Tracking calories & macros – Is it necessary?

When trying to improve your body composition and achieve a better body shape (i.e losing fat and building muscle) it is absolutely necessary to be aware of how much you eat and where those calories come from.

People often think that they eat healthy, but many times they under- or overestimate the amount of calories they consume, and have no idea about the macronutrient ratio of their intake. Just because something is healthy, it doesn’t mean that we can eat as much of it as we want. Too much of the good staff can also cause weight gain. For instance, almonds are very good for you, but they are also very calorie dense, therefore eating an entire packet (can be easily done) can really pile up your coverall calorie intake. Same with things like dried fruits and honey. They certainly have a place in a healthy diet, but with an intelligent approach and portion control, which brings me to my point of weighing and tracking your food intake.

Tracking macros is always an eye-opener for people, because they realize where they have gone wrong with their diet, and why they have been struggling to lose fat and/or build muscle. Also, when you keep a food journal and know exactly how much you’re eating, it makes it easier to break through a plateau. You can just look back on your journal and make small adjustments to your current diet, perhaps reducing your carb intake a little bit or start carb cycling…etc. How would you know what to change, if you have nothing to look back on and have no idea how much you have been eating? Using a calorie/macro counting app such as My Fitness Pal, is a great way to learn more about food, portion sizes, nutritional and macronutrient content.

So what are macros?

In case you don’t know, macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates and fats. They all have different effect on the body, metabolized and utilized differently. Protein is responsible for muscle growth and maintaining lean mass. 1g of protein has got 4 calories.

Carbohydrates and fats are the body’s main fuel sources and provide energy for your workouts, every day activities, brain and organ function. Healthy fats are also important for optimal hormonal functions and healthy joints, hair, nails…etc. 1g of carb contains 4 kcal and 1g of fat has got 9kcal! The ratio of these macronutrients in your diet can determine what the outcome of your training is going to be and whether you are losing fat and building muscle or the opposite, gaining fat.

Calories in and calories out

When it comes to achieving a lean and toned body, it is not as simple as calories in and calories out. Macros are much more important than calories. A 1800kcal diet based on 50% carbs/sugars 40% fats and 10% protein will result in a totally different outcome than a more balanced 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat approach. Both diets have the same calories but due to the different macronutrient ratio they will produce different body composition results. The first option is NOT going to help you build lean tissue and burn fat, however the second one likely will. Same calories but different results!

You can’t out train your fork

Going to the gym alone without following a smart, tailored nutrition plan calculated to your goals, will make it very difficult, if not impossible, for you to change your body. You might lose weight by restricting calories, but the question is; do you actually look better and have muscle tone, or are you just a smaller version of yourself without having any shape to your body? Nutrition is 80% of the battle and your results will depend on what you put in your mouth.

People usually find the thought of tracking their macros overwhelming at first. Planning what you are going to eat and weighing everything takes time and effort, but only at the beginning. After doing it for a couple weeks, it does get a lot easier and quicker.

Do I have to track my food forever in order to stay in shape?

No, you don’t! After having tracked your food for months or longer, you will have a better understanding of how much, and what type of food your body requires to maintain a healthy body weight. You will learn how to put balanced meals together and get good at eyeballing the portions. I always tell my clients to think of tracking as an educational journey. It is so important to learn more about nutrition in today’s obesity crises. Knowledge is power!

I personally go through phases when I track my food, especially if I want to get in exceptional shape for a competition, photoshoot or a holiday, and there are times when I eat intuitively and still able to maintain a decent shape. However, it took me years of tracking and educating myself on nutrition to learn what works best for my body.

I hope you found this article helpful. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch, I am always happy to help.

Speak soon! 🙂

Kitti