In the fitness world, I feel like we go through fitness “buzz words” if you will. We’ve done the, whole30, juicing, paleo, clean eating, Atkins, low fat/non fat, low carb, juice cleanse, keto, HIIT…and now I feel like “Macros” is the word of the hour. First off, don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on all these words. Some of them are near and dear to my heart. What i’m saying is…there tends to be certain fads/words that gain more traction with the public & they get talked about a lot.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that the term “Macros” is not new. Those of us who have been in the fitness world for a while have been dealing with macros since the dawn of time. Some of you might not even realize that by counting your calories, tracking your food, or eating a certain way, you’ve already been tracking your macros. I think the idea of tracking macros has gained momentum recently due to technology of being able to track food simply through using apps available on phones. Regardless if you know those macros like the back of your hand, or if you are wondering WHAT IN THE WORLD EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT…let’s clear a few things up.
What are macros? The word “Macro” is short for macronutrient. Macronutrients are are three basic categories that all the foods that you eat can be divided up into. The three macronutrients are Fat, carbohydrates, & protein.
What does it mean to “track your macros?” or “count your macros?” – All this means is that you are tracking all the food that you are eating, and taking note of the percentages of where your macronutrient breakdown lies…meaning how much fat, protein, & carbs you are eating to compile your diet for the day. Most people will track their macros in a free app that is available on your phone such as My Fitness Pal, or Lose It.
How do I know what percentages I am trying to hit? Well, this is where it gets a bit tricky. I would recommend utilizing a coach or professional who can calculate your macros according to your needs. (Yes, I do this, and you can click HERE for more info on that.) If you are wanting to try and figure out your own numbers, which you totally can, some good online resources are THIS IIFYM calculator, THIS calculator from bodybuilding.com, and THIS macro calculator. You may find that all your #’s end up different. If you are wanting to just give it a go on your own, I’d find the happy medium between your #’s, give it a go, and see how things go. If you feel like you aren’t seeing results, you can always seek the help of someone one on one.
What is the best way to get started? This can all be overwhelming, I know. For those who feel completely overwhelmed by all of this, I always suggest to just start tracking for a few days. See where your calories & percentages fall with the foods that you are normally eating. From there, you will notice maybe you’re eating too much fat, or not enough protein, & you can start to adjust your foods to fit your macronutrient goals. Just starting will also help you to learn your way around the apps that you are using.
Once you get the hang of using the app and entering your foods…I would suggest focusing on or dialing into a few things.
- First, make sure you are hitting your protein goal.
- Second, be sure you are NOT going over your caloric goal. By just adjusting these two things, a lot of people will start to see success in the process.
- Third, I’d start to really pay attention to your portions. I highly suggest using a food scale, especially for meat. I love THIS ONE. The closer you are to hitting your percentages/macro counts, the better your results will be. I know that weight and portioning out food seems like a completely overwhelming nightmare for a lot of people. If that is the case, you can absolutely eyeball what you’re eating. However, you also have to be ok with the fact that your #’s may be off…which may slow your progress.
- Fourth, check where your sugar is falling. This is something that I think is FREQUENTLY overlooked with macro counting. Food quality matters. If you are filling your “carbs” with candy & sugar, you may not see the same progress as if you fill your “carbs” with whole grains, fibrous foods, & vegetables.
Be Patient & Consistent. I don’t know if I can say this enough. So many people track for 3/7 days a week & get mad when they aren’t seeing results. Well, chances are high that those other 4 days are throwing you off. I have even had clients that have been “weekend undo-ers” meaning they do great M-F afternoon…and then from Friday evening to Sunday they go buck wild, undoing all that hard work. Try to be as consistent as you can tracking your food. Try and hit your numbers as correctly as you can. Sure, have a day off from tracking on the weekend, or a meal off, if that helps you mentally feel like you can maintain the process. But, understand that the more constant you are the better…and ALWAYS know that changes, lasting change especially, takes time, so BE PATIENT.
How do I know if macro counting is for me? Well maybe it isn’t? If the thought of tracking ALL your food sends you into an overly-obsessive, or even highly anxiety filled state, I’d say it’s probably not for you. I actually feel like tracking your food can offer some freedom. It can allow you to work in some “treats” here and there without feeling guilty or stressed that you’ve completely blown it. It can help with portion control, & teach intuitive eating if you try to give your body the foods it needs to thrive. I also think that it can help people to heal their poor relationships with food by giving them the tools to work anything into their diet. NOW THAT BEING SAID…
My warning…The thing that I absolutely HATE…and I don’t say that word often about some people who preach macro counting is those who paint a picture for people that you can eat whatever the heck you want & look like a supermodel. It just DOES NOT WORK that way for 99.9 percent of humans. Yes, you CAN fit treats in every now and then, and my goodness, you should! They are delicious. But, if you are more focused on filling your diet with tons of sugar and crap, and NOT trying to eat more whole/clean foods, you won’t see the same results. You just won’t. MODERATION. MODERATION. MODERATION. I’m not saying you have to eat perfect. I am saying there are some foods that will help you to give better results, & FEEL better than others.
Hopefully that offers even just a little insight on the process! Give it a shot. I think it’s fabulous. xoxoxo Megs