I’ve been lying.
There, I said it. Now you know.
I’ve been lying to myself for months and it’s time to come clean.
To put it simply, I’ve been eating more and more foods that are not supporting my health goals and I’m starting to gain fat. In other words, the nightly bowl of Lucky Charms needs to stop.
Notice I didn’t say I’ve been eating too much “bad food”? I try not to classify my food as either good or bad. Food is neither bad nor good. Food has no morality. Food just is.
But different foods can either bring you closer or move you farther from your goal, whether that’s to lose fat, gain muscle, or fuel a marathon.
So for the next few weeks I’ll be tracking my macros to help me dial in my eating and pay closer attention to what I’m putting on my plate.
What Are Macros, and How Are They Different from Calories?
Macros, short for macronutrients, are the three types of nutrients we all need in large amounts every day – proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. All food is made of up one or more macros. Calories, on the other hand, measure the energy in each of these macros. Counting calories doesn’t give you the whole picture though; that’s where macros give you a lot more information.
Using the MyFitnessPal app, I’ve set my daily calorie goal based on my current level of activity and my three macro amounts (e.g. 40% protein, 40% carbs, 20% fats). Each day, I track every meal and snack, which only takes a few minutes. The app does all the work for me, telling me how many grams of each macro I’ve consumed.
At each meal I aim to keep my ratios balanced, not only to meet my goals, but also because eating all three macros at every meal and snack keeps me feeling satisfied (fat), full for longer (protein), and full of energy (carbs).
Tracking your meals for a few days or weeks, whether using an app or simply (and honestly) jotting down everything you consume is really eye opening and helps you see some of the problem areas in your own diet, i.e. it forces you to see the truth. You probably think that spoonful of peanut butter or that little bowl of Lucky Charms (I love them, what can I say) isn’t doing much damage, right? But you might be surprised.
Those little nibbles here and there can quickly add up, and keep you from eating food your body needs. After just a few days of tracking, I can already see where I have been slipping in way too many little snacks and not consuming enough vegetables or protein. More closely monitoring what I’m eating reminds me what a balanced, healthy day looks like when I’m trying to achieve my goals.
I won’t go further into the science of calories, macros, and fat loss — I am no nutritionist. For more information, you can read this brief article on counting calories vs. counting macros or this detailed piece on whether macro counting is for you.
Tips and Tricks
If you do decide to try counting your macros, here are a few things I recommend based on my past experiences:
- Use macro counting as a guideline, not a strict rule book (unless you’re entering a physique competition, then good luck to you).
- Plan your meals out in advance, if you can, so you don’t find yourself at the end of the day with 53g of protein left to eat and nothing else. Nobody needs that many egg whites.
- Don’t obsess over the numbers. If you go over or under a little, it’s not the end of the world.
- Don’t pass up that lunch with your friend from out of town or a slice of cake on your son’s 1st birthday just because you aren’t sure there’s room in your macros. It’s just a guide and life is short – EAT THE CAKE.
- Don’t feel guilty about that lunch or that cake. Just don’t.
- Better yet, if you know there’s a special meal or treat coming up, plan ahead and track its macros. Enter that slice of cake in your app, adjust the rest of your day around it, and really enjoy that cake.
- Do listen to your body and adjust your calories and macros if you need more food, especially if you’re very active.
- Don’t count macros for too long. Use it long enough to re-familiarize yourself with portion sizes and balanced meal preparation then go on and live your life. Come back to it later, if necessary. For most, counting macros at every meal for months or years on end is not a sustainable or balanced way to live.
- Finally, do your own research to find out what numbers and ratios work best for you and your goals.
Now you know the truth. I’m counting macros for the next few weeks and Lucky Charms are my weakness. What’s yours?