Counting Macros for a Plant Based Diet featured by top US macro coach, Amber of Biceps After Babies


The best way to experience something is doing it, right? About a month ago I ate plant-based foods for two weeks. I did this for a couple of reasons. One being to help me become a better coach. I’ve had SO many people tell me that they can’t count macros because they eat a plant-based diet. What better way to find out than to try counting macros on a plant based diet myself? So I did! 


Highlights of Counting Macros for a Plant Based Diet:

  • You can count macros with any style of eating, with any form of eating. (5:03)
  • If you have a lifestyle you want to live, you fit macro counting into it, not the other way around. (12:54)
  • When setting protein goals, you have to be realistic. Using something more like 0.5, 0.6, maybe 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight is still going to push you towards more protein than you probably would if you weren't paying attention to it.(14:57)
  • If you're trying to decide if you want to do plant-based,  give it a shot! Maybe try plant-based first. And not necessarily plant-exclusive, but it can push you a little bit outside of your comfort zone in what you determine as a protein source. (23:19)


Tune in to find out my experience with plant based diet eating and the takeaways that I had.

Many times people will say that they can’t count macros because they eat a certain diet, but I’m here to tell you that you absolutely CAN count macros with whatever lifestyle you have. Choose your lifestyle FIRST and then make counting macros fit into that lifestyle!


Download your FREE guide to set your own macros 

Listen to Episode 58 “The Sneaky All or Nothing Mentality” on Biceps After Babies Radio

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Episode 65 – Counting Macros on a Plant-based/Vegan/Vegetarian Diet


You're listening to Biceps After Babies Radio episode number 64

Hello and welcome to Biceps After Babies Radio. A podcast for ladies who know that fitness is about so much more than pounds lost or PRs. It's about feeling confident in your skin and 

empowered in your life. I'm your host, Amber Brueseke, a registered nurse, personal trainer, 

online fitness coach, wife, and mom of four. My guests and I will excite and motivate you to take action in your own personal fitness as we talk about nutrition, exercise mindset, personal 

development, and executing life with conscious intention. If your goal is to look, feel, and be 

strong and experience transformation from the inside out, you, my friend are in the right place. Thank you for tuning in, now let’s jump into today’s episode.



Hey, welcome back to another episode of Biceps After Babies Radio. I'm your host, Amber Brueseke and I cannot believe that it's almost Christmas time. I feel like it just came so quickly because we just had Thanksgiving and now it's almost Christmas and I actually get to celebrate my 15th anniversary with my husband tomorrow. So we got married December 18th which is exactly a week before Christmas, which was exactly a week before new year's. So it's always a fun time of year. We don't do a whole lot of celebrating usually on our anniversary, but this year we are celebrating and going to Hawaii for our very first time in March of next year. 


Thank You (01:27)

Also, I do want to say a big huge thank you to those of you who are sharing the podcast. It means the world to me. When I see your screenshots and you tag me on Instagram or on Facebook or you tell your friend about the podcast at the gym. That is my very, very favorite thing as a content creator to be able to spend the time putting out content and then having it be life-changing enough or informative enough or you know, awesome enough to be able to have that. You share it with the people that you love. So thank you. Thank you for sharing the podcast and thank you for those of you who have left reviews on iTunes, it definitely helps with the algorithm and helping people find the podcast. So if you haven't done it, will you please go and do that? Pretty please for me. Go to iTunes and you can just scroll all the way down on the podcast and you can leave a rating and review. And I read those and I appreciate them so very much. 


Today’s Topic (02:22)

Today's topic is one that got a lot of attention on Instagram. So I shared some stories about how I was eating a plant-based diet and I got so many questions and people wanting to know why and what I thought and how you could count macros and just so many questions. And so I put up a post about asking whether people wanted to hear on IGTV or a podcast about it and most of the people said they wanted to hear a podcast about it. So that's what I'm here to talk about, is about plant-based eating/Vegan/Vegetarian. And I get this question a lot of “can I be a vegan and count macros, can I be a vegetarian and count macros?” And the answer I always give is a heck yes. 


Why Count Macros on Every Diet? (03:08)

See what I think so many people don't understand is that you already eat macros, right? Like you already eat a certain amount of macros. And what macro counting does is it just allows, allows you to be intentional with the macros you're eating and consistent. And what those two things allow you to do is one that allows you to set your ratios in the way that works best for your body, works best for how you feel works best and maximizes and optimizes weight loss or muscle gain or whatever you're doing. But it also allows you to be consistent. And that piece of being consistent allows you to accurately adjust based off of the feedback that your body is giving it. Okay? 

