"I’m going to my cousin’s quinceañera and don’t know how to track the food I’m eating there. Halp."
^One of the most common questions I get from clients. (Ok, not specifically on how to track for fiesta de quince años, but social events of all types.)
"How do I work around situations like this - how do I track my macros accurately when I didn't make the food?"
First, realize the following are strategies to help you salvage the best results you can from hard food situations.
The reality is, you're still leaving a lot up to chance. If your number one priority was fat loss, by far the most effective strategy would just be to cook all your meals. (Hence bodybuilders and their Tupperware.) If you have rapid fat loss goals, you're not doing yourself any favors by eating out often.
I get it, this isn't a sustainable or enjoyable approach for most, so you'll learn how to best manage these situations, rather than living your life as a hermit. Just be aware that (as with everything in life), you are likely trading-off the enjoyment of a meal for a bit slower progress.
The key here is knowing your trade-offs.
How much do you value the feeling of normalcy/being present/not worrying about macros VS. shifting your body composition?
On the far left side of the scale would be - not worrying about your meal at all, and just focusing on enjoyment, while fully accepting potentially slower results.
On the far right would be - just bringing your own home-cooked meal to said event, and knowing you've done everything possible for the fastest results.
In the middle is where I've found most online clients experience the least guilt (either from missing out on the social aspects, or from undoing progress).
Now, keep in mind there is no right or wrong answer. It's just super important that you know exactly what's most important to you right now, so you can leave the meal without feeling guilty.
You'll often hear people say “It’s ____ holiday or life event! Don’t be a dick to yourself. Just enjoy your life and get back on track tomorrow!”
I also don’t recommend being a dick to yourself, but the reality is every calorie you eat affects the energy balance equation.
No matter how full of self-love and/or holiday spirit you feel, calories still affect your body the same.
So FIRST, you need to have good awareness of your current goals, and what’s important to YOU right now.
If you have a photoshoot in two weeks, eating everything "because it's Christmas" is still probably a bad idea.
I feel like a grinch for typing that. Know that I hope you all enjoy your Christmases tremendously... just realize everything you eat counts. If you're ok with not knowing how what you ate will affect your progress, that's perfectly fine! Just don't let 50% of your meals be un-tracked or rough guesstimates, and then be confused about your lack of progress. (On a side note: Dr. Suess characters always look insanely creepy. I can't believe we read those books to kids. I still refuse to watch "How The Grinch Stole Christmas".)
Anyways... before you go any further:
Does the restaurant publish their macros? Check MyFitnessPal first - lots of restaurants will have their full menu uploaded, which makes your life way easier. If not on MyfitnessPal, there's still a chance that they'll be on the restaurants website. While still not perfect, this will be your best bet to account for any ingredients you might miss when tracking on your own.
No dice? Let's get into some strategies.
One thing that all of my online clients that get the best fat loss results have in common:
They eat a diet of 80-90% bro-foods, in very simple meals.
You know... foods you would consider "clean foods". Paleo-ish foods. Chicken, steak, fish, rice, sweet potatoes, nuts, fruits, veggies... you get the idea. Foods that grew from the earth, or had a face at one point.
An example meal would be something like:
Now, it's not that these foods or eating simply like this are better for fat loss, per se. But they're MUCH easier to measure accurately.
A less complex meal is easier to track, AND is more likely to be tracked accurately.
So going back to eating out/social events, apply the same concept.
Identify the options on your available menu with the fewest possible ingredients, and roll with one of those. The fewer ingredients your meal has, the more room for error you're removing.
Some typically solid options:
Not only is protein the hardest macro for your body to store as fat, but it's also the one that keeps you feeling full the longest.
Identify the most protein-dense food on your plate. Finish that first, along with any fruits or veggies you have available. Hint: It's probably a meat. If there's no meat on your plate, I'm sorry. Think about the decisions you've made in life that got you to this point.
A few common protein sources:
Straight up, protein is very filling. Plus, protein sources are typically pretty easy to guesstimate relatively accurately (e.g. a piece of grilled chicken, a cut of steak). Just be sure to account for any added sauces or oils.
By eating a bunch of protein, fruits and veggies first, you're essentially running damage control - you're pretty full on foods you'll likely be able to measure accurately... so you're much less likely to be able to eat lots of food you WON'T be able to measure as accurately (e.g. Grandma's potato salad... wow this blog is making me hungry).
The second thing all my online clients that get the best fat loss results have in common:
They plan ahead.
For one, they typically meal prep for all meals of the week that fall at their challenging times (times when you're the most stressed out and likely to make a food-decision non-congruent with your goal).
But they also do a great job of planning ahead. When you know you have an event like this coming up:
Macro Plan - Plan your day out in advance the night before, a.k.a macro-planning. While you probably won't be able to perfectly guess what's available to eat, you CAN get a rough guesstimate. Macro-planning gives you a good idea of how you need to eat the rest of the day leading up to the event to stay on track with your goals. (Since you're likely to be eating more than normal at the event, you'll need to adjust your eating the rest of the day to compensate.)
Prioritize protein...again - Following the above point, if you need to keep calories low throughout the day to keep your diet in check; eat mostly protein and veggies leading up to the event. This will give you the best combination of low-calories and fullness
Intermittent Fasting - You can also play with intermittent fasting as a tool to save more calories for later. Basically, skipping breakfast, or pushing your first meal back to save calories up for later in the day. (Some people feel great with fasting, some people feel like balls. So only do it if YOU feel good.)
Pull Calories - If you really want to be sure you don't overeat at this event, reduce your calorie intake by 100-200 kcal for a few days leading up to said event. The size of the calorie deficit you create on a weekly and monthly basis is much more important than your daily deficit. By saving up calories during the week, you'll have a lot more wiggle room to work with at the event without hurting your progress.
