The Life-Changing Magic of Morning Workouts (Plus 4 Habits to Become a Morning Person)

The Life-Changing Magic of Morning Workouts (Plus 5 Habits to Become a Morning Person)

For nearly the entirety of my existence on this earth, I and mornings (and especially morning workouts) didn’t get along. My mood was sporadic.

But, attempting to grow a company, grow a movement, grow as a man, and grow in many other areas of life required that I quit having daily sleep-ins (10 am-noon wake-up times).

Before I go any further, I’m well aware that there are many people in the world who are successful, fit, and wake up late. But that wasn’t working for me. I needed to get out of my comfort zone and quit operating out of an old narrative.

Lastly, my productivity, mood, and growth in business weren’t where I wanted it to be. As Einstein reminds us, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

Your productivity, nutritional decisions, sleep behaviors, internal motivations, and quality of relationships are greatly affected by how you start the mornings (or the 1st quarter as I called it in my book Body Architect).

A successful morning puts you in the right frame of mind, which is executed through PCO (purpose, control, and optimism).

When you have more optimism in your life, you exude a radiant energy that is contagious and magnetic to those around you. An optimistic person will have more purpose to their day and life. And lastly, with more optimism and purpose comes greater control of your daily habits and behaviors.

One of the best ways to accomplish those three key attributes is through morning workouts. Morning workouts provide fuel for a stellar day (along with getting a myriad of health and mental benefits).

When you choose to get a morning sweat session, you’ll reap these seven benefits.

1. A natural mood booster

I can easily find myself down the neurotic highway while eventually making a wrong turn toward comparison highway along with running into larges congestions of procrastination.

Add all of this up and this becomes an unproductive day along with my well being taking one-too many jabs.

One of the things my therapist recommended to me was to take extreme ownership of my mornings and tightly guard it. You would think as someone ten+ years involved with health that I would always do this, but I’ve never given morning workouts a try for an extended period of time.

After a month, I noticed that as I went about my days, my mood and outlook on life were better. The quality of my work was better and I felt accomplished because I started the day off by marking a big rock off my to-do list.

These effects aren’t a placebo I manifested inside my head. This positive effect on my mood happens due to exercising leading to the secretion of various neurotransmitters that promote mental clarity and greater emotional health and intelligence.

When you improve on those factors, you’re better equipped to handle the day.

Lastly, your mood is also improving due to you releasing endorphins from your physical activity. More endorphins given off translates to a more positive version of you.

2. Better focus as you head to work and get started with the day

Exercise has numerous benefits, but at the top of the list is the positive effects it has on your cognition. Through exercising, you’re improving your short and long term brain health.

More specifically, exercising helps to jump start your brain which helps with your working memory.

3. It’s hormonally beneficial

Testosterone is at its peak in the morning due to it replenishing during sleep along with the rest of your body resting since no physical activity, metabolizing food, sexy time activities, nor arduous mental work is going on.

Stay calm women.

As I mentioned numerous times, us men have double the amounts of testosterone circulating inside our bodies compared to women. Therefore, women aren’t going to pack on muscle at the rate and at the quantity as men.

Testosterone helps both men and women with their sex drive, muscle mass and bone density (osteoporosis affects many women), mood, quality of life, memory, thinking abilities, energy, and many more benefits.

bed — morning workouts
Change your life, body, mood, and health through sleeping

When it’s functioning optimally, the more efficient your body and health will be. Take advantage of this hormone peaking in the morning and commit to morning workouts.

4. Your metabolism gets a little boost

Besides optimizing your sleep and eating enough food to maintain a robust metabolism, exercising at peak times is the next best thing to help deliver a slight edge to your health.

Exercising at any time of the day naturally boosts your metabolic rate and leads to calorie burning long after the session due to EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption).

However, morning workouts provide some extra credit for your health.

Researchers at Brigham Young University found that people who workout in the morning end up being more active in general throughout the day along with burning an extra 190 calories 14 hours after exercising compared to those who didn’t (little pieces become big chunks over time).

5. It helps with compliance

Let’s be honest, one of the most difficult parts of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is consistently exercising. This could be the act of stopping working or actually getting to the gym itself. However, morning workouts help increase the chances that you stay consistent with your exercising.

Morning workouts reduce your chances of making excuses for work, projects, and “not feeling like it”. The less you have to think about working out and using willpower to get to the gym later in the day, the higher your chances of succeeding with fitness.

Make your morning workouts first priority in the morning and get it done before getting lost in the day.

6. You’ll cultivate self-discipline & level up in other areas of life

I don’t have direct research to supports this idea. But I can speak from personal experience along with working with clients over the years. When people truly commit to embracing a healthier lifestyle, everything else in their life seems to exponentially grow and become greater for them.

One reason I believe this happens is that they learn extreme ownership and self-discipline. With more self-discipline comes more focus and clarity in your life.

This leads to higher quality work, being a better leader, and improving in relationships among many other avenues in life.

