Welcome to the wonderful world of macros which is both exciting and terrifying, for those who don't know how to get started! Starting in January 2017, I decided to try using macros to calculate my nutritional goals because I saw a lot of people achieving great results with it. Below, I outline how to get started, but if you are already a macro veteran, you can bypass the How I Got Started section and scroll down to Lessons Learned.
How I Got Started
I heard the acronym IIFYM everywhere, and learned that it stands for "if it fits your macros!" I discovered that the site has a free macro calculator here: https://www.iifym.com/iifym-calculator/, so I used their free calculator, input the required information like age, height, weight, activity level, and goals. A lot of this is based upon how much exercise you commit to every day.
After entering your information and goals, the site gives your macros based on what you input (mine are below)! The great thing about it is that you can PERSONALIZE this to fit what YOU want to do with your body and what you want to consume. I actually adjusted mine a little bit to increase the protein, increase the healthy fat (to accommodate nuts and avocado), and reduce the carbs. The values all have a relationship (so as you change protein, fat, carbs, etc. the others change to fit within the same total number of calories). You can change it too! This is what I came up with for my goals.
The IIFYM.com website has a place where you can sign up for their specific meal and fitness plans, but I decided that I'm going to put together my own meal plan. I love seeing how things work, and the DIY method is FREE! I asked around to find out what friends use to calculate daily macros, and the first app that was suggested to me was My Fitness Pal.
I downloaded the app, and it seemed very intuitive. You search for a food that you ate or plan to prep, weigh it, and input it in the app. The app then tells you the amount of calories and all of the macros in that food or meal! Easy enough right?
I started with chicken. I got a value pack of chicken breasts, cut them up, and weighed them on my food scale (I use that little "tare" button to offset the weight of the plate so that it's not included in the weight of the chicken). The food scale that I have is unfortunately not available anymore, but here are a good selection of ones you can try from Amazon if you don't have one already!
From there, I input the foods from my recipes into myfitness pal individually. So if my recipe contains 6 ounces of chicken as seen above, 1 tbsp of basil, a dash of paprika, 1 tbsp of parsley, 1/8 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper, I enter all of those ingredients into myfitnesspal. From there, if I add a salad to my mealprep, I enter all of those individual ingredients as well to get the totals for that particular meal.
After entering all of the information in, this meal below came out to the following (I did not add dressing to my salad in case you were wondering why it wasn't listed):
As I mealprepped more and more meals to the week, I added them all into my app, under the categories Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Snacks.
I then can make sure that my calories and macros fit within the guidelines I got as a result from entering my information into the IIFYM.com website!
I have to say however, that I'm not extremely strict and rigid with the calories and macro counts; I just keep them in mind and make sure they don't fall too far out of range.
And that's it! You enter in all of the foods you prep, or if you're not a mealprepper, you can just add foods per meal as you eat them and get a daily total!
And now... for the lessons learned. So much information all in one week!
1 // My Fitness Pal Contains Incorrect Information
I was going along and entering in my food, checking the calories/macros for all of last week, blissfully without questioning the information in the My Fitness Pal app. After all, MFP was designed for this, and should be smarter than me, right? WRONG! Here are some reasons why your information might be incorrect
- User Generated Errors - MFP contains foods that are generated by users, meaning that anyone can enter information and it might not be correct. If you search for and find these incorrect entries and add them to your meal plan, this incorrect information will throw off your totals. I made the mistake of looking for a complete meal and found this "Western Omlette." I recreated it not knowing that the user who input this was incorrect!
- My Fitness Pal generated errors - MFP has "verified" foods, noted by a little green check mark as seen below. Most of the time they've been pretty accurate, but for some reason, several times I've calculated the calories based on the macros and sometimes they too have a slight margin of error. For this reason, I did some research and learned how to verify the calories using simple math.
2 // Verify the Calories Based On the Macros
I learned that:
fat = x 9 (that's a multiply sign)
carbs and protein = x 4
To show how this works, let's look at a nutrition label for gluten free pasta.
If use the basic formula here, Fat (1 x 9) + Carbs (42 x 4) + Protein (5 x 4) = 9 + 168 + 20 = 197. That's pretty darn close to 200 (I think they round up). I now have learned to double check to make sure that the total calories look correct/are within close range to make sure my counts are accurate!
3 // Scan Your Food
My Fitness Pal has a scanner feature, where you can scan the barcodes of most foods and it will show the information without you having to enter it directly! This saves me lots of time!
4 // Getting Your Totals
A really awesome person from Instagram shared with me that if you turn My Fitness Pal to landscape format, it gives you your total macros per meal and for the day! Being a person who keeps the rotating feature on my iPhone currently on lock (so that it doesn't rotate), I had no idea and was adding things up manually! But look no further to modern technology.... woohoo!
A Huge Variety of Apps
There are a lot of tracker apps for this, and MFP is not the only one you can choose from. I didn't have a lot of time to try them all, but I did download Lifesum, and really liked its fun and sleek user interface as seen below. However I think based upon some of the research I did, most of these apps are about the same in accuracy, but MFP has a larger database of food. If you're looking for more information and not sure which app you might want to use, this article (http://www.imore.com/) has a great detailed breakdown of some of the most popular ones! The article is a few years old, so if you know of some better apps feel free to leave a comment in the box below!
To Sum It All Up
So remember those results I posted from the iifym.com website up there? It recommended my daily totals be: 1969 total calories, 153g protein, 105g fat, and 103g carbs.
This is my meal schedule for the week and my totals are 1982 calories, 149g protein, 105.5g fat, and 110g carbs. I came pretty close!
Well that's all, folks! I hope you enjoyed my recap of my first week with macros, and hope it helps you get started if you haven't already. I'll be posting my weekly meal plans on my Instagram page @caligirlgetsfit, so feel free to follow along and tag me in your photos so I can follow your journey too! I love that so many people are doing this and we are helping each other learn and get better. #strongertogether
With love and yummy tummies from California,