Welcome to The Macro Challenge!

We are so excited for you to be all aboard the macro train!  We look forward to getting to know you and help you on your way to crushing goals and feeling stronger inside and out!  As you read through our Beginner's Guide to Macros, we encourage you to read EVERY section and familiarize yourself with all the content for you to get the most out of this program!  It has a lot of the tools and information you'll need to find the greatest success!  Again, we're so excited to embark on this journey to food freedom through flexible nutrition.

 
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What you need to get started:

Your Goals

Your Customized Macro Count (calculated by you using our guide or by a coach if you purchased either the VIP ($95) or Elite ($145) package)

My Fitness Pal App (or similar tracking app)

Flexible Measuring Tape (to take measurements)

Food Scale(s)

 

What your coaches use:

FOOD SCALE (small)

We love this scale and use it the most! We use it for most meals and the majority of the day!

food scale (large)

This one is great for larger pots that are too heavy for the small scale.  Great when you're making a large recipe!  Or if you want to put your dinner plate on the scale to zero it out & measure your food!
We also LOOOOVE this scale (and it has a plug, no batteries required!)

flexible measuring tape

One of our favorite ways to track progress!  A lot of times even if you aren't seeing the scale budge, you'll see a difference in your waistline!

 

How To Get the Most out of this challenge:

The key to getting the most out of this challenge is participation!  Our challengers that have utilized all that The Macro Challenge has to offer tend to have the greatest success!  So don't miss out on all the opportunities to learn & grow from this community!

What participation looks like:

Daily Intentions

 Nightly Reflections

Progress Tracker Questions

Weekly Challenges

Plan & Prepare

Facebook Lives & FAQs

"The Macro Challenge Team" private Facebook group for support

Macros Defined

"Macro" is short for macronutrients - the nutritional components that our bodies require in large amounts: protein, fat & carbohydrates.  Each macronutrient has a corresponding caloric value - meaning all the calories we eat come from protein, fat & carbs.  Micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, sodium, etc...), while important, do not have calorie values.  The values of each macro are:

1 gram of protein = 4 calories

1 gram of fat = 9 calories

1 gram of carbohydrate - 4 calories

Counting macros is superior to simply counting calories because where your calories come from is crucial.  Getting the right amount of macronutrients can be the determining factor in your ability to achieve your personal fitness goals.

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PROTEIN:

Our bodies use protein for nearly every metabolic process. Protein is composed of amino acids, many of which our bodies cannot produce on their own--they must be supplied by the diet! It is important to have a consistent intake of protein at regular intervals because our bodies are constantly using it to build, repair and maintain muscle, synthesize skeletal & connective tissues, neurotransmitters, enzymes, and immune system chemicals. Protein is the most important macronutrient to hit while counting. Depending on your goals, your intake will be set between 0.6 - 1.2 grams per pound of body weight. Common protein sources are meat, poultry, eggs & dairy.

How it helps us reach our goals:

  • Helps control our appetite by making us feel fuller for longer.
  • Our bodies use more energy to digest protein--increasing our energy expenditure & giving weight loss a boost.
  • Not getting enough protein will cause our bodies to break down muscle resulting in muscle loss. BUT getting enough protein means more muscle mass which means a stronger energy burning metabolism and a leaner-looking body!   
 

CARBOHYDRATES:

Carbohydrate intake is vital to physical and mental energy. Carbs get broken down into glucose: our bodies preferred fuel source. Glucose can be stored in the muscles (as glycogen) and accessed as the body expends energy during workouts etc. If you don’t get enough carbohydrates—your mental and physical performance will suffer! (And you’ll probably be constipated).

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How it helps us reach our goals:  

  • Fiber plays an important role in the body, the recommended intake is 25-35 grams a day for women and 25-48 grams per day for men. Fiber can help us feel fuller for longer, lower cholesterol, keep us regular and boost gut health.
  • Complex carbs take longer for your body to digest, releasing their energy gradually and keep you feeling fuller for longer. In general these foods are less processed, higher in fiber and include vegetables, fruits & whole grains. 

