What is macro meal planning?
“Macros”, short for macronutrients, are the 3 main building blocks of food- protein, carbohydrates, and fat. If you know how many grams of each macro are in what you’re eating, you can calculate how many calories are in your meal. There are 4 calories per gram of protein and carbohydrates, and 9 calories per gram of fat. Each macro plays a part in the functioning of your body and all are important.
Through macro meal planning, you can ensure that you get enough protein, for example- something that is important for building muscle or ensuring that you lose fat and not muscle when you're losing weight. Others use macro meal plans to try to limit carbs. It can depend on your unique goals.
Why should you macro meal plan?
Macros should be a core component of any fitness plan. Whether you want to lose weight, gain weight, or build muscle- macros help get you there. While above all, it’s most important to hit calorie goals, hitting macro goals like protein, come in second place. Eating sufficient amounts of protein will allow you to retain muscle mass while losing weight, allowing you to look more toned and burn more fat- instead of burning muscle. All macros are important when it comes to vitamin absorption, hormone production, and more. Macro meal planning can help you hit your goals, stay on track, and gain a deeper understanding of what you’re eating and what roles it plays in your body.
What is a good macro meal plan?
As a general rule-of-thumb, your macro meal plan should have at least 0.8 - 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight*, whether you want to lose weight, build muscle, or tone up. Strongr Fastr’s macro meal planner will automatically calculate this for you.
The reason this amount of protein matters is it’s critical for building and retaining muscle mass. In other words, if your macro meal prep plan doesn’t have enough protein you’ll either be putting on excess fat (if you’re counting macros to gain muscle) or losing muscle mass (if you’re tracking macros to lose weight)**.
As for the carb and fat macros, how much you should include when you’re planning your meal prep is a lot more controversial and comes down to personal preferences. Assuming you customize your macro meal plan to have the correct amount of calories for your fat loss/muscle gain goal (the macro meal planner will handle this calorie calculation for you), there’s not a lot of evidence it really matters how you split your non-protein calories between fat and carbs.
Having said that, many people prefer a low-carb (e.g. keto) macro meal plan and this can work perfectly well if your macro plan also has enough protein and the correct amount of calories for your weight loss/muscle gain/toning goal. If you want a macro plan that’s low-carb, just set your diet type to “keto” in the macro meal planner settings, or go to the advanced tab and set a specific carb goal.
*For obeses individuals planning out their macros it’s probably best to use an estimate of lean body mass for this calculation or you can get some crazy high protein numbers, which won’t hurt you but will make your macro diet plan that much less flexible and harder to stick to without much benefit.
**If you’re just trying to use a personalized macro diet plan to lose weight you might not think you care all that much about muscle mass or the protein macro, but the simple fact is that the kinds of physiques most people want come from a combination of some minimal amount of muscle mass and low-ish body fat content. So losing “weight” isn’t really the goal, it’s fat you want to lose and by eating enough protein (with the same calorie intake) and retaining muscle mass you’ll be losing more fat than with an insufficiently high-protein macro meal plan.
What should I eat to meet my macros?
The short answer is basically anything you want. You could follow a macro meal plan of nothing but twinkies and protein supplements and as long as the macros and calories were right for you, you’d see good results in terms of building muscle or losing fat. The long answer is that for general health purposes you’ll want to try to get most of your food from nutrient-dense, whole food sources. But feel free to include a twinkie or two in your macro meal plan. You’ll be more likely to stick to your macro plan long term if you’re flexible and indulge your cravings from time to time instead of feeling totally deprived all the time.
Strongr Fastr’s macro meal planner is great at accommodating this kind of flexibility. While most of the meals the planner will generate for you are based around nutrient-dense whole foods, you can also set up off-plan meals that you log yourself. Then you can eat anything within certain macro parameters (pizza, beer, whatever) for those meals without the guilt.
How do I hit my protein macros specifically?
Generally the hardest macro to hit when you’re meal planning with macros in mind is protein. But it doesn’t need to be difficult. One pound of chicken breast, which is about 2 chicken breasts and can easily be eaten in one meal, contains 100g of protein in about 500 calories. The same goes for other lean protein sources. For a 150-200 lb person, shoot to get 100g of protein from lean sources such as:
- chicken breast
- lean beef
- lean turkey
- lean pork
- low fat cottage cheese
- low/no fat greek yogurt
- whey/pea protein powder
- egg whites
If you can manage that, the remaining 50-100g of protein will come pretty easily from whatever else you eat because even foods like bread, pasta, cheese, etc, have some protein in them.
The macro meal planner uses a strategy similar to this and will tell you exactly what you need to eat to hit your protein goals without having to do any thinking or calculation.