Macronutrients
Written by Sean Ireland

Disclaimer: I am not a licensed dietician or medical professional. I am simply a guy who has spent a large majority of his life in the sports and fitness world. Through this, I have accumulated a ton of knowledge and life experience by using myself (and some brave others) as guinea pigs. I share it with the goal of informing others so that they may be able to learn from real-world results. Please, in no way consider this medical advice.

Huh?

If you have been plugged in to the CrossFit diet scene for the past 6 months, you will have most likely seen a new diet trend becoming more and more popular.  It goes by many names: IIFYM (if it fits your macros), flexible dieting, counting macros, etc. They are all variations of the same thing. Setting daily “macro” numbers and eating to meet those goals.

“Macros” is short for macronutrients which is science-speak for protein, fat and carbohydrates. Eating the right combo of these macros in relation to your health and fitness goals has been shown to produce great results in both body composition and performance. I have been testing a version of this diet with several members here at CrossFit 717 and all have had exceptional results.  Many are dropping body fat while simultaneously setting new PRs in multiple lifts and WODs. I am going to share the principals of that diet in this series to give you another weapon in your arsenal.

The Diet

The diet is very simple in practice. Figure out a daily goal for these three macros based on your training schedule and eat a variety of foods to hit these numbers.  Technically, no foods are off limits and you can eat any combo of foods that gets you to your numbers. Want mac and cheese? Fine. Pizza? Eat up. Chipotle burrito? Sounds good. As long as the food fits in your daily macro goals you can eat it. Simple, right? On the surface, yes, but let’s explore a little more because it isn’t quite that simple.

Macronutrients

Even though no foods are off limits, you will want the majority of your choices to be what are traditionally considered “healthy” choices. Then you can fill in the gaps with any foods you want. Here are some good examples of healthy choices:

Proteins

Any meat is good for protein but lean meats give you more bang for the buck as you can eat larger portions at lower calorie levels:

  • Boneless/skinless chicken breasts
  • Sirloin steak (or other lean cuts)
  • Fish
  • Eggs and egg whites
  • Turkey
  • Bison
  • Ground beef
  • Whey protein powder
  • Greek yogurt
  • Pork

Carbs

Try to find a good mix between starchy and complex carbs you can use at different times in the day:

  • Sweet potato
  • White potato
  • Plain Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Greek yogurt
  • Ezekiel bread/English muffins
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Fruits (carbs must be accounted for)
  • Veggies (carbs must be accounted for)
  • Applesauce (no added sugar)

Fats

Fats should mostly come from monounsaturated sources with the remaining coming from saturated sources like the ones that occur naturally in animal products (meats, butter, etc.):

  • Nuts (unsalted)
  • Fish Oil
  • Nut butters
  • Egg Yolks
  • Avocados
  • Real butter
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cheese

Eating these “healthy” choices the majority (80%-90%) of the time will ensure you are getting the vitamins, minerals and fiber your system needs to function properly and recover from tough training sessions. The not-so-healthy choices are allowed so you aren’t restricted and don’t feel like you can’t have something you want to eat.

For many of us, especially the Paleo and Whole 30 followers, this will mean we need to change our view of food. This diet does not consider food in terms of “healthy” or “unhealthy”. It sees them as numbers that add up to a total. Foods like pasta, rice, and potatoes have been vilified by some schools of thought but they can play a vital role in aiding your performance, a topic I will cover in the next installment.

Bottom line is that food is fuel. Give your body the right amounts of that fuel (no matter the source) and you can optimize your performance and your results.

What’s Next?

In the next installment I will talk about how to calculate your numbers, nutrient timing, and how to optimize your training through targeted pre and post workout nutrition. Stay tuned!