Today I’m having mega-post about diets and macros. Before diving into the topic I can to share a bit why I’m interested about this topic and why did I picked it up as one of ”my 10 bad habits”. And before going any further I also want to highlight that I am not by any means a professional around this topic. I’m only writing about things I have read myself and sharing how I’m going to interpret and try it out on myself.
Why I’m interested about Macro diet?
Balanced and healthy diet is one of the corner stones for feeling well. Even though I think I’m on the right track with this, I still feel that I have areas where I need to get better at. I think the basis of my diet is OK, meaning I mainly eat healthy and clean ingredients. My challenge is though that I have no idea am I eating way too much or way too little and am I eating the right things. I’m pretty certain for example that I’m not eating enough proteins compared to how much I do sports etc. Thus via this “trying out macro based diet” task I want to find an answer and improve my habits on the following three areas:
- Do I eat too much/little compared to my consumption?
- What is the best macro deviation to me?
- Do I eat according to the ideal macro deviation?
This task is not at all about loosing weight or becoming a calorie-counting-obsessed-eater. My target is just to understand how I should roughly eat in order to stay energetic throughout the day and also give enough energy to my body to exercise and recover optimally! To achieve that I might need to control and look after my eating for a while in order to create a good gut-feeling around sufficient amounts. But my target it to get rid of this controlling as soon as possible and to be able to continue relaxed eating, but with a bit more wiser touch.
What is Macro Diet all about?
In it’s all simplicity, macro diet means balancing the macro nutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) in your diet. There are hundreds of different diet out there where each of them have their own opinion on how should you / should you not eat. Some diets are going from one edge to the other e.g. by either promoting very low-fat diet up or by declining all carbohydrates and focusing only on fats and proteins. I myself believe in balanced and comprehensive diet being the best in long term. I believe that all main nutrients are needed, but based on the person and his/hers activity level, you need to balance them to suit your personal needs.
What you need to take into account when balancing your Macros?
Based on my reading, there are two major factors you need to consider when balancing your macros: (1) your body type and (2) your activity level / type (cardio vs. strength). These two together define in what is the optimum share of nutrients in your diet. So, let’s next have a look how you need to consider the impact of them when building your diet. In addition, I’ll share few links where you can find out more detailed information if interested!
1: Body type:
We all have specific type of body which behaves and look different. Body types are classified into three main categories. All of us have usually features from all of the body types, but one of them usually has most common with your body and thus can be defined as your primary body type. Each body type has different macro recommendation which means that there is no diet that fits all of us. Instead we all need to find an individual way to eat and not follow every single trend-diet or blindly copy someone else’s diet : ) Three body types and their main features are the following:
Endomorph has vigorous physique. This body type gains easily weight, but on the other this body type is able to build muscle mass easily. Endomorphs natural body fat percentage is higher than with the other types which results that s/he might be in very good shape and health even though the body fat is on the higher end in the average recommendations. Endomorph has usually wide hips and shoulders. If this body type gains weight, it usually happens equally in the whole body. Though men might end up having more challenges with the waistline and ladies around lower body. This body type is usually thriving at sports what require strength.
Recommended share of macros:Low-carb diet with share of 25% Carbs, 35% Proteins, 40% fat
Mesomorph is usually well-proportioned and has the famous “time-glass shape”. For this body type gaining muscle and burning fat is usually easy. When mesomorph gains weight, it usually sticks equally around the whole body, though for ladies it might be most stubborn around hips which will emphasizes the hour-glass shape even more. Mesomorph is usually best in sports that require high intensity and fast movement.
Recommended share of macros: Balanced diet with share of 40% Carbs, 30% Proteins, 30% fat
Ectomorph is naturally skinny and slender. This body type has slim figure and it doesn’t gain weight easily. On the other hand it’s also very hard for this body type to grow muscle mass. If Ectomorph gains weight, it usually sticks to the waistline first. This body type thrives naturally in aerobic sports.
Recommended share of macros: High-carb diet with share of 55% Carbs, 30% Proteins, 15% fat
2: Activity / Your Exercise habits
In addition to your body type, also your exercise habits and activity level impact on how you should eat. If you exercise a lot, you need to naturally eat more in order to get enough energy. But depending how you exercise, it also impact what you should eat more of in order to feel good and get the best out of your training. Recommendation thus would be that you need to adjust your body type based diet depending on your exercise habits:
Strength training: focus on adding proteins on top of your body type based diet. Muscles need protein to get stronger. So if you exercise a lot in gym, you should consider boosting the amount of protein in your diet. So try to get the extra/calories you eat mainly from proteins by e.g. increasing the amount of protein in your after-workout meal. Recommended amount of protein intake on a gym day is 1,5-2g/kg per day. This means that 60kg person should make sure to eat 90g-120g protein per day. This means that your relative amount of carbs and fats will decrease compared to protein, but when looking absolute amounts you have still eaten correct amount based on what your body type needs.
