Five Keys to Success on the Macros Diet
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Written By: Taylor Rao
Listen, I’m not one to hop on many trends (besides fashion trends). But, as my own fitness journey has progressed, there was one diet/nutrition program that really intrigued me and I knew I had to try: the macros diet.
The macros diet, short for macronutrients, is a nutrition plan where you’re responsible for counting your daily intake of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. AKA, the three essential components in food that our bodies need to function properly. Carbs give you energy, fats help with fullness, and protein is perfect for building and repairing muscle.
And right off the bat, counting macros doesn’t sound so bad considering some trendy diets require cutting carbs or fats almost completely. But when you count macros, you find a way to work healthy fats and carbs into your diet, making it feel like you’re not missing out on much at all.
You’ll count your calories, too. Your daily calorie intake is determined by the goal number of fats, carbs and proteins for each day. When you first start out, some numbers might seem really low (calories and fats), and some really high (carbs and protein) --but you quickly learn it’s all about balance and making smart choices that will help you count all those number down to zero --or as close to it as possible.
Counting macros can be done in “cycles” --say four or eight weeks at a time, because it’s definitely something that takes a little bit of getting used to at first, especially if you’re new to dieting in general.
Thinking about hopping on the macros trend to compliment your current workout routine? Before you get started, check out these five keys to success to help crush your macros diet.
1. Make MyFitnessPal your new BFF
There are a few different macros tracking apps out there, but Under Armour's MyFitnessPal app is one of the most easy, user-friendly ways to count your macros and document your daily food and water intake, as well as track your weight loss progress.
MyFitnessPal has a huge database with brand-name foods and common ingredients/serving sizes for what you’ll track on a day-to-day basis. You can simply search for what you’ve just eaten (i.e. “egg whites”) and select the serving size you consumed, or, you can scan barcodes of things like nonfat Greek yogurt --even the exact flavor --and add it right into your count for the day.
This app will also make recommendations for your macros numbers based on the personal height, weight and goal-related information you enter, but you can also adjust your goals yourself as your journey progresses.
Seriously, this app is at the top of the list when it comes to succeeding during a macros program. If you pair your use of the app with your determination and drive to count and crush your numbers daily, you’re off to a really strong start.
2. Cut out coffee
In my experience with macros, I’ve been lucky enough to have the support of a personal coach who assigns my numbers and pushes me along the way, which is honestly amazing --if you can get into a personalized macros program, do it. But, regardless of whether you have a professional on your side monitoring your progress and making recommendations for what to eat, there are a few tips across the board that a simple Google search can help you out with, and one of those tips is to cut out coffee when you’re counting macros.
Why? Coffee is an appetite suppressant, which is great for someone who doesn’t mind skipping lunch every once in a while, but it’s essential on the macros diet to keep eating all day long. As mentioned, your numbers might seem a bit high at first depending on your prior eating schedule and habits, so if you try to squeeze in that morning cup of joe before you start your day, you’ll already fall behind.
Plus, creamer and other additives to coffee are high in fat and calories --and considering the average person drinks more than one cup per day, it adds up quickly. So, suck it up and get over the initial shock of hearing the words, “no coffee” during your macros cycle. It was the one thing I thought I couldn’t do when I first got into it, and now I’ve surprised myself by how I can still take on the day without a single cup of coffee.
PS: In the morning, about a half an hour before your workout, substitute your usual cup of coffee for a pre-workout powder mixed with water. During my macros cycle, I used the C4 Original Pre Workout by Cellulcor (the icy blue razz flavor is delicious, but it does make your tongue blue). This caffeinated beverage will fuel your workout and keep you energized all day long --seriously.
3. Ready, set, meal prep
You’ve seen enough #mealprep Instagram posts to know why meal prepping is essential for anyone who’s focused on working hard at the gym and maintaining a diet to support and show off all those gains. It’s exactly what it sounds like --planning your meals for the week in advance, cooking it all at once and portioning out your food accordingly. Macros is a numbers game, so if you can predict how much protein, carbs, fat and calories you’re packing into every meal, your weeks should get easier and you can crush those numbers with no problem.
What if eating the same thing every day isn’t for you? Spend a little extra time in the kitchen on Sunday and cook a few different meals to rotate throughout the week. Or, prepare a meat that’s great for macros like center cut pork chops or ground turkey, and mix up your side dishes. Or, add your meat to different types of salads to keep things interesting.
Salads and vegetables are super important during macros; you can eat large serving sizes to feel full, especially if you pack some protein on top. You should aim for at least two to three servings of greens while counting your macros, and that shouldn’t be a problem when there are so many healthy, seasonal vegetables out there that you can actually get excited about eating.
4. Have a good protein powder on hand
As a woman on the macros diet, one of my biggest challenges was trying to hit my daily and weekly numbers for protein. With a busy schedule and not always having time to meal prep, I’d find myself with way too much protein left in the evening and trying to cram it all into dinner.
Aside from eating egg whites for breakfast (another great tip to get your protein in early), have a protein powder on hand for smoothies on the go and to add into an afternoon cold brew coffee if you absolutely have to. (I swear, my coach said so!)
My trick would be to eat breakfast at home and make a smoothie as a “second breakfast” to drink during the morning commute. A shake with a few scoops of protein powder, fresh fruits and veggies, some chia or flax seeds, unsweetened almond milk and nonfat Greek yogurt would keep me on track throughout the morning and hold me over until lunch.
5. Don’t be afraid to take progress pics
Now, this tip could be the most intimidating, but also the most valuable. If you’re diving into a macros diet, you might already have a fitness plan in motion and are expecting your diet to accelerate your progress at the gym. But, that doesn’t always mean you’re used to flexing for the camera or making notes of how you’re really doing.
Taking some pictures before you start the diet is easy because hey, it’s a starting point and nothing has happened yet. It’s a few weeks into the diet, let’s say week 4, where you’re hoping and praying the photos will show a difference. I was so afraid to take my progress photos because I didn’t think I could see any changes just from looking in the mirror. Sure, I was feeling pretty good and my daily numbers reflected the good job I was doing, but on a day-to-day basis, it’s simply hard to tell. It’s like how you didn’t realize you gained the Freshman 15 in college until you looked back photos of yourself four years later.
Whether you set the camera on self-timer and snap a pic from every angle, or have a supporting friend, family member or significant other to take the photos for you, make sure you document your process at key milestones like week 1, week 4 and week 8. You’ll be so pleased when you’re laying in bed using the Layout app on your phone and seeing a side-by-side comparison of your very own before and after.
And lastly, don’t forget to have fun with it! Yes, dieting is a serious commitment, but counting macros does give you just enough flexibility to still enjoy your life and challenge yourself on a daily basis. And this way of eating can be adapted for anyone, no matter how physically fit or out of shape you might be. The decision to commit to a diet and to changing your lifestyle is entirely your own, and if you follow these few keys to success on the macros diet, you can see and feel the difference in a major way.