If you’ve looked into the nutrition realm for any amount of time, I’m sure you have heard of the phrase “macros”.
If not, this refers to macronutrients. All food can be categorized into one of the three main macronutrient categories.
Knowing your macros seems to be the blueprint to health in some circles. So we wanted to give a fresh take on this subject and provide a super easy way to master this approach to health.
What are Macros?
“Macros” are macronutrients. The base nutrients which make up our food. All food can be categorized into one of these three categories. The categories are protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
As we mentioned. All food is categorized into one of the three basic macronutrients. Everything from chicken thighs to chicken nuggets fall into the protein category. Breads, beans, potatoes and most vegetables fall into the carbohydrate category. Oils, avocados, nuts and seeds usually fall into the fat column.
There are a few items which toe the line between categories. For example, we mentioned beans and nuts. Beans provide us with protein and carbohydrates. Nut’s do as well, while also providing us with a healthy dose of fats.
So why do we just choose one?
Well, we do this for simplicity. Simplicity is at the core of all of our programs and methods. So when we categorize food we typically keep them consistent within one macronutrient category. The category can change if you’re preferred diet strategy is to stay away from animal products, but for most of the other diet strategies the foods fall into the same categories.
If you’re the type of person who loves numbers and getting things as close as possible, then I’d recommend using an app like MyFitnessPal or MacrosFirst. They will calculate all of the food to their best estimate and they also provide the macro breakdown. When using these apps, just keep in mind legally companies can be as much as 20% off of the actual caloric and nutrient make up of that particular food. So use the apps as a guide but without some very expensive equipment you’ll never get the exact numbers. If you’re not a person who loves numbers, don’t worry. We’ll lay out a plan that will help you achieve the success you’re looking for while also keeping it super simple.
If you‘re into numbers or not, it may be helpful to track your food intake every once in a while. It helps to make sure your day to day habits are still leading you to the success you want to see. I tend to track my food about every three to four months but only for a week. I like tracking for a full week because my schedule on the weekdays tends to differ greatly from the weekend. The only caution I will mention is that tracking everything does cause a little bit of stress for some people. If that’s you, don’t worry about it. We’ll still lead you in the right direction.
So, we mentioned macro breakdown. That’s probably what you‘re here for.
The macro breakdown and what is the perfect percentage for each nutrient is easily one of the more popular questions we get.
What Macro Breakdown is Right For Me?
Well, let’s start with the foundational macronutrient, protein.
Our recommendation is to get between 0.7-1.2 grams per pound of bodyweight in protein each day. For most people, leaning to the 0.7g/lb of BW side is probably best. If you’re looking to build muscle than you can add in more. We start with protein because this macronutrient helps burn fat, fuels your metabolism, and keeps you feeling full.
So whatever percentage that comes to for you, is where we’ll start.
Let’s create a quick example. To make the math easy, we’ll start with 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. For a person who is about 180 pounds, that's 30% of our overall caloric intake.
So this is saying that a 180 pound person needs around 2500-2800 calories. One gram of protein is 4 calories. The person who is targeting 180 grams of protein will then consume 720 calories which is around 30%.
That leaves us with 70% for the rest of our food.
Did we lose you already with all of these numbers?
Here’s the thing with all of these numbers and percentages. It gets confusing. I’m asking about food, I didn’t ask for a calculus lesson.
This is why we use the hand method to figure out how much food we need.
We talked about we love to keep things simple and this is no different.
The hand method is as easy as this: Stick out your palm. The size of your palm is a serving of protein.
It’s that easy.
Whether I’m in the kitchen cooking some chicken breast or at the bar eating chicken wings. I can easily visualize how many portions of protein I’m eating by relating it back to the size of my palm.
So let’s see how much easier the previous example would be. As a person who weights about 180 pounds, I would have about 6-7 palm sized portions of protein. This could look like 3 eggs and a few links of sausage for breakfast, a large breast of chicken for lunch and double stacked burger for dinner.
Yum….sounds like an excellent start to a perfect day of eating.
The number of portions will vary with your current weight and we’ve provided that quick guide for you below.
