Food Prep for Macro Counters

In my 12+ year quest for the ultimate nutrition plan, I realized…

there is no set “ultimate” nutrition plan that works for everyone.

Some people really enjoy ketogenic diets, some love Paleo nutrition, some advocate for the Zone block program, and some–like me–really find great results with macro-counting. And when I combine macro counting with proper nutrient timing (such as when to eat what foods throughout the day), I’ve finally found that sweet comfort spot with food that I’ve been searching for.

Macro Counting

If you haven’t heard about macro counting, let me give you a quick rundown. Also known as flexible dieting or the popular hashtag, “IIFYM” meaning If It Fits Your Macros, macronutrient counting is simply breaking down one’s nutrition into carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. You can Google it and read 30 different articles about it, but when it comes down to it, it’s all the same. To get your macro numbers, you need a coach (one that takes into account your goals, your activity level, and your dieting history) who can help you figure out how many carbs you (not everyone–just YOU) should eat each day, how many grams of fat, and how much protein. This part is the hardest part, but once you know your macro numbers, you simply do your best to make your foods “fit” the right amounts. For example, I need to eat 128 grams of protein every day. I make sure that I hit 128 grams of protein every day!

Flexible Nutrition (this is what I actually like to call it) sometimes gets bad press because someone will eat half a pizza and a dozen Oreos and say “it fits my macros.” Technically, it might. But when you look at the nitty-gritty of macro counting, there’s one other very important element to consider: micronutrients. Micronutrients are your vitamins and minerals. And I can ensure that hit my micronutrient intake by eating 25-30 grams of fiber each day. The only way I can eat this much fiber is to eat a variety of healthy veggies and starches like sweet potatoes, oats, and beans. Once I’ve eaten all this, there’s not a lot of room left in my numbers for pizza and Oreos.

So this is what macro nutrition looks like. I’ve figured out how many grams of protein, carbs, and fats I need each day, and I ensure I eat a LOT of fiber–meaning veggies. For me, this works really well because I don’t have to look at any food as a good food or a bad food. If I want to eat something sweet or have some sort of non-nutritious treat, I need to save room for it. And then I eat it either right after my training or at the end of the day when I’ve hit all my fiber and micronutrients first. From the standpoint of someone who tried restricting “ALL the bad foods” for too long, macro counting keeps me sane…and even leaner because I now understand exactly what and how much my body needs.

So you know your numbers….now how do you eat them? 

I figure out what I want to eat--I pick the foods I like, enjoy, and look forward to. I plan it so that the bulk of my carbs are eaten around my workout and higher fat meals are eating earlier in the morning to keep my insulin from spiking too early in the day. (This is what makes us crave sugar and carbs and halts any fat-loss attempts.)
I figure out what I want to eat–I pick the foods I like, enjoy, and look forward to. I plan it so that the bulk of my carbs are eaten around my workout and higher fat meals are eating earlier in the morning to keep my insulin from spiking too early in the day. (An insulin spike is what makes us crave sugar and carbs and halts any fat-loss attempts.)

Anyone trying to eat healthy knows that the hardest part, PERIOD, is coming up with a food plan and prepping food for an entire week. I assume that most of you understand the importance of planning and preparation: it keeps you from binging on crap, stopping for fast food, overeating portion sizes, and for many of you, it keeps your training goals spot on for performance gains. But why is food prep such a struggle for so many people? Is it the lack of time? Refrigerator space? Is it that people just don’t know what to eat?

Let me break it down for you.

You already know the most important stuff:

  • If you’re trying to eat healthy (whether you’re “counting macros” or not), you know you need to eat your three macronutrients each and every day: protein, carbs, and good fats. These keep you alive.
  • If you’re an athlete, you exercise really hard, and/or you lift heavy weight, you probably know that you need plenty of carbs and protein for energy and muscle glycogen repair and restoration.
  • And no matter what your goals, you know you need plenty of micronutrients daily: your vitamins and minerals.

While it may seem overwhelming to think, How am I going to plan for seven days worth of meals, snacks, and shakes while meeting all my protein, carb, fat, and vitamin/minerals,? It really isn’t that bad. To prove it, I’m going to show you exactly what I do.

