In most if our nutrition challenges, and with many of our clients, we teach how to track macronutrient (protein, carbohydrates, and dietary fat) intake, also known as counting macros. This is often considered an advanced nutritional strategy, reserved for people who have mastered basic protein and vegetable intake habits, and who are self motivated. We’ve found that our members are very self motivated, and are perfectly capable of tracking macros, at least in the short term. We make it clear that it’s not a sustainable long-term strategy for most people, and we try to help find ways to move away from it. Common alternatives include hand portioning, eyeballing, and using fractions of your dinner plate to estimate intake. If it’s a short-term activity, then why do we bother?
Tracking macros, especially if you go by food weight rather than volume, is, bar none, the most accurate way to track food intake. Yes, there is inaccuracy in nutrition labels, which means we’re still approximating intake. That makes hand portioning an approximation of an approximation. Weighing our intake gives us a better idea of what a quarter pound (4 oz.) burger patty really looks like. It makes it so that when we move on to other methods, our estimations are better. You cannot eyeball your intake if you don’t know how much of your plate is occupied by a cup of rice.
Why then, is macros tracking not sustainable? Because it can lead to orthorexia, which is an obsession over food intake. If you stress about hitting your macros dead-on every day, to the point that you can’t even go to a restaurant with friends or family, that’s not healthy. The other thing that can happen is called macro fatigue, where you just get sick and tired of tracking everything, or eating the same things over and over again.
How can we track and avoid these pitfalls? By loosening adherence a little bit. Focus on maintaining your daily caloric intake, and set a protein minimum of 0.8g per lb of bodyweight. If you’re in a fat loss phase, there’s a good chance your protein goal is above this. So, on a daily basis, hit your protein minimum, and stay within your caloric allotment. As for carbs and fat, play around according to taste. And, it can vary from day to day depending on what you’re craving. This way, you don’t have to obsess over pin point accuracy, and you can still enjoy food. It’s the best of all worlds. See you in the gym.