So if I imagine like your body is kind of like a machine and if you are putting inconsistent data or inconsistent input into the machine, then what your body does I. E. what, how the scale goes, what your measurements do, how much muscle you build. Like all of those things, like the output that your body is giving you, the results that your body is giving you are not anything that you can correlate. You can't correlate, Oh, when I put X, Y, and Z and I get ABC out because you're putting in different inputs every time. And so one of the things that I love most about macro counting is that you are being intentional and consistent with your intake so that you are consistently putting the same thing into the machine. And that way the results that you get are much more in correlation to what you're putting in. And you can make adjustments and adaptations based off of the results that you're getting. 

So what I love about macro counting is that we can put in certain input, see what output we get, and then we can decide is that what we want? As in, am I seeing muscle growth? Am I seeing weight loss? Am I seeing like the things that I want to be seen? And if not, then we can adjust what we're putting in. And so to me that's the huge power of macros. And that doesn't mean you have to have any certain macro ratios or that you have to have your protein at one gram per pound. It simply means that you are aware and intentional about what you're eating. So you can count macros with any style of eating, with any, any form of eating. You could count macros with low carb, you could count macros with Keto, you could count macros with intermittent fasting. Like you can count macros with all of these things because you are eating macros anyway. So let's be intentional and consistent with it so that we can make adjustments. So the answer is if you're wanting to eat vegetarian or vegan or plant-based or whatever you want to eat, you absolutely can count macros. 


Desire for More Plants in My Diet (05:43)

So I want to dive a little bit into my story because that's part of what people wanted to hear is, is my experience. So I kind of got to go back like a little bit, a couple of months, maybe even like towards more of the beginning of the year. I have had this desire to eat more plants in my diet. It's just been something that I've kind of been aware of. I think it's really easy as macro counters to enjoy our treats and to, you know, we don't have to cut out ice cream in order to lose weight and that's amazing. But it also can start to like for a lot of people kind of snowball into maybe having more of that than would necessarily promote health in your body. And so we definitely have to be aware that yes, like just because you can fit in a Snickers bar and lose weight doesn't necessarily mean that a Snickers bar is healthy for you. I don't think anybody macro can or not is going to argue that a Snickers bar is actually promoting health. So I've had a desire to include more plants, include more things like legumes in my diet and I've been really like focusing on, especially at like lunch and dinner, making sure that we had vegetables available for myself and my family. And it's just been something that's kind of been on my mind. 


The Last Straw (06:58)

And then I decided to watch the documentary on Netflix called Game Changers. And I feel like a little sheepish saying that, not because like I'm embarrassed that I watched it. I, but I feel like it's such a, I don't know, cliche that like you watch a documentary and then like you make changes to your eating habits. Um, especially since there's a lot of things in that documentary that are exaggerated or blown out of proportion or aren't actually scientifically accurate. So, uh, by no means am I saying go listen to Game Changers and like everything they said is, is based in science because it's not. But what watching that video did for me was kind of be like the last straw of like, you know what? Like let's try this out. Um, people say that they feel more energy, they feel like strong in the gym. Like I am all for trying things out, especially since I get plenty of clients who are vegan. I get plenty of clients who are as a vegetarian or who don't want to eat dairy or whatever, like time constraints they have on their diets. And by going through that and actually like eating and that style of eating and counting macros allows me to be a better coach. It allows me to coach better to understand what people are going through. 


Let's Do This! (08:15)

So I decided, you know what, Hey, let's go, let's go plant-based. Like, let's try plant-based, um, for the next two weeks. My husband lasted like three days, bless his heart. Um, but I went like the full two weeks. And so what, like plant-based, I feel like plant-based is like just the new cool term as a vegan, um, to mean veganism, uh, veganism. That's not true. Veganism does have a, um, usually like a component to it, an ethical component to it. People tend to be vegan because, um, they don't like how the animals are treated or because of, you know, climate change. Uh, so there tends to be an ethical component with veganism, whereas like plant-based is really just this idea that, you know, you eat food that comes from plants and not from animal sources. So that's what I decided to do. And I was like, you know, we'll just, we're just gonna experiment. We're just going to try it out. We're going to see how I get, how I can get protein in. We're going to see how I feel. I was really interested to see if I had more energy. Not that I lack energy, but you know, a lot of people say, Oh yeah, yeah, I just have so much more energy. So I wanted to see if I had more energy. I really wanted to see how I felt at the gym and um, how I performed at the gym and how I recovered. 


