How to Find Foods To Fit Your Macros at the End of the Day

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One of the most challenging aspects of being on a macro-based nutrition program is finding foods to meet your goals at the end of the day. Even if you've done your meal prep and everything is ready for the day, plans change and you may end up in a situation where you are struggling to hit your macros.

Perhaps breakfast was right on track, but your friends were going out to lunch and you don't want to miss out. The restaurant doesn't have any meals that will replace the lunch you had planned so now you're asking, how do I find foods to fit my macros for the rest of the day? Perhaps you just had a craving for a favorite snack of yours, and need to figure out how to make up the difference.

Don’t worry; not hitting macros is not the end of the world, but hopefully, some of our methods can help you avoid missing your targets by more than you would like. Learn how to plan smarter to hit macros exactly and what to do if you fall short at the end of the day.

What Foods Can You Use To Hit Your Macros

It can be helpful for you to have a plan in place to get your macros back on track in case you end up grabbing an unexpected treat, or end up off-plan for any other reason. When it comes to being "off track", in the world of macro counting, it usually means that you are running out of remaining fat and carbohydrates with a considerable amount of protein left to eat before you will be able to reach your target.

However, you may end up in a situation where any one of your macros is falling short. You can prepare a kind of recovery plan, a way to get back on track with very little prep. It's best to minimize prep because otherwise meeting your goals at the end of the day shouldn’t feel like a chore, and you may just decide it isn't worth the effort. Here are a few tips to help you find an easy way to fit in your macros by the end of the day:

  • Get familiar with single-macro foods to quickly and easily get your macros back on track
  • Satisfy your more difficult macro targets first, to prepare in advance for any deviation from your plan
  • Choose more energy-dense foods if you have large amounts of macros remaining, but you aren’t feeling that hungry
  • Choose high-volume foods when you are near hitting your goals and find yourself hungry

What Is A Single Macro Food?

When a food is described as a single macro food, that means it provides calories primarily from only one of the three macros, rather than a combination of two or more macros as many foods do. There are several single macro foods in the protein, fat, and carbs categories, so getting familiar with these options will help you in building a quick snack to reach your goals at the end of the day.

Some common examples include chicken breast and egg whites for protein, fruits and grain products for carbs, and nuts and avocados for fat. While most protein foods require some cooking, it is relatively easy to find sources of carbohydrates and fats that don't require any prep and that will be ready at the drop of a hat. Keep some healthy single macro foods around so that you aren't struggling more than necessary to get your macros back on track.

However, even in regards to protein, you can prepare a few single macro foods ahead of time whose energy comes primarily from protein. Store them in the fridge and they will be ready to portion out during the week if you need an emergency fix to hit your goals. Make sure that this food doesn't go to waste though. Try to learn about food safety, and when you haven't worked some food into your diet and they are nearing the end of their refrigerator life, you can toss them in the freezer for use at a later date.

Strategies To Help You Hit Your Macro Targets

There are a few ways that people tend to strategize when hitting their macros. One is to plan all meals in advance to ensure that you will hit your goals as long as you keep on plan, and the other is to constantly adapt and emphasize eating more of the nutrient that has the largest proportion remaining. Creating a meal plan can be extremely difficult, and that is exactly why we have built a meal plan generator to help you create meal plans that suit your goals.

The more adaptive approach is more nuanced but allows for more freedom and fluidity throughout the day. To illustrate the adaptive method of eating more of what you are missing, consider this example: If you are nearly topped up on your protein, but missing a large number of carbs and also some fat, it might be helpful to start with a single macro carb food. This is because even "single macro foods" have some amount of the other macronutrients in them. So, if you began filling up your fat allotment, but left a substantial amount of carbs, it may become difficult to fill up your carbohydrate allotment without exceeding your other targets. Solving the most significant deficit with the smaller target also in mind will help you decide between single macros, combination macros, or smaller meals with balanced macros that will best suit your needs.

Meeting more than one macros goal with just one meal can make getting back on track significantly easier. Try to notice which macros targets you are likely to exceed on a normal day. If you struggle to get protein before maxing out your fat allotment for the day, then make sure you focus on protein before fat. This is where the nuance comes in. Single macro protein foods tend to be less enjoyable than those for fat and carbohydrates. So if you notice that you are struggling to hit your protein, and you don't enjoy single macro protein foods, you may benefit from front-loading your protein. This can make it less difficult for you to choose the foods that will help you hit your macros at the end of the day.

