Back in December, I started a new at-home workout program that is done in tandem with a macro-timed nutrition plan. Not only was I new to a structured workout program (hello, COVID life) but I had never tracked my macros, or calories for that matter, before. I’m now more than halfway through the 13-week program and I have seen many wonderful changes in both my performance and overall health. It’s like a completely new way of living and eating and I can’t stop telling all my friends about it.
What are Macros?
Macronutrients or “Macros” (carbohydrates, protein and fat) are the nutritive components of food that provide our bodies with the energy it needs to maintain its baseline structure (e.g. cellular growth, immune function and repair). On the other hand, micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals the body requires for energy production and various reparative function, but in smaller amounts. Since our bodies heavily rely on carbohydrates, proteins and fats as its main source of energy (calories), it’s important that you feed your body with the right balance of macronutrients to main optimal health.
A quick Google search will lead you to a plethora of websites, blogs and apps (Cronometer is probably the most popular) that can help you calculate how many grams of carbs, proteins and fat you should be consuming a day based on whether you’re trying to lose, gain or maintain your current weight. Years ago when I was first introduced to macros, I was really turned off. I’ve always been a healthy eater, consuming mostly whole, plants-based food so the thought of calculating macros or counting calories felt obsessive/restrictive and also – who has the time?!
But my mindset shifted when I started Autumn Calabrese‘s 80 Day Obsession fitness program. The program incorporates a macro-timed nutrition plan – which simply means that you’re to eat specific meals or combinations of food at certain times throughout the day in order to accelerate fat loss and increase muscle gain. The thing I like about the program is just how easy it is. When you start, you do one small calculation which helps you understand your calorie target per day. Next, you take that calorie target and use it to identify your macro eating plan (yes, vegan meal plans are an option). The program comes with colourful portion controlled containers in various sizes (e.g. a green container is equal to 1 cup and a red container is equal to 3/4 cup) to help make counting macros simple and straightforward.
Here’s an example: My current calorie target, based on where I am in the program and what I’m trying to achieve, falls into the bracket of 1,500-1,799 calories per day. Using the vegan meal plan as my guide, I can hit my allotted macros throughout the day by consuming:
6 Green Containers (Vegetables)
2 Purple Containers (Fruits)
5 Red Containers (Proteins)
2 Yellow Containers (Carbohydrates: Whole Grains)
1 Yellow Container (Carbohydrates: Starches)
1 Blue Container (Healthy Fats)
1 Orange Container (Seeds & Dressings)
4 Tsp. (Oils & Nut Butter)
Of course there are small caveats to most containers. For example, 2 eggs equal 1 red container and a half of a banana equals 1 purple container, etc. But once you understand what foods you’re eating and how they fit into these containers, your meal planning starts to become easy and uncomplicated – who doesn’t like that?
What Benefits Have I Seen?
Last summer, during the height of COVID, I was doing a lot of cycling (My long weekend rides would fall in and around 85 km), I was running 2-3x per week, and I was also doing HIIT workouts at home. I felt my body getting stronger but I noticed two big red flags: 1.) I was constantly sore and, 2.) after long rides, I’d come home so hungry and calorie depleted that I’d stuff my face with whatever I could find and then…. take a nap. And that’s when I knew that if I was training like an athlete, I needed to get smarter with my nutrition.
Since adopting this new way of eating I have noticed so many positives, such as:
- A dramatic increase in my energy levels!
- A decrease in body fat and an increase in muscle mass
- I don’t feel sore or hungry all the time
- My blood sugar is even and never dips mid day
- My digestion is the best it’s ever been
- I have energy going into my workout and stamina throughout
Learning how to track my macros has been a real game-changer for me. It’s something that I will continue to use long after I finish this program. Knowing what I know now, I can clearly see that I wasn’t eating enough protein each day, and I was relying on foods outside of complex carbohydrates to give me energy which just set me up for failure. How about you? Do you track your macros? If so, what benefits have you experienced?