros – the benefits
Well, tracking your macros can actually be the difference between making a slight difference to your physique or totally fine-tuning your physique, so you achieve the best physical results possible.
Yes, it may be time-consuming (at first), but it basically takes all the guesswork out of what you’re trying to achieve. Whether that’s wanting to build muscle, lose weight, or to prepare your body for a photoshoot or fitness/bodybuilding competition on stage, I personally think counting Macros is essential! It would be very difficult to achieve optimal results by just going on intuition and it’s usually a massive eye-opener for people, because it highlights exactly where they’ve been going wrong with their diet and why they have been struggling to reach their goals!
Now let me be clear – nothing is entirely accurate when it comes to tracking BUT by recording what you’re eating with the likes of My Fitness Pal, you’ll at least have a better idea of what you’re intaking in term of calories and macros. Plus if something isn’t working for you, it becomes easier to tweak your macros – say more protein and less carbs, in order to get you closer to your goals.
Whenever I have prepped for stepping on stage (four times now!), or prepared for a photoshoot, I’ve always, ALWAYS calculated my calories and macros and tracked my foods. It gets me the best results I believe I can possibly achieve. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried the “old-fashioned” dieting way and it just doesn’t work that well. It’s impossible to know if you’re in a surplus one day or in a deficit another, and there’s no consistency – and consistency is key if you want to get the best results!
Placing 2nd in WBFF World Champs was one of my biggest achievements!
Is Counting Macros for you?
If you’re one of my clients then 100% YES! I find that just a few months of tracking and being more aware of the foods that you’re eating really helps you to become more in tune with your body. It’s certainly not something I’d advise doing forever as at times it can be quite restrictive, not to mention timely. I won’t lie – it’s not easy when you first start out and can take a good few weeks of practice to get the hang of it, but once you do you don’t have to be so rigorous!
Many of my clients will do around 3-6 months of tracking, depending on their goals and then find that they can go back to eating “normally” whilst being more aware of what they are consuming. It can be a great way to gain control!
However, like anything there is a dark side to tracking and I’m very conscious of the fact that it can send people nuts and into more of a “control freak” type way of eating. If it starts to impact on your life and you find you cannot get through each day without tracking everything you’re eating, even if you’re not working towards a specific goal, then this isn’t a healthy place to be in! Also, if you’re using it to gain control of an eating disorder, I wouldn’t necessarily advise this either, not without the right guidance or support.
I’ve worked with many clients over the years, who have goals to lose weight, goals to build muscle and also goals to PUT on weight. In fact, recently I worked with one lady to help her gain control of her eating disorder and to help her see that fuelling and nourishing her body was a much better way to help her to reach her body goals than starving herself. Tracking her macros helped her to gain a much healthier weight and to also learn to love her body in the process, which was amazing! She’s still doing well now and for that I’m thankful that I get to help people like this every day. Tracking macros can be great for everybody once you know how!
Proven results from some of my wonderful clients!
How to work out your macros
Everyone’s macros are different – so if your gym buddy is following certain macros then don’t be tempted to use her macro measurement – work out your own! To do this, I suggest using Alan Aragon’s method. I went to one of his seminars years ago and have used his method since!
So first things first….
1. Find your BMR – Base Metabolic Rate – technically the amount of calories you need to function, not taking into account exercising. I use the Harris-Benedict equation via Bodybuilding.com here.
2. Calculate your TDE (Total Daily Expenditure) – estimate your energy needs by taking your target body weight in pounds x (9-11 + average total weekly training hours)
9-11 relates to intensity of exercise – where 9 is low intensity, 10 medium intensity, 11 high intensity –how hard do you feel you train?
Average 4-7 hours weight training + cardio per week
Once you have your BMR and TDE, you can base your calories on the TDE and then whatever your goals are i.e. to build muscle or lose fat.
Then work out your macros…
1. Protein (4 calories per gram):
2.2 (ideal starting point) x total body weight in kg = protein target in grams
protein target in grams x 4 = calories from protein
2. Fats (9 calories per gram):
0.3-0.6 (depending on whether wanting low fat or high fat) x total body weight in pounds = fat target in grams
fat target in grams x 9 = calories from fats
3. Carbs (4 calories per gram):
This equation comes last, after you have worked out the protein and fats, and is made up of whatever calories you have left over, so: calories left over / 4 = carbs in grams.
Carb target in grams x 4 = calories from carbs
It’s not just the calculations that work magic though because quite honestly they don’t work alone. I’ve built up a lot of experience over the years from dieting myself, as well as helping many clients to reach their body goals and to step on stage. So both go hand in hand when I’m putting together my clients nutritional plan. I use the calculations as a guideline and then set their nutrition plan based on a number of variables.
Do I count my macros?
Not at the moment! They have honestly varied so much over the years, and nowadays I just make sure that I eat three solid meals a day, plus a couple of snacks. I eat little and often, keep myself fuelled and never allow myself to go too hungry.
What I’ve learnt in all my years of tracking and training is to ALWAYS eat protein with every meal and eat more calories and carbs on the days that I train hard. I’m a real carb-fiend so most of my meals will contain carbs in some form – (think quinoa, potatoes, pasta, rice or oats), and I always have at least three portions of fruit per day and keep my fat intake fairly moderate through nut butters, avocado and oils.
One of my favourite things…pancakes! Get the recipe here!
Do I need to track forever to stay in shape?
Not necessarily BUT the more you do it – the easier it is to maintain your results and become a more intuitive eater! Everyone is different and once you find what works for you it’s liberating!
So there you have it! In my eyes, tracking macros has worked wonders for all my clients (and me!) and although it may take a lot of work, precision and patience at first, it’s a great way of taking the bull by the horns and complimenting your training – after all it’s 80% nutrition and 20% training when it comes to results.
I like to think of tracking your macros as a journey. It will take a little bit of time to find what works for you, then you’ll need to do a few tweaks here and there to get to your destination – BUT if you are patient and put the time and effort in, then you’ll find what’s right for you! Getting results isn’t an easy journey but here’s a little more inspiration for you and proof that it works!
Hopefully you found this article really helpful – and as always if you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch!