calculate macros

Hey… before you start reading… as you get going and you have questions, just shoot me an email. I get a lot of messages but I can almost always get back to people in 24 hours (or faster!) so don’t feel lost!  I got you! -Betsy 

What is Flexible Dieting?  [flek-suh-buh l]   [[dahy-it-ing]

Really simply explained: Flexible dieting is a process of tracking your daily macronutrients {Carbs, Fat and Protein} to change your body composition.  The idea is that your ‘diet’ can be flexible, not rigid, so that you can eat all sorts of foods, not just what has been labeled as ‘clean’ or ‘junk’. 

So many people get the idea that Flexible Dieting means they have a hall pass to pop tarts and ice cream.  Although it is true, there is no food off limits, if we are going to properly hit and stay on track with our prescribed macros, we must take in nourishing foods that fuel our bodies properly.   It also means that there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food in terms of fat loss and ‘clean’ food is what exactly?  Food closer to the ‘source’?  Not as processed? Hitting our ‘macros’ includes being balanced with our food intake.

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Can you hit your numbers with just ‘clean’ food?  Absolutely. 

But believing that is the only way to your goals is not only wrong, it’s also setting you up for failure. 

We can never be perfect. 

We never will be ‘good’ all the time, and frankly adding these labels to us based on what we eat causes a whole load of other issues that affect your mindset and self confidence.  And I’ve never met someone who was successful getting lean and healthy who had zero confidence. Using Flexible Dieting to achieve your goals allows you to be ‘human’, sets you up for success and provides avenues to spend time with friends, eat with colleagues and live life.

Throw out what you think and walk with me down the path of Flexible Dieting. 

We’re going to get started with the basics.

Our food is made up of three main macronutrients. 

  • One gram of protein has 4 calories
  • One gram of carbohydrate has 4 calories
  • One gram of fat has 9 calories

When are Flexible Dieting, we are no longer looking at our daily calorie intake and  eating anything that we want as long as we don’t go over for the day. 

With our strategy, we are going to look at each macronutrient profile and hit a certain number for the day based on our goals. Doing this allow us to create the change in our body composition that we are seeking instead of just seeing loss on the scale (which could be a variety of things. You can read more about that here.)

Our goal is to impact our composition, and for the sake of this post, lose body fat and keep or increase our muscle mass.  Your body takes any food that you eat, and processes it the same way whether you are eating

Your body will process a Chick Fila Sandwich:  P: 28gms /  C: 41gms / F: 18gms

In the same way it would process a tuna sandwich on Ezekiel bread and 200gms of cauliflower on the side with seasoning and grass fed butter:  P: 29 / C: 41gms / F: 17gms

The macro count is essentially the same and our body would not make a determination on one being ‘fast food’ or ‘cleaner’ than the other. 

Would we get more micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) out of one option more than the other?  Possibly but this is where fiber comes in. 

I have each of my clients shoot for a specific fiber goal daily.  For women it’s around 30 – 35grams and for men a bit higher, depending on the calorie intake. 

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Why do I do this?

Because with these guidelines, you’ll tend to shoot for less processed, more nutrient rich foods like vegetables and fruits.  For fat loss and body composition, this goal may not matter quite as much. For emotional fullness (let’s face it, food is emotional and social as well as for fuel) these high volume, fiber rich foods let you eat more, feel full and meet your micronutrient goals to thrive as well as lean out.

Let’s get started

When I give my workshop on Flexible dieting and in my book, I explain that Flexible Dieting is as much of an art as it is a science. I coach people all over the country, and I still don’t know exactly how their body is going to react when we get started. 

We start, watch closely, and I listen for feedback on how they feel, how they sleep, what their workouts are like. I monitor weight fluctuations and changes via pictures. If you exercise regularly, you’ll feel a difference when you start giving your body what you really need. 

When I start hearing that clients have hit PRs, are sleeping well and have a general feeling of alertness, I know we are on the right path.  Everyone is different though, and although I have enough practice to get it pretty close, you will have to be consistent, listen to your body and give it some time.  

We are going to go over how to calculate your starting macros.  You will need to give these 2 weeks of consistently hitting them to understand and evaluate how your body is reacting.  After you have a baseline, you can start to tweak to dial in closer to your goals.  This is where the art, but mostly patience and consistency on your part come in.

If you want to grab ‘Ninja Numbers’, my customized spreadsheet it can help you set up macros, give you a place to collect data from your numbers daily and the dashboard will show you trends so you can more easily identify when you need to make adjustments.  The dashboard will also show you visually if you are close to your prescribed macros, which is typically the downfall when people get started.  Having this little ‘in your face’ accountability can do wonders to help you stay on track.  You can find Ninja Numbers here. 

You can also download my free spreadsheet to help you track and tweak!