BUT:

  • Refined/ Processed Carbs (i.e. candy, junk food) are stripped of nutrients and often loaded with sodium, chemicals, trans fats & preservatives. They stimulate appetite and leave us feeling unsatisfied. They can also cause fluctuation in blood sugar and insulin levels.
  • Taking in more carbs than our bodies can use for energy will cause us to a) burn less of our dietary fat for energy and b) convert the surplus into fat tissue. The custom macros you have received were calculated based on your physical statistics and your lifestyle. If things in your life change i.e. your exercise regimen or activity level--your carb numbers may need to be adjusted. But until then eat your carbs and feel super good about it. 
 

FAt:

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Dietary fat plays an important role in vitamin absorption, making & balancing hormones as well as the formation of our brain and nervous systems. Fat is also a source of energy and provides us with essential fatty acids that our bodies cannot produce on our own.

How it helps us reach our goals:

  • Saturated fats (butter, coconut oil etc). Our body seems to know what to do with naturally occurring saturated fats and a moderate intake can even make us healthier.
  • Unsaturated fats include omega 3 & omega 6 fatty acids. These acids must come from our diet and getting enough is important! These fatty acids assist with healing as well as the function of the cardiovascular, nervous & immune systems.

BUT:

  • A lot of saturated fat combined with a lot of processed carbs IS unhealthy. An unbalanced intake of saturated fat can cause weight gain and other health problems.
  • Trans fats (a.k.a. hydrogenated fatty acids) are mostly found in industrially processed foods. They change how other (healthier) fats are processed in our body and increase the risk from many chronic diseases.

Your Macro Numbers

Your macro numbers represent the amount (in grams) of protein, carbohydrates, and fats you want to be eating on a daily basis. A customized macro count is one that has been calculated specifically for you. While there are many online macro calculators, those results will be based on much more general information. Customized numbers are based on the following information:

Gender

Lifestyle

Age

Current Weight

Personal Goals

Diet, Exercise & Weight History

Daily Activity (NEAT)

Current Dietary Intake

Exercise Type & Intensity

Level of Commitment

Exercise Frequency/Duration

Body Fat % (if known)

There are 3 different levels in counting macros: “cutting” (caloric deficit), “maintenance” (caloric balance), and “bulking” (caloric surplus). Incrementally moving up and down between these levels is where the term “reverse dieting” derives its meaning.

 

CUTTINg

Counting macros to lose weight is known as “cutting”. Following just about any diet can result in weight loss, but that loss will be a combination of fat and muscle. This is the “skinny fat” look. While most people want to lose weight--what they really mean is they want to lose fat. What sets counting macros apart as a weight loss strategy is that it maximizes fat loss while minimizing muscle loss. This achieves the “lean & toned” look we all want. In order to lose fat you must be in a calorie deficit, meaning your caloric intake is lower than the number of calories you are burning. If you are cutting, your custom macro numbers have been set at a calculated caloric deficit designed specifically for you. So don’t eat less than your macro numbers and try not to eat more! The more consistent your daily intake is, the more efficiently your body will burn both the calories it is given and the energy deposits it has stored in the form of fat tissue. When you are cutting you really want to emphasize accuracy and consistency so that you are not in the phase for longer than you need to be.

 

MAINTENANCE

Having macro numbers set at “maintenance” means you are taking in approximately the same amount of calories that you are expending. You can start counting macros at maintenance or reverse back to it after “cutting” by incrementally adding calories back in on a weekly or bi-weekly basis without gaining back weight. This is really the magic of macros--efficient, sustainable body composition change. You can continue to see body composition change over time even at a maintenance level. At this level you are eating enough to promote muscle building but not a surplus that would encourage weight gain.  

  

BULKING

Bulking means you are in a caloric surplus to gain muscle mass--but you will also gain fat tissue. While this is a lot less complicated than cutting or maintenance and requires less accuracy--you still want to have a calculated approach to maximize the increase of muscle and minimize the increase in fat tissue.

Weigh & Track Your Food

Long story short: you need a food scale and a food diary. Measuring food by weight is more accurate than using measuring spoons & cups (measuring by volume). This info graphic illustrates exactly what we’re talking about.

Accuracy in weighing and tracking can make or break your ability to achieve your goals! So weigh out and log your cereal, your banana, your chicken & rice, your ice cream etc. “Eyeballing” your portions or neglecting to track can inadvertently add in extra calories--which can reduce or even erase your hard-won calorie deficit (or even create a surplus).     

