Vegan Macros Experiences
Learn about my experiences tracking macros as a vegan athlete.
What Are Macros?
So, what does this mean? Well, it means I’m measuring and recording all my food in order to reach a particular number of macronutrients, or “macros” being protein, fat and carbohydrates each day. I’m using My Fitness Pal and a food scale to track everything and have found it’s pretty easy to take a few minutes to enter in my food. So far, I’m really enjoying the process and it feels good to take full responsibility for how I fuel my body.
My Progress So Far
I’ll be sharing my progress on the blog and today I wanted to talk about what I’ve learned after a week of tracking all my food. I’ve never done this before so it’s been incredibly eye-opening and interesting, especially since I’m doing it without eggs, meat, seafood or dairy. I will tell you that “hitting your macros” on a plant-based diet is totally doable and even enjoyable, and those ” but where do you get your protein” myths are just plain old silly.
My Macro Split
Right now, I’m aiming for a 40C/30F/30P macronutrient split and with some planning, I’m find it pretty easy to reach those numbers. For my needs, that works out to be 220 grams of carbohydrates, 73 grams of fat and 160 grams of protein on a training day.
Those numbers vary slightly for a rest day, or if I have two training sessions in one day. It took a few days to figure out how to budget those macros throughout the day but I’ve found by making my meals and snacks well-balanced, I end up with a good amount of each macro left by dinnertime and even leave some room for dessert!
This Is Not A “Diet”
Before I get into what I learned this past week, I want to be clear that this isn’t a diet and it’s not about being restrictive, in fact I’m eating even more than I was before I started. I will not be fulfilling my macros with fat-free, sugar-free and low-carb products. I will still be eating plant-based, whole foods, just in different proportions than I used to.
I will not be eating junk food because “it fits my macros,” in fact, I really don’t plan to change much about how I eat at all but rather just be more conscious of how I feel, what works best for me and have the energy I need to reach my fitness goals.
Eat to Perform
I’m not trying to lose weight, my goals are improved athletic performance, improved recovery and a change in body composition. This is about seeing how good I can feel, how strong I can get, how much energy I can have and what I can accomplish if I really put my mind to it.
This is not about being hungry, feeling restricted or being obsessive, it only takes a little bit of extra work to hit my numbers each day and I’m actually really enjoying it. It’s like a puzzle that you get to solve each day!
There were a few nights where I didn’t feel like measuring out my dinner but I’ve found that adding my recipes to the app ahead of time makes it really easy to enter my food in just a few seconds.
If It Fits Your Macros
The best part about this way of eating is I can still enjoy all the foods I normally do and even my favourite treats. I still eat vegan sushi, I still eat fruit, I still eat peanut butter, chocolate is still in there, basically not much has changed except for the proportions.
I won’t be doing this forever nor will I be doing it every single day over the next few months, I have some summer trips and vacations planned and at this point, I don’t feel the need to worry about it when I’m away from home. I’ll do my best to stick to a general guideline but I won’t be busting out my food scale at our family reunion or the music festivals I’m attending this summer.
Yes, I was already eating very healthy before taking this on but I didn’t pay any attention to macros or really put much thought into how I was fuelling my body. On weekends, although still eating healthy for the most part, I was all over the map, eating way too little or way too much without any consistency to my diet. Some days I was eating a ton of carbs and fat and some days I wasn’t eating nearly as much as I thought. When you want to get the most out of every workout, that inconsistency can really hold you back.
So, what about micronutrients? Well, of course, they are still important to me too! That’s why I’ll be continuing to eat a whole food diet. Vitamins, minerals, fibre and other parts of the food we eat are still an important factor in my overall health and I’ll always ensure I’m getting what I need.
What I Learned in a Week
1. I get more than enough iron.
I was always wondering if I was getting the iron I need without eating meat and other animal products. Well, after tracking for 7 days now and I get well over the recommended daily allowance of iron each day. It’s coming from dark, leafy greens, hemp protein, beans and lentils, edamame and all sorts of other plant-based foods. No problem here!
2. If I don’t pay attention, I don’t get enough calcium.
I’ve been consistently under the RDA by about 20% every day. Before I add a calcium supplement, I’m going to make a conscious effort to eat more calcium-rich foods this week. This includes foods like kale, collard greens, tempeh, fortified almond milk, broccoli and navy beans.
