Why Track Your Macros?
To this day, I believe that the single best thing for my health was learning how to track my macros. What does that even mean you ask? Tracking your macros means tracking what you eat and how much protein, dietary fat, and carbohydrates you take in each day. Now this doesn't mean having to track for the rest of your life but doing this for a single month will make you much more aware of what you are actually eating, and make you more aware of your eating habits.
What are 'Macros'?
Macros (Macronutrients) are what make up calories.
When it comes to diets and losing weight. Any diet that follows some form of caloric restriction for an extended period of time will work, i.e calories in versus calories out. That's the basic science of losing or gaining weight, but in order to change your body composition i.e. building muscle and losing fat the macronutrients which make up your calorie become far more important.
"Tracking your macros" isn't just another fad diet, it's not like the Atkins, Paleo, or Vegan diets that determine you can only eat X food and not Y. In fact, all of these diets are based on manipulating the macronutrients your body takes in each day. It's scienceRegardless of how you chose to eat you can still track your macronutrient intake.
In this post I'm going to teach you a practical guide to tracking your macros, with the basics and some tips and tricks.
Getting Started - The Essential Equipment
Get an app
Basically everyone has a smartphone these days, and there's an app for everything. To make tracking your macros easy, I recommend using an app like MyFitnessPal or Mike's Macros in order to track what you eat each day.
When you pick up food from the supermarket, you can flip it over to find the nutritional information and if you're using MyFitnessPal you can usually scan the item directly into the app and it will tell you the macros automatically (technology is great).
BEWARE OF SERVING SIZE - Most pre-packaged goods will almost always have multiple servings per container. A great example of this is a can of soda. These are obviously single use, but the nutritional information almost always lists it as two servings. Who in their right mind saves half a can of soda for later? It can trick many people into consuming more calories than they think.
However, I'm not suggesting that you sustain yourself on pre-made sandwiches and ready meals for the rest of your life.
Get a food scale
That's right, get a food scale. This is easily the greatest investment I've ever made. I bought one of Amazon several years ago and it's still going strong. In order to accurately track what you're putting into your body you should weigh and write down what you are eating. This is the only way to really understand what is going on. Combining this with an app basically gives you everything you need at your control to accurately track your macros.
Putting This Into Practice
So let's say you're going to make a grilled chicken sandwich with roasted potatoes and salad for dinner. How would you track the macros for this? All you would do is track each of the ingredients used to prepare your meal.
The literal "Meat and Potatoes"
- Weigh out how many potatoes you're going to cut up and roast, put that into your app.
- Weigh how much raw chicken breast your going to grill, put that into your app.
- Bread? Track one slice and multiply by the number you had.
- Cheese? Weigh out 1 portion which is usually 30g, and use that. If you want more, add more.
- And weigh any oil used to grill/roast the potatoes.
What about the salad, should I weigh how much I used?
As a general rule of thumb you don't need to track most non-starchy or non-root vegetables. Why? There's a couple of reasons to this:
- It's almost negligible how much it adds to the meal
- A cup of lettuce is like 7 calories, eating that isn't going to blow your macros for the day.
- It encourages you to fill up on green leafy vegetables
- If you can fit in as much of you want of a food into your diet which will help you stay full and satisfied for longer while helping your overall health, why wouldn't you have more veggies with every meal?
- It's very difficult to over-consume these foods
- Have you actually tried consuming 200 calories worth of lettuce/celery/spinach? It's hard, and you're probably not going to want to eat for a few hours afterwards.
So if you're using one of those pre-made salad bags or you just cut up a bunch of lettuce and spinach? Go nuts. Adding salad dressing? Definitely track that. Salad dressings are usually cream or oil based which contains fat. Typically this how a simple salad at a restaurant can net you easily somewhere between 1000 - 2000 calories if you are not careful.
This may be a little odd a first but you quickly get used to it and it is hands down the easiest way to make progress towards your body composition goals. I'm not suggesting that you track forever but just doing it for even a month will give you a much better idea of what you enjoy and what fills you up.
Do you have any go-to's for your diet? Comment them below!