One of the best ways to build some mental calluses is to stop sleeping in and immediately start owning the day with a morning sweat session.

7. Your sleep improves

Want better sleep, workout earlier in the day.

A study had participants exercise at 7 am, 1 pm, or 7 pm three days per week. And to no surprise, it was the 7 am workout group who reported the deepest, longest, and highest quality sleep. The improved quality stems from being able to fall into deeper sleep cycles.

Late evening workouts have the opposite effect. After all, exercise is a form of stress and your body naturally reacts to stress by releasing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol—which keeps you alert.

Evening workouts boost your bodies temperature and stimulate the body, which makes falling asleep more difficult.

I understand due to scheduling and other logistical factors, evening workouts are the only option for some of you. If that’s the case, exercise and try to at least finish your lifting session a few hours before your estimated bed time.

Convinced about morning workouts, but how can you start to become a morning person?

It’s not easy for most and definitely wasn’t for me. There is a laundry list of things you can try to help yourself become a morning person, but these four factors below provided the biggest bang-for-the-buck for me when I made the transition to becoming a morning person.

1. Start sleeping smarter, better, and earlier

With that said, it’s imperative that you get to sleep earlier along with getting the proper quantity and quality of rest.

Getting quality sleep starts with establishing a sleep ritual 60-90 minutes before bed. One essential thing to do is to make an electronic cut off time 60 minutes before bed.

If you’re neurotic at times and have a lot on the brain, this can keep you up at night. I like to play relaxing music, journal and establish my key to-dos for the next day to eliminate feeling overwhelmed and disoriented the next day.

2. Place your alarm clock far away from you (and no snoozing)

You can have the best intentions, but if the alarm clock is within hands distance, you’ll most likely hit the snooze button because it’s earlier than you’re accustomed to.

Force yourself to get out of bed to hit the alarm clock. Less of a chance of actually going back to bed once you get out of bed.

alarm clock — morning workouts
Just say no to “snoozing”

3. Have your clothes laid out in front of you

In the early morning and especially when adopting new habits and behaviors, you want to make it as easy as possible to build the new habit. Also of importance is to rely as little on willpower as you can.

Reduce your decisions and save your brain power for tougher decisions that arise in the day. When you have your clothes laid out in front of you, it’s a no brainer to put them on. No thinking or deliberating required, just action taking with a healthier mind and body on the horizon.

4. Have your vision and mission in sight

Every single morning, I read my detailed vision of what I want out of life. The type of experiences, growth, contributions, people in my life, location, where I’m living, what I’m doing, and what I’m becoming. And of course,  how I want my body to perform, look, and feel.

Get specific here and don’t judge when writing this out. I don’t care if your present state is light years away from where you want to be in your vision.

Read this every single morning, let it soak in, and let this become your compass for daily decision making. Knowing how you want your health, body, and life to be in the future makes it a lot easier to get your butt in the gym.

Stop With The Excuses and Start Taking Extreme Ownership of Your Health

extreme ownership of your health

 

It’s easy to blame the other person for being a bad partner. It’s easy to blame the job for your stress.

It’s easy to blame others for you not being where you want to be in life. It’s easy to blame your environment for your current woes. It’s easy to blame your diet.

But excuses don’t move your life forward. The only place you’re heading is to the losers mentality.

When it comes to destroying excuses, one of the best groups of people to look to for modeling a behavior and mindset is Navy Seals. Navy Seals are some of the highest performers in the world. Their high level of excellence is due to the commitment of extreme ownership.

What’s extreme ownership

Extreme Ownership is principles developed by co-authors Jocko Willink and Leif Babin of the book ‘Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win’.

Jocko Willink was the commander of Task Unit Bruiser and the most decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War. Leif Babin was one of his platoon commanders.

While these principles are explained through the context of war and teams, they are effective and highly applicable to your business, life, and health.

Extreme Ownership of your health is where you can’t blame products, your boss, your ex, your economy, your gym, your peers, your family, your social media environments, your physical environments, nor anything else for not taking action towards the things that are “important” to you.

You’re accountable for your success in health and fitness, along with everything else in life. While you can’t control the exact outcomes and timetables, you can control the process and actions that give you the best chance for success.

A true leader owns the outcome to the best of their extent. Things go wrong, you forget to do something, go off your plan, miss a workout, or go off your diet— then you take full ownership of it with no excuses.

As they explained in the book, Extreme Ownership is “on any team, in any organization, all responsibility for success and failure rest with the leader. The leader must own everything in his or her world. There is no one else to blame. The leader must acknowledge mistakes and admit failure, take ownership of them, and develop a plan to win.”

You’re the leader of your own life, business, and well being.

Here are 7 key principles to taking extreme ownership with your health.

1. Your attitude sets the tone

“The leader sets the tone for the entire team” — Leif Babin

While you’re not leading a team out to the battlefield, you’re leading yourself to the battlefield of life and maneuvering the various obstacles that life throws your way. Your attitude sets the tone for how you operate throughout the day.

