If you have ever tried to follow your macros and diet plan, you know how difficult it can be to be 100% accurate. Especially if you want to eat something besides chicken, rice, broccoli and eggs.
Most of us have families, like to eat out every now and then, and simply do not have the desire to live like a caveman to “hit our macros.” While at the same time wanting to be healthy and achieve our fitness goals. This is entirely possible.
Truthfully speaking, being around 90% accurate is more than good enough in most cases, whether you want to gain muscle or lose fat.
The rare exception might is around competition time, where we need to get down to extremely low body fat levels. Which of course is not healthy, but a part of competing in bodybuilding.
Below we have provided some guidelines for you to follow, so you can be more confident in yourself when following a diet plan.
How Accurate Do We Need to Be With Our Macronutrients?
Some general basic rules to counting your macros are the following:
Stay Within a Range of 5%
For each macronutrient, try to be within a 5% range of the total amount of grams you have planned out for the day. This means around 5% above or below the specific amount of carbs, fats or proteins that you are supposed to eat within the day.
Of course, do not go 5% over your total planned carbs for the day every single day. We are just trying to say that if you eat around 5% more or less some days out of the week, you are going to be totally fine.
Some people even count veggies as part of their carbs. This is absolutely not necessary, especially if we are talking about fibrous veggies. These can be broccoli, kale, cauliflower, carrots, spinach and so on.
In fact, our bodies tend to use more energy to break down the veggies than there are calories in them.
However, if we are talking about vegetables with high amounts of carbs like corn, peas and potatoes, you definitely need to be counting those. But for your broccoli and spinach, you do not want to count them. More often than not, most of us actually eat too few veggies.
Consider the Goal of Your Meal
Very often, we stress about the smallest of details, which often is unnecessary. If your diet tells you to eat no carbs, do not worry about the few grams of carbs some nuts will give you. They are not going to hurt you.
Instead, understand the main goal of the meal.
Let us assume you have a fat and protein breakfast, and add some nuts in there, which happen to contain some carbs. The amount of carbs is so low, it will not affect you. Nuts are very healthy and have some amazing fats.
The reason we rarely want to include carbs in a breakfast is because we do not usually need them here.
More often than not, it will lead to a crash in energy a few hours later. Except if you are one of the rare species who just sucks up carbs, and actually have a hard time eating enough calories and carbs.
The only place we want to be careful with what we eat, and the right amount, is during our workouts. This is because we do not want anything to backfire and affect our workout. Like eating too many carbs and getting slouchy during your workout. That is not fun.
Look at the Bigger Picture
You have to remind yourself that both your diet and training plan is designed to give you results over time. Not in one day or a week. So, if you eat 300 calories too much one day, and 300 calories too little the next day, you are still on track.
It is important to look at fitness goals in the bigger picture, because it is a life-long thing. You do not get fit in one day, nor do you plan to stay fit for only a short period (hopefully).
Choice of Food and Meal Prep
To make life easier for yourself, it helps being consistent with the foods you eat and how you prepare your food. If you stay consistent with these things, it is very easy to judge what works and what does not. And therefore change and adjust when that is necessary.
On the other hand, if you eat different types of foods and prepare them differently all the time, it becomes more complicated. This does not mean you cannot change things up, just be aware of yourself.
Obviously, if you change things up often, you will need to spend much more time on weighing and making sure you are hitting your macros.
Strategies If You Go Off-Track
Now that we have looked at the basics of macro and calorie counting, we can get a little bit more advanced. Life happens, and life is not only the gym and chicken. Thus, we are bound to get off-track sometimes, and we are going to look at how we can best deal with that.
More specifically, we are going to look at four different strategies. These include carrying over macros in a given day, carrying over macros throughout several days, dividing your meals, and skipping meals.
Carrying Over Macros in a Given Day
Sometimes we eat too many or too few macros in a meal. For instance, if you were out at a restaurant, and there were simply no great choices for carbohydrates to fit into your diet. At this point you can just add in the carbs in the following meal, or split it up in the next two meals.
This can be very nice if you tend to go out to eat often, or are not able to cook a meal.
Of course, this requires some “eyeballing” and knowledge about food. Someone who has never counted macros before will struggle a little in the beginning, but it will be easy after a while. Then you will know about how much protein is in a slice of chicken or a handful of nuts.
Carrying Over Macros Throughout Several Days
This strategy is the same as the first one, but carrying over the macros to the next day(s) instead of within the same day. When you for instance go camping or hang out with family and friends for a whole day, we know how difficult dieting can get. Or, if you simply missed a meal because you got home late.
If you were lacking some macros from the previous day, simply add them on the next day. Remember, this is a long-term journey, and a few slips along the way will not kill you.
That being said, it is vital to spread out your protein as evenly as possible. Also, keep most of your carbs with your carb-heavy meals and fats with your fat meals. We do not want to mix a lot of fat with carbs and vice versa.
Dividing Your Meals
Dividing your meals becomes handy if you miss a meal, and still have several meals left in the day. Now you can divide the macros from the missing meal into the remaining meals of the day. The only time you do not want to do this, is if you missed a lot of macros for the day, and have to add them all in for your last meal.
At this point, you will be better off only adding in maybe half of your macros. Because eating a giant meal before going to bed is not good from a digestive perspective. This is something you have to judge for yourself, but you can understand how to deal with it.
However, if this happens often, consider changing your nutrition plan.
Again, remember to keep most carbs with carb heavy meals, and the same with fats. For protein, spread them out evenly.
Skipping Your Meals
Lastly, we have the skipping option. Life happens, and it will continue to happen, that is life. Sometimes we are simply unable to eat a meal, and that is fine. If this only happens occasionally, you can just skip it and not think about it. A missed meal here and there will not affect you much.
Stressing about adding in the last few macros here and there is worse for you than just skipping it. Especially if you are a person who tends to get worried about these things.
Hopefully after reading this it will be easier for you to follow your nutrition plan. The most important thing you can do is to understand the goal of both your nutrition and training plan. That way you can make the best decision for yourself on your fitness journey. Slip-ups and surprises will always happen along the way, that is just a part of our life. But as long as you understand your long-term goals, you will be able to deal with each situation as well as you can.
Thank you for reading our article!
– Terry Asher
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