After becoming conscious of just how much you are eating, it can still seem daunting to track your intake. Tracking calories in vs. calories out is one way to do it but most people can still feel fatigued and like their diet is lacking. One method that has become popular as of late is tracking macros.
It gained traction in the weight-lifting world because counting macros allows people to target specific body composition goals. It also helps some people keep fat and/or carbs in check as a weight management tool.
I mostly recommend that people don’t track their food because it is time-consuming and can trigger eating disorder tendencies especially in women. However, I do believe that tracking can be beneficial to ensure someone is getting everything they need.
Especially when it comes to fat intake, this culture is conditioned to minimize or completely avoid dietary fat. However fat belongs in a healthy diet, all cell membranes are made of fat and certain vitamins cannot be properly utilized by the body without the presence of fat.
So how do you go about tracking macros? It becomes fairly easy after a couple of days and once you are comfortable with it you will be able to look at a meal and determine if it will satisfy your needs.
A good starting place for target goals is 40% carbs, 30% fat, 30% protein. You can then adjust based on goals or health concerns.
Let’s walk through what day would look like with 1,600 calories.
40% carbs = 640 calories
30% fat = 480 calories
30% protein = 480 calories
The easiest way to track food is in grams. So you would then convert your calories to grams to determine proper portion sizes.
Carbohydrate and protein both contain 4g per calories. Fat contains 9g per calorie. Here is what the break down would now look like.
40% carbs = 160g
30% fat = 53g
30% protein = 120g
The reason I love using My Fitness Pal is that you can plug-in the above goals for the day and it will track your progress in a pie chart as you go.
Here is what a day would look like in the above macro goals:
2 eggs, 2 pieces of bacon, 1/2 avocado, 1 banana, 1 scoop protein powder mixed into coffee or tea.
1 can of tuna, 1 tbsp mayo, 1 cup broccoli, 250g sweet potatoes (about 1.5 potatoes)
6 oz chicken breast, 1 tbsp butter, 1 cup white rice, 1 cup green veggies
1 apple, 1/2 cup cherries
Each meal is around 500 meals and with the addition of a small snack you will hit 1,600 calories. Personally I think 1,600 calories is not enough, especially for an active person but it is beneficial to see what a typical day would look like.
And as you can see that if you are eating real food, it turns out to be a lot more food than you would think.
Most people find that when they start eating to their needs, some lingering negative symptoms disappear. Chronic fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, depression, sugar cravings, poor performance in the gym, and many more will lessen immensely with fueling yourself properly.
And lastly here are some tips to remember as you track your food:
-If you are more active, especially doing workouts that are cardio focused, you need more carbohydrate.
-Confused on how to add fat? Start incorporating avocados, olives, dairy if you can tolerate it, make homemade dressing with olive oil, tahini, nut butters, are all great options.
-Make sure you are getting proper amounts of green vegetables, counting macros can lead you to just focus on the numbers but vegetables still need to be consumed daily. They contain micronutrients we cannot find elsewhere.
-Low-carb can work for weight loss but I would not recommend anyone do that for long-term, especially women. Carbohydrates are necessary for proper hormone creation and function.
-As with anything related to nutrition, there is no one perfect calorie amount, macro goal, eating style that fits everyone.
-Start with food quality and ensure you are eating nutrient dense food, then start playing around with macro counting to optimize your mental and physical health.