This week we dive into food quantity. It might be surprising to find you’re not eating ENOUGH to support your health goals and athletic performance. There are SO many ways to quantify your food but we will focus on just three general methods. Released over the next 3 days via Facebook, we will focus on Whole30, the Zone and Tracking Macros which increase in difficulty and specificity respectively.
You might be wondering which method is best but that is impossible for us to answer for you. Depending on where you are in your journey of changing your eating pattern to incorporate more whole, nutrient-rich foods most of the time - you might be ready for more or less detail. Your diet is like athletic training, it needs to adjust and adapt as you become fitter, stronger, busier, more knowledgeable about how your body responds.
Method 1. Use What You’ve Got - Hands and Fingers
Whole30 encourages participants to use their hands and fingers to estimate portion sizes of food for each meal and snack. Access the Whole30 method in the #KingfieldStrong Facebook group. Whole30 emphasizes balance in meals with plenty of protein, fat and nutrient-rich carbohydrates. The most important messaging to get from this method is probably this: you should be enjoying a large enough meal that you can feel comfortable and satisfied without a snack in between meals (though snacks are allowed in half portions of what a regular meal might look like). For people that are just starting to change their eating pattern to lose weight and become leaner, this might be a very novel concept and this basic framework suits very well. Recall that many dieting meal plans include 5-6 small meals spread across the day; usually consisting of protein, carbohydrates and very little fat. You can see that Whole30 does break meals into macronutrients, per say, but it does emphasize plenty of food from all macronutrient groups to form a balanced meal.
This week, look at your plate. Does it include a palm size or two or protein? How about whole fats - avocado, olives, coconut, nuts/seeds - do you have enough?
Method 2. Follow a Block-Style Plan
When you hear “Zone Method,” you probably think “Oh shit, now I have to actually measure my food.” True. The Zone Diet, developed by Dr. Barry Sears in the early 90s, is about controlling inflammation, something that many of our challenge participants are already doing by eliminating trigger foods. The Zone Diet adds a layer of specificity around the ratios of protein, fat and carbohydrates in the diet. Each meal will consist of 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein and 30% fat. The ratio does NOT mean ⅓ of your play will be full of butter, sorry. Rather, it means 30% of total calories per meal (and total calories in the day) will be protein, for example.
If you follow the Zone method, you will ultimately be eating at 40%, 30%, 30% ratios, however this might not suit everyone. Some people enjoy a higher fat percentage, while others might need a bit higher carbohydrate percentage due to their active job or training load.
Dr. Sears uses lean body mass (LBM) to determine how much protein a person might need and builds the remainder of fat and carbohydrate meal content around that. Use this calculator to determine body fat percentage and then calculate out to find out how many pounds your body fat weighs. Body weight - body fat pounds = lean body mass pounds (see example).
- Calculate LBM
150 pound female and learned that I have 32% body fat.
Fat Mass = 150 lbs * 0.32 = 48 lbs body fat
Lean Body Mass = 150 lbs total mass - 48 lbs fat mass =
102 lbs lean body mass
- Account for activity level - For CrossFitters, you’ll likely fall into their “Elite” category (you exercise more than 3 hours per week), meaning your activity level multiplier is 1.0.
Amount of protein per day = LBM * activity multiplier = 102 * 1.0 =
102g protein per day
- Calculate Blocks of Protein
02g protein per day / 7 = 14.5 blocks of protein per day
*If all the math is too much for you, you can also use this chart to guesstimate your blocks. Remember that this will be less specific but it's a good way to start Zone and then you can make individual adjustments from there if necessary.
- Build your meals - 14.5 blocks means you need to consume 14.5 blocks of protein, fat and carbohydrate. Spread that across 5 meals (eating every 3-4 hours) and your day might look like this:
Breakfast - 3 block meal
Mid-morning snack - 2 block meal
Lunch - 3 block meal
Afternoon snack - 2 block meal
Dinner - 4 block meal
Now you’re thinking “What the hell is a block?” Look over this chart to see what 1 block of turkey or eggs looks like, 1 block of rice or potatoes, or 1 block of olive oil or avocado. The quantitative breakdown looks like this:
1 block of protein = 7 grams
1 block of fat = 1.5 grams
1 block of carbohydrate = 9 grams
I know it seems like a lot of work but you will get the hang of this. It is not a chemistry test every time you eat. Allow for some wiggle room. The macronutrients are quantified but know that EVERY food has some amounts of all three: protein, fat and carbohydrate. Don’t get hung up on every number. If you pick up an RX Bar from the gym, for example, you don’t need to count it as 6 blocks of fat, 2 blocks of protein and 2.5 blocks of carbs. You’ll drive yourself nuts! You’ll end up under-eating constantly and feeling gross. Use the predominant macronutrient to quantify. In this case, count it as 2.5 blocks of carbs - so this might fit perfectly as a snack.
If you’re our 150 pound female from above, you would use this chart and build your 3 block breakfast like so:
4 eggs, 1.5 oz. of turkey sausage, 1/4 cup of oatmeal, 1 cup of strawberries, ½ Tbsp of Almond Butter
Zoning food takes a little leg work and planning up front. You’ll start to learn which amounts of food qualify as a “block” as you get going and then meal planning around these numbers will become second nature. Typically we eat the same types of foods week after week, so after a few you’ll likely have it down where you can “eyeball” your food. This gives you more freedom to go out to eat, to indulge, etc.
What do you think about this method? Check out the block chart - does it make sense to break food down this way?
Method 3. Weigh, Measure and Track
The third and most individually tailored method for quantifying food according to your needs is to track macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates). Tracking macronutrients takes planning and discipline. Though, many people will say that tracking for just a short time helped them essentially “reset” their understanding of what portions should look like for their body and goals i.e. they realize what 100 grams of protein “looks like” and can now, without weighing or measuring, shoot for that amount.
Using a food scale individuals will weigh and measure their food, then log it in a tracking application or use pen/paper to keep tally. Based on their needs, body composition or athletic performance goals, the individual eats as set number of protein, carbohydrate and fat grams each day. Individuals eat whole, nutrient-rich foods most of the time but it takes a commitment to planning well-rounded meals ahead of time, check restaurant menus before dining out, planning for treats in order to hit specific macronutrient numbers daily.
There are plenty of macronutrient calculators available online - just do a general google search. Inserting your weight, height, body fat and body composition goals does not guarantee that the numbers recommended will work for you, but they are a good starting place. Many people play with macronutrient totals for a few weeks before landing on numbers that leave them feeling energized, sleeping well, satisfied after meals, etc.
This week, we hope to hear from some of the people in this group who have counted macros before - what do you like and dislike about it? Why did you ultimately decide to go this route? Play with macros calculators - how does it differ in suggested amounts from the Zone method?