 
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Nutrition Labels

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You should always be able to see the fat, carbohydrate, and protein content on a nutrition label.  As we mentioned earlier each macronutrient has a caloric value. Doing our own math we can see how the calorie totals are calculated:

  • Fat = 9 calories per gram so 8F x 9 = 72 calories
  • Carbs = 4 calories per gram so 37C x 4 = 148 calories
  • Protein = 4 calories per gram so 3P x 4 = 12 calories
  • The calorie total = 72 + 148 + 12 = 232 calories

SERVING SIZE  

Note the serving size! Nutrition information is calculated based on the recommended serving size. This is typically listed as a volume measurement (teaspoon, tablespoon, milliliter, cup). We love it when the label includes the serving size weight in grams--it makes life "weigh" easier. In the example listed above the serving size is: 2/3 cup (volume) 55 grams (weight). Did you see there are approximately 8 servings in the container? Don’t assume that one package or one container is one serving size!

BUDGET YOUR MACROS   

We liken counting macros to living on a budget. Your macros are your cash--and it’s your money so spend it wisely and on what matters to you. Since all foods can be included, your perspective will sharpen on what foods are ‘worth it’ to you and what foods are not!

Consistency

Hitting your macros 

The more consistent you are in hitting your numbers, the better your results will be. You don’t need to pay attention to calories, unless I’ve spoken to you otherwise. Since each macro has a caloric value--if you hit your macros, you are also hitting your calories. To be consistent make sure that you:

Log everything you eat. You can’t count it if you don’t log it!

Weigh and track everything you can whenever you can!

Every day hit your targeted macros within +/- 5 grams.

Don’t eat less! Eating less than your macros can actually suspend weight loss. *I say don’t eat less just because you think it will accelerate your weight loss.  BUT I also don’t want you to stuff your face just for the sake of hitting your numbers.  This should not be an issue though.  

Try not to eat more! Eating more than your macros can erase your deficit, slowing weight loss or even causing weight gain.  

TIPS:

If you are struggling to hit your macros, focus on hitting protein.

If you must go over on a macro, carbs is typically the best one to have an excess of--it’s the easiest source of energy for your body to metabolize.

Be especially cautious in going over on fat grams. Since fat is calorie-dense (9 calories per gram), going over can easily erase your calorie deficit.

Measure Your Progress

Chart your progress by weight & measurement (you will need a flexible measuring tape or calipers). But remember the bathroom scale number is not the most accurate reflection of improvement. Macros is about changing your body composition (losing fat tissue & building lean muscle mass)--a transformation the bathroom scale is not equipped to measure. So pay attention to how your energy and how you feel! Take before pictures, take note of how your clothes fit or find your own way to determine progress!

Also, please make sure to use our Macro Challenge Workbook

Mindset

You will see long term success both in health & fitness if the majority of your dietary intake consists of a wide selection of diverse, whole, less-processed foods. These foods will keep you fuller for longer and fuel your body in all the best ways. BUT we all love foods that exist outside those boundaries--and there is an undeniable emotional element to eating! So play it smart. Spend your macros wisely & live within your macro means the majority of the time. Splurge when you can afford it and/or the quality is worth it. And most of all be flexible, eat flexibly and enjoy your life.

 

"Flexible dieting isn't a diet.  It is the assessment of the caloric needs of an individual and partitioning those calories into an appropriate range of macronutrients in order to realize the individual's goals by optimizing the body for improving body composition and performance and generally improve medically recognized markers of health.  Diets end.  But eating is the one thing you will do besides breathing you will do for the rest of your life.  How long can you really go without a bite of cake, or a candy bar, a bowl of cereal?  More importantly, why would you want to resist in perpetuity?  To what end?  Why would you want to develop orthorexia or a generally unhealthy relationship with food?  Food is supposed to make you survive and thrive and bring you joyous experiences.  Food can only kill you if you let it.  Flexible dieting is a way to eat for life that allows for living.  So go out there and live."

(Krissy Mae Cagney)

 

Reverse Dieting

Let’s recap with a quick vocab lesson…

CUTTING: Eating less calories than you take in (a.k.a. a caloric deficit) to lose fat (and keep as much muscle as possible). 

MAINTENANCE: Eating approximately the same amount of calories that you take in, so you are not gaining fat or losing fat--but you are able to promote more muscle growth than in a cut.

BULKING: Eating more calories than you take in (a.k.a. a caloric surplus) to maximize muscle growth while minimizing fat gain (although you will gain some).

