I know I’m not alone when it comes to being confused on how to put together a great “macro-friendly” meal. For years, I would throw together as many veggies and proteins as possible and wonder if I’m eating the right thing.
I used to make meals by starting out with a foundation of vegetables, and I felt like I didn’t have “room” for protein or fat. I would panic and try to make my next meals based on proteins; eventually burning myself out on what I needed to eat. There is a simple formula that helped me break down each meal by macro, without panic or hassle. This formula came from “Burn The Fat; Feed The Muscle,” which is a great book to read or listen to. In this book, Tom Venuto breaks meals down in this fashion:
- 1 Protein
- 1 Starchy Carb (or Whole Grain)
- 1 Fibrous Carb (Fruit or Vegetable)
Where does fat fit in? If you’re eating a plant-based diet, the fat can come from one or more of these foods. Plants contain a combination of each macro, so you may need to mix-n-match. If you get protein from animal-based sources, the fat is already built into the protein. I’ll give examples of each type of meal.
- Scrambled tofu (Protein)
- Potato (Starchy Carb)
- Kale (Fibrous Carb)
- To add fat, cook the potatoes in 1tbsp olive oil, or serve with avocado.
- Protein powder
- Oatmeal (Starchy carb)
- Fruit (Fibrous carb)
- You can add peanut butter, flax seed, chia seed, hemp seed, pretty much any nuts or seeds to increase fat content.
- Eggs (Protein and fat)
- Toast or potatoes (Starchy carb)
- Fruit or any non-starchy vegetable (Fibrous carb)
- Egg wash (Protein and fat)
- Bread (Starchy Carb)
- Fruit (Fibrous carb)
Seitan and broccoli:
- Seitan (Protein)
- Rice (Starchy carb)
- Broccoli (Fibrous carb)
- Add sesame seeds or oil to add fat.
- Protein (Chick’n, seitan, tempeh, tofu, edamame)
- Leafy greens (Fibrous carb)
- Grains, beans, lentils, legumes, potato, pasta, etc. (Starchy carb)
- You can use salad dressing to add fat.
- Protein (Beefy crumbles, beefless tips, seitan, tempeh)
- Fibrous carb (Onions, peppers, sometimes the tortilla [Mission Carb Balance Tortilla])
- Starchy carb (Tortilla, potatoes)
- Fat (Sour cream, avocado)
- Protein (Deli slices, temeh, facon, etc.)
- Fibrous carb (Non-starchy veggies, sometimes the bread can be high in fiber)
- Starchy carb (Bread)
- Fat (Avocado, animal-based protein)
You can apply this to a majority of common dishes. Try it out with your favorite ones! This formula is super simple because it is easy to remember and you can adjust the amount of each food to perfectly fit your macro requirements! You can build almost any meal with this approach and not have to use an excessive amount of ingredients. This helps people lose weight because when keeping track of food intake, it is much easier to calculate meals with 3-5 ingredients rather than those with more than 5 ingredients. Building meals with fewer ingredients can also help people save money!
How is this related to bodybuilding?
This method of breaking down meals by macros has been practiced by bodybuilders. It’s used to ensure that they get the proper amount of each macronutrient to reach their physique goals. You’ll notice that the typical body building meal will be something like chicken, rice, and broccoli. One protein, one starchy carb, one fibrous carb. This is a very customizable approach that can help eliminate decision fatigue.
How do I calculate my macro requirements, though?
I have tried a few macro calculators, and the one by Legion Athletics is my favorite so far. If you use a macro calculator and the total number of calories looks too low, go ahead and add more. I say this because when I put in my stats (4’9″), macro calculators always tell me that I need to eat around 1200 calories, when I should be eating at least 1400-1500. You can always adjust your macros to a ratio that works best for your body and lifestyle. A simple and easy to remember approach would be to divide macros into a 40/40/20 split. 40% Carbs and protein, 20% fat. This is a good baseline to start at if you are new to tracking macros. You can always adjust these numbers based on your needs.