This is a guest post from a friend and my personal trainer, Louie Guarino. Louie runs Major Gainz training, and they train clients with goals ranging from general fat loss to prepping for figure competitions. I’ve had to start very slowly due to taking a lot of time off because of injuries, and Louie has worked with my limitations like a champ. He’s a sponge for information, is always working to make himself a better trainer through science, and his work gets results.
Part of what I respect about Louie is that he tries to build lasting habits as opposed to making overblown promises. 3-4 workouts per week, starts people out on a calorie count that’s at the higher end of what should make them lose 1-2lbs per week and only reduces it if necessary, and shares a food philosophy similar to what most dietitians I know have said; there are no off limits foods. I hope you’ll enjoy his wisdom on macros and follow him on social media for more training information. Without further ado…
This is the husband of one of my clients. Finding pure joy, satisfaction, and laughter in Lucky Charms and Oreos as his wife is teaching him a bit on calorie intake and what makes up that calorie intake. Calories (kcals) are derived from food. Calories are energy. Calories fuel our bodies. Calories are needed to regulate our sleep. Calories are needed for immune function. Calories are needed to think. Calories are needed to poop. Calories are needed brush your teeth, scrub your tongue, and floss.
Calories are needed for every facet of your daily life from the smallest of the smallest tasks to the ones that take away a ton of energy…like raising children or dogs of kids who act like dogs or perhaps, dogs that are more like kids. 😛
Here’s a quick breakdown on why you need each macro:
Protein: anti-catabolic (maintains/builds muscle). Highest thermic effect of food (burn more calories digesting). Keep you feeling full. Every living cell in your body is made of proteins.
Carbs: You need them for immediate energy. You need them to function daily (brain fog anyone). Ladies…do you care about your hormones? Your thyroid? I suggest not cutting your carbs…because you will be on Synthroid and Levoxyl real quick.
Fats: Protects metabolic hormones and well…it’s damn good.
When it comes body composition changes from weight loss to fat loss to weight maintenance to fat gain and muscle gain, nutrition by way of your calorie intake is what matters more than what you do in the gym or exercise studio.
Let’s show how this works by starting off with basic formulas that can work well as a starting point.
Fat loss: If you are short [in my opinion, 5’5” or smaller] and/or really overweight and/or extremely sedentary: calorie intake = bodyweight (bw) x 8-10.
Fat loss: If you are moderately to much taller and/or you are relatively lean and/or moderately to very active: calorie intake = bw x 10-12
Weight maintenance: bw x 12-15
Muscle gain: bw x 16+
Now we know when it comes to macro breakdown, we know a good starting point is roughly 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight. Less if you are more overweight, more if you are leaner/muscular. Fat is set anywhere from 20-30% of your total calories. The remainder comes from carbs.
I will use my client as an example.
Her starting weight was 138lbs. She is currently 134lbs. As of this photo, she was eating 1,420kcals which is bw x10.5. She is at a height of 5’4”. She does a lot of walking so I don’t give her “formal” cardio to do. She strength trains 5 days as of now and was a 4 to start. When she stops losing, her calories will get cut slightly again.
For someone in a build such as myself (excuse the douchey photo…I already know…I did it for the ‘gram tho), I was starting my build at about 175. I am now 180-182 on the norm and eating about 2,800kcals. I trained as much as 6 days but now I’m down to 5 days.
(Yvette’s note: he’s a yankees fan but we can forgive him for that).
Now these are sliding scales. Nothing is ever concrete. If you aren’t gaining or losing after a good 4 weeks on a set calorie intake, increase/decrease it slightly. Things take time (as cliché as that is but it’s the truth so accept it).
Now that we have and idea of body types and intake, let’s see how we can actually make this happen.
Let’s assume you are dieting, weigh 130 pounds and you have 1,600kcals to eat daily. Your macros may be something like 130g protein, 45g fat, and 170g carbohydrates. Let’s now assume you are having a great dinner in and you decide to have filet mignon and a baked potato with lite sour cream.
