Research, social media, and popular belief have taught you that the relationship of calories in versus calories out it is most important when weight loss is the goal. You probably have or currently use an app like MyFitnessPal to keep track of every little calorie that goes into your mouth (or at least the “good” calories – a topic for another day).
Calories are important because they measure the amount of food you’re taking in, but did you know there’s another way that helps you better understand where those calories came from? It’s called tracking your macros.
Let’s say you were to consume the same amount of calories for two days. One day you ate pizza and ice cream and the other you ate veggies and grass-fed meats. That calorie macronutrient breakdown would look VERY different despite calories being the same.
Before you tell me you don’t have time or it’s just too much for you, hear me out. It does NOT need to be forever, but it can give you some MAJOR insights to your diet. Yes, it may take time at first, but the more practice you get, the easier it becomes. It also tells you exactly how well you’re fueling your body for workouts, extracurricular activities, and your lifestyle.
Why wouldn’t you want to know if you’re consuming TOO much fat to optimize weight loss? If you have strength goals, why wouldn’t you want to know if you’re under consuming protein?
The benefits far outweigh the time or focus it takes. Here are some of the biggest benefits I have discovered from counting my macros:
1. Build Awareness
- You know those days where you just feel stiff and sluggish? You got plenty of sleep, so what gives? Tracking your macros gives you the ability to evaluate what exactly is going into your body and can help you better understand why you feel the way you do. It is an empowering process that can teach you which foods make you feel bloated, which give provide you the most energy, and which contribute to the best fat loss.
- You’re removing the guesswork and building awareness when you’re locked in on your protein, carbohydrate, and fat consumption. It builds confidence in what you’re eating, and can help you reach your goals faster.
2. Discover What You’re Missing
- Tracking your macros is great to identify where you can improve your protein, carb, and fat intake; however, it also identifies the food groups, vitamins, and minerals you’re lacking. When you get a rhythm and start sticking to certain foods it can be easy to short yourself on fiber, iron, or Vitamin C. Tracking your macros can help you balance your food choices so you’re more consistently reaching your daily-recommended intake. These will ensure you’re hitting your goals in the short-term, and setting yourself up for long-term health an wellness.
3. Lifestyle Flexibility
- Counting macros can really help you reach your fat loss goals due to the deficit, but it also teaches how to enjoy the family dinner or girls night without completely blowing your progress. Too many diets focus on the things you cannot or should not have, but counting macros is designed to help you see results while living your life. Technically, you can eat any food you want as long as it fits into your daily macro totals.
- If you decide logging every bite of food over the weekend is too much, try tracking Monday through Friday and approach the weekend with the approach of mindful eating. This does not mean you blow the weeks success, but focus more on getting a protein and veggie at very meal and less about tracking every detail. Work with your coach on how to approach macro tracking with flexibility to help you see results while you enjoy it.
4. Training and Performance
- If you’re goals relate to performance or muscle building or you just love to get after it in the gym, locking in on your macros can be a difference maker. Counting your macros is not only important for showing you how well you respond to foods outside the gym, but inside as well. It can also provide you with the right fuel so you’re seeing PR’s and crushing your goals.
5. Personalized Nutrition Plan
- Did you know that no two individuals have the same meal plan? Sometimes we get so wrapped up in following what our friend did because she saw awesome results, but working with a coach to really dial in your macros can provide some AWESOME results. Once you start tracking macros, you can clearly see where you might be taking in some extra calories and where you can alter to get the best results. A coach can really help back you into the right numbers so your body stays fueled, burning fat, and maintaining muscle without cutting too many calories to damage our metabolism.
My hope is that you read this and now think tracking your macros isn’t THAT bad, so now what?
Download a Food Tracking App: MyFitnessPal works great because you can scan the labels and easily add specific foods or entire recipes.
Grab a Food Scale or At Minimum Measuring Cups: Start using these to assess where you’re currently at and to get comfortable measuring and weighing your food at meals.
Track EVERYTHING for One Week: This does not say the rest of your life, but for one week track food intake, water and beverage intake, weight, sleep, hunger, and stress. Be honest and be diligent because that will help you gain the best understanding of where you are at now.
Assess: Look over what you tracked for the week. Did your weight go up or down? What was the average number of calories consumed? How was your sleep? How stressed were you over the week?
Make Changes: After evaluating the data, you may be able to see exactly where your holes are, but if you’re not sure, find a coach who can simplify and help break things down and set you up with your initial changes.
Be Patient: Just because you start tracking your macros today does not mean that in one week you will have the body of your dreams. Whether you do this alone or with a coach, the process takes time, regular adjustments, and commitment.
The steps above will help you get started in your macro tracking journey, and educate you on how much it can benefit you. As a coach, I believe everyone should track their macros at least once in their lifetime. As someone who has experienced weight loss, body composition changes, and improved performance as a result of tracking my macros, I believe tracking macros is the key to success for many of you.