People often cringe at the idea of tracking macros, or tracking the number of grams of carbohydrates, protein and fats that you consume on a daily basis. For most, the idea of taking note of everything you eat or drink seems overwhelming and unnecessary. And for some people, it is.
Tracking macros is not the be-all-end-all. There are plenty of other ways to handle your nutrition that don’t require tracking your food intake. But, like everything in nutrition, that depends on who you are and what your goals are. Here are scenarios when tracking your macros may not make sense:
Your goal is health and longevity, not performance or aesthetics
If you’re just wanting to get your health markers within good range, get to a healthy weight, and put yourself in the best position to be around long enough to play with your great grandkids, you may not need to track your macros. It’s here where we go back to the basics. Get enough sleep. Drink enough water. Eat whole, unprocessed foods. Get in your veggies. If you need a little more structure, this is where something like a Paleo-style way of eating comes into play.
Your current food quality is poor
If your idea of a well-balanced meal is a burger with tomato and lettuce, we’ve got plenty of things we can work on before even thinking about tracking macros.
You have no idea what a protein, carb, or fat is
It’s okay if you don’t! But if that’s the case, the idea of tracking macros is going to get overwhelming pretty quickly. That’s when we go back-to-the-basics, get educated on food and how it works in your body. Then, if you decide you want to track macros, you’ll have a good foundational knowledge to get started.
You have an obsessive personality
Tracking macros is funny. It helps most people improve their relationship with food. You’ll learn how to make your favorite foods (ahem, pizza) work for your goals instead of against them. You won’t feel guilt after an off-day. You’ll feel empowered to handle your nutrition in a way that is sustainable. But sometimes the opposite can happen. If you know you’ll become hyper-focused on calorie counting, precise measurements, and reading labels, then unhealthy obsessive thinking can develop. If you’re prone to that, maybe tracking your macros isn’t right for you.
So, then who is tracking macros right for? Tracking macros is right for you if…
You have specific body composition goals.
You want to get leaner while maintaining strength, have abs, do a bodybuilding show, etc.
You want to optimize your performance.
You want to give your body everything it needs to perform its best and recover efficiently no matter your sport.
You have a specific deadline for your performance or aesthetic goals.
Want to run a marathon, place first in a bodybuilding show, crush the CrossFit Open this year?
You eat a low protein diet.
If you think peanut butter is protein, you’re likely not getting enough. (Read this to find out how much protein you need and why it matters).
You’re having insatiable cravings or other body signals that may be indication that your body is missing something.
If you have insatiable hunger or strong cravings, you may be missing key nutrients that we can pinpoint with a solid food log. (Read this to learn what specific cravings may mean).
You have a slow metabolism or are experiencing “metabolic adaptation”.
If you’ve been under-eating for a long period of time, this may be you. We’d have to monitor and optimize your food intake to get that metabolism working like it should! (Read this to find out if you’re under-eating).
Some people argue that tracking macros for the rest of your life is not sustainable. And that may be true for them. Most people, myself included, do not track macros all year. I dial in on my macros when I have specific goals (looking my best for a beach vacation, or getting a new squat PR by X date). But I take breaks throughout the year and focus on eating intuitively.
Just understand that you need to earn the right to eat intuitively. It’s not something you can just do well. You first need to know what your ideal daily eating habits look like before you’ll have any idea how to do that without tracking your food. How do you know if you intuitively eat enough protein if you’ve never hit your ideal protein goal, for example?
We recommend almost everyone track their macros at some point in their life so they can LEARN what their ideal baseline intake should look like so that the body has everything it needs to not only look, but to feel and perform its best.
If you have questions about the information above or want to work with a nutrition coach to start working towards your goals, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org!