I’m actually kind of surprised I didn’t get enough this past week because I already eat all those foods. I guess with how my meal planning went last week, I just didn’t have a lot of those foods included. Moving forward, I don’t think it will be a problem getting enough through food. But, I’m glad it came up and it’s something to be aware of!
3. I eat a zero cholesterol diet.
This just happens naturally when you don’t eat meat, eggs or dairy. I’m still eating plenty of fat but it comes from sources like nuts, avocado, chia seeds and hemp seeds making it almost all monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. I don’t really know that much about good and bad cholesterol but from what I understand, plant-based fats have something to do with HDL cholesterol levels, or high-density lipoproteins, which is considered to be the “good” cholesterol. I’ll have to look into this a bit more.
4. I eat a diet low in saturated fats and I don’t eat any trans fat.
Again, without animal products or a lot of processed foods, these just don’t add up in my diet. Good news.
5. I eat a low sodium diet.
Sticking to mainly whole foods will naturally keep your sodium in check. On average, I ate about 1000 mg of sodium per day, well under the maximum of 2300 mg that’s recommended.
6. Getting enough protein is easy but getting this much takes some work.
Previously, since I didn’t pay any attention to my protein intake, there would have been days when I didn’t eat all that much. It was enough to be healthy, workout and feel good but not enough to reach my current goals. Without a conscious effort to include, high-protein, plant-based foods in every meal and snack, I won’t be able to reach 160 grams a day. So, how the heck do you get 160 grams of protein per day without meat, eggs or dairy?? Well, although it takes a little effort, it’s totally doable.
How I Increased My Protein This Week
- switched my snacks from more fat and carb-based foods, to higher protein options
- added more plain hemp and brown rice protein to my diet
- supplemented with a whole food, vegan protein powder
- ate more lentils, tempeh, edamame, hemp seeds, chia seeds, quinoa, spirulina, tofu, legumes and nutritional yeast
- was concious of eating protein with every meal and snack throughout the day
7. I need to switch to high-protein whole grains to reach my goals.
I have no problem with white rice but with my new goals, it doesn’t provide the right protein to carbohydrate ratio for me. Switching to grains like bulgur, barley, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat and other higher protein grains will help me stay within my carbohydrate goals while still hitting 160 grams of protein.
8. Fat adds up very quickly.
Fat is an important and healthy nutrient to include in your diet but when eating plant-based it can add up really quickly. I was often eating half an avocado, hemp seeds, a handful of walnuts, some pepitas, some almond butter, tahini dressing and other high fat foods all in one day. While these are all amazing nutrient-dense foods that I will still continue to eat, I should keep an eye on my portion sizes and how many of these items I eat on the same day.
Right now, my goal is to eat 73 grams of fat per day, which is still a lot but if I keep eating peanut butter like it’s goin’ outta style, I won’t have much room to enjoy those other healthy foods.
9. I get plenty of vitamin C and vitamin A.
It’s easy to get lots of vitamins when you eat lots of plants. Unfortunately, these are the only two vitamins My Fitness Pal tracks. I wish I could see magnesium, B12, iodine, zinc and other important micronutrients but for now I’ll continue to supplement with B12 and make sure I’m eating a wide variety of plant-based foods to help cover all my bases.
So, after a week of tracking my nutrition I’m feeling really, really good. I’ve had lots of energy, good workouts and I’m already feeling leaner. At this point, my weight isn’t important factor in all this, so I won’t be including it in my reports.
I have an Olympic weightlifting competition in less than 12 weeks and a CrossFit competition in the summer and although that’s important to me, honestly I’m kind of just doing this for fun and a personal challenge.
I’ve never really tried anything like this so I’m pretty excited to see the results over the next 12 weeks. Just like my workouts, I know long-term consistency is key to making any real change. I’m very happy with my body, in fact my appearance is not often a concern but I know if I’m leaner, I’ll be stronger and faster, and since my goals are performance-based, that’s what I’m going to shoot for!
In upcoming posts, I’ll be sharing some of my meal plans, tips to getting plenty of protein through whole foods and without animal products as well as before and after pictures! Be sure to check back soon to see how I’m doing!
