How To: Count Macros on the Go
While I wasn't perfect on the road, I did do many things that kept me on track as I cut for my competition.
I probably could have skipped the Mai Tais in Hawaii... but that wouldn't be any fun now would it?
So here are my top tips for staying on track...
1. Plan Ahead
Plan your days ahead as much as possible. Research restaurants and grocery stores near where you'll be staying and see what's available to you. You can also bring certain things with you - personally I like to bring ziploc bags of protein powder, oatmeal, and then basics like individual peanut butter and tuna packets. This isn't totally necessary, but can save a lot of time and money.
My makeshift kitchen in Hawaii
2. Master the Grocery Store
Google maps makes it easy to find nearby grocery stores. If you have no kitchen in your hotel room (we didn't in Hawaii), find staples that can be made with hot water from the coffee maker, and if possible request an empty fridge in your room. The key is to buy things you can easily track in MyFitnessPal with a basic entry or barcode scan. I like portion controlled food because it saves me from myself (I will inhale a bag of trail mix before I realize it's 600 calories and triple my fat allowance for the day). Things I like to buy:
- Pre-hard boiled eggs
- Tuna packets
- Tuna and bean salads
- Protein bars
- Greek yogurt
- Pre-portioned packs of nuts or nut butter
- Vegetable packs
- Chocolate milk (hey, it's a great recovery drink!)
- Giant water jugs to make sure I stay hydrated
Road snacks Gillian style
3. Overestimate When Eating Out
I'm always shocked when I look at the calorie content of restaurant items. They tend to be very high because let's be real, butter and oil make everything delicious. When possible, try to plan your delicious meals out ahead of time and plan the rest of your day around this. Even before I tracked macros, my general rule of thumb was to eat light protein all day to bank for a good dinner.
If the restaurant you're going to has nutritional information listed online, use that, or MyFitnesspal to enter it in before you go. Otherwise, look up individual items from a dish on the menu (most restaurants have menus online) and overestimate everything. For example, if you're going to have salmon and potatoes, enter a potion and a half of each, and add in 2 tablespoons of oil separately to be safe. It's still risky, but will give you a good idea on how to bank your macros for the rest of the day. When possible, stick to items that are raw - sashimi, ceviche, grilled, steamed, have no sauce or a light sauce. You can also request this at a restaurant. Cream sauces and salad dressings in general pack a TON of hidden calories, so if you can live without them. do so.
If you have no idea where you'll be eating, you can always plug in a higher calorie generic restaurant meal ahead of time to be safe, or just be really fussy with your ordering when you go. (It's also ok to take a night off every now and then.)
4. Be a Social Butterfly, But Don't Try to Please Everyone
One of the hardest parts for me about dieting is trying not to please everyone. I will generally go out of my way to make people comfortable, and sometimes that means saying yes to dessert, or a glass of wine that is poured, when I don't necessarily want or need it. But this doesn't get me closer to my goals. So I've learned to be very open with people about my goals, to say no twice if needed, and to find ways to still have a good time and share delicious things without going ham. In the past few weeks we were travelling with a large group in Hawaii and LA, and I did my best to stick to smart choices like vodka soda if we were out, and to always have snacks on hand. I also learned that if you're open with people about your goals in a non-defensive way, they're usually very curious and supportive.
Crazy water girl
Now when it comes to tracking alcohol in your macros you want to be careful. Alcohol is metabolized slightly differently by the body than any other macronutrient. It has 7 calories per gram and should be tracked. Excessive consumption may stall progress, but in moderation, as long as you stay within your calorie/macro target, it is fine. I like to count alcohol as a carb, and have it entered in 'My Meals' manually on MyFitnesspal. To calculate alcohol as a carb- take the number of calories of alcohol you will consume and divide that by 4 to get the grams of carbs to count.
You can also calculate alcohol as a fat, although personally I don't like this approach since it's more like a sugar, and take the number of calories of alcohol you will consume and divide that by 9 to get the grams of fat to count.
5. Get Sweaty
One of my favourite parts of travelling is working out! I know that sounds crazy, but it's so much fun getting creative with exercise somewhere new. I like to find local gyms, hikes, and sneak out for morning runs. It's another fantastic way to get acquainted with a place and explore. If you push yourself a little harder than you might at home, that extra glass of wine or two won't hurt your progress as much.
6. Accept Imperfection
It's kind of impossible to be perfect while travelling. And if you are - you're going to be a pain in the butt (I refuse to bring my food scale into a restaurant). While counting macros is most successful when you're meticulous, it can get obsessive. My goal is always to be stubborn about my goals but flexible in my methods - life is too short not to drink a cocktail by the pool.
I hope that helps! Please feel free to ask any questions in the comment section.