To lose weight you need to create a calorie deficit. Technically you can create that deficit by cutting carbs out completely... but you would feel like sh*t. Heck you could create the deficit by eating pizza and chips all day, but you would for sure feel like sh*t. Both because you would be missing valuable nutrients. In #momlife you have no time to feel like sh*t!
You NEED carbs. You NEED protein. You NEED fat. You NEED vital vitamins and minerals from veggies. Of course any diet that cuts one of them out will “work” because it results in an overall calorie decrease. However, it is not sustainable, because your bodies needs all those things.
With a diet too low in protein, you could end up losing muscle instead of (or along with) the fat. Losing muscle will lower your metabolism which is exactly the opposite of what you want to do.
With a diet too low in carbs your energy will plummet. Hello mom-ster!
A diet too low in fat may result in hormonal imbalances.
Bottom line: getting the right amount of protein, carbs, and fat into your diet will help you to reach your health and fitness goals AND maintain them when you get there!
That’s where tracking macros comes in. Keep reading to learn more about macros, why you should track them and how to set your goals.
What are Macros?
The macronutrients (aka. macros) are protein, carbohydrates and fat.
Protein is essential for muscle development and maintenance. Protein also makes you feel fuller longer… bonus!
While it is possible to get protein from plant based sources the primary sources of complete protein are meat, whey and eggs.
Carbohydrates are our main source of energy. Moms, this is so important! Life gets busy, you are constantly on the go, most likely sleep deprived and exhausted. Do you really want to cut out your energy supply?? Carbs are vital to your energy supply and mental health!
Carbs fall into two main categories: simple and complex.
Fats are responsible for keeping our hormone levels balanced. Hormones are the body's chemical messengers, they run the show. Therefore, fat is necessary to keeping our bodies working properly. Some sources for fat are avocado, nuts, coconut oil, and olive oil.
Why you should track macros:
Hopefully at this point you are convinced that all of the macronutrients, in proper balance, are vital to properly fuel your body. The simple, repeatable formula for balanced nutrition in the Balance Meals For Busy Moms Cheat Sheet is a great place to start.
When you are ready to take it to the next level, tracking macronutrients toward specific goals will help you reach your goals faster AND you will learn how the foods you eat affect those goals.
On top of the general health benefits of maintaining balance, here are my top three favorite things about tracking macros:
1. You will learn how each food affects your goals. I always suggest tracking for at least a week or two to capture all of your eating habits. Apps like MyFitnessPal will take every food you eat and break it up into the three macronutrient categories. You will see exactly how each food contributes to your total daily intake of each macro. Knowing what is in your food is so empowering!
2. It actually allows you to be more flexible with your diet. Once you know how certain foods contribute to the total daily intake you can make informed choices and save room for the things you love. No food is off limits! This allows you to create sustainable habits! I’m not telling you to go out and eat pizza and ice cream everyday as long as you hit your macros (sorry) … Eat mostly balanced meals made of of “healthy” whole foods. Know what’s in your foods; read the nutrition facts. Cut out filler calories, so you can save room for the things you love.
3. Macronutrient goals can be easily tailored toward your overall health and fitness goals. For example, a higher protein to carb ratio is typically best for weight loss, while more carbs would be necessary for endurance athletic training.
How to establish your macronutrient goals:
I’ve written about this part a few times in How All Diets Work and Mindful Eating: Creating the Lifestyle. The following is copied (and adapted slightly) from those articles.
I suggest you use an app, like MyFitnessPal, LoseIt, or MyPlate, to track your intake and look at how many calories you are consuming AND where they are coming from (the macros).
First, establish a calorie goal.
Your goals are specific to YOU. They are based on your body and your activity level. Bear with me here, this part involves some math (math I do for you in my Body After Baby Program).
I’m going to use Mary as an example as we walk through all the parts. Mary is not one of my clients, she a made up person, but is a lot like many of the women that I coach. In case you were wondering, I chose the name because it’s my mom’s name :)
Step 1: Establish your basal metabolic rate (BMR).
Essentially it's the total amount of calories you would expend in day if you laid in bed and did nothing… if only, right??
