Is it Realistic to Count Macros Forever?

October 3, 2014

Okay, forever may sound a little exaggerated, but it’s the best way to get the point across. I could say “a really, really long time” and that would work too. But you get the point 😉

So. Macros. Yes, “iifym” has blown up in the fitness industry, and even not. Everyone wants to know how to get their numbers, they want to count their macros and feel the flexible dieting freedom that they might not have had when they were strict “clean eaters”. I think it is great that so many people are adopting a more flexible diet, and allowing themselves to eat things that they might have once deemed “off limits”. No food should be completely off limits, everything in moderation. At least that’s how I like to live.

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On my trip to California this past summer, I ate whatever I wanted, I didn’t count one macro, and I lived.

But when does it stop? Will you be waking up every morning and plugging in food into my fitness pal before you can start your day? Will you be out running errands and someone asks if you want to grab a bite to eat, and you have to find a place that can only fit your numbers? Will you be on an amazing trip around the world, I don’t know, traveling Europe or something, and whip out your food scale at the pizza place in Italy?

Honestly, that’s not how I would want to live the rest of my life. I personally think about when I have children.. I most likely would not want to have them grow up with their mom weighing out their broccoli just to eat it for dinner. That’s just me.

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I think counting macros is awesome, of course, since I personally count and weight everything right now. Yes, I do. And it might seem like I’m putting macro counting down as a terrible thing. It’s most definitely a great thing, but I believe it should be a stepping stone into intuitive eating. Listening to your body cues – eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full. Eating foods that make you FEEL your best and are best for your health, but also allowing yourself to be flexible and eating ice cream if you want to without counting the macros in them. I know, easier said than done.

There are a few instances where counting macros would be necessary:

  1. If you are prepping for a competition – I know some people can prep without counting and weighing everything. That is awesome, it’s most definitely not necessary. However, I’ve approached my prep in a way where I can still eat cereal, treats, and whatever I want every single day. For me, this means counting and weighing, and right now it is working great for me and keeping me sane without having such a rigid and strict meal plan.
  2. If you are reverse dieting – this is SO, so important, especially after a show. After dieting down for 12-16 weeks, or maybe even longer, your body is in a very vulnerable state. You don’t want to go from eating a little amount of calories to your “bulk” calories. Your body will put on that weight sooooo fast. You want to build up your metabolic capacity very slowly, and this usually means tracking the amount of carbs, proteins, and fats and slowly building up those carbs and fats to gain as little body fat as possible.
  3. If you have no idea how many calories/macros you are consuming and you aren’t reaching your goals – I always suggest that if you have a fitness goal, whether it is to lose fat, build muscle, etc. and you aren’t reaching your goals, you should track for at least a week or two to get an idea of portion sizes and how much you should be eating. If you can’t lose weight, the #1 reason is usually always that you are eating more than you think you are. Yes, it’s true. This happened to me before I started weighing things out. I was eating WAY more than I thought. You think you’re eating only a tbs of peanut butter? Put it on a scale and scoop out 16 g of nut butter. You’d be surprised at how little the amount is! It sounds meticulous, but it’s the most accurate way to get an idea of portion sizes. On the other hand, some people claim they are “hard gainers”. More often than not, this is because you are eating less than you think you are. Seems so simple, but until you really track what you are eating, you may never reach your ultimate goal.

Those are the top three instances where I think counting macros are necessary. Once you are done with your competition, done reverse dieting, or you have gotten an idea of portion sizes and how much you need to eat for your goals, you can most certainly maintain and continue to reach your goals eating intuitively. That’s called living life. Not everyone is hung up on numbers day in and day out, and you don’t have to be either.

I LOVE iifym, for so many reasons. It has helped me physically and mentally, and overcoming being stuck in the “I-can-only-eat-certain-clean-foods” mindset. But I’m mostly definitely going to transition into an intuitive approach once I’m done with my competition and reverse dieting. Because you CAN be flexible without counting every macro that goes into your mouth. I promise.

 

What are your thoughts?

How long have you been counting macros if you do right now?

 

24 Comments
    1. counting macros is most certainly a bit consuming but i agree it allows you to have what would be “cheat” food on clean eating diet in a regular day to day routine. I font it can also be all consuming and overwhelming at times. I had to quit counting macros on vacation because I was making myself miserable. I love the idea of intuitive eating. I think I need to combine the two. Thanks for sharing!!

      1. I actually don’t find it overwhelming thankfully, but I definitely don’t want to do it the rest of my life! It’s a great stepping stone to intuitive eating 🙂

    1. While I find counting macros or calories can be good for checking in when you have goals fitness or weight related, I don’t think it’s a healthy habit to have forever. That seems exhausting.

