As macro tracking becomes more popular, more people are recommending it to their friends, family, and strangers on the internet. But as a coach, this can be problematic as it can either help someone or make their relationship with food even worse. So let’s dig in with some important questions to consider as well as what macro tracking (aka flexible dieting) is overall.
Macro Tracking 101
Macro tracking is where you track your calories and macronutrients. These are protein (4 calories per gram), carbs (4 calories per gram), and fats (9 calories per gram). Macro tracking IS calorie tracking, but a more precise way to ensure you get enough nutrients overall and especially enough protein to help support your training, recovery, and overall muscle growth. But, macro tracking is so much better than just calorie tracking as it allows you not only to get enough overall nutrients but improve performance and overall health.
It is not a more restrictive way to keep track of your intake but instead adds more flexibility to reaching your goals whether that is performance, physique, or overall health. You get to enjoy all of your favorite foods while ensuring you’re hitting close to/at your macro and calorie targets. For some, following an 80% mostly nutrient-dense foods and 20% room for whatever you’d like is ideal. But this is not a fixated amount or a rule, but rather a reminder that you absolutely can enjoy all foods in moderation while reaching your goals.
Calculating your macros depends on your calorie needs. If you’re trying to lose fat, eating in a calorie deficit consistently is ideal (below your TDEE, not but large). If you’re trying to lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously (body recomposition), eating at or close to your TDEE is ideal. If you are going into a muscle and strength growth phase, this means eating above TDEE (most women that I’ve worked with stay within 100-300 above their TDEE for a lean bulking phase).
Now that you understand where your calories need to be based on your goals (and many other variables), figuring out your macros is based on this. Personally, If you are just starting out or have never, I would recommend working with a coach to help you understand it all and get guidance (I have seen it time and time again where results become more important than overall health – aka very low calories, high protein, low carbs). If you are tracking and calculating on your own, I would suggest carbs being around 35-45%, fats around 30-40% of your intake, and protein is sufficient for most at .8-1g per lb of bodyweight or goal bodyweight if you’re overweight (please calculate protein in grams, not percentage).
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Who is Macro tracking best for?
- If you’re looking to find balance in your nutrition (no more black and white rules, ‘cheat’ meals, and using food rules).
- If you have a physique, performance, or health goal.
- The chronic dieter who feels lost (you’ve followed all the rules but still haven’t reached your goals and hate the methods you’ve used).
- If you find it hard to not eat without having tons of rules (aka clean eating).
- If you enjoy it!
Who is Macro tracking NOT best for?
- If you are recovering or have a history of disordered eating habits.
- If tracking makes you restrict more, unable to enjoy eating without tracking, and you feel even more restricted doing so.
- If tracking influences negative eating habits.
- If you don’t enjoy it!
Although macro tracking has provided success for so many, it is not a lifetime journey. Even as a coach that promotes it and loves it, I don’t see it being healthy to do year upon year upon year. Instead, give it months to years of tracking to allow you to understand what your body truly needs, with time off tracking of course, and then transition into eating without calculating (by then, you’ll be able to mindfully eat and know what your body needs and portion control). For me personally, this means tracking when I have a goal and mindfully eating when I am looking to maintain or take time off from tracking.
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