If something is too damn complicated, good freaking luck following it consistently.
This ESPECIALLY rings true for nutrition.
For any nutrition plan to work, you HAVE to be consistent. That means doing the things you’re supposed to do MOST of the time, like 80-90%. But if something is way too complicated either because the plan OR methods are or YOU’RE actually the one overthinking it and making it too complicated, you’re going to have real trouble actually making the plan and nutrition become part of your lifestyle and actually work for you.
A big thing many people struggle with and make entirely too complicated is counting macros and measuring/weighing their food. So they don’t quantify their food at all and this hurts because it’s ESSENTIAL that you eat consistent amounts of food if you want to eat for strength and performance and not support unwanted levels of body fat.
You should not be playing freaking food Tetris every damn day because you have 13g of fat, 2g carbs and 10g of protein to play with at the end of the day and you should not be spending 30 minutes of your day trying to calculate and log all the macros in that breakfast casserole you just enjoyed.
You should however make a daily plan of your meals ahead of time and you should keep your meals and counting the macros for those meals as simple as possible.
People don’t want to count macros because they believe it’s cumbersome or tedious. So make it easy! Right now I’m going to show you how.
1. Plan your macros ahead of time, rather than tracking as you go.
The first thing I suggest is to make a daily meal plan. Seriously DO NOT try to just “wing it” by eating casually throughout the day and tracking your macros as you go along. More than likely, you will be left at the end of the day with some crazy macro combination and next thing you know, you’re eating plain egg whites or taking swigs of olive oil to make up for the difference. It’s not fun and good luck keeping up with that for more than a day or two. It gets old, I promise.
Here’s what you do instead:
Each day you should have a plan of how much you’re going to eat, what you’re going to eat and when you’re going to eat your meals. Write it out so that when you’re preparing your food for the week or even getting ready to make just a one-off meal, you can eat according to the plan. And lastly, make it simple and just have it apply to every day for the week. You’re just trying to build consistency. Don’t worry about nutrient timing, eating less on rest days, fasting or whatever until you can get into the habit of following a basic daily plan. Those things are low on the totem pole of importance.
Here’s how 150g protein, 180g carbs, 88g fat would broken down to 5 meals:
Meal 1 7am – 30g protein, 1 cup veggies, 22g fat, 30g carbs
Meal 2 11am – 30g protein, 1 cup veggies, 22g fat, 30g carbs
Meal 3 2pm – 30g protein, 1/2 cup veggies, 22g fat, 30g carbs
Meal 4 5pm – Training Shake 30g protein, 30g carbs
Meal 5 7pm – 30g protein , 1/2 cup veggies 22g fat, 30g carbs
The macros are split evenly throughout the day with the exception of the training shake which doesn’t have fat.
Now all you would have to do is plug in whatever foods you want to eat that meet the plan and if you can follow your plan every day for at least 2 weeks, then I’d say you’ve earned the right to add some complexity.
2.Prepare simple meals
For beginners I suggest to make your meals and foods as simple as possible rather than making complicated dishes (Please re-read that, if you want results let’s keep things simple at first). It will help make the food on your plate really easy to weigh and measure.
Here are some examples of my meals:
What do you notice? The food and meals are so simple, I could literally take each food off the plate, put it back on the scale and easily weigh and measure it. Making your meals simple like this at first will help with weighing and measuring, be easier to prepare which SAVES YOU TIME and definitely helps with making the macros fit your plan better.
3. Only count the majority macro in foods.
Foods are not perfect. They contain more than one type of macro. Meat usually contains fat. Starchy carbs usually contain protein and sometimes fat. Fats can contain carbs and protein.
Trying to account for all that and make it all fit together with your meal plan like a puzzle can be a HUGE pain in the ass. Food Tetris.
Instead of accounting for the minor macros in foods, I would suggest only counting the majority macro in the food for your meal planning purposes. Think of it as the 80/20 rule for accounting for macros.
Example: if 1 serving (56 uncooked grams) of whole wheat pasta contains 1.5g of fat, 39g carbs, and 7g of protein, I’m just going to count the 39 grams of carbs and forget the other macros.
Vegetables? Ha! I don’t even count them brah (especially if they are green and leafy). They contain so little calories and carbs (mostly in the form of fiber), it’s just not even worth it. As long as you aren’t eating ridiculously large amounts of veggies, 1/2 cup to 1 cup per meal is fine, or cooking them in huge amounts of butter or oil, don’t even worry about counting them (count the oil or butter though).
But Alex, won’t that be wrong or off? Yes, but it doesn’t matter as long as you do this consistently. Remember no nutrition plan is “right”. You’ve GOT to stop worrying about being right and accurate and focus more about being consistent and precise.
The food scale and counting macros are tools and methods to help keep you eating consistent amounts so that when it’s time to make changes and adjustments (which eventually will happen), you can look back at the food intake and make a change.
So stop worrying about trying to make that 0.5 gram of fat in your 99% ground turkey “fit”.
And even if you do eat some foods with a high amounts of different macros in it like a chili or casserole (see point 2 why I don’t recommend that for beginners), just always eat a consistent amount of that chili or casserole and you’ll know what you can tweak if you need to adjust something.
