Macro counting is not the only way to manage nutrition but I do find it works as a solid base point for women to heal their relationships with food and themselves. It also allows them to regain the control they regularly relinquish to others for their nutritional intake.
Following on from macro counting is intuitive eating, where food isn’t tracked but consumed based on knowledge of macro nutrients, nutrient timing and knowing what portions actually look like. Most women, including myself will swap between counting and intuitive eating based on current goals.
The general go to method of weight loss is to eat less and move more, effectively the energy in vs energy out formula. This will work but not forever as your body requires a certain amount of energy to operate.
When new clients come to me who have a background of calorie restriction, yo-yo/failed dieting attempts and are now unable to drop excess body fat, I generally steer them away from reducing calories again. They always look at me as if I’m nuts until I explain the reason behind it.
Your metabolism takes a hit with repeated rounds of calorie restriction. When you are restricting calories your body compensates in various ways, including reducing the amount of energy it utilizes throughout the day which can result in weight gain (metabolic adaptation). It is however possible to reverse this effect and change the set point your body has for its body fat.
I’ve spoken about the body and its desire for homeostasis before. When there is a continued deficiency in energy intake from what the body deems normal, it wants to minimize this gap through a reduction in metabolism. Your organs consume less energy and the hormones that are involved with your metabolism (thyroid, testosterone, leptin, ghrelin) are all affected.
Reversing this can be done through an increase in calorie and decrease in treadmill time;). In general most women in this cycle will also be training excessively, with chronically high cortisol levels. So we decrease cardio, focus on weight training and increase calories. Sounds simple? Unfortunately that’s not always the case. Add in women’s psyches, fear of weight gain, fear of increased calories and it becomes a method that needs to be approached gently and over a longer time period than any crash diet.
Be strategic, patient and kind to yourself throughout the process. If you increase calories too quickly, your metabolism will not have time to adapt, resulting in fat gain.
So how do you begin this process?
1. Firstly note that protein and carbs = 4 calories per gram and fat = 9 calories per gram. So 100g cooked chicken breast = approx 30g of protein/120 calories
2. Next, establish your base line calories and macro break down (how many grams of carbs, fat and protein you’re currently eating). Track your food for a few days to get an average.
3. Set a protein target -1.8g-2.5g per kg of body weight (dependent on your activity level, lean muscle mass). Eg 70kg female at 1.8g of protein would consume 126g of protein per day/504 calories from protein.
4. Subtract this from your current calorie intake eg 1600 calories – 504 protein calories = 1096 calories
5. Your remaining calories (1096) can then be split into 40/60 between fats and carbs. (Keep in mind this is just a guide and these ratios can be and most likely will be manipulated to suit you, everyone is different).
1096 x 0.40 (40% fat) = 438.4 calories from fat
438.4 / 9 = 49g of fat
1096 x 0.6 (60% carbs) = 657.6 calories from carbs
657.6 /4 = 164.5g of carbs
6. This has given you a new base line to work from = 126 g of protein, 49g of fat, 164.5g of carbs. This is where you can slowly increase your intake of carbs and fats. Anything between 2-5% per week is fine. If you see a large jump in body weight then opt for a smaller increase but if you maintain weight or drop then increase again.
7. Depending on the person I normally drop them back to 3-4 weight sessions per week while also decreasing cardio.
8. Asses yourself after a period of time, be it 8 weeks, 12 weeks or 6 months depending on how slowly you increased your ratios. Are you at your goal body composition? Do you now have room to decrease your calories without needing a large or dangerous deficit?
Be smart and plan your next move.
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