Why and How to Track Calories & Macros
First off, I would like to start by saying that you do not HAVE to track macros and calories to be fit and healthy. However, if you are someone who struggles to lose/ gain weight, or has specific fitness goals in mind, then I do suggest giving it a try.
Why Tracking your calories keeps you accountable and helps you to better portion your food intake. Seeing how many calories each food choice/ portion size contains is a real eye-opener. Often, you may not realize that your “little” snack is putting you over the edge into a caloric surplus! Or, on the other hand, if you’re trying to gain weight, and don’t understand why you are struggling to do so, then you may be surprised to see that you are not consuming as many calories as you think!
Tracking your macronutrients (carbs, fats, & protein) takes things a step further. While counting calories monitors quantity, tracking macros focuses on the quality of the foods you consume. It encourages you to make healthier food choices, ensuring that you consume the appropriate amount of carbs, fats, and protein. Consuming the correct and balanced amount of macros will better fuel your body to attain your physique goals. For example, if your goal is to lose fat, but you are not consuming enough protein, then you may end up losing muscle mass rather than fat mass. Moreover, if you do not eat enough carbs, you may feel fatigued and weak, while a lack of fats could result in hormone imbalances. Likewise, over-consuming any of these macronutrients will also have negative effects.
How There are several different apps designed for tracking calories and macros. I use and prefer the MyFitnessPal app. The free version allows you to count calories, while the full version tracks macros as well. Once into the app, you click on the “more” section, where you will then find the “goals” tab. Here, you insert specific details such as current weight, goal weight, activity level, and more. Once complete, the app will generate the approximate number of calories and macros needed to achieve your goals. After this is set up, you can start your tracking. The app makes it easy to track by having several foods already in its system, as well as a scanning option to scan foods that have a barcode. I also suggest getting a food scale, as it makes measuring your portions much easier and quicker to track.
Measuring Unknown Foods If you are eating out, eating a dish a friend made, etc. and are unsure of what all it contains or how to track it, then guesstimate. Do not stress that you don’t know the exact amount of everything in it. Just simply guesstimate, log it, and move on. An estimation is better than not tracking the food at all.
*DISCLAIMER* Tracking is NOT meant to create an unhealthy relationship with food, nor should it cause you to become neurotic with your eating habits. If you find yourself in this position, I urge you to take a break from tracking or stopping altogether and finding another method that works for you.
Although calorie counting and macro tracking can be done long term, it does not have to be a long term practice. After tracking for some time, you should have learned enough to be able to estimate the approximate calories and macros for the food you consume, thus knowing how much is appropriate for your body and your goals.