Now we’ve covered all my suggestions and steps, here’s that meal plan revisited filled-in with simple as f*ck foods and their quantities :
Meal 1 7am – Egg whites (276g unprepared) cooked with a cup of sautéed spinach, 40g almond butter, 28g dry oats (about 1/2 cup prepared), 80g blueberries
Meal 2 11am – 5 oz grilled salmon, 1 cup of roasted broccoli, 145g avocado slices, 100g cantaloupe, 100g cooked brown rice
Meal 3 2pm – 5 oz grilled steak, 1/2 cup sautéed bell peppers and onions, 130g cooked brown rice, 145g avocado
Meal 4 5pm – Training Shake: 40g whey protein powder, 30g dextrose
Meal 5 7pm – 5 oz grilled chicken, 1/2 cup kale with 16g vinaigrette, 90g cooked whole wheat penne pasta, 20g walnuts
Now that’s simple AND planned!
When I go to prepare my meals and foods, it’s so simple and I’ve got my plan with what kinds of foods and how much I need to eat committed to heart so I don’t even have to think about it. It’s just automatic at this point. Even if I eat out at a restaurant, I’ve got my plan and I know what fits in that so making choices is way easier.
That’s where I want YOU to get to. And keeping this as simple as possible is going to help you get there so much faster. Are there any strategies you’ve developed to keep things simple and stay on track? I’d love to hear them, leave a comment below.
For me, putting carbs around my activity was a game changer. For tracking, I plug in my stuff the night before into Lose It! And then modify/add as things go through the day. Life does happen, so there’s a need to cut some slack.
Buy an instapot and thank me later.
Alex–that’s a low amount of calories for someone so active! I’m surprised.
My usual intake turns out to be around 2500 a day when I put it all in a food logger. Because I only count the majority macro, it turns out to be more. The point is still to just eat consistently regardless of whether the number is actually what it is.
How much you need to eat depends partly on training volume. I train 5 days a week usually about 90 minutes a day. Usually 3-4 movements with 3 sets or less averaging 3-4 reps for the strength stuff and a 12-15 minute WOD. It’s not a lot of volume.
Many think that you need to eat a massive amount of calories to perform well and be strong but that’s just not the case. You need to eat enough to match your volume and support lean body mass (muscle) but not support a lot of fat mass. Sure I could eat 3500 calories a day and I’d probably perform amazing but I’d have to pay the price of putting on extra fat mass which isn’t conducive to long term performance or health.
The majority macro thing is new to me. Where’d that genius come from?
ZONE was teaching that before “macro counting” was even a thing haha
I’ll give you credit. This is Macro Highlander.
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Love these tips and religiously follow Shrugged. You guys are entertaining & informative. My question – I stay away from all processed foods, i.e. REAL FOOD ONLY. Any tips for those protein shakes ?
I saved so much time planning my meals once I stopped trying to count the macros in my broccoli, mushrooms, and peppers! Those are “bonuses”, since they have zero down-sides
I’m new to this so excuse a foolish question/assumption. I’m assuming the training shake is plugged in later in the day because that’s when you train. I’m working out at 5 am during the week.
I’ve found your site very helpful. Thanks for all the info!
Not a foolish question! I should have mentioned that is the case. I do sip on that shake during training. If you train that early you can just make a shake and sip on it or drink it right after.
I had the same question and Alex helped me out. NOW makes some dextrose and it’s a huge tub for like 20 bucks and probably has a half life. I train at 5 am too, and sometimes I eat a banana before and sip on the shake during the workout especially for longer (2 hour or so) sessions.
It’s cool to see you mention majority macro idea! I follow the RP auto-templates and that’s a major part of the templates (along with not counting vegetable macros) but I’ve never seen anyone else mention it. It’s such a great concept to help beginners simplify things. Macro Tetris is awful.
Dude, it feels revolutionary! I just wish I could afford to eat like that every day.
For those of us that can’t and eat things like ham sandwiches or have protein dominant meals and others that aren’t so much, then what? Also, with salmon being oily/fatty, do you still only count it as protein?
Do you focus on daily macros or per meal divisions every time?
Sorry for so many questions
Priorities man. I don’t know your financial situation but like with time, we all have the money for the things we see as priorities and valuable to us. I was a poor grad student for a while so I know what it’s like. I still eat very frugally. I don’t buy organic. I buy regular chicken breasts, ground beef, cheaper cuts of beef and etc. I like to go to Costco to get meat in bulk since it’s cheaper to do that. Most quality carbs like rice, oats and pasta are also inexpensive. Frozen veggies are clutch because they don’t spoil and you can buy in bulk. Peanut butter is a good fat source I use too and super cheap. There’s always a way man! Priorities…
And yea I’d still count salmon as just protein. No need to make it complicated.
I focus on per meal divisions of macros because that’s what you need to do if you want to make a plan. If you told me to eat 170p, 200c and 80f per day, that would only be half helpful because I need to know how to break it up so I’m not trying to make stuff fit at the end of the day. That’s why you should take those numbers and make a meal plan.
No worries on the questions. I love answering them. Keep them coming.
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This is great stuff! However having figured out my macros and then split them pretty much evenly over 5 meals, I’m now tearing my hair out trying to figure out a breakfast to fit the macros and can’t seem to find a simple way of doing it, any advice?
I may just be over thinking things, and just for context my split is 34g P 40g C and 20g F per meal.
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What about a Fried Egg, both the white and the yoke. Would you count the protein or fat or both? I don’t usually separate them.
I started working with RPSTRENGTH and they give you the freedom of good choice, but provide you with a gameplan for macro and feeding times. It works great for me. 1 month in now and 2kg extra muscle mass