When Should You Adjust Your Macros?
Whether it’s because you follow the Fit Body Meal Plan or because you track them on your own, many of you are familiar with the concept of following macros. I want to talk about how to adjust your macros after you’ve hit your goal, as well as how to change your macros when you feel your body needs a change.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, I want to point out that I didn’t track my macros for the first three years of my journey and I did just fine without doing so. Some people are hesitant to track their macros for fear that it can lead to an unhealthy fixation with numbers and, if this is you, I don’t recommend looking into macros until you feel you have a healthy hold on your relationship with fitness and food. 💗
I personally decided to start tracking my macros because I felt there was a possibility my portions were off, which was confirmed once I started tracking. My fats were too low and my carbs were too high – big surprise. 😜
But what do you do with your macros once you hit your goal? Well, as with anything in fitness, there is no one definite answer since we are all different. However, the general recommendation is that you should bring your calories either up or down to a maintenance level. If you’ve been eating in a caloric deficit (500 calories below maintenance), you should increase your calories in order to bring your intake closer to maintenance. If you’ve been eating in a caloric surplus (500 calories above maintenance), you should decrease your calories in order to bring your intake closer to maintenance.
However, you never want to change your caloric intake drastically in one day, or even in one week. Instead, you want to start by inching closer to maintenance, 100 calories at a time (200 at the very most). If your maintenance calories are 2,200, for example, and you’ve been eating 1,700 but you’re at a point where you don’t want to lose any more weight, you would start by adding 100-200 calories the next week and see how your body reacts. If all feels good, then you can take it up another 100-200 calories the week after. Once you’re at maintenance, you won’t need to change anything else in your diet unless you decide to go after another goal!
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Now, how about if you haven’t reached your goal yet but you feel your macros aren’t giving you the results you should be getting?
If you haven’t started tracking your macros and you feel this way, Step 1 is to begin tracking your macros. But if you have already been tracking your macros for at least 3-4 months and feel you could be seeing more changes, the first step is to look at the macro ratio. We are all different, so there is no one “fat loss” macro ratio or “muscle gain” macro ratio. However, I will say that lower carb, higher fat macro ratios are traditionally used when trying to lean out, and higher carb, lower fat ratios are traditionally used when trying to exclusively gain muscle. Protein remains relatively the same in both cases, around 30% of your calories for the day, give or take 5%.
So how do you know which macro ratio is right for you? Initially it’s going to be trial and error. You simply have to try different macro ratios, test them for at least 4 weeks to give your body enough time to have a solid reaction, and then adjust the ratio if you feel you still aren’t seeing any change. It is also important to know your body type. Some of us have faster metabolisms, others are slower; some of us are naturally thin and have a hard time gaining weight and others have a hard time losing it. All of these factors play a role in determining which macro ratio is best for you.
Another reason you might be looking to adjust your macros is because of a specific goal. If this is the case, you should start by ensuring that your protein intake is at least 1g of protein per 1lb you weigh (keep in mind that this is assuming you’re consistently working out). Then, look at your carbs. Are you wanting to lose more fat? Reduce your carb macro percentage by 5-10% and add that 5-10% onto your fats. Give these macros a shot for at least 4 weeks and see how you feel!
This is where getting a body fat percentage test can be crucial to helping track your progress. For more on getting your body fat percentage measured, I discuss my recommendations in this YouTube video.
Another important thing to remember is that if you are tracking your macros but the foods you’re eating aren’t necessarily from the cleanest sources, you should try cleaning up that part of your diet before changing your macro ratio. While fitting in some not-so-clean treats here or there won’t totally derail you, daily indulgences will definitely hold you back. Aiming for “clean macros” before changing your macro ratio is so important because, no matter the ratio, regular cheats and treats through the week will continue to prevent you from seeing the change you are working so hard for at the gym.