Aerobic training: Focus on carbs as when you train aerobic sports (running, skiing, cycling etc. ) your body consumed and needs a lot of energy. If the body doesn’t get it you might run out of energy during a long training session and at worst it starts eating out your muscle mass. Thus is you are planning to have a long aerobic session you should focus getting the extra energy / calories from carbs and e.g. add some extra carbs both to your pre- and after workout snacks / meals. This again means that your relative macro balance will be a bit different than your body type would recommend, but when looking the absolute macro amounts you have gotten what your body needs.
If you train hard on both areas, then my personal recommendation would be to vary your macros on daily basis depending which exercise you are going to do. E.g. on gym days, add some proteins to your meal and on jogging days replace those extra proteins by carbs. And on days in between the workouts balance your macros based on your body type.
How do I count my own macro balance?
Based on the above information, I tried to summarize how your should balance your macros based on both your body type and activity levels. I created a following table to make it as easy as possible to understand the combined impact. This table provides on idea how you should balance your macros to optimize your daily meals:
How much and what I should eat?
Your daily energy consumption defines how much you should eat during a day. On those days when you exercise harder you also need to remember eat more and vice versa. Each of us has unique energy consumption level, but to get an idea what an average consumption might be you can use one of the many calculators, like e.g. this one. When you know your daily energy consumption, your should need to fulfill it by eating food where macros are balanced based on the above table. With common sense this might e.g. mean that during every meal you try to fill you plate accordingly. E.g. if you are an ectomorph, half of your plate should be filled by carb-intense food (pasta, rice, potatoes, vegetables…), one third with protein-intense food (fish, chicken, meet, beans, cottage cheese…) and one sixth with some good quality fats (avocado, olive oil based dressing, nuts…).
Other way to get started with being more aware of macros could be to get an “Food diary App”. App Store is full of different kinds of Apps that helps you to track how much you eat and automatically estimates the share of macros in your daily diet. This is very good way to get started as it helps you to get a good gut feeling on how much calories and macros different meals and ingredients hold. But I would recommend being careful that you don’t get too attached to these tools: if counting calories and tracking macros becomes your main focus, you will soon forget to enjoy the food and eating becomes just a technical exercise with all the weighting and logging each bite : ) So use it in the beginning, but have a target that after few weeks you can stop using it as then you already know it yourself!
As an example my own macro based diet would look the following:
I figured ”Mesomorph” being a body types that describes me best. My training week has both aerobic and gym training so I’m trying to balance by diet based on which kind of training I’m doing on each day. So on average I’m going to follow the mesomorph diet: CH: 40% / Fat: 30% / P: 30% . But on a days I’m doing gym, I will try to each 200-400kcal more (as that’s the amount I usually burn during gym) and I try to get that from food that is protein rich (e.g. adding protein powder to my smoothie, adding extra portion of chicken, chickpeas etc. to my after-gym meal etc.). During the days I’m running, I will focus adding carb-rich ingredients to my meals, e.g. adding a bread to my lunch / dinner, eating fruit snacks etc. How much I’ll add more of these foods to my meals depends on the intensity and duration of my run: 1h30min run will naturally require a bit more fuel than 30min run ; )
I estimated also my own minimum energy consumption with the help of a calculator and my estimated daily consumption (without doing anything) is 1400kcal. I could also estimate my average consumption by adding some estimated daily activities to the calculator, but I don’t need to do that as my sports watch provides my that information in “real time”. Based on how much I have moved & exercised during the day, the watch tells me how much I have burned energy and thus I can roughly match my daily eating directly on that information. When looking my past averages, it looks like I’m burning on average 400-1000kcal extra per day, which means that depending on a day I should roughly eat 1800-2400kcal.
One of my current weakness is that I have no idea am I eating too little or too much and am I eating the right foods. To get clarity on this, I’m testing few Food Diary Apps and I’m planning to write a separate post of those once I have more experience on how they work. Let’s see how reality will hit me on my current eating habits once I will start using these Apps for real! : )