How to stick to your plan when macros have been maxed out.
We’ve all been there. It’s the end of the day, time for a last meal, but we’ve used up the our daily allotment of one of our macronutrients. Whether forgetting to log food intake throughout the day or splurging on that piece of cake during Janet’s birthday celebration at the office, the consequences are rolling in like tidal waves. One of our macros has been fully spent. Now you stand staring into the fridge, eyes glazed over, pondering what dinner will look like with only two macros remaining. Although, this predicament should not evolve into a common phenomenon, a variety of possibilities exist to construct hearty meals while quenching your hunger.
The intent is to stay on track with your eating plan. One slip-up doesn’t need to derail your progress by exceeding macro limits or skipping meals. Each macronutrient fulfills specific roles within the body such as energy production, nutrient absorption, appetite regulation, and tissue repair and recovery, to name a few. This stresses the importance of making sure you hit your macro goals. The following examples serves as models of how to build a satisfying meal when you get stuck with one macro maxed out.
CARB + PROTEIN
- Leafy green salad w/ grilled chicken breast and chopped fruit/vegetables (tomato, onion, broccoli, cucumber, carrot) and fat-free dressing or salsa
- Baked russet potato w/ plain black beans, salsa, cilantro, and fat-free sour cream (or a dollop of plain, fat-free greek yogurt)
CARB + FAT
- Vegetable stir-fry: carrots, broccoli, bok choy, and mushrooms seared with garlic and soy sauce. Served over brown rice with butter.
- Whole grain pasta w/ asparagus and portabella mushrooms sautéed in olive oil. Topped with tomato puree, garlic, and oregano.
PROTEIN + FAT
- Burger: ground beef, cheese, 1/4 avocado, and mustard wrapped in a giant lettuce leaf
- Omelet w/ spinach, mushrooms, and feta cheese
- CARB + PRO: fat-free greek yogurt with fruit; skim milk or a whey protein shake
- CARB + FAT: Whole grain chips or pita with hummus; banana with nut butter
- PRO + FAT: string cheese with almonds; deviled or hardboiled eggs; protein lettuce wrap.
BONUS: I’m very low on all 3 of my macros
- Homemade soup: shredded chicken, portabella mushrooms, and kale (or other leafy green) simmered in chicken or vegetable stock with garlic
- Fresh shrimp over spinach salad with onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice
Clearly, the best option is to pre-plan and log meals ahead of time to avoid maxing out one macronutrient. Of course, stressful weeks happen or life throws a curveball. Thinking ahead can help you stick to your eating plan. If you know Friday night will consist of eating out at a restaurant, take the time to preview the menu before you leave the house. If you expect to have a drink with friends, skip the extra slice of cheese and added mayo at lunch to account for the calories from alcohol. Sure, planning takes a little time, but with continued practice, it will get easier. With these menu samples, you should not need to feel stressed or deprived if a diet dilemma should strike. There are endless approaches to creating wholesome meals and snacks using only two macronutrients. Sometimes life knocks us down—don’t let those punches hinder your success.
A quick refresher of some common sources of protein, carbohydrate, and fat can help meal planning feel more relaxed. Nutrition labels offer a breakdown of macros, but the following examples list high-quality choices chock-full with a variety of nutrients. Just pair the macros you need to build your plate.
- Chicken (boneless, skinless)
- Fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel, white fish)
- Lean beef
- Milk and yogurt
- High-quality, whey or casein protein powder
- Rolled oats (old-fashioned, whole- grain)
- Rice (whole grain, brown, long)
- Whole grain bread/wraps
- Starchy vegetables (potato, squash, corn, peas)
- Cooking oils
- Nuts and nut butters (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios)
- Seeds (flax, chia, sunflower)