At Team LoCoFit, our job goes beyond coaching physique athletes and helping people achieve the body composition they’ve always wanted. It is our responsibility to make sure that the long-term physical health, mental health, and relationship with food of the client is not compromised. Through a flexible dieting approach, we help our clients find a sustainable way to maintain their ideal physique. Tracking macros is a great tool, however through my years of tracking macros and coaching clients I have learned that tracking macros can have a dark side if we are not careful. In this article, I’m going to discuss who should be tracking macros, who shouldn’t, and go over a few signs that show you may need to take a break from tracking.
Who Should Be Tracking Macros
Tracking macros is a great tool. It can be used as a way to successfully lose body fat and build muscle mass without having to cut out entire food groups or sacrifice the benefit of being able to eat a wide variety diet. If you are new to tracking your food entirely, knowing the macronutrient make up of foods you typically eat can be an exciting new learning experience. Tracking macros allows most beginners to acquire a new awareness of what they eat and can equip them to make better food choices. Tracking macros is likely most appropriate for the physique athlete who is trying to achieve a very specific body fat level while maintaining muscle mass. Making sure the athlete is eating enough protein and manipulating carbs and fats as needed is an important piece of the process for body building competitors who follow a flexible dieting approach. The same goes for high level performance athletes who need to make sure that they are getting in enough protein, carbs, and fats to maintain a high level of performance in both training and in competition.
Who Should Not Be Tracking Macros
You might have notice that none of the scenarios previously mentioned for who should be tracking macros included life-long situations. The goal for the beginner macro tracker would be to eventually have an overall greater awareness of food. The goal for the physique athlete would be to achieve a specific body composition after a sixteen to twenty-something week contest prep. The goal for the performance athlete would be to stay healthy enough to meet training demands throughout their athletic career. The dark side of tracking macros reveals itself when we are placed in a situation where we are faced with food outside of controlled environments such as social gatherings, family dinners, week-long vacations, etc. After tracking macros for so long, many people tend to forget how to just eat without having a macronutrient target to report to or depend on. Therefore, when they are placed in situations where they cannot know what the exact macronutrient breakdown is, they find themselves in 1 of 2 situations. Either those people experience severe anxiety around food, completely restricting themselves to participate OR they throw all self-restraint and limitation out of the window and binge eat. If you find yourself in either of these situations, then it is likely time for you to take a break and learn how to eat without the clutch of having a macronutrient target to hit.
Signs that you may need a break
We’ve covered who should and who should not be tracking macros. If you do not fall within the category of who should be tracking macros, I recommend assessing if you identify with the following bullet points.
You may need to stop tracking macros if:
- Not knowing the exact macronutrient breakdown of what you eat causes anxiety
- Now knowing the exact macronutrient breakdown of what you eat causes you to binge eat
- You do not have a sense of your hunger and satiety signals
- Always eat past fullness
- Are afraid to eat to satiety
- Are afraid to eat when you are hungry
- Purposely starve yourself earlier in the day to be able to stay within macro ranges later in the day
- You avoid social gatherings that include food to make sure you are hitting your macros perfectly
The End Goal
The end goal for all of our lifestyle clients is not to create a dependency on tracking macros to know how to feed themselves. The end goal for them is to be able to have tracking macros as a tool to keep in their back pocket whenever they need to lower body fat or focus on building muscle mass. Even then, they probably wouldn’t need to track every single day if they have an awareness of their food and tracking macros is great for building that awareness.
There’s also a difference in your mindset surrounding tracking. Having an awareness of what you’re eating is very important and it should be clear that ‘not tracking’ doesn’t mean ‘eat whatever you want.’ Tracking creates education on the right foods to eat that are high in protein and high in micronutrients, which should be the center of every meal you eat.
The end goal for all of our clients is to be able to easily maintain their healthy lifestyle without having to miss out on making those important life memories that can come with eating out with friends and family. Tracking macros should not be the thing that is taking away those experiences from your life.
We understand that at the end of the day, we all want to work to achieve a body we feel comfortable and confident in. However, I have seen over and over again that people cannot achieve and KEEP that physique without having the foundation of a healthy relationship with food first. If you constantly bounce between extremes of tracking down to the 0.001 gram or bust, then you’ll never find that happy sustainable medium. Use macros to learn how to feed your body with the right foods, but don’t depend on them forever. Be in tune with your hunger and satiety signals and then use your knowledge of food to respond to those signals.
At Team LoCoFit we care about the client’s relationship with food, and it is not something we are willing to sacrifice for tracking macros. Our approach is flexible in protocol. Not everyone is in the position to track macros all of the time, therefore we also find it necessary to coach sustainable and healthy lifestyle habits through a more behavioral approach. We will not feed into neuroses, and coach clients strictly through a macro tracking approach if it is clearly causing harm to their mental health and relationship with food. Instead we will push them to do the hard and necessary work. It is easy to always retreat to the comfort zone of relying on macros as a clutch to feed themselves, however if it is not in the best interest of the client’s overall health, it is not the best approach.