Is it a setback that you fell short with your diet and fitness goals? Or is it merely feedback to help you get better and grow more as a person?

Someone with an extreme ownership attitude doesn’t leave something up to chance to change if they have the capability to change it. It’s not about what you preach, tell others, or share on social media. But instead, it’s about what you tolerate in your life.

What type of standards are you setting for your life? Are you accepting decent enough and moving on? Are you accepting partners that are alright and don’t light you up? But at least you aren’t alone—right?

If you approach life with a “decent enough mentality”, then you’ll get decent results. In other words, you’re going to be average.

In Bud’s class and seal qualification training, they dubbed a phrase “tortured genius”. No matter how obvious his or her failing, or how valid the criticism, the tortured genius accepts zero responsibility for mistakes, makes excuses, and blames everyone else for their failings and shortcomings.

Don’t be this person. Accept ownership and responsibility.

2. Check your ego

“Ego clouds and disrupts everything: the planning process, the ability to take good advice, and the ability to accept constructive criticism.” “When personal agendas become more important than the team and the overarching mission’s success, performance suffers and failure ensues.” — Jocko Willink

Ego can serve as your anchor to not achieving your business and health goals.

For example: Steve wants to lose weight and has tried numerous workouts from fitness magazines and the internet. He’s never stayed consistent and his metabolism has slowed down because of the various fad diets, detoxes, and workouts he’s tried.

Instead of taking extreme ownership of his health, he blames his weight gain on his stress, job, and lack of time. He says he knows how to get into shape, but he hasn’t actually ever done it. He’s not taking extreme ownership with his fitness because he refuses to take responsibility and continues to deflect blame. He’ll continue to be stuck and spin his wheels in neutral until he sets his ego aside and seeks out help.

This same type of thing happens to the girl who claims there are no good men and she continues to only find douchebags. She’s not taking extreme ownership that a big portion of her dating faults is because of herself and that she needs to work on herself and figure out why she’s attracting these types of guys.

finger pointing — extreme ownership of your health
The only finger pointing allowed is directed at yourself.

When it comes to ego, Ryan Holiday reminds us that:

“If you want to be more than a flash in the pan, you must be prepared to focus on the long term. We will learn that though we think big, we must act and live small in order to accomplish what we seek. Because we will be action and education focused, and forgo validation and status, our ambition will not be grandiose but iterative—one foot in front of the other, learning and growing and putting in the time.”

This is applicable to your health because if you want to shift the paradigm of your health for the long term, you have to focus on taking action, finding proper education, and doing the little (but essential) things on a daily basis which means letting go of the ego and preconceived notions.

Steve could take extreme ownership by signing up for a session with a trainer at his gym to learn about effective workouts, meet with a nutrition coach to learn about healthy eating, ask friends who have successfully lost weight, or decide to join my 1-on-1 comprehensive lifestyle coaching program.

Place your ego on the bench. Think about the next step required for changing your health and start taking extreme ownership of your health.

3. Cover and move

“In the seal teams, we taught teams to act decisively, my default setting should be aggressive. Proactive rather than reactive. Instead of the situation dictating our decisions, we dictated the situation. Departments and groups within the team must work together, depend on each there and understand who depends on them. Cover and move equal team work.” – Leif Babin

Wait and see doesn’t cut it. There is no try, only doing. The picture and journey will never be smooth sailing, there will always be risks and tough choices. Do your best to assess the situation (and cover the big risks) and move forward. Have a bias for action.

In fitness, front load your work and prepare ahead of time for potential difficulties and temptations.

Don’t try to control everything, only fixate on the big dominoes. This allows you to have room to live life with less stress and have more mental space to make the big decisions that truly move life forward.

4. The simpler, the sexier

Complexity equates to more risks and often unnecessary ones. Complexity is your enemy. The more complex, the more unknowns and variables which lead to higher likelihoods of quitting.

When it’s more difficulty, it’s harder to understand and not as easy to execute, which leads to higher percentages of quitting.

With your health and wellness, your nutrition should be as simple as possible, but yet highly effective. Think Pareto’s principle here (80/20). What are the big dominoes in your healthy eating plan that will yield the most in return?

A couple could be eating adequate amounts of protein with each meal, have 2-3 servings of vegetables with each meal, and eat 3-4 times per day. With exercise, it could be having a workout plan that consists mainly of the big compound lifts due to them using multiple muscle groups and causing more of a metabolic load/stress on the body. And thus leading to more calories burned in a shorter amount of time.

Lastly, another big domino to focus on is getting the proper amounts of sleep that are also high-quality sleep.

5. Set strict priorities and ruthlessly execute

“Even the most competent of leaders can be overwhelmed if they try to tackle multiple problems or a number of tasks simultaneously. The team will likely fail to each of those tasks. Instead, leaders must determine the highest propriety task and execute. Prioritize and execute.