Health Style Hub has a great calculator will tell you your BMR and do some of the calculations below for you too! Click here to find out your's.
Let’s return to Mary as an example. Mary is 32 years old, is 5’5” tall and weighs 150 pounds. Using the calculator, Mary’s BMR is 1,391 calories/day. Therefore, if Mary laid in bed all day long and did nothing (you wish), she would burn 1,391 calories.
Step 2: Adjust for activity.
Since it’s likely that you do not lay in bed all day, you need to then adjust your goal for activity.
You account for activity using one of the following multipliers:
BMR x 1.2 If you are sedentary-you do little or no exercise in a day
BMR x 1.375 If you are lightly active-light exercise 1-3 days/week
BMR x 1.55 If you are moderately active-moderate exercise 3-5 days/week
BMR x 1.725 If you are very active-hard exercise 6-7 days a week
BMR x 1.9 If you are extra active-very hard exercise & physical job or 2x training per day.
*Most people overestimate their activity. Be cautious here! Also, as a side note, be careful not to double count your activity in MyFitnessPal (or the app of your choice). If you already chose a multiplier that includes your exercise DO NOT enter your exercise into the app. If you do, you will be double counting your activity and grossly overestimating your daily calories burned*
So, back to Mary. Mary is a busy mom, chasing a toddler around. She is a member of my Body After Baby Program exercising 5 days per week. I would put her at the 1.55 multiplier. Therefore, her daily calorie expenditure would be 1,391 x 1.55 = 2,156 calories. This is total energy expenditure (TEE) the Healthy Style Hub refers to.
Step 3: For weight loss, establish a calorie deficit.
1 lb of fat = 3500 calories. Therefore,
To lose 0.5 lbs a week cut 300 calories a day.
To lose 1 lb a week cut 500 calories a day.
To lose 2 lbs a week cut 1000 calories a day.
*A weight loss goal of more than 2 lbs per week is not recommended. Remember, we are focused on developing sustainable habits. Also, calorie consumption less than 1200 a day is not recommended. Beyond that point your plan would have to be determined and overseen by a medical professional.*
Annnnd, back to Mary again. Let's say Mary has a goal to lose 20 pounds by her anniversary vacation which is 5 months away (approximately 20 weeks). That would require a 500 calorie deficit per day. 2,156 - 500 = 1656. Therefore Mary’s should consume 1,656 calories per day to reach her goal (remember she is also exercising 5 days per week).
Then, establish your macronutrient goals.
Any caloric distribution that falls in the ranges above qualify as a “balanced diet.” However, for tracking purposes it’s best of know the total number of grams of each macronutrient (protein, carbs and fat) you should be eating.
A good starting point for a split is 30% protein, 40% carbs and 30% fat. Bear with me for some more math; I’m going to use Mary again as an example.
We established Mary should should consume 1,656 calories per day to reach her goal.
30% of the calories should come from protein (4 calories per gram).
1,656 x 0.3 = 496.8 calories from protein
496.8 / 4 = 124.2 grams of protein per day
*Often in this step many women find they are not getting enough protein each day*
40% of the calories should come from carbs (4 calories per gram).
1,656 x 0.4 = 662.4 calories from carbs
662.4 / 4 = 165.6 grams of carbs per day
30% of the calories should come from fats (9 calories per gram).
1,656 x 0.3 = 496.8 calories from fat
496.8 / 9 = 55 grams of fat per day
Making it a lifestyle.
Once you’ve established your goals. Track everything you eat in the app of your choice. Look at your food diary and nutrition breakdown.
Are you getting enough protein? Are you consuming enough/too many calories? What do your carb/fat numbers look like relative to your goals?
Make small adjustments daily while you continue to track your intake. Do this until your regular food intake matches your goal.
Likely you will find some surprises, some foods you don't love that don't support your goals, some places where you could stand to make some swap outs.... it's a process. Don't expect to be perfect day one (or every really). Consistently make changes until your intake matches your goals. Remember to save room for the things you love!
You do not need to track forever. Just a week or two is all that is needed to learn what you need to start making informed choices and forming habits.
The goal is creating a lifestyle change you can stick with, not quick weight loss! Trust the process! And remember you are stronger than you think!
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