First of all, based on my activity level, bodyweight, and my personal goals I have determined my daily total calories needed, plus how much protein, carbs, fat, and fiber I need to eat or drink each and every day. In about 10 days, I will be writing a series of blog posts where I will teach you how you can find out your exact numbers, as well as some general information about macro counting.

My daily targets are as follows: calorie total = 1,684; carbs = 158g; fat = 60g; protein = 128g; and fiber = 30g.

Based on those numbers, this is my plan for this coming week: 

Target: 1684 cals 158 carb / 60 fat / 128 protien / 30 fiber
Upon waking: Coffee
1/2 TBS coconut oil
1 TBS cream
1/2 scoop whey, Dymatize ISO 100
Breakfast: 3 slices bacon (from the Farmer’s Market if possible!)
45 g non fat Greek yogurt
15 g all natural peanut butter
Lunch: 200g spaghetti squash
85g broccoli
2 oz lean ground turkey (usually 90/10)
1/2c pasta sauce (low sugar sauce)
Pre Workout: 200 g sweet potatoes
25g beef jerky
During workout: 1 fruit/veg squeeze pack (it’s baby food)
Muscletech’s Anabolic Halo protein powder (this stuff is amazing)
Dinner: 1 oz (uncooked) black bean pasta
3 oz (cooked) chicken breast
83g lima beans
1/2 cup pasta sauce (low sugar!)
Snack: 1/2 cup almond milk
1 scoop Amazing Grass Superfood
1 “Enjoy Life” dark chocoalate bar
Totals: 1683 cals 154 carbs / 62 fat / 131 protein / 31 fiber
A staple of mine. So easy to make, so versatile.
A staple of mine. So easy to make, so versatile.

If you noticed that my end numbers are off by a few, that’s OK! That’s why it’s called “flexible eating.” I’m close enough to still meet my goals but I don’t have to obsess over it either.

So to start, IMG_9613I cook the spaghetti squash because it takes the longest (45 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees) and while the spaghetti squash cooks, I cook the chicken, ground turkey, the black bean noodles (which are fabulous by the way–full of fiber and protein), and I take out my food scale and all my tupperware. I don’t pre-cook my breakfasts because I’ll set aside a few extra minutes to cook the bacon. The yogurt mixed with peanut butter, as well as my FAVORITE coffee-protein jump-starter shake is super easy and quick to throw together.

This doesn’t mean you can’t pre-make your breakfast and reheat it throughout the week. You need to find what works best for you and your schedule and make that your version of quick and easy. The drive-through does not count. If you start your day off crappy, you’ll probably continue and end the day with crappy choices. So don’t be crappy. ;)

 

IMG_9625
Black bean pasta: just two ounces (uncooked) yields 25 grams of protein.
IMG_9645
I look forward to this every morning. Hot coffee, coconut oil, cream, and protein. Blend on low speed for 5 seconds. I use Dymatize ISO 100 because it contains no artificial sweeteners that cause insulin spikes. It’s a great, pure, protein; and the taste is GREAT. Whenever I run out and I end up using a cheaper, backup protein, my shakes NEVER taste as good.
IMG_9651
I don’t like milk so I use almond milk to take my greens. Amazing Grass Green Superfood is the ONLY superfood in which I’ve gotten used to its taste. This one is chocolate-flavored, but they also have a berry flavor that I think is really good. And for me personally, almond milk is the only liquid that masks the grassy taste. If you’re serious about your health, check it out. All the major vitamins and minerals, even pre and pro biotics, are in one tiny scoop.
IMG_9695
Breakfast this week: when planning out my meals this morning I originally wrote down oatmeal for breakfast. Then I noticed I was higher in carbs and lower in fat at the end of the day. And since I don’t like to eat a lot of carbs early, I switched out the oats for bacon. [YESSS!!!] Most people count bacon as a protein source, and while it does contain ‘some’ protein, it’s actually higher in fat than protein. So when looking to up my daily fat, bacon was the perfect choice. Don’t forget that animal fat is actually a very good source of naturally occurring fat! And of course, this isn’t farmer’s market fresh, but that’s why I added lima beans to my menu. Limas are the only veggie that contain a sulfite-fighting property that actually helps your body flush out nitrites, nitrates, and sulfites found in any kind of processed meat. I know it’s sometimes impossible to eat perfectly, so why not just add in some lima beans?!
IMG_9630
I am all about easy and quick meals and snacks. Jerky (a new snack I picked up recently) has 12 grams of protein for one ounce. That pack will last all week! And Beech Nut baby food packs are the perfect way to add in some fruits and veggies on the go. I usually save them for when I’m driving to the gym or even in between lifts sometimes when I can feel my energy depleting. And I’ve never had these little “Enjoy Life” dark chocolate gluten/dairy/soy free bars, but they were on sale this week and I LOVE a treat at night. I made sure to fit them into my plan. This is how you’re supposed to do “IIFYM.” This chocolate bar “fits,” but everything else of mine is really healthy…I even hit 31 grams of fiber for the day. After you get the healthy out of the way, THEN you can make a little bit of chocolate “fit.”
IMG_9666
A week’s worth of lunches and dinners…minus the ground turkey because I ran out of cute serving dishes for the picture.
IMG_9672
While in Denver last week, I took a food photography workshop. Thoughts on this photo? I kind of like it a lot.