    1. we don’t count macros, more nutrients. But i totally think it depends on your goals, like you said. But also, you must let loose and live at times. ya know?

    1. I do think counting macros is a great ‘tool’ to guide someone who might be making a change to their diet – like when I was trying to make sure I was getting enough fat in, I did it for a while. But now I know roughly what I can eat to achieve the right ratios for me – so tracking becomes kind of pointless, and just makes me a bit obsessive. Plus, it means if I do want to deviate (hi there donut!) I can, and I don’t have the guilty feeling that my macro piechart will be off 😉

    1. Hi Brittany! Great to meet you! I stumbled on your blog from Ange’s link love today. I definitely do NOT count my macros. While I’m a trainer and group fitness instructor who keeps a fairly clean diet most of the time, I just do it by portions. I used MyFitnessPal for a while to check in on my macros for all my usual snacks and meals, and that gave me an idea of generally what was right. But that doesn’t mean I stay in those parameters AT ALL. Sometimes I’m good, sometimes I’m not. I felt a little stifled by tracking my food everyday and chose to stop, because I didn’t fall into the three categories you’ve mentioned above. Therefore, yes, I totally agree with you. It’s good to have a general idea, but you don’t want counting macros to be your crutch. Eat and live and enjoy food for goodness sake! 🙂 Hope you have an awesome Saturday.

      1. Hi Ashley!! Thanks so much for visiting my blog. I completely agree with you! Have a wonderful week!

    1. You’re making good points here. Being in recovery from an ED and not ever having competed in fitness I’m a little wary of the whole macro counting business. It usually seems way too strict to me. I had a brief encounter with CalorieCount and for me seeing the individual macro counts was too triggering. Right now I still roughly know my calories – such a hard habit to break – but don’t care about macros. Only in the sense that when I find myself never satisfied by what I’m eating I’ll try to see which macro I might be missing – and that usually works. I’m on my way to intuitive eating there.

      So long story short: I’m with you there in thinking that counting macros forever is neither realistic nor recommendable for an enjoyable life.

      1. Yes, exactly girl! For some people it just does not work!

    1. Hi Brittany,

      Thank you for this post! I’ve been counting macros for a few weeks now because I was always on a mission to gain weight (im 51kgs and want to get to around 55kgs) and would always wonder why I couldn’t put on weight. I was eating carbs, fats and protein at every meal but through macro counting I have learnt that to maintain my weight or reach my goal weight I certainly wasn’t eating enough.
      I used to also feel major guilt if I ate a cookie. And through macros and learning about the calories in food and what my body actually needs I have eased that guilt 🙂

      I want to stop tracking my macros now and just eat intuitively 🙂 and this post really helped me to feel like it is Okay to do that, and that I don’t have to give myself a ‘iifym’, ‘clean eating’ or ‘intuitive eating’ tag, We all just need to simply EAT 🙂

      All the best babes!!

      1. You are so very welcome! Intuitive eating is certainly the way to go after you have gotten the hang of macros. You can do it!! <3

    1. Hi Brittany!

      I am a little late to your page seeing as you posted this quite a while ago, however I found it very helpful regarding my current situation. I track my macros and have been for a couple months now, and I have seen great results. I am a student living a very routine-oriented lifestyle so it has been easy for me to stay on track. However, I am going on vacation in a week to an all inclusive resort in the south, and I am a little anxious about the whole idea. Essentially I am afraid of undoing the results I have worked hard to get. I read that you didn’t track macros on your vacation and “you lived” so I would love to know what are your thoughts? Should i just take a week off and eat sensibly or try my best to track in the south.

      Your response would be greatly appreciated 🙂
      Sarah

      1. Definitely just eat sensibly! I’m sure since you’ve been tracking, you know what portion sizes look like. Just be mindful, listen to your body, and enjoy yourself. You’ll be fine, I promise 🙂

    1. I got scared into macro couting a few days ago, and I began to think that that was the only way I could reach my goals. But after looking at all the work that goes into it, (finding the macro amount in each food, portioning your food just right so you hit your macro amounts) it just didn’t seem do able with my current lifestyle. I’m slightly scared now that If only do clean eating that I won’t be able to reach my goals.

      1. You absolutely can reach your goals without counting macros! You don’t even have to eat completely “clean”. Of course you want real, whole foods, but you can allow flexibility in your diet and NOT track macros at all and still reach your goals. Trust me! <3

        1. Thank you so much! 🙂 you don’t know how much better that made me feel!

          1. You are so welcome!!! You got this <3

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