Macronutrients. Part 2 of 3: Making them work!
In part one of our series of macronutrients, aka “macros”, we skimmed the surface, defining what exactly macros are and what the USDA says about them. Now, as CrossFitters, it’s time to dig a bit deeper into what macros mean in terms of driving our overall fitness.
As we discovered in Part 1 of our macros series, the USDA recommends the following macro ranges:
Carbohydrates 45% to 65%
Protein 10% to 35%
Fat 20% to 35%
So, in a perfect world, we'd all just eat WHOLE FOODS that add up
to satisfy the percentages above and we’d be racking up new PRs all of the time and would have the exact physique we’ve dreamed of. However, as most of us come to realize quite early in life, the world in which we live in far from perfect. Variability is the spice of life.
This means we need to get a little more clear about your goals to adjust your macros to propel you in the right direction.
The primary goal for most people seeking to change the way they eat is a change in body composition.
For our purpose here, I am going to assume you are most people. Either you want to increase or decrease overall mass. Whether you’re looking to increase or decrease, the focus should be on adding to your lean body mass, not your fat stores. Putting on, or taking off, the right weight will ensure optimal metabolic functioning and fitness.
If fat loss is your goal, you’re going to want to downshift your carbohydrate intake. Our bodies like those yummy, often addicting carbohydrates, for immediate use or for glycogen stores (muscle and liver) for later use. Basically, we have a maximum capacity - different for every single human on the planet - for carbohydrates. Take in less that you need, you’ll lose weight. Take in more than you need, you’ll gain weight. That part is simple. Finding out what that means for your body, well, that’s where detail and persistence come into play.
For most women, a slight shift down in carbohydrates will yield steady, lasting weight loss. According to celebrity trainer Holly Perkins, the below breakdown is the sweet spot for women who want to lose weight without feeling totally deprived and crazy (if you’ve ever prescribed to one of those fad diets, you know exactly the crazy I’m speaking of!).
For the average women adhering to a 1,500 calorie per day diet, this macro breakdown would look like this:
Carbohydrates 600 calories 150 grams
Protein 450 calories 112.5 grams
Fat 450 calories 50 grams
As you may have guessed, if you want to put on weight, or “bulk up”, you’re going to need to bulk up that carbohydrate intake. Your breakdown may look more like this:
Note that it’s important to keep your protein intake up, as you’ll need that important macronutrient to help with tissue repair after your workouts. Repair equals gains!
So, for the average male adhering to a 2,000 calorie per day diet, this macro breakdown would look like this:
Carbohydrates 1,000 calories 250 grams
Protein 600 calories 150 grams
Fat 400 calories 44.4 grams
While the provided templates are a good place to wrap your head around the idea of how to manage your macros, there is some trial and error involved here. We are all different, which means our body have different predispositions toward fat storage, efficient carbohydrate utilization, etc. The best way to find what works for you is to gently experiment with your own body. Start with a range that resonates with, or makes sense to, you. Diligently measure and log your intake. If the scale is moving in the wrong direction, adjust your macros up or down. Continue to measure and log and adjust as necessary. This will be a sliding scale for your lifetime. Just as we don’t stick to one workout in the gym, most of us won’t stick to one way of eating for a lifetime.
"You know what makes you feel on top of the world, and what plummets you into despair. Feed your body in ways that feed your life and your goals!"
Find joy in the ebb and flow and managing a healthy diet. While the mainstream media has done a superb job of convincing us we have no idea how to fuel our bodies for health and fitness, and that trusting cues from our bodies and the scale is pure insanity, I beg to differ. You know your body better than anyone else. You know what makes you feel on top of the world, and what plummets you into despair. Feed your body in ways that feed your life and your goals. Eat more of what fuels you, and less of what drains you. The adjustment, the newness, of eating in a prescribed way, is a bit of a hike. But, in time, it will become your new normal. You’ll flow with macros, and wonder how you navigated foods before. It will stop being a chore, and will start being a simple part of who you are and the life you live.
Natasha Siedsma, CrossFit Reanimated Member, Certified Personal Training, Health Coach, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer.
With the help of our resident Health Coach, Natasha, you can get the support you need to take a deep-dive into where you’ve been, where you are, and how to finally get where you want to be!