When you’re a beginner at tracking macros, there’s a lot of information to soak in.
In fact, you might be wondering how you’re going to go about accurately hitting your macro targets when you’ve just now learned what a macro is. Don’t be alarmed – we’re going to give you all the tools, tips, and information you need to help you hit your macros accurately right out of the gate.
1. Plan Ahead
By far the easiest way to ensure that you hit your macros is to plan ahead. This can be done by either preparing your meals for the upcoming day, or just knowing what you’re going to eat in advance and adding up the macros. This is a great way to become familiar with the basics of tracking, especially for people new to flexible dieting.
Planning ahead will also assist in giving you a clearer picture of the types of macros that different foods contain. Think of this as studying for a “macro exam”, you will probably get a much better grade if you put in a little extra effort the night before!
“Planning ahead will also assist in giving you a clearer picture of the types of macros that different foods contain.”
2. Keep a running total as the day progresses
If you wait until the end of the day to add up your macros, you will more than likely be looking at a “miss” on all three categories. Tracking as you go is a must. It enables you to keep a running total of your macros as the day progresses so that you know what you have left to work with at any given time.
While tracking, if you notice one category—for example fat—jump far out in front of the others, you will know to ease back on it until your carbs and protein are caught up. By tracking as you go, you can prevent that frustrating scenario where you find yourself at bedtime with 80 grams of protein left while being over on fats and carbs.
3. Minimize hunger by choosing high fiber and high volume carbs
If you find yourself still very hungry after eating your daily allowance of protein, fat, and carbs, you may want to mix up your food choices. Carb options that are higher in fiber will absorb more slowly, thus helping you feel fuller, longer. Fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans), and whole grains are all high in fiber, and will do much more to satisfy your hunger than sugary cereals, desserts, and other low-fiber carb foods.
You may also want to try foods that take up more room in your stomach. For example, cream of rice hot cereal has more volume, but fewer carbs and calories than the equivalent amount of rice, which may give you the illusion of eating more and mechanically stimulate a greater feeling of fullness.
4. The majority of your food should come from the grocery store
Trying to meet your macro allowance with a majority of your food intake coming from fast food, convenience stores, and restaurants is a fool’s errand. Standard practice in the world of prepared food (that’s not prepared by you) is to indiscriminately pile up carbs and fats, with a small amount of incidental protein, and call it a meal.
For example, I received a text message from my dad shortly after he first started flexible dieting. He’d eaten a chicken strip meal from Whataburger and didn’t look up the macros until he’d gotten home. His message was distraught as he’d discovered how badly he missed his targets. For him, this was such a familiar meal, and he thought the chicken strips would be a good protein source. Sadly, he was mistaken. With a large sweet tea, his meal was 33g protein, 51g fat, and 280g carbs. Considering that his daily target numbers for moderate fat loss were 183g protein, 71g fat, and 189g carbs, you can see how this was a problem.
This scenario could have easily been avoided by going to the grocery store to stock up on foods that fit his macro needs, and then preparing some macro-friendly on the go snacks at home that would have eliminated the urge to get fast food.
5. Invest in some protein powder
If you’re new to flexible dieting, you may encounter difficulty meeting higher protein targets. Over time, you will discover that there are countless food sources high in protein that you’re simply not aware of yet. While you’re experimenting with new higher protein foods, you can supplement your protein requirement with whey protein powder (or a dairy-free protein for Vegans).
Look for whey protein that is low in fat and carbs. A typical example would have about 24g protein, 1g fat, and 3g carbs per scoop (serving.) Whey protein powder is a simple and convenient solution to the problem of not being able to meet your daily protein allotment with whole foods, while saving room for the fats and carbs you enjoy.
6. Avoid eating desserts early in the day
If you decide to indulge in donuts and other macro-dense treats first thing in the morning, you may blow through the majority of your carb and fat allowances well before noon. To stand any chance of hitting your macros, you will be stuck eating salad and lean protein sources the rest of the day.
While some may be able to stop at one donut, the warm aroma of sugar and fat that wafts across the office often draws those with less willpower back for more. So what happens when you do the typical 4 donut morning binger? you will subtract 12g protein, 68g fat, and 136g carbs from your daily targets. For those on fat loss settings, this could send you scrambling.
7. Make the most of technology
There are many resources available to you that will help you accurately keep track of your macros. We highly recommend using the Avatar Nutrition app to track your macros. There’s nothing wrong with using pencil and paper to track, but making full use of technology can greatly simplify your flexible dieting experience with Avatar Nutrition.
8. Try new foods and recipes that stretch your macro allowance
Through their flexible dieting journey and the quest for macro-friendly food options, people often encounter and fall in love with a whole new world of foods. For example, take non-fat, plain Greek yogurt. When this seemingly bland version of yogurt is combined with stevia and your favorite flavor of sugar free/fat free instant pudding mix, it becomes something magical—a high protein, undeniably delicious, and ultra-versatile treat.
This is just one example of a food that is both macro-friendly and delicious. Check out the recipes section for more ideas and don’t be afraid to experiment on your own!
9. You can have anything, but not mountains of it
The beauty of flexible dieting is that you can eat whatever you want as long as it fits into your macro allowance. What does this mean? It means that you’re more than welcome to enjoy a slice of cheesecake without guilt and remorse.
However, you can’t eat an entire cheesecake. It’s fine to indulge in a treat that you’ve structured your day of eating around, but when having those treats means smashing through your macro targets, you’re no longer flexible dieting. Remember, flexible dieting is about managing food choices and portion sizes to meet your macros.
10. Try not to get overwhelmed
Deciding to take make a major lifestyle change can seem overwhelming, especially when it involves learning to track food. Keep in mind that the better you get at tracking, the easier it will be to hit your targets—but you can’t expect to hit your numbers perfectly right out of the gate. What you can expect is a learning curve, where you become more proficient at picking and combining foods, choosing portion sizes, and tracking macros.
Eventually, flexible dieting will become second nature. Down the road, you may even swap out the scale and measuring cups for estimations and mindful eating. Remember, flexible dieting is a skill you can use for the rest of your life. After all, you have to eat to live!