We talked about most vegetables falling in the carbohydrate category, so we’ll move to that next. However, I’m going to talk about non-starchy vegetables like dark leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, etc.
Non-starchy vegetables fall into the carbohydrate category, but usually aren’t that calorically dense.
What does that mean?
It means that we can have a large amount and it does little to impact our macro breakdown. It’s like free money. Nutrient dense foods without the large caloric load.
So we typically recommend around the same number of servings of non-starchy vegetables as you had with your protein. Keeping it easy and simple.
For non-starchy vegetables though, we measure serving sizes with the size of our fist. Fists are usually associated with power and packing a punch and that’s exactly what non-starchy vegetables do.
Let’s bring that back to our example and what that could look like in real life. Our goal would be 6-7 servings of non-starchy vegetables a day, which could be a fist full of spinach (1) and kale (2), roasted broccoli (3), carrots (3), peppers (4) and red onion (5) for a huge lunch salad to go with the chicken breasts. With a few sliced tomatoes and lettuce (6 & 7) for dinner.
No we’ve mastered non-starchy vegetables…but where does that put us for our macro split?
Probably somewhere around 30% protein, 5% carbohydrates, and 65% is left.
Yeah, you read that right. Non-starchy carbohydrates don’t really add a lot to your overall macros, but they are so nutrient dense we couldn’t talk about macros without a huge recommendation to eat your non-starchy vegetables.
Carbs and Fats
This then leaves the question around what we should do with the rest.
Our recommendation is to…
Do what works best for you.
There have been many studies which show high carb/low fat macro splits help people lose weight and feel great! There are also many studies which show low carb/high fat macro splits work well. There are even more studies which show positive results when individuals have an even split between carbs and fats. The only macronutrient that was kept constant in all of these studies was an adequate amount of protein and non-starchy vegetables.
So what does that tell us?
It tells me there are a lot of different ways to be successful.
We do strongly recommend not having either your carb or fat intake go below 20% of your overall caloric consumption because there are definitely benefits to both of these macronutrients.
Other than that…do what works best for you and that you’ll stick to.
Some people love high fat/low carb meal plans and others love high carb plans. If that’s you, then stick with with that same strategy. Enjoying the process is just going to increase the likelihood you’ll stick with it.
For most of us though, we love it all. The best answer for us is just to split the rest of our servings right down the middle.
Now, let’s bring back our hand method to see how the servings get measured.
Carbs are measured in a cupped handful and fats are measured by the size of our thumb.
For our 180 lb person example, I would want to hit about 13 servings of carbs and fats in any combination that suits my palate. If I were to split it down the middle that would be 7 servings of carbs and 6 servings of fats.
For breakfast we already have some eggs and sausage links, let’s just add some sweet potato home fries (1) cooked in the air fryer (add cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper).
For lunch we have that huge salad we put together with the veggies and chicken. Why not add some of those home fries (2) from breakfast and some seasoned black beans (3). Then we could add a whole avocado (1 & 2) and some oil (3) and vinegar for my fats. Since we’re using the size of my thumb as my measurement tool, that’s probably three servings just for lunch.
For dinner, we have the double stacked burger. Well, adding a piece of sourdough bread (4) sounds delicious and burgers go well with…you guessed it…fries (5 & 6). For our fats we could maybe add an avocado on the burger and that sounds good, but what about a snack?
How about for our snack we have an apple with almond butter and a few almonds? That’s a carb which gets us to 7 carbs, which is our target. And it’s two sources of fat which gets us our 5th and 6th serving.
We’ve just laid a delicious day of eating and all of it fits within our macros.
What About Me?
Macros can be complicated when we dive too deep into the numbers. We hope that we laid out a way to help you achieve your goals while not adding stress to your life.
In the end, there are few basics:
Get adequate amounts of protein and non-starchy vegetables.
Divide the rest of your macros between carbs and fats to your preference while still staying above 20% for both.
Focus on minimally processed food.
Burn more energy than you consume through resistance exercise and proper sleep habits
Use the chart below to find your macros and let us know how you’ve created your pretty healthy day of eating.