To Macro, Or Not To Macro?

For some of us, calculating macronutrients comes naturally. For others, it’s rocket science. If you’re on the fence, here are both sides of the case!

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I get a lot of nutrition questions from clients; Do I carb cycle? Do I count my macros? How often do I eat? What do I eat?

First things first- It’s great to ask questions to be more informed, but you should never copy someone’s diet exactly. We are all built in different shapes, sizes, strengths, etc! There is no one-size-fits-all diet. I REPEAT, there is no one-size-fits-all diet! 

Your diet should be custom-tailored to fit your caloric intake needs, activity level, allergy needs, muscle building needs, fat loss needs, the list goes on. If you have questions about any of these needs or others, please do not hesitate to ask! Email: Kate@FitBodiesByKate.com. But I digress…

To Macro, or Not To Macro? That is the question.

To “macro” means to track the number of grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats you consume each day. Athletes, avid exercisers, and bodybuilders seem to have no problem with macro tracking. For others, well like I said before, it’s rocket science!

There are both benefits and drawbacks to counting your macros. After reading this you should have a better understanding about macros and whether or not counting them is right for you. You should note that with any nutrition program you need to be consistent. Results do not appear in the first days or sometimes weeks even. It takes time to change your physiology. Patience is key.

To Macro

Situation 1: You’re Lean, But You Want To Be Leaner

If you find yourself in situation 1, you have probably noticed small variations in your nutrition can be the difference between shedding those last few pounds of fat or staying right where you are. (One of my favorite quotes applies here: Tiny tweaks equal big changes!)

If this is you, it’s best to keep a tight reign on those macros and get yourself to that end goal! You can do it!

Situation 2: You Have No Concept Of What “Enough Protein” Means

You can google “How much protein should I consume daily” and you will see this:

“The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. This amounts to: 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man. 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.”

Great! After reading this you fully understand where you fall on the spectrum and have no further questions, right?! WRONG. Even I can barely decode this and I majored in Molecular Chemistry and know ALL the conversion factors.

You might be that person that thinks to yourself “peanut butter is full of protein, right?” No. Not enough. Not even close. And sorry to add insult to injury but peanut butter is a fat source.

As a general rule, you should aim to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of your bodyweight. Of course there are variables to this number but I am keeping it simple. If you need more information, please ask!

Situation 3: You Have An Insatiable Appetite When The Clock Strikes Midnight

Did I just describe you, or did I just describe you?! We’ve all been there.

Paying attention to these hunger signals can get you in some serious caloric trouble and almost always leads to unwanted inches around your midsection. It’s unfortunate, but some people may need to conscientiously regulate their food intake by tracking their macronutrients to avoid becoming the midnight food vacuum.

Not To Macro

Situation 1: You Are A Macronutrient Pro

Some people can just look at a piece of chicken and tell you exactly how many grams it is, and give you the macronutrient breakdown on the spot. Good for you, buddy! Live much?

Don’t get me wrong, it takes great dedication to be a macronutrient pro and most often these are the people we are all trying to look like. But the truth is, most just want to be healthy and don’t care to be freaskishly shredded. Both are great! Follow your own path, light your own way. Be a leader, not a follower, and all that jazz.

If you are the macronutrient pro, obviously I wouldn’t spend the time. You’re doing just fine as you are and we’re all really impressed. No, really, I’m a fan!

Situation 2: You’re Neurotic And Getting Nowhere

Too many times I come across someone who asks all the questions, wants all the answers, makes all the changes, but doesn’t ever change. They do a complete 180 with their diet and let it play out for about a week. Then they are on to something else before giving their original diet plan a chance to let any real progress occur. I said it earlier, I’ll say it again. Patience is key! 

Constantly changing your diet to the newest, next best thing wastes a lot of energy and effort, and you will never see results. If this is you, you should abandon the macro counting and take the time to educate yourself on proper nutrition.

Learn what “whole foods” are. Learn how the body uses, stores, metabolizes carbs, fats, and proteins. Build a base layer of education so you can discern between what diets are worth your time and which are total crap.

Situation 3: You’re Just Getting Your Feet Wet In This Whole Fitness Thing

A. You are mostly sedentary and your idea of a healthy dinner is lettuce on your cheeseburger.

B. You do cardio for 3 hours per day, you now have “pancake butt”, you don’t weight train, nothing’s working so you just eat carrots.

C. “Is butter a carb?”

If scenario A, B, or C sounds like you, you’re not ready to make the leap just yet. This is OK! You are still in the contemplation, maybe even preparation phase and you’re making progress- to a point.

You need to focus on the basics. Are you getting enough sleep? Do you have negative stressors under control? Are you drinking water consistently? Are you able to look at two different food items and know the healthier choice?

Until you have the basics under control, there is no need to jump ahead and start counting macros.

I hope I have answered some of those burning “To Macro, Or Not To Macro” questions and you are on your way to achieving that body you have always dreamed of! And just in case you read this whole article wishing and hoping for that lettuce-wrapped burger recipe, I GOT YOU!

Ingredients:

  • Trader Joe’s Chile Lime Chicken Burger (3g carb/6g fat/19g protein)
  • Iceburg Lettuce Wrap
  • Sliced Tomato
  • Sauteed Bell Peppers (in 0 calorie coconut oil spray)
  • Microgreens
  • Broccolini (on the side)

 

Exercise Spotlight: Renegade Rows

The list of exercises for effective core training is ever-growing. Sit-ups and crunches are out, planks are in. Traditional core exercises are losing popularity as we learn more about core strength and proper ways to challenge the core. (See: Let’s Get To “The CORE”)

The Renegade Row has recently grown in popularity. I love this core exercise! A renegade row challenges you to hold a high-plank position while performing a dumbbell single arm row.