Protein Sources (09:29)

And so I decided that to do this little experiment and so over the two weeks I, you know, really focused on protein sources. You do have to focus more on protein sources. When you are trying to eat vegan or vegetarian. It is more challenging to make sure that you are getting adequate amounts of protein. Um, and so that is something that I hear a lot from people. So actually let's just take a pause. Let's take a pause and let's talk about this. Because here's what most people do is they go online and they will like download my free PDF to set their macros, which is at So they download that and they go through that process and they set their numbers and then they get started and they're like, you know, they're supposed to hit 140 grams of protein and they get started and they're like, but I'm a vegetarian or vegan. How the heck do I get 140 grams of protein? And so then they really struggle to get it. And so then they're like, well, this just doesn't work. Like I just can't count macros and be vegetarian because I can't hit 140 grams of protein. This my friends is backwards thinking, okay, this is all or nothing thinking like ding, ding, ding being manifested. In fact, if you haven't listened to episode number 58 about the all or nothing mentality, stop and go back and listen to that one because I talk a lot about this, but that is classic all or nothing. Thinking of like if I set my numbers at 140 grams of protein and I can't hit 140 grams of protein and eat vegetarian or vegan, then like counting macros just doesn't work. Like it's not going to work for me. No, no, no. I profess and teach and coach in this idea that we have to be focused on achievable over optimal. 


Choose Your Lifestyle First (11:19)

Okay? So this means you take whatever lifestyle you want to live, whatever you want to do, right? If you want to, if you are committed vegan and you want to be vegan, awesome. If you don't want to eat dairy, awesome. That's your lifestyle, right? You get to choose, you get to choose your lifestyle. We take that lifestyle and we use macro counting to optimize it for whatever goal you have. So if you want to be a vegan, more power to you, you want to count macros. What macro counting can do for you is to help to optimize your veganism in, to propel you towards your goal, to be able to get you there faster, to be able to get you there in a linear, like data-driven way. So, um, but we have to be mindful of the fact that you choose your lifestyle first and then you fit macros into it and not the other way around, which means I do not want you going and setting your macros and having to like feel like you have to change everything about your lifestyle in order to hit that. Now I think there is some power in setting your macros and if you don't, if you're trying to teach yourself new, better habits and you're trying to have you navigate towards like foods that maybe you haven't navigated towards, I don't think that there is any problem with setting your macros and having it stretched you a little bit in order to try to get more protein in order to start to limit fat. Like I don't think there's any harm in that. But what I'm saying is if you have a lifestyle you want to live, we need to fit macro counting into it, not the other way around. 


Setting Your Protein Levels (12:54)

And so that means when you're setting your macros, it doesn't matter how optimal you're setting them, right? Like if we say, let's just pretend we're just gonna throw this out there. Like let's pretend that 130 grams of protein was going to be optimal for you for muscle growth. Okay? Optimal means nothing if you can't achieve it. If you cannot hit 130 grams of protein and eat vegan, then who cares what's optimal? It doesn't matter that 130 grams of protein is optimal. It's not realistic. Okay? So we have to always be in our mind thinking about achievable over optimal. So what that means when we come to vegan and vegetarian is that oftentimes, you know what friend, you're going to have to set your protein lower. It's just kind of a way of life, right? Like it just will likely have to be lower one because it's harder to get more protein and two, because in order to get that protein, it often comes alongside with carbs. So we're going to need to make sure that your carbs are high enough so that as you're eating those protein sources and you're also ticking up your carbs, you're not way, way over on your carbs. Does that make sense? Hopefully that makes sense. 

So when we're setting your macros, that's something that you have to take in consideration as a vegan or vegetarian? I would not. I typically will have my clients set their macros at like 0.8 grams per pound in terms of protein between 0.8 and one gram per pound. And I talk about that in that free download at Um, I walked through the whole process of like how you set your macros in that download. But typically I'll have people set their macros at like 0.08 to one gram per pound for protein for vegans and vegetarians. We have to drop that down, like we have to be realistic. And so using something more like 0.5, 0.6, maybe 0.7 grams per protein is gonna still get like push us towards more protein than you probably would if you weren't paying attention to it, but that isn't achievable and you can hit with the diet and the lifestyle that you are choosing to eat. 


