There’s a lot of talk about tracking macros on my site, but it doesn’t mean that it’s something you have to do.
No idea what I’m talking about when I refer to macros?
“Macros” is shorthand for macronutrients, which are simply protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Every food you eat is made up of these in some capacity, and they are the things that provide the calories in food.
If you’ve ever wondered why peanut butter is so high in calories, it’s because of the fat content! No matter how you slice it, one gram of fat is equal to 9 calories. So if there is 20g of fat, the food is always going to have at least 180 calories. If you’ve ever wondered why someone hasn’t come out with a 100 calorie snack that has 50g of protein, it’s because it’s impossible! 50g of protein will always be at least 200 calories.
To track macros, you figure out how many calories you want to eat each day, and break that up into your “macro” goals. Everyone has different goals- some people eat low carb, some low fat, some high protein…but whatever the goals, the process is the same: Look at your food labels and track how much fat, protein, and carbs you are eating at each meal until you hit your target numbers!
If the idea of tracking macros is totally foreign to you, don’t worry, this post should help you get started.
At the end of the day, tracking macros is just one tool to help you reach your goals. I find it to be very, very helpful… but like any tool, it’s not always the right tool for the job.
Wondering it tracking macros is right for you? Looks not further. Maybe you shouldn’t track macros if…
1. You’re an absolute beginner.
Focus on learning the basics of nutrition and how to eat a healthy, balanced diet, before you dive into specific macros. It’s important to lay a foundation of understanding before you start concerning yourself with super-specific numbers and targets! My nutrition ebook covers absolutely everything you need to get started!
2. You’re not focused on losing or gaining weight.
You might find it way more enjoyable to let go of tracking if you simply want to maintain and live a healthy life. While you can certainly track your macros while maintaining your current weight (a lot of people prefer to do that for peace of mind) I personally find it much easier to let go of tracking during a maintenance phase. With no specific goals in mind, it’s okay to see your weight fluctuate a bit!
3. You have a history of disordered eating, or you have an obsessive personality.
Meticulously tracking can lead to an obsession and an unhealthy relationship with food if not carefully monitored. If you have a disordered eating past, please consult a professional. If you know that you have a tendency to become obsessive or form strong habits easily, tracking may not be for you. While it can be a great tool, it can also become pretty consuming if taken too seriously.
4. Tracking is way too stressful for you.
You don’t HAVE to do it! If you’re stressed that you can’t go out to eat because you can’t track your macros- maybe it’s time to explore a different option. If you go over your macro targets for the day, you should be able to move on and simply get back on track the next day. If not hitting your targets causes you a ton of stress, it might be worth exploring other options.
5. Your diet becomes super unhealthy.
When people track, a lot of times they end up ONLY focused on macros and not actually eating a healthy, balanced diet. I have nothing against eating ANY food you enjoy, but less-optimal options shouldn’t be staples in your diet. By all means enjoy some Pop Tarts, pizza, cookies, you name it! But if those foods are the basis of your diet simply because you want to hit your macronutrient goals, you should consider giving up tracking to focus on eating a more well-rounded diet.
6. You only focus on macros and not body cues.
If you’re really hungry, you should eat, even if that means going over your carb total for the day. Listening to your body is very important! If your goal is intuitive eating (eating without counting calories or tracking food) then it tracking your macros might not be the right move.
For me personally, I don’t have any specific goals, so I am not tracking my macros. And I must say, I’ve gotten significantly better at listening to my body cues! I’ve learned how to eat mindfully, which I find to be an incredibly helpful skill for my overall health.
All of that being said, I am a very big fan of tracking macros! I tracked for YEARS, and it helped me to get to the point where I no longer feel I have to track, and I can go about my life eating intuitively without feeling like I need to track.
If you have a specific goal in mind, tracking your macros can be a very helpful tool to help hit those goals.
But remember that you don’t HAVE TO track your macros.
That’s the beauty of this whole food thing- there are no rules.