If you've gotten to this point and are thinking...
Yeahhhhh... I'm probably not going to do any of that.
...then your best bet is just focusing on portion sizes. Less time-consuming than macros, and will still keep your calorie intake reasonable.
You'll be basing this of a diet structure called The Handful Diet. I use this with my online clients who DON'T want to track macros. Simple, but super effective.
You base all of your portions off of your hands. Like this:
First, identify the primary protein, fat, and carb sources available on your plate.
A Few Common Sources:
(If eating fattier cuts of steak - e.g. Ribeye, N.Y. Strip - count that as fat + protein)
Let's say you're at a Barbecue. Your meal could look something like:
*Note: I typically recommend trading one drink one serving of fat or carbs.
If you've read all of this and thought...
I want to do more to be SURE I'm on track.
...I got you. Here's what to do:
Is this a pain? Absolutely. But if you want to make the quickest possible progress, and also eat out - it's probably your best bet for tracking accurately.
And that's how it's done. Again, the more frequently you eat out, the harder it will be to measure your intake accurately. So know your trade-offs, and what's most important to YOU.
Food Quality Vs. If It Fits Your MacrosProject type
How To Set (And Adjust) Your Macros For Any GoalProject type
The Glute Growth Blueprint [Feat. Alex Bush]Project type
The Ultimate Guide To Flexible DietingProject type
The Fat Loss GuideProject type
How To Fix Stalled Fat LossProject type
The Best Diet To Lose Weight Postpartum - backupProject type
How To End A Diet (Without Losing Your Results)Project type
The Best Diet To Lose Weight PostpartumProject type
The 5 Keys To Maintaining Weight Loss ForeverProject type
How To Use Nutrition Periodization For Fat LossProject type
5 Ways To Get (and stay) MotivatedProject type
The Best Exercises For Building GlutesProject type
How To Hit Your Macros While TravelingProject type
The 6 Keys To Building Muscle For WomenProject type
Why Your Macros Aren't Working For Fat LossProject type
The Best Nutrition Strategy For Building MuscleProject type
Should You Bulk Or Cut First?Project type
How To Sleep For Muscle Growth & Fat LossProject type
[GUIDE] The Best Diet To Get Lean In 12 WeeksProject type
Thyroid Health 101Project type
How To Change Your Body Fat Set PointProject type
The Core Training BlueprintProject type
How To Minimize Hunger On A DietProject type
Do You Need To Reverse Diet? [When/Why/How]Project type
The Ultimate Guide To PowerbuildingProject type
[GUIDE] How To Do Your First Pull-UpProject type
Building The Female PhysiqueProject type
Nutrition For Aesthetics [Beyond The Basics]Project type
The Definitive Guide To Periodizing NutritionProject type
The Ultimate Mini Cut Guide [Rapid Fat Loss]Project type
[Peak Week Guide] How To Get Photoshoot ReadyProject type
The Rapid Fat Loss ProtocolProject type
The 6 Worst Nutrition Mistakes You're MakingProject type
The Shoulder Training BlueprintProject type
Diet Breaks 101 (What/Why/How)Project type
CALORIE CYCLING 101: 6 Methods To Get You LeanerProject type
HORMONES: Are They Killing Your Results?Project type
The Complete Guide To Getting Visible AbsProject type
The P3 Fat Loss MethodProject type
How To Fix Your Gut Health & DigestionProject type
[Client Case Study] Achieving Lifestyle LeanProject type
How To Find Your Ideal DietProject type
Is Insulin Making You Fat?Project type
Why Fat Loss Stalls [And What To Do]Project type
The Complete Guide To Training At HomeProject type
The Body Composition Change BlueprintProject type
[Program Design Masterclass] The Full Body SplitProject type
[GUIDE] How To Avoid Holiday Fat GainProject type
Do You Need To Reverse Diet?Project type
How To Stay Lean While Traveling/On VacationProject type
Client Case Study: 6 Months To Photoshoot LeanProject type
[GUIDE] Beat The Skinny-Fat PhysiqueProject type
[10 TIPS] How To Stay Lean For LifeProject type
[KEY TO CLIENT SUCCESS] The Motivation ManualProject type
[GUIDE] The Core Training BlueprintProject type
Fat Loss For Women: The Complete GuideProject type
How To Get Bigger ArmsProject type
Strategies To Make Dieting Suck LessProject type
Dealing With Fat Loss StallsProject type
Compound Exercises vs. Isolation ExercisesProject type
Are Any Supplements Worth The Cost?Project type
7 Diet & Nutrition Tips For Fitness And HealthProject type
Is The Fitness Industry Full of Lies?Project type
The Lean Gains BlueprintProject type
My 3 Favorite Movements For Each Muscle GroupProject type
Can You Grow Your Calves or Is It All Genetics?Project type
The BEST Diet For Rapid Weight LossProject type
Does Eating Red Meat Cause Cancer?Project type
EVERYTHING You've Heard About Fat Loss Is A LIE.Project type
Is It Harder For Women To Get Abs?Project type
How To Get Toned ArmsProject type
How Often Should I Go To The Gym?Project type
How To Prioritize Cardio Vs. WeightliftingProject type
Does Gut Health Effect Weight Loss?Project type
Are Group Fitness Classes Effective?Project type
A Beginner's Guide To Intermittent FastingProject type
Can't Do A Chin-Up? Do This FirstProject type
Best Exercises For Defined ShouldersProject type
Fix Your Back PainProject type
Why can't I gain more muscleProject type
How to build great bicepsProject type
How to get AbsProject type
How to end a diet (without losing your results)Project type
The Best Diet To Lose Weight PostpartumProject type
The 5 Keys To Maintaining Weight Loss ForeverProject type