How to Track Your Macros Successfully
First off, let’s make sure everyone is on the same page, and understands what ‘macros’ really are.
The food you eat is made up of calories. Calories are a unit of energy that the food provides for you, and in turn, you burn to fuel your daily activities and basic metabolic needs.
Those calories can be split into three macronutrients (or macros): protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
Each of these macronutrients is important for different reasons, but eating them in the correct ratio is important if you want to maximize your progress in the gym.
We won’t dive into the function of each of these maconutrients here, but you can find out exactly what each macronutrient does for you here.
When it comes to figuring out how many calories and macros you should be eating, there are several formulas and apps that will do that for you. No formula or app will know exactly what and how much you should be eating, though they provide you a place to start. The magic is in your ability to adjust as you progress and observe your body. I recommend finding a good coach to help you get started.
Many have tried to track their macros in pursuit of a lean and strong body.
Many have failed.
“It got to be too much”, “It was too time consuming” and “It just didn’t seem sustainable” are easily the most common reasons I’ve heard from others to explain why they didn’t stick with their plan.
Now, there was a time when tracking macros actually was difficult. That time was before a handful of apps made it extremely seamless, and it was certainly before Google.
It also isn’t really time consuming. When using an app, tracking en entire days worth of macros will take between 60 and 180 seconds. It could take up to a few minutes if you eat some real complex recipes. But that’s it. Hardly a price to pay for the ability to so accurately track and adjust your nutrition.
In the quest for a lean and strong body, this is a remarkably powerful tool.
As far as tracking macros not feeling sustainable, I just didn’t see why that would be the case. It’s so fast, so easy, and such a precise form of nutrition accountability. Yet so many people couldn’t keep it up.
Over the past couple of years I’ve experimented with a few different approaches to client nutrition.
These approaches included macro tracking of course. It also included a habit based approach.
To sum up habit based nutrition, it involves focusing on habits instead of numbers. Cook breakfast instead of buying it at Sonics, or drink 16 oz of water before every meal, etc.
Now, I don’t want to knock habit based nutrition coaching, and habit based nutrition coaching is a necessary aspect of macro tracking.
But habit based nutrition coaching without any form of tracking is far less efficient when it comes to teaching people how the foods they eat are affecting their body.
Without question, my most successful clients are the ones who tracked their intake, and were able to stick with it. They get the best results, and they get those results the fastest.
So the question is, why are so many people beaten down by the process of tracking their intake?
Win or Lose. Success or Failure.
The problem is how they’re viewing their numbers.
Most people view macronutrient targets as the goal, and if you don’t hit them, they failed that day.
That means every single day, they’re faced with a win or lose situation. Either they hit their targets and the day was a success, or they miss, and they fail.
That scenario, when dealt with on a daily basis, will beat anyone down after a long enough period of time.
Hitting calorie and macronutrient numbers is hard. You’ll miss more than you’ll hit. In fact you’ll miss by a landslide more than you get close when you first start out.
If this process is viewed as a fail, then the feeling that you’re completely blowing your attempt to get in shape is inescapable.
What Missing Your Targets Really Means
When you have a great day nutritionally and hit your targets, that’s great. Pat yourself on the back.
But when you miss, that isn’t necessarily a loss.
This isn’t binary. It’s not a win or lose scenario. It’s a big grey area.
Let me give you a scenario.
You’re tracking your daily intake, and everything is going fine. You’re conscious of your food choices and you’re right on track.
Then you find out your credit card won’t work when you’re at the grocery store. You not only get stressed out while on the phone with Visa, you also don’t have any food to eat.
You smell Cinnabon down the street. You’re stressed and tired. You don’t care. You’re smashing that.
Later that day you get home and tally up your macros. You went over your calorie target by 650 cals, and your carbs by 250 grams.
“Shit.” You think. “I blew it”.
Not so fast.
You were making healthy and conscious food choices throughout that entire day.
You were much more focused, conscious and aware of your intake than you have ever been, because you were tracking.
Then you messed up, and missed your targets.
But guess what. You were going to slip up and eat that Cinnabon whether you were tracking or not. In this case, you were making better and more conscious decisions all day long.
If you weren’t tracking, not only would you have eaten that Cinnabon, you also would have been a lot less conscious of what you were eating during the rest of the day.
That means you’re making progress. And progress is what we’re here for. Not perfection.
You’re Already Winning
The point here is to view your macro goals not as a win/lose situation, but as a tool for more conscious, educated and guided eating.
Just because you missed your targets doesn’t take away from the fact that you’re improving drastically.
Tracking your intake means you’re aware of what you’re eating, making intelligent decisions more often, and learning how the foods you eat are affecting your body.
This means you’re making progress, and progress leads to results, whether you hit your targets every time or not.