Q&A: FROM MACROS TO MUSCLE GAIN TO METABOLISM

 

The past week I have asked my email list and social media friends to send in some of their top nutrition questions. The questions I received covered many aspects of nutrition and I have done my best to tackle a few that I hope may help anyone on their nutrition journey - whether counting macros or not.



HOW DO I KNOW WHEN TO CHANGE MY MACROS?

There are two main situations that can help you determine when you may need to adjust your macros. 

The first is when you have been adhering to your numbers consistently and have gone at least 2 or 3 weeks without any changes in measurements, weight, or body composition. In this case, you may need to increase/decrease your numbers (depending on your specific goal i.e. fat loss vs. muscle gain). 

Start with a small change.( If you have fat loss goals, this means decreasing numbers.) Start with a small cut (-50 to 100 calories). I often do this with a decrease of -2g of fat and -10 carbs, but do whatever makes most sense for you and your dietary preferences.

If you are pursuing fat loss goals, your body weight is probably decreasing. That decrease in body weight is accompanied by a decrease in calories necessary to maintain your body weight, hence the need to drop calories further when you come to a plateau. This is NOT a pattern that is meant to be followed forever!

The second situation is when you just can't adhere to your numbers. Maybe a high carb, low fat macro split is NOT working for you and you can't even get to the point of being consistent enough to see changes. You've tried and tried but seem to always go over on fats and can never meet your carb numbers. If that's the case, change it up! Stick to the same calorie goal but play around with how you split up your macros to meet your specific preferences (just make sure you're still getting sufficient protein).

WHAT KIND OF CARBS CAN I EAT?

This question was formed from a few separate questions I received: Can I eat bread and lose weight? Can I eat pasta instead of rice? The answer: a resounding yes to both.

Stepping away from the idea that there are “good” foods and “bad” foods is so necessary for long term dietary success. While there are micronutrient-dense carbs (fruits, vegetables, potatoes, whole grains) and high-calorie carb sources lacking in essential micronutrients (sugar, candy, baked goods), the best way to approach carbs sources is by focusing on moderation. For the sake of your goals, satiety, and overall health, you should aim to consume a majority of your carbs from sources high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. This means lots of vegetables, fruits, grains, potatoes, squash, oats, whole grain bread, quinoa, beans, rice, lentils, etc.

Bread is not a “bad” food, but also shouldn’t make up the majority of your carbs. The difference between pasta and rice is negligible (100g cooked pasta = 5.8P/1F/31C ; 100g cooked rice = 2.5P/0.2F/29C). 

A little more mythbusting on the idea of good carbs vs. bad carbs here.


HOW DO I FIND HOW MANY CALORIES I CAN EAT DAILY?

This is dependent on so many factors! Your age, weight, height, activity level, goals, and more. You can use an online equation to determine your BMR (basal metabolic rate) and from there determine your target intake. I like using the Harris-Benedict equation and there are plenty of online calculators out there to simplify the process. I use my own calculator and take into account many different lifestyle aspects when calculating target calories, but this looks like a good online calculator to use!


HOW DO I CURB SUGAR/PERIOD CRAVINGS?

So many thoughts on this one! When it comes to persistent cravings, I find that the best management is to indulge in said craving in moderation, enjoy it, then move right along. There are so many sources out there that will try to help you redirect your cravings (i.e. if you’re craving chocolate, you just need some broccoli!), but these generally just perpetuate the desire for whatever you’re craving. 

As part of our KLN Book Club, we are currently reading the Period Repair Manual by Dr. Lara Briden. One interesting point she emphasizes is that PMS is not inevitable and can be managed through dietary adjustments and supplementation. While skeptical of some of her research, I still think it’s a good read!  


HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT FAT BURNERS/METABOLISM BOOSTING PILLS?

Fat burners have little to no evidence to support their efficacy. The ingredients included in most fat burners (caffeine, cayenne pepper, green tea extract, etc.) claim to boost metabolism or help burn fat but these ingredients in their isolated states do not have an effect on fat loss. Caffeine can suppress appetite which can decrease total intake, but the overall goal for fat loss should always be a focus on energy balance and eating fewer calories than you are eating on average. Supplements are the LAST thing to think about when working towards fat loss goals. First, prioritize a calorie deficit, managing stress, staying hydrated, movement, and adequate sleep.


CAN I LOSE FAT AND BUILD MUSCLE AT THE SAME TIME?

Technically, yes. But it is not the norm nor is it the most efficient way to approach your goals. Fat loss requires a calorie deficit, or eating fewer calories than you’re burning on average. Building muscle requires a calorie surplus and strength training. We can sometimes see body recomposition, or simultaneous fat loss and muscle gain, in individuals who are brand new to strength training and have more fat to lose, but it’s not common. It can also occur while you are eating in maintenance mode. However, the best way to reach your goals is by focusing on one at a time. Eat in a surplus and train hard to gain muscle mass then focus on fat loss, or vice versa. Trying to do both at the same time often only ends in frustration!


HOW CAN I HIT MY PROTEIN GOAL AS A VEGETARIAN?

Hitting your protein goal without meat can be more challenging, but it’s far from impossible! There are many vegetarian protein options out there, but keep in mind that you may need to get some of your protein from sources that are also higher in carbs (lentils, beans, chickpeas) and fats (eggs, dairy).

VEGETARIAN

  • Eggs

  • Egg whites (Egg whites with oatmeal is a favorite of ours!)

  • Cottage cheese

  • Nonfat greek yogurt

  • Reduced fat cheese

  • Marine collagen (if pescatarian)

VEGAN/PLANT-BASED

  • Beans

  • Lentils

  • Tempeh

  • Nutritional yeast

  • Chickpeas


OTHER

  • Protein pancakes or muffins (Kodiak Cakes, Mighty Muffins, Lil Buff, etc.)

  • Lentil or chickpea pasta (Banza, Explore)

  • High fiber tortillas and wraps (Flat Out, Lat Tortilla Factory, Joseph’s Bakery)

  • Supplemental protein powders

  • PB2, PB Fit, or other nut butter powders


There are few things I love more than answering your nutrition questions! Have any more? Send them my way!