Believe it or not, I eat more now on a day to day basis than I ever previously allowed myself to do. Tracking macros is definitely time consuming, but it's sort of fun. It's like a giant, daily math puzzle that involves food! How can you beat that?
So first things first.. What are macros? Macros, otherwise known as macronutrients are your proteins, fats, and carbs. These are the nutrients that provide calories from food. Proteins and carbs contain 4 calories per gram. In other words, when you eat 10g of protein or carbs, you are eating 40 calories. Fat contains 9 calories per gram. If you eat something with 10g of fat, you are eating 90 calories. As you can see, although fat is something we NEED in our diet, we need it in smaller amounts than we need protein and carbs.
Next question. So how do you track your macros? First you need to figure out how many grams of each of these nutrients you should be eating a day. Everybody's macros will be different based on age, gender, height, weight and level of physical activity. Just as an example, I aim to eat 164g of carbs, 149g of protein, and 56g of fat. Which brings me to my original point... Do you have any idea how hard it is to eat that much?!
Let me phrase that differently.. do you know how much freedom those numbers give me? You can fit a LOT of nutrient dense foods into that equation. Here's an example of what I might eat in a given day:
Breakfast - 1 protein shake with TWO TABLESPOONS (yesss) of natural peanut butter.
AM snack - 1 banana
Lunch - "Greek chicken" (Chicken baked in tomatoes, olive oil, black olives, and tons of yummy spices, then topped with feta cheese) and a serving of brown rice
Early PM snack - Honeycrisp apple
Preworkout snack - 1/2 cup cottage cheese and 1/2 cup crushed pineapple
Dinner - slow cooker chicken tacos (Chicken, salsa, and chili powder crock pot recipe in a whole wheat wrap with cilantro, cheese, beans, and greek yogurt!)
Let me first off clarify by saying: When I share that I have a protein shake for breakfast, I am in no way trying to encourage drinking meals instead of eating them. I think you should always, always, ALWAYS eat your calories instead of drinking them (I don't care what those Isagenix and Advocare people say). However, I'm so rushed in the mornings that I don't allow myself enough time to sit down and eat 2 eggs and a bowl of oatmeal. Making a shake and drinking it on my drive to work just works better for me.
Now, does that sound like a miserable diet to you? When you are eating the right kind of foods, it's amazing how much you can fit into your daily diet. I never find myself hungry throughout the day or wishing I could eat more. I'm satisfied.
The process of tracking macros has also opened my eyes to how poor a typical American diet filled with fast food and processed food really is. For example, it used to be nothing for me to grab McDonald's breakfast in the morning... one bacon egg and cheese biscuit and 2 sausage burritos was the usual for me. Hey let's throw in a large vanilla iced coffee because I feel like I deserve to really treat myself today. Already I have consumed 131g of carbs, 67g of fat, and 45g of protein. I've already surpassed my allowed fat by almost TEN GRAMS (not to mention this is all BAD fat), and I only have one meal in the books. Let's say I decide to hit up Taco Bell for lunch (not unusual back in the day) and I get my typical crunchwrap supreme and a side of cheesy fiesta potatoes. Add another 102g of carbs, 36g of fat, and 20g of protein. Now, with 2 meals in me I've exceeded my daily carb allowance by 69 grams and my fat by 47 grams.. and I've not even thought about dinner yet!! Can you just imagine how quickly all of that excess fat adds up? Not to mention I haven't given my body hardly any actual nutrients yet today, only empty calories.
For anyone working toward eating a healthier diet, I would definitely recommend tracking macros. It takes some work in the beginning, but once you learn what foods work together to get you close to your goals, it's so much easier! Give it a try for just a couple of weeks. It really opens your eyes to how much food we can actually eat.