My Energy Level (14:57)

Okay. So that was kind of a little side tangent. Um, so going back to my story and my experience, I started eating plant-based and I went to the store and bought things like tofu and um, soy milk and hemp hearts and, and you know, some of these protein, more protein rich vegan sources of protein and started including that into my diet. And I will tell you over the, the two weeks, uh, there wasn't a whole lot of change in like my energy levels. I didn't, I didn't feel any better. I didn't feel more energy. I felt about the same. Like there wasn't, it was not this massive shift in like have, you know, having clear thoughts or like just feeling extra energy. In the afternoon. I know some people feel that and that's great. I did not feel any of that. And I think maybe it'll be, it would be different if you went from eating like fast food to like veganism. Like that may be a shift. Uh, but I don't necessarily think it's necessarily shifting to veganism. I think it may be just shifting to eating more healthy food. For me, I didn't notice any change in my amount of energy or anything. 


Recovery From My Workouts (16:06)

Um, what I did notice, and this was the biggest thing for me, what I did notice is that I did not recover from the gym. And ultimately this is, this was like the straw that broke the camel's back that was like, for me, this isn't, this isn't right for me. And so when I say that, um, there was two specific things that happened during these two weeks that, that like just really kind of reinforced that. Like my body is not able to recover from the things that I'm doing in the gym with this kind of diet. And so the first was I was more sore than I've ever been in my entire life, like sore to the point that I couldn't do some of the things that CrossFit, like I couldn't do some of the exercises because I was still so sore from previous workouts. Um, this was like, I've never experienced this level of soreness. And it's important to understand that like I exercise hard, right? Like I push myself hard, I work out hard, I love it. It's part of my day. It's something I've always done. Like it's not like this is me, um, doing new things. Right. And it is something that I've done for a long time and the level of soreness that I felt was off the charts. Um, and to me that was like a key indicator that, you know what, like I'm pushing my body just as hard as I've always pushed my body, but what's different is my body is not as able to recover as quickly from that. Um, likely because I like couldn't get enough protein. Um, so I did track my macros a couple of the days and I was getting about between 80, like 70 to 80 grams of protein a day. And for me that's a lot lower than I typically am at. And I really just think that my body from the stress that I was putting on my body in the gym, it was not able to recover with that amount of protein. The second thing that happened, and this I will admit, this may just be a coincidence, but it happened during the same time period and it was kind of like the last straw. Um, so I, I'm like really struggling just within the last couple of weeks with elbow tendinitis. So in my left elbow, all of a sudden during this like two week period that I was doing, um, plant-based eating, uh, I my like I got elbow tendonitis in my elbow so bad to the point where I couldn't do a lot of exercise. I can't hang from a bar, like even doing anything like upright row or it hurts my elbow. 


Hard to Recover (18:37)

And it was, and again this, I've been doing CrossFit for a year and almost a year and a half. I'm not doing anything new. I'm doing all of the same things. I think my body just like wasn't able to recover because of the amount of protein I'm eating. And again that may just be a coincidence. It may have been just a total coincidence that I liked this tendonitis happened while I was on the plant-based diet. But it was kind of just a second like cue to me that like my, I personally for the exercise and the working out that I do and the stress that I place on my body, I need more protein and I cannot get that with just I'm a vegan plant-based diet. Um, unless I wanted to eat like three scoops of protein powder a day. And I think that that is something that a lot of like vegan bodybuilders will do is they eat vegan but then they'll eat four scoops of, of vegan protein powder in order to get their protein up high enough. 


More Plants (19:36)

And to me like that kind of defeats the purpose. I would rather just eat food than have more protein powder and I don't think having four scoops of protein powder just so I make sure you get 135 grams of protein. It's preferable to eating animal products for me. Um, so so that's where we kind of, I kind of like drew the line. I was like, you know what, like I don't feel any better. I don't have any more energy and I feel like my body is breaking down because of this. And so for me I decided you know what I actually really like the idea of plant-based. What what I think though is right now plant-based means plant exclusive, right? When you say you are a plant-based eater it means you're plant exclusive. It means you don't eat meat or any animal products. Right. That's what, that's what at least my takeaway has been from culture right now is that plant-based means they plant exclusive. I actually liked the idea of actually like a literal plant-based diet, meaning you have more of your meal coming from plants and using me as like a side instead of the main dish. And so on. My takeaway from this experience and how I'm now implementing it into my family and into our life is, is just kinda kind of make that switch from meat, meat necessarily being the main dish to kind of be more of a side. And what we've implemented is we do have some more vegetarian meatless days during our week. So when I plan out our meal plan for the, for our dinners for the week, I used to always plan it around the meat, right? Like plan it around the protein source. And it usually almost always was meat. 