On the battlefield, there will inevitably come a time when problems arise that have a snowball effect. These present themselves as a complex entity of their own. It’s in this type of high-stakes situation that it’s important to relax, look around and then make a decision.” — Leif Babin

The principles remain the same for your life, business, and well-being.

Do your best to stay a step or two ahead of the potential problem. But, when faced with multiple challenges in your life, identify the highest priorities and tackle those problems one at a time.

implement & action — extreme ownership of your health
Action…action…And more action is the name of the game.

Here’s a quick way to take extreme ownership of your health and set up a chain of priorities and execute:

  1. Evaluate/recognize the problem/issue causing the most issues or one that could be the biggest barrier to your goal
  2. Lay out a simple, clear, and concise plan in terms of the highest priority
  3. Develop and determine your solutions (don’t forget to seek help if needed—remember the ego)
  4. Focus all efforts and resources on that issue
  5. Move on once it’s resolved

6. Be decisive and steady regardless of the scenario

Not taking a choice nor making a move is a choice in itself and that’s called inaction (the worse of them all).

It’s important to be comfortable amid the chaos and act decisively amid the uncertainty around you. While not in a battlefield, you’ll encounter many variable factors on a daily basis that could cause disruption to your flow.

Don’t be wishy washy and flip flop back and forth with what you decide to do. Choose and move on regardless.

Pick a nutrition and workout plan and then execute ruthlessly. Stay the course and trust the process. Don’t go chasing shiny new objects or program hop each week, that’s how you stay stuck in mediocrity.

7. Discipline equals freedom

“Instead of making us more rigid and unable to improvise, this discipline actually made us more flexible, more adaptable, and more efficient. It allowed us to be creative. When we wanted to change plans midstream on an operation we didn’t have to recreate an entire plan. We had the freedom to work within the framework of our discipline procedures.”

Jocko Willink

Most people think of discipline as being strict, regimented, and for control freaks. At first glance, this might seem accurate, but in fact, it’s the opposite.

Discipline is the gateway to freedom, success, and the body that you desire. Discipline catapults you from good to great. You won’t become more rigid with discipline, but instead, more flexible.

This happens because you’re creating systems and processes that allow you to execute without having to reinvent the wheel or think of the basic tasks to do each and every day—you’re becoming more efficient.

Your systems created through discipline cover this and now your mind is free to focus on other important matters.

Ask yourself how can I use more discipline to create more freedom in my life. Is it creating systems with your nutrition, working out, groceries, cooking, business, or other facets?

What Are Macros? The Definitive Guide to Learning About Why Macronutrients Are Important

What Are Macros? The Definitive Guide to Learning About Why Macronutrients Are Important

With more and more information circulating the internet these days, it’s becoming difficult for people to decide what’s useful and what isn’t.

In this definitive guide to macronutrients, we’re going to address what are macros. Along with that, we’re going to address why you should stop counting calories and instead shift your focus to macronutrients along with learning how to read a food label. Let’s get started.

What are calories

A calorie is a measurement of heat (energy) equal to 4.18400 Joules (in case you were curious). The proper definition for the studious individuals is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1° C (Celcius).

What are macros

The word “macro” means large, so you should already assume that these nutrients are needed in large quantities. Macronutrients affect many different processes in your body such as:

  • Hormonal production
  • Immune system health
  • Ability to digest food and absorb nutrients
  • Cellular structure and function
  • Body composition (your lean body mass and body fat)
  • Metabolic functioning
  • And much much more

A brief primer on the major macronutrients

When thinking about what are macros are, they break down into 4 major units that provide energy to your body. These consist of protein, carbohydrates, dietary fats, and alcohol.

Each of these nutrients provides a specific amount of calories which varies:

  • Protein provides 4 calories per gram
  • Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram
  • Dietary fats provide 9 calories per gram
  • Alcohol provides 7 calories per gram

The lowdown on protein

Why are proteins useful? Basic building block of life that plays an important role for healthy skin, hair, eyes, organs, and nails along with repairing muscle tissue and cells. Besides those functions, protein helps with creating hormones and forming antibodies that help prevent infections.

What is a protein? It’s made up of hydrogen and carbon molecules but also contains nitrogen as part of the amino groups. At the smallest unit of a protein is the amino acid. When these join together, they form peptides. Most of these proteins are a long chain of amino acid, these proteins form secondary, tertiary, and quaternary structures (most foods are in the later three structures).

How do proteins travel? The process starts in the stomach through gastric hydrochloric acid breaking apart (denaturing) the secondary, tertiary, and quaternary structures of the ingested proteins and the enzyme pepsin, which breaks down the peptide bonds.

After hanging in the stomach, the next destination is the small intestine where proenzymes (secreted by the pancreas) make their grand entrance. These normally inactive proenzymes have to be activated by other enzymes and chemicals released into the small intestine which forms enzymes for carrying out the peptide digestion and leading to free amino acids to roam to their various destinations.

