Have you heard people raving about their “macro diet” and wondered what in the world they were talking about? Well we are here to fill you in on not just the “what” of flexible dieting, but the “how” and “why” of tracking macros for fat loss.
Flexible dieting is a great way to still eat the foods you enjoy WHILE losing fat! Not eliminating entire food groups, like many other diets prescribe, makes this way of eating much more sustainable for long-term results. Many of us are less likely to stick to a diet that’s restrictive, and flexible dieting allows you to successfully lose weight while still eating a wide range of foods.
Macros, aka “Macronutrients” are nutrients that we typically consume in the largest quantities – carbohydrates, protein and fat. While many foods skew heavily toward one or two of the macros, some contain all three. Each one plays its own role — and each contributes to fat loss in a different way.
Macro #1: Carbohydrates, aka “Carbs”
First thing’s first, carbs are NOT the enemy, especially if you’re trying to lose weight and live an active lifestyle. They are the primary source of energy for your body to maintain consistent energy. Your body digests carbs and turns them into sugar or blood glucose, which fuels high-intensity exercise. Carbs are also tied to the neurotransmitter serotonin (the happy hormone), so eating them throughout the day in moderation can help prevent stress eating and leave you feeling satisfied.
Macro #2: Protein
By now most of us have heard that protein helps maintain and build muscle. But did you know that it also makes the hemoglobin that transports oxygen throughout our bodies? If oxygen doesn’t get where it needs to go, we won’t have the energy to do much at all, especially a fat-burning workout! Also, when we eat protein, our gut makes hormones that slow down the movement of food through our GI tract, meaning we stay full for longer. This keeps our blood sugar levels stable, which in return keeps health issues at bay.
Macro #3: Fat:
Repeat after me, “Fat does NOT make you fat.” Fat makes up cell membranes, promotes nerve and brain health and increases the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, all of which are crucial for healthy weight loss efforts. Fat is also slow to digest, which further helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and keep cravings away.
How to Count for Fat Loss
Now that you have an understanding of why we calculate macros, let’s get into how to manage them for weight loss. If you’d rather not take the DIY approach here, Brute offers a macro calculator for our members, using your current weight, goal weight, height, age and activity level. If you aren’t a Brute athlete you can calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) on websites such as bodybuilding.com.
Step 1: Find out your BMR or the number of calories you take in each day just breathing and at rest. This is determined by using your height, age and weight. From there, you would multiply by your activity level (you can reference the chart below), to get your Total Daily Expenditure (TDE) or the number of total calories you expend in a day on average. We like to call this your “maintenance calories.”
1.2 Sedentary: Little or no physical activity.
1.375 Lightly Active: Light exercise or activity 1-3 days per week.
1.55 Moderately Active: Moderate exercise or activity 3-5 days per week.
1.725 Very Active: Hard exercise or activity 6-7 days per week.
1.9 Extremely Active: Hard daily exercise or activity and physical work
So, if my BMR is 1,420 and I’m moderately active then I would multiply 1,420 x 1.55 to get 2,201 for my TDE.
Step 2: Once you have your TDE, you will need to determine how much of a deficit you want to be in. Between 10-15% below what you’re burning is a good place for fat loss. So, if you are burning 2,000 calories per day – you would set your daily calories at 1800 or 1700 to begin. I recommend starting on the higher end (1800) and seeing how your body responds there for a week or so before dropping. Because, if you CAN lose weight on higher calories, then save your sanity and keep them higher! You never want to cut more calories than needed to hit your goals.
Step 3: Now that you have your total number of calories to eat each day, you will want to determine how many of those calories should come from fat, carbohydrates and protein. I prefer to start my clients on a balanced ratio, of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, 30% fats, but there is no “optimal” ratio and based on client needs I will adjust. It all depends on the individual. With that said, it’s important to keep an eye on your protein intake for maximizing muscle and improving body composition.
If you are an athlete or training high volume, you should weigh more heavily toward carbohydrates (40-70%). If you are constantly feeling hungry, put more emphasis on healthy fats as they are very satiating. (30-40%).
An example of a 40/30/30 ratio split for 2000 calories would look like this:
2000 calories per day x .40 (percentage of calories from carbs) = 800 calories ➗ 4 (the number of calories per gram of carbohydrate) = 200 grams from carbohydrates.
2000 calories per day x .30 (percentage of calories from protein) = 600 calories➗ 4 (the number of calories per gram of protein) = 150 grams of protein
2000 calories per day x .30 (percentage of calories from protein) = 600 calories ➗ 9 (the number of calories per gram of fat)= 67 grams of fat
How do I get started?
Now that you have your macros calculated, hitting those numbers daily is going to take a little forethought and commitment on your end. Planning ahead and thinking about how your day is going to look, what access to foods you have and how busy you are going to be is always smart. From there, determine which foods you can eat to hit your numbers and therefore achieve your goals.
A food scale, and a food tracker are both great tools to make the process easier. You can get a food scale from most stores or online, and My Fitness Pal is a great app for tracking your food intake.
While this may seem overwhelming, it’s like any new skill. It becomes MUCH easier, even second nature the longer you do it.
You won’t be perfect in the beginning. But, with setbacks (that are inevitable, because you are human) you can assess what happened, learn more about yourself and how foods affect you – and create a plan for next time that will enable you to hit your goals. It’s all about learning and improving and is so empowering in that way!
Our clients at Brute have seen amazing results from following a macro-based diet. Amp up your workouts to match your nutrition with our free Shred Manual.