Finding a proper macronutrient balance is a personal thing. It begins with your goal - and I’m talking your body composition goal. Do you want to gain muscle mass, lose fat, maintain what you’ve already got, both, neither? Once you have an idea of what your goals are, it’s much easier to figure out how much food to eat and which kinds are going to give you the best results. But, before you dive into a brand new way of eating, let’s learn a bit about what you’re already doing, and go from there.
What I’d really like for you to be introduced to, is awareness. Awareness around what you’re doing day to day and how that may be playing a roll in your body composition. I want you to try the following experiment. And actually try it. Try it a couple of times during this next week. I guarantee you’ll learn something. I’m going to call this experiment, The Backwards Method. You’ll need some measuring utensils.
Serve yourself normally. This is what we will call your portion size [fun fact: your portion size is almost never one serving size].
Before you dig in, grab whatever measuring utensils you own [don’t stress out if you don’t have the right ones] and roughly estimate how much food is actually in front of you. If you don’t have any, use this guide. Then, jot it down to make things easier.
Next, compare your measurements to the nutritional label. For help with certain conversions use this chart .
Take note of how many standard serving sizes you’re about to consume versus how many you thought you were about to consume.
If you have a “holy crap, I actually just ate 5 standard servings of cereal for breakfast - but I thought it was really only one” moment, you’re not alone, and now that you know better, you can do better. So maybe you just had an epiphany and perhaps now you’ll be more mindful and aware of how much [or how little] you were eating. If this is enough for you - that’s great! You can skip the next part. But, for those of you who still aren’t quite sure what to do with this information, we can take things a step further. Since the first step in simplifying your life is knowing yourself a bit better, take a look at the following and pick the one that suits your lifestyle, not the one you think is the right answer [because spoiler alert - there isn’t a right answer].
I need 100% accuracy: People participating in various levels of bodybuilding competitions [or are just very meticulous about what they’re putting in their mouth] are very strict and prefer to utilize kitchen scales and other measuring utensils to ensure accuracy.
Pros: very specific and accurate, doesn’t require recall
Cons: time consuming, can become obsessive
I like seeing how much I have left to eat: People on the go may find calorie counting apps to be easiest, such as the ever popular MyFitnessPal. It allows you to input what you’re eating, watch the totals add up, and see how many calories you have left of each macronutrient and overall.
Pros: straight forward, can be done on the go, allows you to see macro count
Cons: inaccuracy of recording, time consuming, can become obsessive, requires recall
Please, make it easy for me: For those of us who want an easy, accessible way to track things may want to familiarize themselves with the Precision Nutrition approach of hand measures [or if you prefer references to other objects, click here].
Pros: learn what portion sizes look like, accessible anywhere, doesn’t take up much time
Cons: overthinking whether the portion is exactly the right size
Forget it, someone just do it for me: If you can’t stand the idea of doing any of this yourself, or you don’t have the time, there are companies out there that specialize in different degrees of meal prep. You can choose from things such as delivered ingredient & recipes all the way to fully prepared meals (please note this varies depending on where you live). Depending on the service, you can request a macronutrient breakdown [so you don’t have to worry about counting], and/or the type of meals you wish to receive [vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, Whole30, etc.].
Pros: little to no prepping & measuring, eliminates decision making, time friendly
Cons: takes the consciousness out of meals, costly
Have you picked the one you relate best to? Great! Because no one really wants to spend hours a day thinking about how many calories they’ve eaten, how many they have left, whether their chicken breast is 4 or 6 ounces and how many almonds they can have. Think of all of the other things you could be doing with the time that you spend thinking about food! So let’s take this knowledge and apply it to your life! Take a few minutes to think about what changes you might be able to make to simplify things, based off of what you’ve learned today.
Know there’s something to change, but not sure what it is or where to start? Sign up for Nutrition in a Nutshell to begin your nutrition journey.