Operation GIT: Thinking About Macronutrients
Okay so maybe this is an odd topic for the blog, but it’s on my mind this morning.
I do a LOT of reading about fitness and nutrition. A LOT. I’ve been lifting weights since I was fourteen, so I have considerably more muscle mass than the average woman, which makes BMI a completely useless measure on me (BMI is actually a completely useless measure regardless because it takes into account only your height and weight and not lean muscle mass, build, or a zillion other factors–it really shouldn’t be used for diddly squat).
But anyway, one of the things you should do if you lift weights is make sure to get enough protein. It’s the building block of new muscle, so if you want to lose weight and RETAIN muscle mass (which is kind of the point), you eat more protein than the average Jane. And that gets into macronutrients. We’re talking about protein, fat, carbs, and fiber. There are a lot of dietary programs out there that tell you to do this or that in terms of ratios with these things. Some will demonize carbs. Others will demonize fat. The truth is, as with many things, everything in moderation, with tweaks based on your particular body chemistry. It isn’t a simple calories in/calories out equation.
Since I started Beautiful Badass, I’ve been making a concerted effort to eat more protein. The recommended amount I kept seeing everywhere is 1 gram per pound of body weight. That is…um, a crapton of protein, y’all. And, frankly, I have been totally unable to eat that much and stay within any reasonable range of calories. I’ve been packing on muscle (8 pounds of it in the last year), but I haven’t really lost fat to go with it. So I was all set to go back to counting calories (which has worked for me in the past).
I googled for a Katch-McCardle calculator, which is this great tool that takes into account your activity level (5-6 days a week exercise for me), your body fat %, and other factors to figure out what your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is in order to calculate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) in a day and how many calories you need to consume. Way more useful than the “oh you’re 33 years old and 5’4″ and a woman, you should be eating x calories to lose weight.” For example, my BMR (the amount of calories I burn in a day doing nothing but breathing) is 1460 calories. Which is already above what those craptastic simplistic calculators say I should be eating. Muscle IZ GOOD. So, anyway, I go through the process, select a goal of moderate weight loss and get a calorie budget of 1650 to 1760 calories to lose weight. My actual TDEE is 2200. This, Mom, is why I can eat as much as I do and not blow up like a house.
And at the end of this whole process, I see that this particular site has a MACRONUTRIENT CALCULATOR. I was curious exactly how this was going to work out for me, so I entered all my stuff. And it says I need to be eating 111 grams of protein. Wait, how does that fit with the gram per pound of body weight? And then the lightbulb went off. It’s not a gram per pound of TOTAL body weight, it’s a gram per pound of LEAN BODY MASS (and yeah, I have 111 pounds of lean body mass–put that in your pipe and smoke it people who say I should weigh 120 pounds because I’m 5’4″). I have no idea why they don’t say that outright. Maybe it’s supposed to be accepted and obvious knowledge, but it was an epiphany to me.
So I’ve got my Sparkpeople profile all set up anew to track my various macronutrients again in conjunction with starting the Fat Loss program of Beautiful Badass (finishing a book project seemed to be a good time to change it up). I’m all jazzed and excited to see how this works for me and thought I’d throw the info out there for anybody else who wanted to try it.