Stop Trying So Hard to Count Your Macros
by Teresa Trojanowski
I’d say that about an average of once per week, I get asked, “Can you help me calculate my macros?” As a person who has weighed and measured 90% of the food that has entered my body for the last 2 years, let me just tell you - I’m not hating on macro counting, or even suggesting that it doesn’t work. I’m just saying that it’s not STEP 1.
If you’re not familiar with “macro counting,” it means that you’re measuring how many grams of protein, carbohydrate and fat you’re eating each day. But what if you could see progress towards your goal by changing a few habits, rather than overhauling your life? If you didn’t have to bring a food scale to a restaurant, or bring your own meal when you’ve been invited over to someone else’s house for dinner… if you can make more sustainable changes and STILL REACH YOUR GOALS, why wouldn’t we try that first?
Whether you’re a person who’s looking to make body composition changes, or just feel healthier, my suggestion would be to stair-step in the following order:
STEP 1: Eat QUALITY foods.
STEP 2: Eat QUALITY foods + eat protein, carbs, and fat at each meal.
STEP 3: Eat QUALITY foods + eat protein, carbs, and fat at each meal + monitor QUANTITY of macronutrients through easy estimation techniques (like this Precision Nutrition infographic) .
If you’ve ever tried to dial in your nutrition (in any form), and either found the process overwhelming or given up completely before you reached your goal, often times it’s because we try to take on too much at once. Take it one habit at a time, and you’ll start to create changes that you can stick with long term. If you were eating cheeseburgers and ice cream for every meal, we don’t need to worry about macros - we need to develop some healthy eating habits first! And while those reading this may not necessarily be at the cheeseburger end of the spectrum, the concept can still apply.
If your goal is to achieve elite level fitness and compete at the CrossFit Games, then that’s an extreme goal that requires extreme measures - like weighing and measuring every bite of food. But for most of us… is it absolutely necessary? Probably not. Unless our goal is to weigh everything we eat for the rest of our lives, we still need to learn other techniques that are more sustainable (like those listed above).
If you’d like to start dialing in your nutrition, let me make the suggestion to start at the beginning. Quality first. Then estimate quantity. If you’re still not seeing the results that you want, start looking at some of your habits. How often are you eating meals out? Or having entire “cheat” days/weekends? How much sleep are you getting (inadequate sleep is a HUGE factor when it comes to weight regulation)? Put your energy into those things before you decide to take the final step of regularly weighing and measuring your food.
There’s a lot of different ways to achieve results, and different people are going to find success with different techniques for holding themselves accountable. Macro counting can be a great tool - especially if it’s used in the short term! But let’s consider going for the low hanging fruit first, rather than rushing straight to macro counting.