Here’s how to do it:

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  • Set up a dumbbell directly under your shoulder on one side.
  • Assume a push-up position with your hand grasping the dumbbell instead of flat on the ground. Position your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Tighten your core, and keep your back flat and hips square to the ground.
  • Pick up the right dumbbell and row it to your side. (You should control/not allow hip shifting from side to side while rowing the dumbbell)
  • Slowly lower the dumbbell and repeat.
  • Perform a set of 10-20 reps. Switch sides.

Seems simple enough, right? Well, appearances can deceive. Your core has to do some serious work to enable you to perform the Renegade Row correctly.

To perform the exercise properly in the plank position with your hips level and square to the ground, your core muscles work to keep you in the exact same position as when the dumbbell is on the ground—but now you only have one arm for support. In addition, it also works anti-rotation, meaning your core muscles prevent your torso from rotating (your hips from shifting side to side).

Of course, as you would with any other exercise, it’s important to gradually increase the weight. You might be able to use a reasonably heavy weight for the row, but if your form isn’t clean holding the plank and controlling hip movement, use a lighter weight.

Enjoy this fantastic core exercise and stay tuned for my next Exercise Spotlight!

Let’s Get To “The CORE”

How many times have you had an instructor, article or workout video tell you to “engage your core”? Most of us know we need to strengthen it, can feel it burning when it’s tired and know we should be engaging it throughout the day and during exercise. But what IS the core. What is it made of? And what specifically does it need to be strengthened?

What is the core made of?

To put it very, very simply: Your core is made up of the adominals (Rectus Abdominis & Transverse Abdominis), the obliques (Internal Oblique & External Oblique), the muscles of the back (Erector Spinae Group), and the muscles of the pelvic floor. core-muscles-II.jpgCore-Muscle-Anatomy.jpg

Movements of The Core

Diving a little deeper you should also know the functions/movements of the core so you can strengthen them properly. (Trunk and Core can be used interchangibly)

  • Trunk Flexion: Bending forward or “curl up” movement
  • Trunk Extension: Standing straight up from bent over position, bending backwards
  • Trunk Rotation: Twisting from left to right
  • Lateral Trunk Flexion: Bending from side to side
  • Compression of the Abdomen: Drawing your belly button in towards the spine
  • Spinal Stability: The ability to hold your spine stable during movement

What Does The Core Need to be Strengthened?

To functionally train and strengthen the core you should choose exercises that challenge all ranges of motion the core can move through. Trunk rotation, or twisting left and right, is often the most underused form of core strengthening though we perform this action countless times during the day. (Side note: Functional training is simply training movements in the gym that you commonly use in your daily activities and/or fixing the improper movements you perform or reinforce in your daily activities (desk posture for example)

Spinal stability, or the ability to hold your spine stable during movement, is a key component of having a healthy and functional core. Think of when you pick up something heavy from the floor or move something from one place to another. This is one of the most important times to “engage your core” to prevent improper lifting or injury to the back. A basic exercise to learn to engage the core and hold the spine stable during movement is a pelvic tilt.

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In the starting position of a pelvic tilt your back should be separated from the floor (there is a gap between your low back and the floor). Rotate your hips by drawing your belly button in towards your spine, tucking your tailbone or “tucking your tail between your legs” and flatten your low back so you are pressing against the floor. You should be pressing hard enough that someone could not slide their hand between your low back and the floor. Perform this movement 10 times, holding your low back against the floor for 10 seconds. Make sure to breathe.

Once you have mastered the pelvic tilt laying down, you are one step closer to being able to “engage your core”! The next task is to master this movement in standing. neutral spine.jpegStanding with a neutral spine is a safe and effective start position for exercise. The anterior tilt photo is the same as the start position of the pelvic tilt on the ground. The posterior tilt photo is the same as the finishing position of the pelvic tilt on the ground. The “happy medium” between the two where you are standing tall with you core slightly engaged/supportive/drawn in is called neutral spine. 

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Neutral spine can also be referred to as “flat back position”. Prior to picking up a heavy object you should find your pelvic-tilt-happy-medium or neutral spine position to ensure your core is supporting your spine. This will greatly decrease your risk of injury during heavy lifting, or any lifting really.

Ready, Set, Strengthen!

Now that you have practiced and are familiar with what it REALLY means to “engage the core” you are ready to start strengthening. Try these 6 core strengthening exercises in your next workout or at home! You will notice there are 6 different movements performed in these exercises. You are now functionally training your core by strengthening it in the ranges of motion it is able to move through.

Toe Touches: 2-3 sets of 20 reps

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Reverse Lunge with Weight Transfer/Rotation: 2-3 sets of 20 reps each side

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Trunk Extension/Superman: 2-3 sets of 20 reps

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Side Plank Oblique Crunch: 2-3 sets of 15 reps on each side

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Dead Bug: 2-3 sets of 20 reps keeping back flat on floor (pelvic tilt)

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Deadlift/Spinal Stability: 2-3 sets of 20 reps (IMPORTANT: Begin with body weight. Keep core engaged during movement with a neutral spine/flat back position. Body weight should be in your heels, squeeze you butt and hips forward to stand, keeping neutral spine position.)

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