- Week Two Experiences
- Week Six Follow Up and Experiences – Tips and Tricks
- Best Plant-Based Flexible Dieting Foods – Part 1
- Best Plant-Based Flexible Dieting Foods – Part 2
- Best Plant-Based Flexible Dieting Foods – Part 3
- Nutrition Tips for Vegan Athletes
- Best Tools for Flexible Dieting Success
- Flexible Dieting FAQ
Thanks for helping me fully understand how to count my macros! You made it very easy to follow and I’m quite excited to see the results. Like you, I’m just a vegan who wants to do this for personal challenge but I also have a competition show in October I’m training for. Thanks again for all the help, and good luck to you!
Who is your coach? I’m looking into hiring someone to help me with iifym as well (I’m vegetarian) and overwhlemed with how many people are out there claiming to help in this area! I was hoping you could recommend someone. 🙂
I’m currently working with Working Against Gravity, they match you up with a coach from their team based on your needs and goals. I’m very happy with the service I’ve received so far! You have to sign-up for a minimum of 3 months to start and it’s certainly an investment but the accountability alone has been worth it for me. Good luck!
I’ve recently moved over to an 80% PB diet (and 95% clean) and whilst I’ve continued to train I know that unless I increase my PB protein and start considering my macros I would see the benefits of my (very intense) training.
I plan on logging my macros, used to use MFP, but find it full of stuff you can’t delete and drives me mad!
I am so thankful for reading your post and your advice!
What macro counter do you use?
Many thanks, Rachel
I use MFP, it works well for me!
I stumbled on you blog on a whim today and I’m so glad I did!! This is EXACTLY what I have been searching for, everything you try to read about vegan nutrition while training is either really hard to find or you have to pay to obtain it. What an informative and pleasant read! Looking forward to leanring more from you ! 🙂
very cool to find this, just what i was looking for. as a vegan starting off intermittent fasting and macro accounting, i was begging to get discouraged, until i saw this post!
Thank you so much for writing this article!! I have been wanting to transition to vegetarian as I just don’t feel right about eating meat but trying to hit my macros has been holding me back from doing so. It’s refreshing to see an article from someone who has all the same goals as me that isn’t all about protein, protein, protein! Threat read!
Any way that you can give me a sample of what you are eating in a single day to hit those macros? I weight lift 5 days a week and my macros are roughly 45/25/30 (carb/protein/fat). I would love to try on some days to accomplish this with only vegetarian sources. I also want to make sure my calories are roughly 1450 with hitting those macros. Any insight that you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
If you go over to the week two post, I shared some meal plans: https://runningonrealfood.com/vegan-iifym-tips-tricks-and-meal-plans-from-week-two/
I also share a lot of sample meal plans on my Facebook and Instagram, so be sure to go follow me there for ongoing sample days! 🙂
I am transitioning to macro counting & plant based. This is awesome info. Thanks!
You’re welcome! Good luck and enjoy the process!
Is there a place where you store the nutritional info for your recipes so I can add them to my own IIFYM plan? I was hoping to not have to add the recipes individually to my tracker to get the breakdowns ; )
Sorry, I haven’t been posting nutritional info up until this point but will do so from now one. So, unfortunately you’ll have to enter any of my old recipes into your tracker to get the breakdowns. Thanks for the feedback!
Super!! Thank you for the reply!
just found your blog and Im fascinated , I recently went vegan from a vegetarian diet , and I’ve been tracking my macros for quite a while , but I found that switching increased my Fiber to the roof, Most days even preplanning I’m at 50+ grams ….so its making me really bloated …what are your thoughts on this?
Macros for training days 100p/50f/300c
The numbers totally depends on your weight, body composition, goals and activity level but those sound doable for sure. As for fibre, I get well over 50 grams a day but my body is used to processing that much so I don’t have any problems, you may just have to increase the amount of fibre slowly to allow your body time to adjust.
I’m on a flexible diet. I used to eat vegan diet but since starting heavy lifting I’ve been eating more animal products and I just don’t feel as healthy as I used to. The biggest problem I face is that I cannot have soy (it messes up my estrogen levels. Gives me large, dangerous ovarian cysts). Do you have any lean protein suggestions sans soy?
Oooh, that’s tough for sure. I eat tempeh, tofu and edamame quite a bit. Otherwise, it’s lentils, beans and a lot of plain brown rice and hemp protein. I lift heavy most days and train intensely 6 days a week, so it’s definitely possible without animal products, I guess you just have to find what works best for you. I’m still getting about 150-160 grams of plant-based protein per day..not always from soy either. Good luck!