Shift to Look for New Protein Sources (21:11)

And so I've, I've started trying to alternate doing more like um, one day more plant-based and one day more meat. And so we can kind of alternate between because I do think that there is value in increasing the amount of legumes or getting inclusive amount of vegetables do using things like hemp hearts and chia seeds and just having a wide variety of foods in our diet. Like I think there is a lot of value health wise in doing that. But how that looks for me is not cutting out animal products. It looks like maybe reducing some of the portion sizes of those animal products and making sure that I'm filling those, those calories with more plant-based options. That's my take on it. And that was my experience. Um, I will not be exclusively plant. I will not be plant exclusive. 

I do like the idea of trying out different protein sources and that that for me was kind of fun was during those two weeks it was, it was like a new game. It was like trying to find these new protein sources that now I've started to just include anyway into my diet. And that for me has been a really fun shift. And, uh, I think for me a health promoting shift in, in the foods that I'm looking for. So protein source doesn't have to mean chicken breast, right? It can mean a whole lot of other options that can mean soy milk. It can mean tofu, it can mean, um, even like things like oatmeal that have protein in them. And so just having that, uh, having been forced to find other protein sources has kind of like breathed some new life into the protein options that I eat on a daily basis. And I think that's a good thing because I do think that the more variety, the more we can eat a different types of foods and not always stick to the same foods, the more you're going to cover that spectrum of making sure you have the right vitamins and minerals and, and fiber and all of the other micronutrients that we need in addition to just the macro nutrients that we need. 


Give it a Try (23:19)

So if you're listening to this and you're trying to decide if you want to do plant-based, I would say give it a shot or, or maybe try plant-based first. And not necessarily plant exclusive, but I do think it can push you a little bit outside of your comfort zone in like what you determine as a protein source. Right now I think there's a lot of value and in basing our meals around vegetables and legumes and grains and things like that, um, I think it's, there's nothing wrong with giving it a try, but I will say that it is not necessarily the healthiest diet out there. Like I think a lot of, and that's kind of what Game Changers was trying to say is that this is literally the healthiest way to eat. And there's a lot of research that um, does not back that up and that is countered to that. 


Moderation (24:04)

And so I would say for me, what a healthy diet looks like is just a whole bunch of moderation. And I, I know I say that over and over again, but it really is true when we can just come back to this place of, of moderation and like enjoying a lot of different foods, mostly whole foods, mostly like, um, you know, non processed foods and enjoy a variety of those. While also not restricting and saying that we can never have a candy bar. To me that's like the perfect balance and the perfect diet. And so that is what I aim for is to make sure that I am getting a variety of foods, a variety of protein sources. My eyes have been open to that a little bit more and that has been really fun. But for you, that would kind of be my takeaway from this and that it's not the end all be all, especially if you are training hard in the gym. 


Value in Counting Macros (24:55)

And for me it just was my body couldn't recover in a way that it can recover when I'm eating plant sources and or when I'm eating animal sources. And so that was, that was my big takeaway. But if you are vegan or vegetarian and you're wanting to count macros, then I really want you to take to heart what I said at the beginning about setting your macro so that they are as optimal as possible while still being achievable. There is value in counting macros, even if you're counting. Um, if you're vegetarian or vegan, one of the reasons because we can start to be consistent with our intake and when you're consistent with your intake you can adjust and adapt so that you are more likely to be able to hit the goals that you want to hit. And that to me is, is the beautiful power of macro counting is to be able to align your nutrition, align the food that you are eating to propel you towards the goals that you have with your body. 


Please Share! (25:50)

So I hope that was interesting/helpful/inspiring and gave you a little bit of insight into, you know, my experience going plant-based and what I thought about it and what I'm going to be doing moving forward. And if you are a vegetarian or vegan and you are um, trying to count macros, hopefully you took some of something away from this as well in order to help you to be a little bit more successful in combining those two worlds. One more reminder. If you enjoy this episode, will you please, please, please go and share it. Go and tag a friend, have a screenshot, share it to your Instagram and share it with people. There's a lot of, I think a lot of people who think that they can't count macros because they are vegan or vegetarian and that is a complete and total myth and I think it's keeping people from being able to optimize their veganism or vegetarianism or dairy freeism to be able to still push, have their foods, support their goals and what they want to do with their body and their strength and their physical fitness. That wraps up this episode of Biceps After Babies Radio. I'm Amber. Now go on and be strong because remember my friend, you can do anything. 



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