by Kris Pitcher
Recently I saw a social media post about "new math" and it's no wonder everyone is so confused about counting their "macros". Today we are going to have a nutritional math tutorial. But before we can move forward, let's step back.
I'll preface this conversation by saying, I don't care by what method you eat. I have zero skin in your game. I eat a clean flexible plan. I also don't care what kind of sex you have and with whom. Nor do I care what religion you are, or what you watch on TV. Don't care. Not my concern.
The basics. Macro nutrients are the major nutrients which make up the majority of your fuel. Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and you may not have known...water is also considered a macro nutrient. Now, (are you taking notes?) each macro nutrient has a caloric value. Values are assigned per gram.
Carbohydrates = 4 cals/gm
Proteins = 4 cals/gm
Fats = 9 cals/gm
And as you can imagine, water has zero calories. Zero. And what are micro nutrients? Vitamins and minerals. Micro nutrients make up, conversely, the smaller portion of your nutrient profile. They also don't have a caloric impact. That's another conversation.
Each macro nutrient plays a different role in our body, what it does, and that also is a different conversation. We're talking about math.The first step is to determine what percentage of each nutrient you want to consume. In total, your percentages need to equal 100.
How you decide is going to be based on what your goals are. Again, I don't care. 40% + 30% + 30% = 100% for example.
Once you know your percentage split, you also need to know how many total calories you want to take in. LOTS of ways to figure this out, and this is where a coach is going to throw the science of this into your plan. Let's say, for example, you are going to eat 2,500 calories.
40% of 2,500 = ? To find 40 percent of 2,500 what are we going to do? Phone a friend? No. We are going to multiply 2,500 by .4
Come back! You can do this! 2,500 X .4 = 1,000
Now, what we've determined is 1,000 calories is 40% of our 2,500 calorie daily total. For our example we will say we've chosen protein to be our 40%.
How many grams of protein do we need in the day? STAY WITH ME! We said protein is 4 cals/gm.
1,000 divided by 4 = 250 grams. We'll eat 250 grams of protein. Next, we should divide that up by how many meals we plan to eat during the day - that would be smart for meal timing. Or you can eat it all at once...
Let's say we are going to eat 6 meals. 250/6 = 41.6 So, we need about 42 grams per meal. You just figured out the first of your "macros" - your macro nutrient, protein. Congratulations! Now, we do that for carbohydrate and fat.
It's nutritional math. 2,500 X .3 = 750 (30% fat and carbohydrate is 750 calories, each, of our 2,500 total.)
750 calories of carbohydrate? 750/4 (4 calories/gm) = 187.5 grams. Split that between 6 meals, and you want about 31 gms per meal. Or maybe you want carbs with 3 of your meals...do your math.
750 calories of fat? 750/9 (9 calories/gm) = 83 grams of fat. Do what you want with it.
In order to figure out if something fits, you need to be able to determine if the calories fit into the percentages you have chosen. Knowing your breakdown for the day enables you to pick nutrients from each "bank" during the day.
The challenge is, most people empty out their bank of one nutrient, and have a balance of another at the end of the day. This is poor planning. You still have to do your math, and some planning. It's simple multiplication, division, addition and subtraction.
The hard part is manipulating the percentages based on the outcome you want - knowing what each nutrient can do for you. This is science. But the math is simple. And, you CAN do it. You need to do it if you want to successfully eat this way.
The alternative is being caught off guard having made choices early in the day and consuming all your calories, or all of your nutrients from one category. It's tough when you've eaten all your daily allotment by 3:00pm.
Being aware of nutrient timing, and your math, will help you be successful with this way of eating. One of the benefits of my clean flexible plan? I don't do any math. Pick a protein from this list, a carbohydrate from that list, eat some veggies...and check! It's my preference. It's easy. I know I'll get all of my nutrients, at the right time during the day, and at the end of the day I'm done.
But you do it however you want. And I hope practicing some simple math will make it less frustrating for you. Get your nutrients in!