After absorption into the cells of the intestinal brush border, these amino acids are used for things such as energy, new digestive enzymes, hormones, and heading to the liver (most amino acids head here). In the liver, many different functions will happen depending on what our body needs at the moment in time.

Average daily needs: For the average sedentary healthy adult who isn’t training or exercising intensely, about .8 grams of protein per kg of body mass is enough to cover daily requirements: Ex: 72 g of protein per day for a 200 lb (90 kg) person.

But, remember that protein is involved in the repair and rebuilding of our tissues, hormones, and maintaining a healthy immune system. Thus, if you’re training hard (i.e. strength training), injured or sick, or trying to lose weight—increasing your protein intake will be key.

With that said, around .8 – 1 grams of protein per BW seems to be the sweet spot. This is at the top end 2.2 grams of protein per kg of body mass. If you’re 200 lb (90 kg), then 200 grams of protein per day is the top you would need to go. Not to go down a rabbit hole, but I usually set my protein intake for clients based on their desired/target bodyweight.

Good/ideal sources: Any kind of animal meat, eggs, fish and seafood, tofu, beans and legumes, protein powder (whey, egg, hemp, plant-based, & many others), Greek yogurt.

The lowdown on carbs

Why are carbs useful? They’re your go-to energy source for your body. Helps with your central nervous system, muscles, kidneys, brain, and immune system among many other functions.

What is a carbohydrate? It’s a sugar molecule that’s either a simple or complex carb depending on the number of sugar molecules it holds (so sugar isn’t part of the evil empire since all carbs are a sugar).

Carbs break down into 3 types: monosaccharides, polysaccharides, and oligosaccharides.

  • Monosaccharides: The simplest form of carbs with one one sugar chain (ex: think glucose traveling through your bloodstream)
  • Oligosaccharides: Short chains of monosaccharide units linked together in the form of disaccharides (“two sugars”, trisaccharides (“three sugars”, and so forth. Most popular are the disaccharides which show up through maltose, sucrose, and lactose (think fruit & honey as a few examples).
  • Polysaccharides: These have many chains (10 or more) and are complex chains of carbs teaming up (think rice, potatoes, areas, empanadas, veggies, beans, and much more).

How do carbs travel? We can’t absorb larger carbohydrate molecules. Thus, we have to break them down into monosaccharides which are released into the bloodstream as glucose. This occurs throughout the GI tract. It starts in the mouth and then travels from the esophagus into the stomach that gets mixed into chyme. Your stomach is destroying any potentially harmful pathogens here.

Next stop is the small intestine and then the liver— where it gets all it needs for energy transfer and glycogen storage. Afterward, it ships the rest out for circulation and this goes through your blood until it’s taken up by your various cells.

Average daily needs: First off, your brain needs around 130 grams of glucose per day (this will come from your diet somehow, someway). If you’re on a super low carb diet, through gluconeogenesis (glucose made from amino acids, glycerol, & glucose metabolism intermediaries) and ketosis will be how you get your glucose unless there isn’t enough protein and fats.

 

Your carbohydrate intake is dependent upon many factors such as age, gender, body composition goals, your activity levels, intake level of other macronutrients, current metabolic condition levels, and food culture and preferences.

The more active you are, the more carbs your body can use for recovery and optimization. Couch potatoes don’t need to eat cups of rice per day since Xbox live doesn’t burn a lot of calories nor is that strenuous on your body.

Good/ideal sources: Fruits, root vegetables (ex: sweet potatoes), whole grains, beans & legumes, vegetables, fast acting & lower fiber carbs like dextrose (only for post-workout) can be helpful for athletes or those looking to gain weight.

bluerberries - what are macros

The lowdown on dietary fats

Why are dietary fats useful? Provides insulation to maintain our body temperature within a normal range along with cushioning & providing protection for our organs. Fats also help in preventing an array of diseases along with transportation of fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A, D, E, & K through our bodies. Forms our brains, nervous systems, and cell membranes along with providing energy.

What are dietary fats? Consists of carbon and hydrogen elements which form hydrocarbons (long groups). The simplest unit of a fat is a fatty acid. There are two types which are saturated (no double bonds) and unsaturated fats (some double bonds). Unsaturated fats break up into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

How do fats travel? Your body breaks down triglycerides into fatty acids and glycerol (the backbone of a triglyceride) before entering your bloodstream. This action is mostly taking place in the small intestine. After breaking down with the assist of various types of enzymes, these fatty acids diffuse across the intestinal cell layer and become chylomicrons. These chylomicrons release into your lymphatic system and slowly enter into generally circulating in your body.

Next, they can be of use for transporting energy to muscle and other tissues along with converting back into triglycerides for storage in adipose tissue (i.e. fat) and muscle. A full discussion on lipoproteins and various other classifications goes beyond the goal of this article and isn’t needed for the big picture here.

