For nearly half a year I’ve become very accustomed to logging my food and seeing how many calores I’m eating on a daily basis. Since then, things have gotten a bit more intricate as I’m also trying to adhere to a specific macro ratio for the day. Macro is short for macronutrient. So “macro ratio” means the proportion of carbs, fat and protein relative to each other. I am basically following the leangains guide and macro-cycling is one of the finer aspects of this system. Leangains also incorporates calorie restriction (if one wants to lose fat), 16/8 intermittent fasting, and calorie cycling (eating more on workout days, less on rest days).
Priorities: Making sure you eat within the intended calories is more important than adhering to the macros. I got the 16/8 IF and calorie cycling down pat after weeks of getting comfortable with it. I’ve only recently decided to hunker down on the macros because I am finally used to everything else. However, I just want to remind you that there’s really no point in adhering to the macros if you’re eating way too many calories than you’re supposed to. Also, don’t worry too much about macros until you’ve reached less than 15% body fat if you’re a man or 20% if you’re a woman.
Example of my Macro Ratio Goals:
- Rest Day: 30% carbs, 30% fat, and 40% protein.
- Workout Day: 50% carbs, 15% fat, and 35% protein.
(For anyone familiar with leangains, these ratios above are for a 50/50 – 75-25 setup)
- In plain English the above means…
- I try to make protein a priority and keep it fairly consistent on all days.
- On workout days, I load up on carbs but keep the fat as low as possible.
- On rest days, I keep the carbs low but can have more fat than workout days.
Confused much? It sounds hella confusing if you’re not familiar with this stuff and the concept sounds foreign. In the beginning I couldn’t adhere to it whatsoever because I didn’t know which foods were appropriate. It’s taken me weeks to acclimate to it and I’m slowly getting it! I’m beginning to see the light so I wanted to share what’s been helping me!
Here are the things that helped me…
Since I use the MyFitnessPal app religiously, visually seeing the percentages and a pie-chart helped a lot.
1. Check the macros throughout the day by going to Home->Daily->Pie chart icon (on the top right).
2. To see the visual for a specific food… go to the next day (because that diary is a clean slate), add the food, and then look at the pie-chart to see the ratio for that specific food. I often do this before I decide to eat the food to make sure it’s somewhat appropriate for the day!
3. If the food seems appropriate, click the tool icon and click “Copy Meal to Today.”
4. If the food is not appropriate, like for example if the carbs seem way too high (cause it’s a rest day) or if the fat is too high (for the workout day), make a mental note that this food is appropriate for tomorrow if you alternate your workout/rest days. If you choose “Remember Meal” then it will store this meal combination in the “My Meals” section for the future when you want to add it to your diary. This is particularly excellent for home-made meals that are made up of many ingredients.
Other Tips to stay within your macros
I’ve learned to make protein a priority everyday. If I eat protein-dense foods early on, then I will feel satiated, get most of my calories in and then I could pick and choose whatever foods may fit in my remaining macros.
People with experience say that over time you will get used to remembering what food/combination works for whatever day. Some also say they easily stay within their macros because they eat the same things everyday. This works well for independent folks. Others who have to eat with their family may not be able to eat the same things everyday because the food available isn’t always in their control.
Count the net-carbs: MyFitnessPal includes fiber in the total carbs. In reality, what’s important are the Net Carbs (Total Carbs minus Fiber). That’s why it’s often totally okay to eat lots of green veggies without worrying about the carbs. So for example, don’t worry that a broccoli is high in carbs. It’s not actually that high if you subtract the fiber! (It’s something like 4 grams of fiber for every 10 grams of carbs, so it’s actually 6grams of carbs, a 40% reduction if you just note the net carbs.)
Also, if you’re like me and eat a lot of plants (like a vegetarian) such as beans, quinoa, lentils, legumes, etc., then you may want to reserve those for the workout days because the carbs are high. (Yes, they are high in fiber too, but these are calorie dense foods that you can easily overdo on a rest day.)
Here’s a real life example of how you may decide what you’re going to eat using the MFP app.
If I want to have some tuna, I could input the tuna and then go to the pie chart to see what the macros are for tuna alone.
Next I could see how adding mayo will affect the ratio.
So if it’s a workout day (or I just want to get even more protein in), let’s see how replacing mayo with non-fat Greek yogurt changes things.
Next, we could make this an actual sandwich. Here is what happens if we sandwich this between two slices of whole wheat toast.
So is all of this super tedious? YES.
Is this rocket science? NO.
Does it get dramatically easier with time? YES.
The more often you do this, the more it will become second nature to you. You will remember what works and doesn’t work. Just take it easy. Some people adhere to the macros by eating the same things over and over. I can’t always do that, but I try and it works.
Here’s some more supplemental info
Since I follow a 50/50 – 75/25 plan at the moment, that means I adhere to a 30c/30f/40p ratio on rest days and 50c/15f/35p on workout days. These numbers are a total bitch for me to remember and MyFitnessPal doesn’t support macro-cycling or calorie-cycling to help me in this regard.
So how do I remember that I have to eat 30 / 30 / 40 on rest days and 50 / 15 / 35 on workout days?
All the standard goals of the day in MFP are set to what I need to do for a REST DAY.
Go to the actual MFP website (not the mobile app). Click My Home -> Goals -> Change Goals -> Custom and set everything to the ideal rest day.
Since the macro ratios are different for a workout day. I took the time to put this info in my Notes program on my phone and I just refer to this note every time to refresh my memory of what I should be adhering to. Eventually, you will remember it by heart.
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So anyway, I thought I would never be able to figure out this macro-ratio bit because it seems so complicated and overwhelming, but just like anything else, it’s slowly becoming second nature the more I do it. Remember, I’ve been logging calories in MFP for 5 months. I didn’t jump into macro cycling all of a sudden. I’ve been slowly adding on each concept as I go along. First it was calorie counting, then it was IF, then it was calorie cycling, and lastly it’s been the macro side. And as always, remember staying in your caloric range is more of a priority than the macros, so don’t lose sight of the reality.
And last but not least, don’t ever be too hard on yourself for not being able to follow things to a tee. You are not a machine. These things take time and perseverance. If you have the motivation to do it, you will find a way and figure it out. Hope this helps.
If you found that interesting, also check out these tips to help calorie counting become second nature!