What is aware eating? It’s knowing what your food is made of, and using that information to eat better. One of the best ways to do that is to start by tracking the macronutrients which are made up of Protein, Carbohydrates and fats. These make up the total calories of food. Here are the three steps towards becoming a more aware eater.
Step 1. Measure
When you are learning to track your nutrition, the three best tools you can have in your kitchen are food scales, a calorie counting book, and measuring cups.
Most food comes with a label which makes your life easy. However, if you prefer wholefoods that come without labels which you definitely should, there are plenty of mobile apps that allow calorie tracking. One of the most popular and our favourite is My Fitness Pal.
Step 2. Break It Down
Now you know how to measure macros you need to determine what your nutritional breakdown will look like going forward, and how the macronutrients in your individual meals will support it.
The first number you need to determine when planning your diet is the number of calories your body needs. This number is based on your age, gender, weight, rate of metabolism, activity level, goal, and the amount of time you have to achieve your goal. There are a number of calculators online that can help you get that number, so we’re not going to dig too deep into it here. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say you figured out you need 2,000 calories per day and that you’re working out, but not in a bulking or cutting phase.
Break your macros down so you know how many calories you should spend on each macronutrient. Let’s say you start out on a simple 40/40/20 plan. On a 2,000 calorie diet, that means you need 800 calories worth of protein, 800 calories worth of carbs and 400 calories worth of fat each day. Convert those calories into grams so you know how many grams of each macro you need to get into your daily diet.
- A gram of protein contains 4 calories.
- A gram of carbohydrates contains 4 calories
- A gram of fat contains 9 calories.
On a 2,000 calorie diet, your macros calculate in this way:
800 calories/4 calories per gram = 200 g of protein. You’ll get the same number for 40 percent carbs, 200 g. For the 20 percent fat, the equation is 400 calories/9 calories per gram of fat = 44 g of fat (rounded down).
For a 2,000 calorie daily diet, in the 40/40/20 example, look for:
- 200 g of protein
- 200 g of carbs
- 44 g of fat
Step 3. Start Meal Planning
Now you have your number. But you can’t eat a number, and you can’t predict how it’ll make you feel. So while there are classic ratios you can start with, like 40/40/20 or 40/50/10, they should be guidelines, not rules.
Try something like 40/40/20, and if you’re hungry all the time, increase your protein. If you find your energy lagging, you may want to try increasing your fats. Nutrition for bodybuilding is part science and part art, and we’re always trying to strike the right balance between the two.
Along the way, don’t make yourself crazy with the calculations. Get as close as you can to your macros, and when you’re not at home or are in a rush, eyeball your portions as best you can. If your protein is a little low one day and your carbs are a little high on another, don’t freak out. The last thing you want is for the stress of calculating perfect macros to kill your motivation for eating well.
Also, don’t get too hung up on minute differences in the ratios. Eating roughly 40/40/20 is better than not knowing what you’re eating at all. If you can’t track everything, every day, just do your best. It all seems like a lot of work at first, but you’ll be able to do this on the fly before you know it.