If you’re no stranger to the “health & fitness” world of the internet, it’s likely you’ve heard the terms “tracking macros”, "flexible dieting", or the infamous “IIFYM" (if it fits your macros).
But are you familiar with exactly what it means, and if it’s actually beneficial or not for YOU?
Here we discuss what macro-tracking is, its pros and cons, and other important insights such as who may enjoy it or who should avoid it altogether!
What is "Macro-Tracking"?
"Tracking macros" (or macronutrients) is a form of counting calories in which you track a personalized daily percentage of protein, carbs, and fat based on your age, weight, height, activity level, goals, and more.
It’s done by measuring each of the three macronutrients in grams and is typically logged using a tracking app such as MyFitnessPal or Chronometer.
Each gram of protein, carb, and fat equates to a specific number of calories:
1 gram of protein = 4 calories
1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories
1 gram of fat = 9 calories
With this, your personal macronutrient “split” equals your total daily calorie needs for your goal (caloric goals = deficit, maintenance, or surplus).
Pros & Cons of Tracking Macros
As with many dietary tools, tracking macronutrient intake has its pros and cons which should be carefully reviewed before considering its use in your health & wellness journey.
PRO's OF TRACKING MACROS
Effective for working towards specific nutrition/physique goals
Aids in monitoring intake of vitamins & minerals
Helpful when learning the macronutrient (protein, carb, fat) breakdown of food
Provides insight on how many calories your body needs daily for maintenance
CON's OF TRACKING MACROS
Unsustainable/unrealistic long-term approach for most
Tendency to view food as "numbers" rather than nutrients
Prone to ignoring the body's hunger and satiety cues
Possibility of fixation and/or disordered eating habits
Is Tracking Macros Right for YOU?
Well, that's entirely up to you, my friend!
To the average individual, tracking macros is often considered a tedious and totally unenjoyable task that's difficult to maintain long-term. However, tracking macros can prove to be a beneficial tool for certain individuals.
An example of someone who may find it beneficial to track macros would be those looking to gain a better understanding of the nutrient profile of food they currently eat. By tracking their macronutrient intake, they not only become more familiar with portion sizes but also learn their typical protein/carb/fat ratio so they can make any adjustments they see fit.
For these individuals, I typically recommend this "insight tracking" for only 1-2 weeks.
Another example of someone who may find it beneficial to track macros would be those with specific nutrition or physique goals, such as building a significant amount of muscle. By tracking their intake, they can ensure they eat a sufficient amount of each macronutrient, (such as protein which is required for muscle growth/repair) to help reach their goals.
With that said, tracking macros is something that shouldn't be relied on indefinitely and is more safely recommended as a short-term tool. Even so, many will often find that having even just a brief experience with it helps them better understand their macronutrient needs!
Who SHOULD NOT Track Macros?
Something extremely important to note about this technique is that there are certain individuals who should AVOID macronutrient tracking altogether.
Examples of these individuals include those with current/past disordered eating habits and those who may become obsessed or stressed with the process.
If macro-tracking is something you choose to implement at any point in your journey, it's imperative to work with a source you trust to accurately calculate your energy needs to prevent malnourishment.
Remember, no matter what the dietary goal — proper NOURISHMENT is the top priority!