Tracking macronutrients is a powerful tool to lose weight while breastfeeding. While some women lose weight rather easily when they are nursing, others struggle to tame insatiable hunger and hormones that wreck havoc on weight loss efforts. Here is how breastfeeding women should approach tracking macros:
Macronutrients: What They Are and Why They Matter
Macronutrients, also known as macros, are the three main types of nutrients that the human body needs in large amounts to function properly: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. These nutrients provide energy and help build and repair tissues in the body. In addition to providing energy, macronutrients also play a crucial role in maintaining overall health and wellness.
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy and should make up the majority of your daily calorie intake. However, it’s important to choose complex carbs, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, rather than simple carbs like sugar and refined flour.
Proteins are essential for building and repairing muscle tissue, which is important for weight loss. Aim to include a source of protein in every meal and snack, such as lean meats, fish, eggs, and plant-based options like beans and lentils.
Fats are also important for maintaining good health, but they should be consumed in moderation. Opt for healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts, and seeds, rather than saturated fats found in processed foods.
Tracking Your Macros
To ensure that you are getting enough of each macronutrient, it’s important to track your intake. This is where many breastfeeding women go wrong. Some don’t eat enough and others are eating way too much. Neither or which are great if weight loss is the goal. The most common way to do this is by using a food diary or a mobile app that allows you to log the foods you eat and the amount of each macronutrient they contain. We track macros using our FASTer Way To Fat Loss app but you can also use MyFitnessPal for free to test it out. By tracking your macros, you can see where you may be lacking and make adjustments to your diet to ensure that you are getting the right balance of nutrients.
How To Calculate Your Macros (Basic version)
When you sign up my 6-week new client package, I give you your target macros based on a questionnaire I provide.
However, here is simple way to calculate your macro targets a starting number (this method doesn’t take into account age or height)…
#1. Determine caloric deficit. A good general rule is body weight x 10, 11, 12 or 13. Choose your numbers closer to 10 if you’re more sedentary and closer to 13 if you’re very active, breastfeeding or have a very fast metabolism. Most of my clients are close to 12. This is the target number of calories (also labeled A below) your body should aim to hit. Since we are tracking macros and not calories, keep reading….
#2. Set protein goal: You’ll calculate this by multiplying your body weight (or goal body weight for those with more to lose) by .8 – that is your target macro goal in grams for protein! This is labeled B below. There are 4 calories in one gram of protein FYI.
#3. Distribute the rest of your calories between fat and carbs. I like 60/40 favoring carbs split with the remainder coming from protein. There are 4 calories per gram of carbs and 9 calories per gram of fat. Here’s how we do this…
Body weight: 140 lbs
140 x 12 = 1680 (A) – TOTAL CALORIE GOAL
140 x .8 = 112 (B) – PROTEIN GOAL in GRAMS
112 (B) x 4 = 448 (C)
1680(A) – 448 (C)= 1232 (D)
1232 (D) x .6 = 739.2 / 4 = 185 G CARB GOAL
1232 (D) x .4 = 492.8 / 9 = 55 G FAT GOAL
(55×9) + (185×4) + (112×4) = 1683
Here are the goals for this active 140 lb individual:
112 grams of protein, 55g of fats, 185g of carbs DAILY.
Macros are targets not limits. Once established, you should be aiming to hit your target within +/- 5-10 grams! Your daily needs and hunger may vary based on if your day’s activities and how much was consumed the previous day so it’s important to listen to your body as well. You do not need to eat to eat BUT if you are starving, you shouldn’t be afraid to go over your targets!
Modifications for Breastfeeding Women
For breastfeeding women, it’s important to make sure that you are getting enough nutrients to support both your own health and the health of your baby. The American Dietetic Association recommends that breastfeeding women consume an additional 300-500 calories per day to support milk production. Most of my nursing clients will aim to eat about 1800-2000 calories for weight loss!
In terms of macronutrients, breastfeeding women should focus on getting enough protein, as it is important for milk production and the growth and development of the baby. Aim for a minimum of 71 grams of protein per day. Many of my FASTer Way clients are eating .8 grams of protein per lb of body weight (ie. 140 lbs woman should eat 97-110 grams) Carbohydrates are also important for energy, and fats are important for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and the development of the baby’s brain.
In conclusion, macronutrients are essential for maintaining overall health and wellness, and tracking your intake can help ensure that you are getting the right balance of nutrients. For breastfeeding women, it’s especially important to focus on getting enough protein. As always, it’s best to consult with a doctor or a dietitian to develop a customized nutrition plan that fits your individual needs.
Looking for more info on tracking macros as breastfeeding parent? Check out my Masterclass: How Tracking Macros Helped Me Learn Intuitive Eating