So one of the most common questions you will get amongst health and nutrition is ‘Do you track?’ Then everyone feels they have to justify themselves as to why they track so they don’t come across as obsessive and having a problem.
In this blog I’m going to explain why we should bother tracking our macronutrients, when it’s useful and when it’s not as well as how I track.
- New to ‘calories’
- Weight/Fat Loss
- Weight/Fat Gain
- Better Understanding of food
- Preparation for a competition, show, photoshoot, wedding ect…
If your just starting your journey to health, than calories will be a new subject for you, you need to understand the calorific values of food to be able to make better and more informed choices. To lose fat you must be in a ‘calorie deficit’ (using more calories than your taking in) to gain weight you must be in a ‘calorie surplus’ (Taking in more calories than you use) therefore tracking allows you to hit your targets and help you attain your goals. As your weight adjusts, your calories will need to so it’s useful to track your calories and see when you need to alter them. It gives you a better understanding of food and the composition of it, you may be unaware if you’re getting sufficient protein in your diet and tracking is a great way to establish if you are or not. Lastly if you’re prepping for something tracking is vital to keeping you accountable to your goal and enabling more consistent results.
For example last year when I did my first Bikini competition, tracking macros was very important to ensure I was getting enough protein to maintain muscle mass, enough carbohydrates to fuel my training and enough healthy fats to aid the body’s natural processes.
Why shouldn’t you track?
There are a few reasons why tracking may not be for you or why it’s unnecessary:
- Obsessive/ unhealthy relationship with food
- No composition based goals
- Weight maintenance
- Sufficient knowledge to eat intuitively for goals
Firstly if you are already obsessive over your food and have an unhealthy relationship with it then tracking will only highlight and heighten this. You should seek some help to build a healthier relationship with food.
If you are training well, enjoying exercise and have no fixed goals in mind then as long as you know your eating healthily, getting in your nutrients and allowing yourself a treat in moderation then you don’t necessarily need to track. I have tracked for a long time and now have the knowledge of what’s in food and I can eyeball out portions fairly well; therefore if weight maintenance is my goal I don’t need to track because I can gauge roughly how much I’m eating and if it’s sufficient or not.
Variations of Tracking
- Meal Plans
- IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros)
- Macro Counting
- Calorie Counting
There are a variety of ways to track, the first one being meal plans. These are usually designed by a coach or a company and given to you, they will have a calorific value but that might not be known to you and you just follow the plan. These are less flexible though and not for everyone.
IIFYM can be controversial so I won’t get into that but it’s basically having a certain macro split and calorie value and you can eat what you want as long as it fits those macros. Some people stick to healthier foods with some treats and some are less healthy…
Macro counting is when you have prescribed macros E.g 190g Carbohydrates, 135g Protein and 50g Fat. You then consume your food for the day that hits these macros. Counting macros is more important for body composition goals and tailoring nutritional needs to an individual in my opinion, if you want to build muscle you need sufficient protein, if you’re an endurance athlete you will require more carbohydrates ect.
Calorie Counting is when you have a prescribed calorie allotment and you simply hit that number.
How Do I track?
I use My Fitness Pal because it’s the easiest to use I think. I don’t use the calories they give you because they are usually very wrong, instead I input my own macros and calories and enter my food into it. I track strictly when I’m in prep for something, entering and weighing everything and I track loosely in a weight maintenance or surplus phase. This means I eyeball out portions instead of weighing everything, some days just track my protein to ensure I hit my target. Most importantly though even if you do track, it’s OK to not track for a day or even a week and just eat intuitively, only when your hungry and keep it sensible not a free for all. If I’m out for the day with friends or on an overnight trip, I don’t track, I eat what I want and keep it in moderation but no numbers are required. Don’t be the one to turn down a birthday dinner because it’s not nandos so you can’t enter it onto MyFitnessPal, you can still live your life.
I hope this has helped you understand tracking, macro counting and why it can be a useful tool as well as why it is and isn’t always nesassary. Any questions feel free to comment, contact me or get in touch via social media.