I am a big fan of intuitive eating. Why the heck am I writing a guide on tracking macros now? Am I crazy?
Might be. But not entirely. I know intuitive eating is not for everyone, as well as tracking is. There are no absolutes when it comes to nutrition.1 Nonetheless, tracking macros can be a useful tool in your box. Especially when it comes to learning and measuring nutrition.
Tracking macros and calories is around for quite a long time now. It came up somewhere in the oldscool bodybuilding and Jane Fonda era. Every housewife who wanted to lose a few pounds wrote a nutritional notebook back then. Nowadays it is still as useful as it was back in the days.
First, we’ll look at the pros and cons of tracking, afterwards, we’ll talk about how you should do it best.
So let’s get into this helpful topic!
Why tracking your macros might be useful for you
Benefits of tracking
- Makes nutrition measurable
- Throughout defined units, you can learn knowledge much better
- You develop a feeling for calories and foods – How much protein is in one chicken breast? How many calories does a Snickers have? Where do I find Vitamin C?
- Tracking is an easy way to adjust if you are gaining or losing weight
- Tracking can help you structure your life well – that way your head is free for the important stuff
- It’s easy – you only need an app and a Kitchen Scale*
Downsides of tracking
- Tracking is time-intensive and a habit that has to be learned anew
- It has to be done consequently most of the days to work properly
- Far down the road, it could lead to eating disorders
- Tracking robs you off freedom – going out and social events can get an issue
How to track your intake – the right way
First: Set a goal
Without an outcome – you can’t measure anything. Most of the times the goal is pretty clear.
Lose some weight, build muscle mass, or just staying in shape without going to strong in each direction.
The goal will determine many things – but most important your total amount of calories you need to consume.
If you wanna lose weight – eat less than you need a day. If you wanna gain weight eat more than you need a day. It is really that simple!
Everyone saying else wanna sell you something or is talking bullshit. Might be because he slept while your physics teacher talked about thermodynamics back in school.
Second: Calculate well
While the total amount of calories will determine the direction your ship sails, the composition of the calories is also important.
Yes, you can lose weight if only eat Twinkies– but you would be much better off trying to eat more filling, high-protein, and nutrient-rich foods.
That’s why this second step is all about math. But stay with me before you click the red panic button marked by an ‘X in the top right corner. It will be really simple.
Use this calculator it should give you an approximate amount of calories you should consume. It calculates this value through your age, weight, height, and overall activity.
Ignore the macros it suggests to you. We will do that on our own!
I would advise eating 2g per kg of protein, 1g per kg of fats, and 2g per kg of carbs. The rest of your calories is filled with your personal preferred amount of carbs and fats:
- If you like to eat more carbs – do so.
- If you like to eat more fats – that’s totally fine, too.
- Just make sure to eat carbs and fats. Don’t eradicate one of both from your diet.
By any means, this value isn’t set in stone. It could be above or below your actual need – this is why you need to check regularly if you are still on the right path.
Next: Use apps or an oldscool notebook
To track itself, you can either write them down on paper or use an app. I preferred to use the app MyFitnessPal by Under Armor. Once learned it is very intuitive and has a huge databank of many foods.
There are plenty of other apps around – feel free to try them. I can’t judge any of them.
Tracking has to be a part of your lifestyle and be done daily, preferably in the evening after you ate most of your food that day. I would suggest doing it once a day for 10 minutes. This should be enough time.
All you need to track your food is a Kitchen Scale*. But – don’t be overly accurate here. Weighing every tomato you eat will do more harm than good. Tracking appropriate is a fine line to walk. For some calorie-loaden foods you should weigh more strict (e.g. oils and nuts) while other foods are very low in calories (leafy greens or veggies).2
One thing which can save you a lot of time is eating the same stuff every day – maybe your favorite breakfast or your protein shake*. You can create your own meals and add all the ingredients with one click.
Last, but not least: Check if you stay on course
OK – you’ve got your goals straight and learned how to track. Moreover, you learned how to incorporate tracking as a part of your lifestyle. Be proud of yourself!
Now you only have one piece of work left – checking if you are still following the right path. Wherever that final point lies.
I would weigh yourself every month and take some photos of yourself. See where your journey goes. If you are on course stay there – if you can’t measure your process don’t worry but navigate that course and adjust your initial set macros.
That’s it – pretty simple, isn’t it?
The hardest part, in my opinion, will be to trust the process and your abilities to set the direction rightly.
An alternative – eat intuitively
An alternative to this tracking madness could be intuitive eating. It was my savior after failing horribly with tracking macros – I developed an eating disorder. But as with many pathologies, it wasn’t just this sole factor. Instead, it was one of many contributors.
So don’t be shocked or in fear of tracking. It is what it is – a great tool to learn how to eat.
Maybe intuitive eating can be the same for you – if you already know how to eat. That’s why I would advise anyone to track a while before trying to fly free. Check out this post for much more information on intuitive eating!
A final round-up
All that said – don’t be dogmatic.
For most people tracking macros is a great thing to learn nutrition from the ground on.
For some, it can even be a lifestyle choice supporting their life, while others tend to overcomplicate it or even develop mental issues.
Likewise, not everybody likes soccer – not everyone likes to track.
It is just that – another tool in your box, which should be used wisely to fix proper issues with it.
I think it should be used by everyone to learn and measure nutrition in the first place.
After that is done – feel free to throw this madness out of the window. Or stick with it if it helps you. Totally up to you.
My goal was to show you tracking as that – a very handy tool if used right. If you have any questions left unanswered feel free to ask them.
I would like to hear your thoughts about tracking versus eating intuitively. What were your experiences with both?
I bet anyone struggles from time to time with his nutrition until he finds out what works and whatnot.
All right, that was all I wanted to say. Read you next time,
Sources and further reading:
- For everything concerning macros, tracking, and awesome calorie-reduced recipes, as well as a very positive mindset, I can recommend checking out Zach Rocheleau at his site Flexible Dieting Lifestyle. A wealth of information can be found at his Website, Instagram, and Podcast.
- I love the App MyFitnessPal by Under Armor to track. They also provide great resources on how you should do it.
- Another great post is this one by Art of Manliness. It is a full guide on what to watch out when you start tracking your macros.