Saturday, February 11, 2017

6 Week Macro Cycling Shred

I just finished up Cori Lefkowith's Redefining Strength 6 week macro cycling shred program. Before I tell you how I did (spoiler alert: I could have done so much better) I'll explain macro cycling.

But first...this post contains affiliate links. That means if you decide to purchase Cori's program using the links in this blog I make a small percentage of the sale with no additional cost to you. No one is getting rich here, it just helps with the running (pun intended) of this blog. I purchased Cori's program with my own cold hard cash (OK, I used a credit card). All opinions are my own. If I hated it, I'd tell you. 

Macros or macronutrients are the fats, proteins and carbohydrates that make up our food. All foods are made up of some combination of these macronutrients. Macro cycling is varying the % of calories that come from each these macronutrients so that some weeks you will have moderate protein, fat and carbs and other weeks higher protein and fat and lower carbs. I like macro cycling because you get some of the benefits of a lower carb diet (never extremely low on this plan) without the drawbacks of low carb, because you never stay in a cycle for more than two weeks.

Here is an example with just one food item for illustrative purposes. I ate three eggs this morning and entered them into MyFitnessPal. Just looking at the eggs I entered, you can see that 2% of the calories from my eggs came from carbohydrates, 70% from fat and 28% from protein.

Remember this is just one food item. When you enter all the food you eat in the MyFitnessPal app it will calculate the total daily macros for you. The goals listed in the image are from the final lowest carb phase with only 20% from carbohydrates. If you run a lot or do any kind of endurance exercise you may find this too low even for a two week period. Since my shoulder injury, I am not doing a lot of high intensity or endurance workouts so I was able to maintain this number relatively easily before cycling back to a higher carb intake. This phase is not intended to last more than two weeks. Always listen to your body first.

Let me tell you how I did on the macro cycling shred program.

The Good

I lost 8 lbs in six weeks and honestly, I didn't really have 8 pounds to lose. I gained a few vanity pounds over the holidays and I lost those and more. I'm good.

There may be other factors at play here in addition to the macro cycling: I stopped drinking wine and eating out. I didn't do either of those things excessively beforehand, just a few glasses of wine over the weekends and would eat out 1-3 times per week. I am sure these changes also played some role in my success.

But I will also point out that I hurt my shoulder eons ago so I haven't been exercising as much or as intensely as usual. In addition, during those 6 weeks I went out of town for a wedding and ate out every meal for one day. Everything seems to have balanced out nicely regardless.

The Bad

I didn't do a great job in hitting the targeted macros at all. I thought I would just be able to make a few tweaks to my normally healthy meals and I would magically hit the numbers. Turns out I actually have to work at it. Go figure.

I was shocked in the first two weeks at how few calories were coming from protein, even though I eat protein-centric meals three times a day like eggs, chicken, fish, etc. It seemed like during the whole program I was always over my percentages on fats (I love my morning eggs) and under on protein. I was pretty good at hitting the carbohydrates through the cycles.

I am a Premier Protein ambassador, so in addition to adding plain Greek yogurt and cottage cheese as snacks for additional protein, I started using more of the Premier Protein ready-made and powdered protein drinks to help hit my numbers.

Afternoon snack of banana Premier Protein, plain Greek yogurt and strawberries YUM.

During every two week cycle it would take me 3-4 days just to get even close to in-range. It took me a few days to kind of figure out where I would land for the day and then I would make adjustments the next day. I am pretty sure I never hit the macros exactly. I can do much better.

Lessons Learned

My big takeaway for success in the program: Plan ahead.

Enter what you plan to eat into MyFitnessPal the day before. Plan out every meal and go ahead and enter them all in as if you already ate them. Where did the macro percentages fall? Did you hit the targets? Make adjustments as needed. My mistake was that I was entering as I ate throughout the day, but then if my macros were off it was too late to do anything about it. I don't know why this didn't occur to me until the very end of the six week program even though Cori repeatedly said, "PLAN AHEAD!" I thought I was planning ahead because I had an idea in my head what I would probably eat that day. Wrong.

My husband is the cook in the family, Chef Boy Russ G, as he likes to be called (hah). He plans and cooks dinner every night. While he is super supportive in whatever I am doing, I can't expect him to cook me special dinners every night to make sure I hit my macro goals (that would be a whole new level of spoiled. I am pushing it as it is). I ask my husband what we are having for dinner, I enter into MyFitnessPal the day before and then I plan the rest of my meals and snacks around it so I can still meet my numbers. Brilliant! (If I do say so myself.)

I, for one, have to be very careful when tracking because I have a tendency to fall into an "all-or-nothing" mindset. I work very hard at moderation. I can easily swing from one extreme to the other if I am not aware and careful.

While tracking meals, calories and macros can be helpful, I also have to check myself that I am not getting obsessed or carried away. I find that tracking helps a lot with mindless or boredom eating because it forces me to think about it when I know I will have to log it later, but I try not to go crazy.

I go at least one day a week where I eat whatever I want (Sundays are for waffles!) and don't enter anything into MyFitnessPal. It helps me mentally and physically maintain sanity. If I am off on my calculations or have a bad day, I simply move on. This is life. You do the best you can when you can. #wycwyc (look it up). As with anything all we can do when life doesn't go as expected is learn lessons, move on and try to do better next time.

What's Next?

I am repeating the six week macro cycle shred, this time with a focus on body composition. Since I do not want to lose any more weight, I will increase my calorie intake a bit and work on some strength and cardio around my shoulder injury. 

This time I am going to track my body fat percentage, body measurements and scale weight because the scale doesn't tell the whole story, especially when we are talking about body composition. I am even going to take a "before" picture in my shorts and sports bra (that I will be keeping to myself for now). I fully expect to have great results after six weeks. Repeat after me. 

"I fully expect to have fantastic results after six weeks!" 

You have to believe it first. Then put in the work. 

If you are interested in trying Cori Lefkowith's Redefining Strength Macro Cycling Shred program with me you can learn more here. I respect Cori and her nutrition and fitness programs. With so much misinformation out there, she is one of the voices in the fitness industry that I trust to give it to me straight. I wouldn't stand behind and promote a program that I didn't personally believe in.

I'll keep you posted on how it all goes! I wrote about macro cycling a little more over on Lea Genders Fitness.

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Keep Running,


I am a NASM personal trainer and RRCA adult distance running coach that specializes in strength training for runners. I offer in-person training in the Shredshed, online training and Fit to Run bootcamps. If you are interested in a more in-depth running or strength training plan, please contact me. Have questions? I'd love to help. 
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While I am a certified personal trainer, I am not your personal trainer. Since I don't know your exercise abilities, injury background or medical history, please see your doctor before beginning any new exercise or nutrition program. This is an opinion blog. No information in this blog is intended to be taken as medical advice or prescription. Please see your doctor and/or registered dietitian for any health concerns.

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  1. Glad to read about your results and experience. You know I found this program through a comment you made a few weeks back... was it FB? Anyway, I am about to start my 4th week today. Your results are encouraging as I have a couple of VANITY pounds I want to lose and finding it harder as I get older... but will stick with it for sure. Will look forward to see your next 6 week cycle results.

    1. I'm glad to see your familiar smiley face in the group!

  2. Great info, Lea! I need to focus more on this. I'm terrible about planning ahead, so I should probably start there. :)


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