Macro tracking – what is it and should you be doing it?

If you follow fitness and train then you’ve probably come across the term macro tracking, like many fitness and nutrition terms it sounds more complicated then it is. To help we’ve explained simply, what it is and how you can implement it to reach your fitness goals!

The basics

Macros refer to how many grams of carbohydrates, fat and protein you consumer, usually on a daily basis. Foods are categorized into these three groups, for example, chicken is protein, olive oil is a fat and sweet potato is a carb. Your lifestyle, weight and basic metabolic rate*, how often you train and what type of training you do will depict what macros you should be following. For example, an effective macro diet if you want to lose weight, is to eat a low amount of carbs and fat and a high amount of protein. As previously mentioned, macros are measured in grams, so that could be 120g of protein, 80g of carbs and 40g of fat per day (this is just an example!).

*Basic metabolic rate – how many calories you burn per day

Nutrition and training is an incredibly individual thing, so what might work for Bob in the gym, might not work for you. It’s important to do your research or enlist the help of a nutritionist/specialist before you start any sort of diet or macro tracking. Macro tracking is used widely by fitness professionals and athletes and has proven effective, so it’s definitely worth a try, what do you have to lose?

The Pros

Tracking your macros allows you to know exactly what you are eating. This might seem silly because everyone should know what they are eating, but we’re in a culture today where food is all about convenience and is pumped full of extras that you’re unaware of. By tracking your macros you will become more knowledgeable about food and have more control over what you consume.

So, macro tracking will educate you on what is good for you and what isn’t, we are what we eat right? This can only have a positive impact on your life. Many macro trackers will train smarter because they are eating smarter, and generally lead a healthier lifestyle. An increased awareness of nutrition will help with portion control, understanding food labels, recognising when you should eat certain foods and obtaining a balanced diet. Basically macro tracking with help you change your whole lifestyle and attitude towards food for the better.

There’s nothing more demoralising then training hard 5 days a week and not seeing results because your nutrition isn’t on point. To get truly great results, a holistic approach is needed, where you consider nutrition and training as one thing – ‘you can’t out train a bad diet’! Macro tracking will support your training programme and help you achieve optimum results. For example if you want to get stronger, lift heavier weights and build muscle mass, you’re going to need to up your protein and carbohydrate in take, if you know your macros and what you’re eating, it’s as simple as increasing a portion size of rice and turkey and voila!

The cons

The main con of macro tracking is that it can lead to eating disorders and an unhealthy relationship with food. This of course is extreme and not the case for the majority of people who macro track, but it can happen. Macro tracking needs you to be strict and very aware of what you eat, which consequently can lead to an obsession with what you eat, sometimes knowing too much and having too much control over food can be destructive. If you have an obsessive personality or a history of eating disorders, macro tracking may not be suitable.

Macro tracking goes hand in hand with calorie counting, or reaching a certain calorie intake. For those who want to increase their muscle mass, eating enough calories is paramount. Therefore some might go down the route of ‘quantity vs quality’ to ensure they’re reaching their calorie target, which can lead to choosing foods purely for their macro-nutrient and calorie value as opposed to its nutrition value. For example fried chicken will be high in calories and protein, but also high in saturated fat, which we all no has adverse effects on health if eaten regularly.

Another con is that it can be stressful to be conscious of what you’re eating and calculating how much of certain foods you should eat. This takes time and effort, you have to weigh food and usually use a food tracking app, like My Fitness Pal, to log what you’re eating and work out the nutrition value of foods. Most macro trackers will also meal prep to make sure they’re always prepared, again this takes time.

Is it right for you?

This is completely up to you! Macro tracking is an effective method to help you reach your fitness goals, however if you don’t want to put in the time and effort to do it properly, it may be pointless. For optimum success, macro tracking should be implemented for long term effect, there’s no much point in doing it for a few weeks, because it takes a lifestyle change not just a little change here and there. However the knowledge it will give you on food and nutrition will be invaluable. If you’re unsure, try it for 3 months, and see how you get on! Again, what do you have to lose?