You would need a digital food scale so you can weigh the ingredients.
As an aside, people who complain about using a digital scale are completely looking for the problem instead of focusing on the solution. When you take the plate out of the cabinet, what do you do? You put it on the table. I would assume your scale sits on the table anyway, when you take out the plate, just put it on the scale. Simple.
Now back to the dinner…
I made a mock idea of what you may expect. So let’s assume all the measurements are what you measured before you cooked it. All you’re doing then is entering it in your calorie tracker such as MyFitnessPal.
This meal is has 45g carbs, 30g fat, and 58g protein.
This would take some planning & low-fat options throughout the day so you can fit it in your calorie intake and your macros because if you had only 45g fat for the day, this right here eats up 30g. It’s all about budgeting and sacrificing where need be.
How would you do it?
You would start to learn what food contain which macros.
and what foods are more fibrous
No matter what you goal is, if you like it and can make it fit, than you can have it…including alcohol.
As an aside, drinking during fat loss isn’t necessarily encouraged but we are adults and if you’re going to do it, be wise. Keep it to a minimum. Alcohol can still be tracked. Whatever you consume in calories from alcohol will then be taken away from carbs/fat so you do not go over your total calorie intake.
Now that it’s done, let rewind a bit and continue.
If you can imagine why people learn to love food again and break the bad eating patterns of the past, it’s because there is nothing “good/bad”. There is no “healthy/unhealthy” food. There literally is the food you want and enjoy and how it can help reach your goals. “The poison is in the dose”.
You’re view of “healthy eating” may be unhealthy if are condemning those who choose to eat foods you consider “unhealthy” meanwhile they are reaching their goals of fat loss or muscle gain, happy, more energetic, do not fear food, and go on with life without heavy food restriction.
There is an abundance of people who talk about “macro-dieting” and “IIFYM dieting” and well…it’s not a diet. All this means is eating the right amount of protein, fat, and carbs to reach your goal of fat loss and maximal lean body mass retention (because that’s what fat loss is).
Sure, you don’t and won’t live off of cereals and candy all day, every day. That would be quite absurd and ridiculous. You want a diet that is well-rounded and is full of nutrient-dense food, has adequate fiber, and is allowing you to eat in a manner that isn’t fearful of food or makes you “work the food off”. Food fear is how some people start disordered eating and can be the road to an eating disorder. Macro tracking breaks the moralization of food, and lets people eat anything they want while teaching portion control and healthy habits and moderation.
And then you have the people who talk about “micro-dieting,” i.e. eating solely to get your vitamins.
These people frustrate me. Why? Because “micro” by definition is the small stuff. “Macro” is the major key. It’s like majoring in a minor. If you are eating a well-rounded diet, you will intake adequate vitamins and minerals from all your food. There is no need to “hit my micros”. You’re already doing that if you are eating, as you should.
Now, the question that almost comes after this is, “do I have to count calories forever?” and the answer is “no”.
That said, learning how to track your macros is a great way to learn portion sizes and how and when to make the best choices even when you can’t or do not want to track.
It’s a great and responsible way to change your body composition because it’s not some quick fix/crash-diet. It will change everything you ever thought about food and what it takes to be a healthier and more fit you.
Thanks for the great info Louie. If you want more info, go follow him (links below). I would not be following his advice if it was gimmicky. There are difficult parts of this approach (mainly that tracking your macros takes literally weighing your food to to start with), but it’s proven, it’s not a gimmick, and the results from Louie and trainers like him are consistently achievable.
With an approach to the fitness industry that is refreshing and just straight-up real, Louie’s greatest love is to help people and to inspire change and self-belief in all his clients.
As a young adult, Louie discovered that weight lifting was his greatest tool in dealing with and overcoming feelings of anger, depression and anxiety. Today, weight lifting continues to remain foundational in his training not just for himself, but all his clients. Powered by S’mores Pop-tarts, Drake on replay and Diet Mountain Dew, his genuine love for people and desire to inspire change in the lives of those he encounters is what sets him apart and makes him cutting edge to the fitness industry.