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Some of the people I’ve helped lose fat

Step 1:  Determine your base calories

This is going to be what our body burns every day. There is a standard method to calculating your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) using the Mifflin St. Jeor Method.  (We use this in Ninja Numbers) but for the sake of making this simple, because it really doesn’t need to be difficult, we are going to calculate this way.

Take your current body weight.

Multiply by

  • 11 – if you are sedentary
  • 12 – if you are lightly active
  • 13 – if you are more active or do work outside
  • 14 – if you are younger with a quicker metabolism

Don’t sweat too much about this, the difference won’t be tremendous between 11 or 12, but this will be our starting point for calories, so we want to be aware.  Remember we can tweak after following for a few weeks.

Got your number?

Subtract between 150-200 calories.  Remember, don’t sweat the small stuff, we can tweak.

This is the number you are going to work with for the rest of the steps.  Ready?

Now we need to figure out how much of each macro you will be eating.

An example: Let’s say I weigh 130 pounds and am lightly active. I sit at a desk all day, but go to Crossfit 3 times a week and am active on the weekends.  I use a 12 to calculate my numbers and I subtract 150 for loss.    >> 130*12 = 1560-150 = 1410 is my daily calorie goal.

Step 2:  Determine Protein

I usually start with protein as this gives me a simple way to start prescription.  We need protein to not only sustain the muscle we already have, but to help build up what we are working for.  Having muscle helps increase our metabolism and allows us to burn more calories daily.

To determine my protein, I am going to use my lean body weight x 1 = grams of protein

If you don’t know your lean body mass, then take your current body weight x .875 = grams of protein

(Remember, we are trying to make this simple. There are several, more complicated ways to calculate protein, but this works great and we can always adjust later. )

In our example:  130 pounds x .875 = 114 grams of protein.

Now, remember, protein has 4 calories per gram.  We know how many calories we get a day from Step 1.  Let’s determine how many calories of protein we have.

Protein grams x 4 =  total calories from protein

In our example:  Total calories is 1410.  We are subtracting 456 calories of protein and are left with 954 calories for carbs and fat.

Step 3: Determine Carbs

Carbs are your friend! They feed your brain, give you energy and provide you with the fuel you need for some tough workouts.

To determine our carb intake, take your current body weight and multiply by .8 -1.2 (depending on your activity level)

In our example: 130 *1 = 130 grams of carbs

Carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, just like protein, so multiply your number of carbs by 4 and that will give you the calories of carbohydrates you will eat every day.

For our example:  130 grams * 4 = 520 calories

So what does that leave us with?  Total Calories (1410) minus protein calories (456) minus carb calories (520) leaves us with 434 calories.

Step 4: Determining your daily fat

Here’s where it gets a tad tricky!  Whereas carbs and protein have 4 calories per gram, fat has 9.

When I determine my fat grams for the day, I take the calories I have left (434) and divide by 9 = 48 grams.

So my macronutrient profile (and what I would plug into my tracker, like My Fitness Pal) is going to be: 

Protein: 114gms

Carbs: 130

Fat: 48

If all that confused you, check out the Ninja Numbers. It may really help you and also give you a place to see trends.

Which is key.

Knowing how to adjust and see trends will make a huge impact in how you adjust.

Step 5: Adjusting and Tweaking

You probably don’t want to ‘Adjust’ or recalculate these numbers again for a long time.  If you lose a significant amount of body weight, then by all means, recalculate and see what you come up with.

But mainly, you are going to be sticking to the numbers for a few weeks, looking for trends and then making small adjustments as you go.

Typically your protein will stay the same and the tweaks will happen with your carbs and fat.

Perhaps you track for a few weeks and just can’t seem to stay under the fat number but you are never able to reach the carb number.  Add more fat and lower your carbs, remembering the difference in calorie counts between the two.

  • For example, if I took the macro profile from above and wanted to give myself 10 more grams of fat, since that is how much I seem to go over daily, I would multiply 10 grams x 9 calories.  This is 90 calories I need to take away from carbs (and give to fat).  90 calories divided by 4 (the number of calories in carbs) gives me 22, so I would need to lower my carbs by 22. My new profile would be:

Protein: 114gms

Carbs: 108

Fat: 58

  • Or let’s say you track for two weeks and hit the numbers RIGHT on.  But… you don’t feel like you are making any progress.  You know this because you take pictures weekly and you weigh daily and your trends are the same.  (Not daily up and down, but trends!). You want to lower.  So you drop down (as in Step 1) by another 50-100 calories.

Where do those come from?  You can take them all from carbs, all from fat or split them up between the two.  (Remembering the difference in calorie counts for fat and carbs).

Get to work! 

Now that you know what your numbers should be, download an app, like My Fitness Pal to track every day.  Use a food scale and weigh and measure everything you put in your mouth and most importantly, find a way to have accountability. 

Maybe with a friend on the same path, or using a tool like Ninja Numbers.  
I am excited to hear all about your success and have you get started with flexible dieting too!

betsynamegirl

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