Should you track your macros? Tracking what foods and caloric drinks you ingest can have many benefits, especially for athletes wishing to improve performance or people wanting to lose weight, but it is also time-consuming and adds a level of complexity to your nutrition.
So, should you track your macros? Powerlifter Stefi Cohen offers her views on the topic.
Should you track your macros?
The answer depends on whether the lifestyle of tracking can be sustained in the long run. Some people love to track their macros, others not so much, and the vast majority falls in the middle.
There’s an approach to suit everyone.
If you choose to track, you can be flexible. Cohen goes over a handful of non-tracking and tracking options below and reminds everyone that complying to the guidelines of whatever diet and approach you’re following for around 80% of the time is good enough.
Generally, tracking macros will help you increase your awareness of portion sizes and nutrient content of different types of foods. With practice, after you’ve tracked for a while, making food choices that align with your goals will become relatively second nature.
While you won’t be aiming for specific number of calories or macros to hit, this approach does come with healthy eating guidelines.
- Include a serving of lean protein with every meal.
- Have 1-2 servings of fruits and veggies with every meal.
- Focus on eating complete meals and reduce snacking.
- As much as possible, consume wholesome, minimally processed foods.
- Increase your carbs around your workouts a little.
- Try to eat 3-6 meals per day based on your schedule and preferences.
While you don’t have to weight and track with this approach, is important that you follow the guidelines above to get your nutritional habits aligned with your goals.
Tracking protein and calories
This is an alternative for people comfortable tracking a few numbers throughout the day. This approach is slightly more hands on that the non-tracking method without being overwhelming.
It requires daily tracking of protein intake and overall calories consumed throughout the day.
As long as you meet your protein targets, you can choose which ratio of carbs and fats you’d like to eat on the day. This allows for increased flexibility.
If you choose this method, you should still follow the healthy eating habits mentioned above.
If you are willing to weight and record the majority of your food, this is the approach for you. This tracking method provides you with three very specific quantitative targets to meet daily for each macronutrient: carbs, fats, and protein.
Macronutrient targets are usually represented as percentages, which will require you to do some maths.
Read more: How to Calculate your Macros and Calories
This is a similar approach as the one described above, except that it offers some flexibility to people following it because it provides ranges within the specific macronutrients instead of specific numbers.
The magnitude of these ranges changes based on the goal and experience level of the one tracking.
This allows for a little bit of flexibility.
5 days on, 2 days off
This is a good approach for people who like to eat in a deficit during the week and get close to their maintenance calories on the weekends, such as people with full-time jobs who like to go out during the weekends.
Ultimately, this is a delicate balance of flexibility and structure.
You shouldn’t do whatever you with on the “2 days off” but make sure you still follow the healthy eating habits mentioned above.
Conclusion, should you track your macros
Choose an approach that you can stick to in the long term
If you do choose to track your macros, you will need a food scale, measuring cups and spoons, and an app or pen and paper. Remember that the accuracy of your app is only as good as the accuracy of your entries.