Good/ideal sources of fat: For simplicity sake, let’s break these into three to stay consistent with the explanation about fats. Also worth mentioning is to avoid trans fats which are what a lot of fried and processed foods have. These can lower your HDL (i.e. good cholesterol), suppress the excretion bile acids, increase cholesterol production (making it too high), and create fatty acid deficiencies.

  1. Saturated fats (which are useful and needed, just don’t go overboard) — Butter (prefer grass-fed), coconut (oil, milk), dark chocolate (70% + cacao), fatty cuts of beef, lamb, pork, whole fat milk, yogurt.
  2. Monounsaturated fat — Almonds, avocado, brazil nuts, cashews, egg yolk, hazelnuts, olives (olive oil), safflower & sunflower oil (check the label because it alters depending on how you use it), pecans.
  3. Polyunsaturated fats – chia seeds, cod liver oil, fish, flaxseeds, grapeseed oil, hemp seeds, pine nuts, walnuts.

The lowdown on alcohol

What will an article about what macros are be without mentioning alcohol? This will be covered in detail at another time to give it the attention it needs. To summarize: alcohol can wreak your diet if you’re aware of your usage since it does contain empty calories (no nutritional value) and at 7 cals/per gram). Alcohol isn’t evil nor a sure-fire way to ruin your diet when used intelligently.

It becomes problematic because it often times leads to bad decisions—besides with making people more attractive than they are, but with your food decisions. Binging and eating whatever is around usually accompanies chronic drinkers and this is what leads to the weight gain, not the beverage itself.

Why count/track macros instead of calories

Tracking your macros instead of calories ensures that the calories you’re consuming are all going to the right places in your body. You’re going to preserve lean muscle mass along with removing unwanted body fat. Also, focusing only on calorie counting doesn’t take into account what you’re eating (calories alone isn’t the solution). Remember, the quality of your food comes before anything else.

Portion control can work (it’s often how I start with clients completely new or those more concerned with a generally healthy lifestyle). But unless you’re eating the right foods, your plan won’t last for the long-term. The right foods leave you satiated even while on your fat loss plan.

Before we of any further, let’s get the basics of weight gain and fat loss out of the way. To lose fat, you need to consume fewer calories than your body expends (caloric deficit). To gain weight, you need to consume more calories than your body expends (caloric surplus)

what are macros – calories 101

Focusing on calories will lead to some weight loss in all actuality, providing you’re eating at a deficit. But, the problem with this is the likelihood of not having the proper ratio of the macronutrients. This can lead to muscle loss, loss of strength and performance, and moodiness among other things. Your macros are important because…

  • Not having enough fats in your diet could lead to hormone issues.
  • Not having enough carbs in your diet will lead to sluggish workouts. lethargy, foggy brain, and moodiness.
  • Not enough protein in your diet will cause your body to start using precious muscle as energy (no one wants that).

Here’s how this looks

Knowing your total caloric intake is a must. After deciding on your number, you’ll keep up with macros instead. If you hit your macros, then you’ll be well within your daily caloric needs.

Here’s an example of a 200 lb client of mine who is eating 2085 calories.

  • 200g protein (4cal/gram)
  • 175g carbs (4cal/gram)
  • 65g fat (9cal/gram)

200 x 4= 800 calories 175 x 4 = 700 calories

65 x 9 = 585 calories

800+700+ 585 = 2085 calories

Keeping up with 3 numbers is all it takes. If you’re tracking your macros and hitting the same numbers, you’re reaching roughly the same calorie goal each day.

How to break down a nutritional label like a pro

Now that you understand how to count macros and realize the importance of this skill, let’s look at a food label. Below is a food label from an ice cream spot in Nashville.

food label

The label reads 280 calories, 16g fat, 31g carbs,& 5g protein.
A quick run through of the numbers here:

  • 16g of (fat) x 9cals/gram = 144 calories
  • 5g of (protein )x 4cals/gram = 20 calories
  • 31g of (carbs) x 4cals/gram = 124 calories
  • Total amount of cals= 288 calories (it’s a little different than the listed number, don’t worry, this happens from time to time)

Watch out for the trap. Notice the label reads per serving which is a 1/2 cup. There is a total of 4 servings in this container which people fail to notice. It’s easy to overeat foods when most people grab handfuls or in this case, eat out of the container while watching tv or playing video games (maybe that’s only me). If you eat the entire pint at once (it happens), your total calories would be 1152 calories, 64g fat, 124 carbs, & 20g protein. The takeaway from this is to be mindful of your serving sizes when eating foods.

If you eat the entire pint at once (it happens), your total calories would be 1152 calories, 64g fat, 124 carbs, & 20g protein. The takeaway from this is to be mindful of your serving sizes when eating foods.

Explaining each section on the nutrition label

Here’s a brief explanation of each item on the label.

Calories – As mentioned already, calories provide our body with energy. Calories come from only protein, carbs, fats, & alcohol (these are empty cals though). Once you determine how many calories you need, then counting calories becomes unnecessary.

