While this article will cover untracked meals and their benefits in manifesting a healthy lifestyle, we want to clear the air by saying that tracking macros is not the devil. We are not saying to not track ever track macros as they can be a great tool when it comes to trying to achieve very specific body composition. Accumulating quantitative data week to week on how your caloric intake and expenditure affect your fat loss, is a very logical and practical way to go about achieving the look you want for the bodybuilding stage, that beach vacation you have planned, shredding for your wedding, etc.
But there is a dark side to tracking macros. After weighing your food down to gram for a while, we often see clients having to rely on that to make any sort of dietary decision. Tracking macros is a powerful tool, but if you cannot independently make good food choices without relying on your tracking app or your food scale, do you really know how to make healthy choices? What do your food choices look like without the reigns of a macronutrient target? Do you go straight for the things you wouldn’t dare knowing the fat, carb, and sugar content? Or do you still go for the nutrient dense, whole foods? If you didn’t have macronutrient targets to adhere to every week, would you know how to eat?
Instead of being a slave to three numbers, thinking in terms of structured flexibility is exactly how we try to encourage our clients who need untracked meals to view this opportunity. Building the right habits without the clutch of a food scale is important for living a healthy lifestyle. