PSA: We are leading a yoga workshop in the Greater NYC area in August! We also have a few spots left at our Italy yoga retreat. The 2106 fall Mantra Box is now available for pre-order! Don't forget that you'll get a free gift when you screenshot your review of our app to Lauren. And also, our book, Namaslay, is available for preorder.
It's time for another macros update! In case you're new here, here's a brief rundown of my recent fitness history:
- In October of 2015, I was working hard to get in shape for the main photoshoot for my book Namaslay. I hired a trainer who focuses on whole body movements like Olympic lifts, and CrossFit-style workouts.
- In December of 2015, I felt like I had hit a plateau with my progress, and I consulted with my friend and now trainer/nutrition coach, James Keeler, who is part-owner at Focused Movement Academy in Miami. He thought I might not be eating enough, and offered to put a bunch of my info into this formula and give me my macro numbers to follow. Macros are fats, proteins and carbs. I quickly realized I had been undereating big time. At that point, I was mostly concerned with getting more food in me, so I started focusing on just the caloric intake, and didn't worry too much about the macros. My primary goal was simply to eat more - specifically, more carbs.
- In January, I had the photoshoot for my book and I was the leanest I'd ever been. I also felt fantastic - energy through the roof, better recovery time, excellent sleep, etc. But it was really hard to stay so dialed into my macros numbers, so I kind of fell off the wagon.
- By March, I was back to square one - no energy, poor recovery time, not sleeping well, etc. I decided to get back on the horse and focus on hitting my macros, particularly after my friend Carley, a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner had mentioned that counting macros was a great way to balance hormones.
- By June, I felt wonderful. My hormones seemed to be evening out, my sleep was great, energy level excellent, but I felt like I wasn't really making any more physical gains, so I got in touch with James.
James suggested looking into doing refeeds. I did a little research on my own to learn about refeeds, but essentially it's a carb increase on a specific day or meal to jumpstart your metabolism. Now, at this point it was just an experiment for me. I don't have a big photoshoot, and I'm not looking to make the Olympic team or anything, but I wanted to surpass the little plateau I'd seemed to hit, so I gave the refeeds a whirl.
Now, when you read about refeeds, they focus a lot on weight. I didn't care too much about weight because to be honest, I am the heaviest I've ever weighed right now, but I am also close to the leanest I've ever been, so the number on the scale really doesn't mean anything. I go by how I feel in terms of energy, and how I feel in my clothing. But I wanted to surpass the plateau I'd hit, and thought this might be a good way to go.
I'm just starting out, so I've been doing refeeds every two weeks. On those days, my carbs double, and - confession - I have yet to hit my carb numbers on those days - it is so hard! I just try to keep snacking throughout the day and hit the numbers as close as I can.
The next day is glorious, though. I have so much energy, especially when I do my workout, that I always walk out of the gym feeling so, so good.
I really love the flexible diet, and I am so happy with the results that I've seen: more strength gains, leaning out, consistently high energy level, quick recovery time, restful sleep, and even hormones. But in talking about it, I've received a lot of the same questions so I thought I'd answer them here:
Q: How do you weigh your food? Isn't that annoying?
A: I weighed my food with a scale for one entire day when I first started out just so I could get a general idea of what 4oz or 6oz of protein looks like. I measured my carbs using measuring cups so I could see what 1/2c of quinoa looks like or 1c of cooked rice looked like on my plate. This was tremendously helpful because I had seriously been under-eating big time. I paid close attention to what the measurements looked like, and now I eyeball it with good accuracy.
Q: What about when you're out at a restaurant - how do you calculate the macros for a meal?
A: I use MyFitnessPal to track my macros daily, and it's great because it has a lot of restaurant food programmed into it. If I'm at a small farm to table place, it obviously won't have the restaurant, but I will put it in myself by doing the following: 1) Look at the menu. Often times, the meal will list how much protein you're getting (ie 4oz petite filet mignon, for example). If it doesn't list it and I can't tell by looking at it, I'll ask the server, who will either know right off the top of his head or will ask the chef. 2) I gravitate towards simple, real foods, so putting in broccoli, or asparagus is easy, as well as potatoes, rice, etc. 3) When it comes to dessert, I just choose the closest thing in the app. For example, the other day I had lunch with my parents at a steakhouse. My dad ordered vanilla bean creme brulee for dessert and we all shared it. I had probably about 1/4c of creme brulee. Now, creme brulee can vary but in general, the ingredients are mostly the same and like I said, I'm not trying out for the CrossFit games or anything, so I just searched "creme brulee" in the app, picked a verified recipe, and changed the serving size to 1/4c. Done and done.
Q: It seems so restrictive, how do you deal with that?
A: I get that it can seem that way, and for many people, it probably is. But for me, I was consistently under-eating. Part of this had to do with my history with the GAPS diet, which I followed for two years to heal my gut from longterm antibiotic use for Lyme disease. The diet doesn't allow for traditional carbs like rice or quinoa, so I really struggled with eating enough carbs once on the flexible diet. The other part of my under-eating had to do with me being lazy (hey, just being honest!). If I was too tired to cook dinner, I'd just scramble an egg, or have some yogurt. Don't get me wrong, I'd eat something, but it wasn't enough. Remember, food is like fuel, so if you eat crap food, or if you don't eat enough food, you are like a car running on empty. So while it may seem restrictive, the tracking actually holds me accountable in ensuring I eat enough.
The other thing is that if you've ever followed a diet like the GAPS, you know how restrictive that can be. No traditional carbs at all, no processed foods, no sugar, no alcohol. Blah. Now that's restrictive. I did it, because my gut was destroyed and it was ruining my life, but I wouldn't want to do it again. But I wanted to point that out because yeah, this might look restrictive, but it's nothing compared to what I've done in the past to get my gut health back.
And contrary to being restrictive, I actually find that tracking my macros makes me feel so free. Let me explain. So, I have always been the kind of person who gets down on myself if I have something super indulgent that I don't normally eat. Let's take, for example, a croissant. Anyone who has been to Europe knows that there is very little that beats a fresh croissant. But they're not, like, good for you, right? So I'd just get kind of down on myself about it. Not ruin-my-day down on myself, but just like a man-you-should-try-to-eat-better down on myself.
But now, tracking my macros, I can pull up a croissant in the app and see that it has about 12g of fat, 26g carbs, and 5g of protein. That is, it fits in my macros. I can eat this, and still have lots of numbers to hit. Woop! No need to feel bad about that buttery deliciousness. Instead, I feel free!
But this is where it can get tricky for people. A lot of people just eat whatever they want, so long as it fits their macros. This is the Flexible Diet, and let's just say it's easy to get a little too flexible. If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM), then you can eat it, regardless of what it is, right? Well, yeah, technically, but I personally think the quality of your food is important. If you have 120g of carbs to eat in one day, and you decide to eat a croissant (26g carbs), a cliff bar (46g of carbs), and a coffee roll from dunkin' donuts (51g carbs) just because you can and it fits your macros, well you might not feel that hot. That isn't to say you can't or shouldn't eat one of those things, but I personally feel better when I eat mostly clean and then have one or two of those processed-type foods a day. When I fill up too much on junk food, I feel like crap even though the food technically fits my macros. So that, I think, is a really important conversation to have when it comes to following this lifestyle.
So! That about brings you up to date. Like I said, I am loving the results so far, and feel really, really good with where I'm at. I'm so grateful to James for all his help - and I'm excited to share that we are thinking of developing an app together - more on that soon! If you're interested in working with James, he charges $100 for two months or $60 for one month and will give you a suggested diet and do your numbers for you for macros so you know how much and what percentage is recommended for you to feel your best. He'll also be at your disposal to answer any questions you have throughout your one or two month period. At the end of your time together, you can rebook if you like and he will redo your numbers (as they usually need to be switched up every so often so the body can stay guessing). He asks that you fill out the form below if you're interested and he'll be in touch.
Let's talk: How are you doing on your fitness goals? Do you track macros? How do you find it?
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