Total Fat – This includes your saturated fats, trans fats, unsaturated fats, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats.

Saturated Fats – Saturated fats have been the ugly step-sister for some time. People who have been blaming saturated fat for the increase in obesity and heart disease are delusional. Saturated fat has proven to be of benefit when it comes to regulating testosterone.

With all that said, there’s no need to keep track of daily saturated fat intake.

Trans fat – Also called ‘partially hydrogenated oils’. These fats are long lasting, cheap to produce, and easy to use, making them a prime candidate to use in fast food establishments. Avoid trans fat unless it’s a naturally occurring trace amount in select meat and dairy products.

Cholesterol – It’s naturally produced by our bodies. Its reputation is finally turning around for the good after years of taking the blame for a myriad of health issues. Feel free to keep eating the yolk (who really likes egg whites?). No need to track your intake unless you have a family history of high cholesterol. Remember that HDL is the good cholesterol and LDL is the bad one.

Sodium – This mineral is important for muscle contractions, nerve transmissions, proper pH balance, and hydration. Don’t get crazy and follow some low to no sodium diet, unless you have high blood pressure or some other illness. (Note: manipulating sodium levels for physique purposes is another story in and of itself. And I’m not a doctor nor do I play one on the internet—one year was enough, so listen to your doctor if given other directions.)

playing a doctor - bear – what are macros
“I just like wearing white coats, but I do know what macros are”

Total Carbohydrates – Total amount of carbs including fiber and sugars.

Dietary fiber – Made up of soluble and insoluble fiber. Benefits range from controlling blood sugar, lowering cholesterol levels, reduction of heart disease, and good times on the toilet (no constipation here—embrace your poops). No need to keep track of fiber unless you’re having toilet issues & other digestive problems. Good sources of fiber are found in fruits, veggies, nuts, and sweet potatoes to name a few.

Sugar – Sugar isn’t evil nor meant to be some forbidden item. It’s best to consume in moderation.

Protein – This increases our sexy meter by adding muscle on and keeping us satiated.

Micronutrients (various minerals & vitamins) – No need to keep track of these as long as you are eating a balanced diet.

Percent Daily Value – Close your eyes and pretend this isn’t even on the label. No joke. This number is irrelevant (it’s outdated).

What about fruits, veggies, and meats?

Unfortunately, not everything in life includes a nice and clear label. Fruits, veggies, and meats require a little more effort. Foods without a label can be located using a variety of online tools and apps.

Examples are My Fitness Pal (good since it links up with all those wearables and health apps) and Cronometer (I like this one). Expect some variations in numbers across these platforms. The end goal is to be close to your target macros and make good food choices, not to seek perfection.

What about Restaurants?

Most medium to large chain restaurants has their nutritional information online so that makes life easier. Also, on a couple of apps, you can type in the restaurant and their information will pop up. For those small locally owned restaurants, they usually don’t have a menu so you’ll have to estimate to the best of your abilities using your hand for estimated portions along with making smart choices.

How many calories should I eat & FAQ

The rest of this guide is about answering some popular questions that you may have along with questions I’m asked on a consistent basis.

The truth about all calorie formulas

There’s a plethora of options to choose from when deciding on the number of calories you should eat. Caloric formulas are educational guesses at best. There’s an excellent theory behind all formulas, but at the end of the day, it comes down to testing and assessing weeks later. When handing out nutritional information to my clients, I have them wait 4-6 weeks before making any substantial changes.

The simple and stress-free way to determine calories

Below are two of the easiest ways for you to determine calories. I left out detailed formulas for the sake of keeping this article simple and straightforward.

  • Maintenance & body recomposition – 13-15 cals x BW (body weight)
  • Weight loss – 10-12 cals x BW (body weight)
  • Muscle Gain – 16-20 x BW (body weight)

If you have a lot of weight to lose, then you can multiply the number by your target bodyweight. Also, if you have a smaller frame, then err on the side of caution and start with a higher number than the ones given above and then go from there.

Another option:

If you know your bodyfat levels, then you can figure your number by first determining your LBM (lean body mass). Lean body mass is the amount of weight you carry on your body that isn’t fat. Your LBM isn’t your ideal weight because the human body needs fat on it to protect your internal organs, regulate your hormones, and provide energy.

  • LBM = total BW – fat mass
  • Total BW = how much you currently weigh
  • Fat mass=how much fat is on your body

Example: If Peter Parker weighs 202 lbs, bf% is 15.2%

  • His LBM is 171.6..round up to 172lbs
  • How? 202 x .152 = 30.7 (fat mass)
  • 202 – 30.7 = 172 LBM

Remember these are general guidelines which don’t include the type of job you have, your activity levels, and a few other factors. The goal here is to get you going and to begin to learn what are macros.

An example of laying out your macronutrients:

Protein: Use .8 grams – 1.5 grams (highest) x LBM. If LBM is unknown, then use your current bodyweight or target BW and use .8 grams – 1 grams BW (2.2 grams of protein per kg of body mass).