If you’re interested in learning more about macronutrient partitioning (or flexible nutrition as I like to call it), I’m including a complete guide on how to figure out your appropriate macros in our upcoming book, The Total Health and Fitness Makeover, scheduled to release later this month. And of course, don’t forget about that blog post series I referenced earlier, which will start in the middle of the month. YOU will learn how to better calculate your own numbers.

And if you hate the thought of weighing, measuring, and counting out your food, yet you still want to learn more about eating properly and food prep, I’ve created a solid prepping method (I’m still trying to come up with a catchy name for it) that will be featured in the upcoming book. It’s designed to help you reach your appropriate food goals (no matter what method of nutrition you use) without specifically counting or tracking numbers.

Make sure you’ve subscribed to our site–we will be releasing all the details starting next week.

This week’s SFCW:

Workout One: For time-

  • 400 meter sprint, then rest the same amount of time it took to run 400
  • 200 meter sprint, rest the same amount of time
  • 400 meter sprint, rest the same amount of time
  • 200 meter sprint, rest the same amount of time
  • 400 meter sprint

Workout Two: 5 Rounds –

  • 10 Goblet squats
  • 8 Push-ups
  • 6 Burpees
  • 4 Lunges
  • 2 side planks (:30 second holds on each side)

Workout Three: 15 Minutes, As many rounds possible-

  • 15 Kettlebell swings
  • 15 Wall-balls
  • 15 V-Ups

If you don’t have a kettlebell or medicine ball, you can substitute air squats for goblet squats, jump squats and push-ups for the wall balls, and lunges for the swings. Have fun and work hard!

Comments

  1. says

    Steph – AWESOME FOOD PHOTOS ! I love LOVE that one you said “what do you think” I think it’s awesome! I am too lazy to make my food photos look pretty #aintnobodygottimeforthat
    Realistically I will never count my food, which made me think MY prep method is similar to what you describe here “I’ve created a solid prepping method (I’m still trying to come up with a catchy name for it) that will be featured in the upcoming book. It’s designed to help you reach your appropriate food goals (no matter what method of nutrition you use) without specifically counting or tracking numbers.”
    I cannot wait until you share how you figured out your numbers though, people need that!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Thanks Amber!! I am so excited to share it all! The numbers, the counting, the lack of counting, everything!! And you are so right–not everyone needs to count things to be healthy. I love that you’ve already got that down. Thanks for liking my photos…I really am like you…no time for fancy photo jazz. BUT I knew it was time to stock up on some good pics and I really wanted to test out what I learned in Denver on photography!!! Thanks for the comment!!!!!!

  2. Rhonda Dunbrack says

    I am really looking forward to your book! Just like Amber, I would love to know the macro number numbers I need for ME. I use percentages now but it needs tweaking. Thanks Steph!