Diets suck. More often than not, diets that present impractical restrictions on specific nutrients are not sustainable in the long run. If you aren't enjoying life, never eating anything you love and constantly trying to live up to unrealistic standards chances are you will fail. Tracking macros allows you the balance and freedom to intake the foods you enjoy while simultaneously teaching you balance in the process.
While it would be nice to eat nothing but ice cream pop tarts and pizza chances are you wouldn't fit your macronutrient needs. In all likelihood, if you’re trying to meet even halfway decent micronutrient and macronutrient intakes you will find yourself eating lean animal/animal-derived proteins, dairy, nuts/seeds, whole-grain carbohydrates, vegetables and fruits. Which some may say would be considered “clean” foods, however should be properly known as foods that should be noted as “nutrient-dense”
What are Macros?
“Macros” is short for macronutrients, meaning the three main building blocks of calories (read: food): protein, fat and carbohydrates. While calories are just the generalized amount of energy you consume, each macronutrient plays a very different and specific role within your body. While protein is the generally the star, each macronutrient is equally important and essential to a healthy diet. Meaning? Carbs and fat aren't to blame. While protein is extremely important carbs and fat are equally necessary.
Each macronutrient yields a certain number of calories.
- One gram of protein yields 4 calories.
- One gram of carbohydrate yields 4 calories.
- One gram of fat yields 9 calories.
- One gram of alcohol yields 7 calories.
When you track macros you ensure you are getting a balanced intake of each.
The three main things you need to accurately track macros are:
Something to Track your macros- i.e. Myfitnesspal
Why track macros?
Counting macros essentially forces you to make better decisions based off of a plan which was designed for you. If you need to limit carbs, it will make sure you do that. If you need more protein it will make sure you do that. If you need more healthy fats, it will make sure you do that. PRO TIP: Track your macros for the next day the night before and see how you can play around with portions and food options, that helped me stay less stressed about meeting my macros throughout the day. Once you have your macros start paying attention to the nutrition labels of all the foods you’re eating. For the first few weeks, you may find keeping a record, whether written or in a document on your phone, very helpful. Since counting macros is a tad mathematics intensive you can use a tracking app. MyFitnessPal is one of the most popular ones with a huge database of food information.
How to get started:
Identify your health goals. Are you interested in losing fat, building muscle etc
Calculate your macros or get a macronutrient recommendation.
Calculate the macronutrient profile of the foods you want to eat. Check the labels on the package, add up the macros for different ingredients you use, and make sure the carbs, protein and fat fit within your daily allotted macros.
Create a meal plan based around the foods you previously identified and stick with it. (My preference, hands down.) OR If you’re not the plan ahead type, TRACK everything you are eating as the day goes by. Keep an eye on each macro tallying up, making sure not to go over. People track in all sorts of ways: food journaling, apps, spreadsheets. Do whatever works for you.