Fats: As previously discussed, fats are important for preventing diseases, providing energy, and helping with many of your hormones. Following a low-fat diet is idiotic and so 1990’s. Fats should make up 20-30% of your total caloric intake. There are diets that go higher than this, but those are specialized diets used for specific situations.

Carbs: Reducing carbohydrates is one of the most effective methods to losing weight. With that said, eating 25–75 grams per day isn’t the smartest of things to do over time. Living in a carb phobic world, people shit a brick when you tell them to eat 150 grams a day (Btw…that isn’t close to being a lot for most people).

After determining your protein and fats, the rest of your calories are carbohydrates.

Example: Natasha Romanoff (total badass) wants to lose a little fat in preparation for her summer vacation. She’s 145lbs and doesn’t know her body fat.

  • 145 x 10 cals = 1450 calories
  • Protein = 145 grams (1 grams x BW)
  • Fat = 40 grams (25% of total calories)
  • Carbs= 127.5 grams (round up to 130 grams)

***Important — Smaller woman will have to do a little more work with calories because calories should never dip below 1200. If you’re already small, the last thing you should do is try to get even smaller. Instead, opt for a slight surplus of calories and work on body recomposition.

The percentage above breaks into 40% protein /35% carbs/25% fats.

Common questions about macros

1. What’s the minimum to maximum amount of protein, carbs, and fats I should eat?

Protein is .8 grams–1.5 grams (max) LBM or .8 grams–1.25 grams (max) BW. Fats are no lower than 20% and can often range as high as 40% (certain diets). Carbs vary. They make up the remainder of calories after fats and proteins. I tend to favor higher carb diets due to easier lifestyle integration and satisfaction.

2. What’s the ideal ratio to use for proteins, fats, & carbs?

The simplest way is to allocate calories toward each nutrient based on a particular percentage. Here’s a common split: the 40:40:20 split. 40 percent of calories allocated to protein, 40 percent allocated to carbohydrates, and 20 percent allocated to dietary fats.

An example of someone eating 2000 calories per day.

  • 40 percent for carbs
  • 4 x 2000 = 800 calories
  • 4 calories/gram of carbs, so the total amount is 200 grams of carbs (800 / 4 = 200)

A few other popular splits are the 40:30:30 split (40 percent protein, 30 percent carbs, & 30 percent fats). And the 33:33:33 where there’s an even amount of macronutrients spread across one.

3. What if weight isn’t coming off?

If the scale isn’t moving, make sure you’re tracking accurately and not overestimating your caloric requirements. Also look at your “refeed days” or cheat days as some call them and make sure you’re not being a little too liberal with your eating on this day.

If all this checks out okay, then decrease your macros by 5-10%. If you happen to be insulin resistant or any other type of issue with carbs, then lower your carbohydrate intake while increasing your dietary fat intake.

4. What are some good sources of protein?

Cheese, beans, and nuts are good sources of protein but won’t cut it at the end of the day (not enough per serving). ½ cup of beans will yield only 8 grams of protein. If you rely on beans to get protein, you’re going to be one gassy mofo that no one wants to be around. For protein, keep it simple and rely on an animal (beef, fish, chicken, pork, and eggs) with protein powder helping fill in the gaps.

5. For fattier cuts of meat, fish, and eggs, do I count the protein & fat?

Absolutely. You should count both. This is a great way to hit your macros if you struggle with fat.

6. Should I count the carbs from veggies and include those in my macros?

Nope. No need to because most of the carb content consists of fiber which helps keep you full. Veggies are full of micronutrients, which is why I call them free foods and encourage clients to eat unlimited amounts. I’ve never seen anyone blow up from eating copious amounts of broccoli, spinach, and kale chips.

7. Should I weigh my food?

Is it helpful? Yes

Is it necessary? No

While being a hassle and meticulous for most, weighing your food has benefits. Accuracy is the main benefit since it’s more reliable than measuring or eyeballing food. I don’t weight food and leave that decision up to each individual.

8. Should I measure my amounts of food?

Though not as accurate as weighing food, I am a huge fan of this method when it comes to determining portions for rice, oats, nuts, and oils. I recommend measuring foods out until eating becomes intuitive.

9. Should I weigh meats before or after they’re prepared?

Weigh your meats before cooking. Meats will shrink up and lose weight due to water.

10. What are some good apps to keep track of macros?

As with all apps, you’ll have to add in some custom recipes and foods, but once entered they’re there for eternity.
Two of my favorites are My Fitness Pal and Cronometer. Another device I like is Fitbit, which is an awesome tool that’s able to track food, activity, and measure sleep quality.

This concludes the guide to what are macros. I hope you now understand what are macros, why they’re important, how to count them, and why counting calories aren’t the most important tool. If you have any questions, leave them at the bottom in the comments section (I will answer each and every one) or you can email me at julian@theartoffitnessandlife.com