March is National Nutrition Month— how cool is that?! That makes this a great month to reflect on nutrition and see which areas we can improve upon. Nutrition is an important piece to the puzzle of our fitness success. In my opinion, it is what separates the good from the great. We can all have a killer workout, but when you pair those workouts with good, consistent nutrition habits— your health and physique will go to GREAT!
When it comes to my own nutrition, I follow IIFYM (if it fits your macros), also known as “flexible dieting.” What makes flexible dieting so great is in the name— it is FLEXIBLE. That’s it! IIFYM and flexible dieting get far too overcomplicated. It is truly just finding the nutrition information for the foods you eat, measuring things out so that you know how much of the nutrition information you’re getting from those foods and keeping a log of it daily.
Sound like a pain? Just like any new thing, it takes some practice and getting used to. And with practice, comes improvement. It becomes second nature!
I am a busy mom and business owner, so I need flexibility in my life. Nutrition is a TOP priority for me, so dieting with flexibility is of the upmost importance. Once you have calculated your macros (macronutrients), you simply create meals throughout the day that reach those macro numbers per meal. You can also start even easier and just focus on hitting your TOTAL macro numbers for the entire day— without trying to hit macros for each meal. Once you get comfortable hitting your daily macros, you can start splitting those macros up into per-meal macros and practice hitting your macros per meal.
How awesome is that! This is a lifestyle that is easy to incorporate for any goal, and is long lasting.
If you still need to calculate your macros, there are many resources online with macro calculators. If you want more than just an online calculator, and want to dig deeper into pre- and post-workout macros, rest day macros, etc…I encourage you to become a Jessie’s Girl! Jessie’s Girls are my training and nutrition programs in e-book format that you can find at jessiefitness.com/jessiesgirls. In my programs, I walk you through this entire macro calculating process.
Remember, start simple. Once you’re comfortable meeting your macro goals for the day, you can begin calculating your per-meal macros. To start, divide your total macros up evenly amongst your meals for the day. For example, let’s use my macros, which are roughly 160g protein, 60g fat and 220g carbohydrates. I like eating five times per day, so I will take these numbers and divide each of them by five meals, which gives me 32g protein, 12g fat and 44g carbs per each meal.
Best Food Choices
My protein comes from meat, fish, eggs, dairy and protein powder. My fats come from meat, fish, nuts, nut butters, avocado, egg yolks and oils. Carbohydrates will come from some fruits, vegetables and grains.
Become familiar with food labels and looking nutrition facts up online. If I can’t find a food label on a package, or if I’ve purchased fresh produce and don’t have a label— I simply use Google to look up the nutrition information.
Planning your meals will take some time at first until you become more familiar with your macro goals and how to meet them. A great way to start logging your food items and meals is to use an app. The most common apps are My Fitness Pal or MyMacros+. You can easily open your app and search the database for any items (even items you have that don’t have a nutrition label) and add that item to your daily log or meal. These apps are easy to use and will show you how many macros you have left for the rest of the day.
You’ll need a food scale and basic measuring cups and spoons to properly weigh your serving sizes. Using a food scale is not crazy or obsessive but an easy and accurate way to measure a serving size. Try not to just “eyeball” your serving sizes— they can be SO far off from the actual measurement. I know my “eyeball” version of one tablespoon of peanut butter would be much more generous than what an actual tablespoon is (more like a shovel-sized serving!). You could potentially be overeating by a few hundred calories each day if you don’t measure accurately.
For example, if one serving of oatmeal is one-half cup dry, or 40g (taken from the nutrition label), put an empty bowl on your scale, turn your scale on, select “grams” for measurement (other options most commonly used would be ounces), and then add oatmeal to the bowl until your scale reads 40 grams. There is your carb portion of this meal. You’ll add this 40g of oats to your food log— and it will count toward your totals for the day.
Proteins are easiest when measured in ounces, so set your scale to ounces when weighing out your protein. You can look at the label on your meats or look up the nutrition facts online or in your app to see how many grams of proteins and fats are in one ounce of your protein of choice. Once you know this, it’s easy to select how many ounces you need to meet those goals for your meal.
Why Count Macros Instead of Just Counting Calories?
If we only count calories instead of paying attention to macros (proteins, carbs and fats), our bodies may not be receiving enough of the proper nutrients to achieve our goals. Not having enough fats could negatively impact hormones, not enough protein can lead to muscle loss and too little carbs can cause low energy. Those are just a few of the negative side effects you may experience from not getting enough of each macro.
Once you become more comfortable with tracking your macros, get your family involved. Once each week, have your family come up with a healthy recipe you can all make together. Give everyone a part to play in the cooking process and make it fun! That is one of my favorite parts of flexible dieting— you don’t have to give up the foods you love and you can eat with your family!
When you are ready for some awesome recipe ideas, check out #jessiesgirlseats on Instagram— there are tons of macro-friendly recipe ideas there!