PLATEAU: When there has been no change in measurements for 2 consecutive weeks (or more), and it is not related to consistency, accuracy, hormonal cycles etc.

Most people start macros in a cut---BUT you are not meant to be in a cut forever!

WHEN TO REVERSE:

You have hit your goal

You have hit a plateau

You need a break

Pay attention to your physical progress as well as your mindset--if you think you’re about to give up--DON’T!! Reverse up to Maintenance first!!

Reversing to "Maintenance"

So let's talk some more about reversing—specifically how you do it! You reverse from a cutting level to a maintenance level by incrementally adding calories back in on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. If you add calories back in gradually you can increase your calorie consumption without gaining back weight or losing your results!!

You will want to start by adding around 80-100 calories per week in the form of fat and carbs (usually 2-5 grams of fat and 10-15 grams of carbs). Your protein number—however—will not change (we can hear the collective sigh of relief).

If after the first week there is no change on the scale or your measurements, add in another 100 calories in grams of carbs & fat for another week. Keep adding in calories until you get to your maintenance calorie level (a.k.a. T.D.E.E. your "total daily energy expenditure"). You will get a rough idea of what your maintenance level is when you get your custom macro count in the beginning!

If at any time during your reversal you see a change in your measurements, simply don’t add in additional macros for that week. If you are still below your maintenance level, wait until your measurements are stable and then add in another round of upping your macros.

This can be daunting--and it can be hard to believe that it's real. That you can ACTUALLY keep weight off without under-eating. But it is very real and very fool proof! So stay committed, keep working at it and let us know what questions you have--we are here to help!

Plateaus

Ugh...Plateaus. The big bad wolf of the weight loss world. The dreaded, evil, frustrating time when that number on the scale WILL NOT BUDGE.

You’ve been sticking to your macros like a CHAMP.  

You’ve been consistently hitting your macros +/-5 grams day in and day out. You just can’t seem to get past this spot you’ve been stuck at!

Talk about frustrating and almost completely defeating. BUT DON’T FRET!  We’ve got some exciting news.  Okay...maybe it’s not exciting, but we do have some troubleshooting that we can do to help you get past that nasty plateau!

For starters let’s clear something up: it is almost inevitable that you will plateau at some point in your weight loss journey. Many people with a fair amount of weight to lose can see results quickly in the beginning...but as you continue to move forward, things may start to slow.

You may notice that weight isn’t coming off as quickly...or isn’t coming off anymore period.

If you do achieve your goal before hitting a plateau, you are the exception-- you lucky dog you!  For the rest of us...here’s some info about what to do when a plateau hits.

Plateaus typically hit because the stress of working out and dieting has caught up to you.  You can slowly cut more calories or you can add a few conditioning sessions, but eventually...you HIT A WALL. Your body is telling you “no more”. It has been pulled in opposite directions for too long.  The human body has evolved and adapted since the dawn of time and it is designed to survive.  A plateau is your body surviving so to speak.

 

You can at this point do one of a few things:

CUT MORE CALORIES

You don’t want to cut a lot, but just enough to continue the downward trend on the scale. This is only an option until we reach the point where your numbers are getting too low to sustain your activity levels and/or if you’re just plain hangry. There is NO reason to be hangry.

READJUST YOUR NUMBERS

If you have lost more than 10 lbs., you MAY need to readjust your numbers based off of your new weight.  This is where your coach comes in handy!

REVERSE

A. If things start to slow down, you might want to increase your calories for a “refeed” meal, or add in reversal calories for a week or two.

B. If your weight loss has COMPLETELY come to a standstill, it’s could be time to reverse to maintenance and give your body a break for 1+ months. This is especially likely if you have an extensive history of dieting. Reversing will get your metabolism into good standing and give your body the fuel it needs to promote muscle growth and body composition change.

All in all, this is something that looks different for everyone!!  We can help you navigate this process, and what will work best for you individually when the time comes!  Overcoming a plateau looks different for everyone, and we want you to find the most successful route both physically AND mentally.  If you ever have any questions, reach out to us with your questions on our Facebook page, so others participating in the challenge can get their questions answered too!

Bottom line, don’t be discouraged by plateaus.  As frustrating as they can be, it’s all part of the process, and we ALL experience them.  While terribly frustrating, plateaus are also an opportunity to become more in tune with your body and learn how to fuel your body properly and ultimately reach your goals!