Very interesting post, thanks for sharing! After talking a lot with a friend who follows the IIFYM diet a few months ago about that way of eating and what it entails, I realized that I loosely have been doing that on my own for awhile now. I’ve been using MyFitnessPal for years pretty consistently because I like to make sure that my ratios are in the right ranges that I like them to be at. I also do it for calorie counting, because otherwise I can easily eat too much for my very slow metabolism. Being a plant based eater and carb lover, I can otherwise be too low with protein. I have to say though, 160 grams of protein a day and 73 g of fat sounds like a lot (for me at least) and I think I’d have a hard time reaching it… Looking forward to reading more about how it’s working out for you!
I’ve been very curious to see how IIFYM can work with a vegan diet because of the protein intake generally being more than I have but I am thinking it might be a good idea to try it out.
Brilliant Blog, I have just come across it. How did you calculate how much carbs, protein and fat you needed?
You can try the Eat to Perform calculator or IIFYM calculator, just Google either and they’ll come right up!
Hi I’m just curious, if you’re eating a vegan, plant-based diet, what are your sources of cholesterol? Animal products are the only sources of dietary cholesterol, so if you are not consuming any animal products, wouldn’t you be eating a zero cholesterol diet?
Yes, you are right, obviously haha! I just went back and looked at today and yesterday and there was 0 mg of cholesterol. I’ll have to go back to last week and see where that came from! I don’t know of any negative effects of a zero cholesterol diet…do you??
No, I don’t think so! The body generally produces more than enough cholesterol on its own, so it is not essential to consume. However, a zero cholesterol diet can lower all of your body’s cholesterol levels, including your HDL, the “good cholesterol.” There are ways to increase your HDL cholesterol, such as eating healthy mono- and poly-unsaturated fats like nuts, seeds, and avocados, and it sounds as though you’re doing just that! 🙂
HDL is called good cholesterol in relation to LDL which is bad cholesterol. Your liver only makes HDL when you are taking in too much bad cholesterol. HDL’s function is meant for clearing out any bad cholesterol accumulating in your vessels. HDL is unnecessary if your body doesn’t carry high amounts of LDL. If both LDL & HDL are low, then you’re not overworking your liver & are in a healthy balance. This low ratio is far more important. If your body is low on both, then it’s a good sign that you’re healthy.
I am looking forward to following your journey. I have been completely vegan for two years now and during that time I have run two half marathons. I’m currently looking to build more muscle and strength before training for a full marathon and I think these posts will be great tools for me!
P.S. Where do you get your Hemp Protein?
I use North Coast Naturals Organic Hemp Protein, as well as their Organic Brown Rice Protein. 🙂 Thanks for the comment? Do pop back and let me know what you think as I continue to share my progress!
This is so good! I’d love to see a day of your meals as inspiration as I’ve been slowly making changes for better nutrition
Hey there, I will be sharing a few days of my meals in an upcoming post 🙂
thanks for the info! I’m training for my first marathon while transitioning to a plant based diet. At fifty, am concerned about calcium. Keep us posted!
Sounds great what you are doing. I’ve counted calories and macros to loose weight and add some extra muscle and it’s not hard. I don’t know why people think is takes a lot of time 🙂
Good luck with your goals xx
Thanks so much! I thought it took more work than it does before I started, but with the tools available these days, it really is quite simple to do!
It takes a lot of time for some because personally I’ve counted calories and macros and my weight won’t go down. For like 2 weeks it will and then my weight is stuck. I envy you with having an easy time
It takes months to see progress…stick to it and it will happen!! Good luck!
you might have to look at how many calories you’re eating, for ages i was stuck and then it turned out i wasnt eating enough! in my experiance the more i ate the more weight i lost- healthy foods of course with solid gym work.
Oh for sure, I eat plenty. About 2400 calories a day is what’s working for me right now but it depends on your goals, of course 🙂
I love the Orgain chocolate protein powder so I can get enough protein in my day!
Organic white soy beans are a great low carb high protein option.
I haven’t heard of that one. Right now I’m just using North Coast Naturals Vege PRO-7, which is a fantastic product but I’m sure I’ll need some variety at some point!
I like vegan chocolate protein powder for extra protein 🙂 it tastes good too!