What are Energy Density and Macronutrient Density?

Energy density is the measure of how much energy is contained in a food item per unit of weight. As you may know, food energy is often measured in calories (or kilojoules depending on your location and context). Foods with more calories per serving are considered “energy-dense”. So energy density refers to the number of calories that a particular food has per gram, which can help in comparing two foods and their ability to make you feel full.

If you are dieting and find yourself very hungry, then it's likely that you want less energy-dense foods so that you can maintain a feeling of fullness while reducing your caloric intake. However, if you are backpacking in the mountains, weight matters, and it's more likely that you want energy-dense foods to fuel your body and simultaneously reduce the load you need to carry. There is nothing inherently good or bad about high or low energy density, they each have their strengths, but it's a great thing to be aware of when creating a strategy for your diet.

The amount of a particular macro that is concentrated in a portion of food is a somewhat derivative way for you to form an idea of energy density. Instead of measuring how much of a caloric punch a food may contribute, it can help you figure out which foods will take up a large portion of one of your macro goals. For example, our single macro foods from the protein category would be considered “protein-dense”. If you have difficulty meeting several goals, you may want to try seeking out foods based on macro density to satisfy your remaining macros for the day. Another possible benefit of using less energy-dense foods is that you can make smaller changes to your daily totals, giving you more opportunities to optimize and ensure your macros work out perfectly.

This concept extends to micronutrients as well, and foods with a higher concentration of micronutrients per calorie are considered “nutrient-dense”. Tending toward nutrient-dense foods is always a good idea. Don't forget about micronutrients when trying to find foods to help you hit your macros at the end of the day.

How to Feel Satisfied and Less Hungry

There are a lot of factors that can affect hunger levels. It can include things like personal genetic differences, medications, and other things that you don't have much control over. But lucky for us, our food choices can make a difference. Chances are you can improve upon your current techniques if you find yourself hungry. Even if you have genetic or situational factors that are increasing or decreasing your hunger signals, choosing some different foods may help you return to more of a balanced situation.

Sometimes when people decide to follow a macro-based diet, and they want to hit their macros perfectly at the end of each day, they may forget other important aspects of nutrition, like vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are vital, and absolutely must be included in your diet in order for you to thrive. Your body can feel hungry if it's not getting the nutrients it craves. It is important to consider the micronutrient quality of your food if you are always feeling hungry. Protein and fiber are also known to be more satiating than other nutrients. Fat can also be more satiating than carbohydrates. You might want to reconsider the macronutrient ratios that you have chosen if you find yourself hungry all of the time. Perhaps more protein and fat could be included at the expense of some carbohydrates.

Back to the concept of energy density, foods with lower density (higher volume) can be consumed in greater portions than those with higher energy density; this is something to consider if you’re craving a snack, as lower-density foods can allow for larger volume snacks that may feel more satisfying.

How to Hit Your Macros When Eating at Restaurants

One of the most significant variables in maintaining the course when it comes to hitting your macros is eating out at restaurants. Some people avoid them altogether, but that approach isn’t a long-term solution. You have to live a little! So instead of treating things as off-limits, figure out how to work them into your life. Here are some ways you can find food at restaurants to hit your macros at the end of the day.

  • Check online ahead of time for nutrition facts on items that you are interested in.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the menu and nutrition information
  • Menu items like dressing, butter, and condiments can be easily left out or reduced to make a huge difference in the macro breakdown
  • Request a special dish if need be - if it’s pretty simple, many places will do it
  • Plan by choosing the other meals for your day accordingly

Strive to be Better, Not Perfect.

You won't hit your macros every day, and that is a good thing. Everything should be practiced in moderation, and that includes hitting your macros. Don't obsess over the numbers, if you find yourself at the end of the day with no way to hit your macros, default back to calories. If you end up going over on your calories, then the next goal is to minimize the number of excess calories that you eat. But don't sweat it, perhaps you can eat a little less the following day or just forget about it and start fresh tomorrow. What you do occasionally can't undo what you do consistently (as long as "occasionally" is "occasional enough" which is hard to define, but the sentiment stands).

The most important aspect of nutrition is committing to a healthier lifestyle and taking actionable steps to achieve it. Forgive yourself if you make mistakes. Just don’t forget to learn from them and strive to improve for tomorrow.

If you need help planning meals that hit your macros, download the Prospre meal planning app to create macro-based meal plans. We hope we can help take the stresses of planning right off of your shoulders.

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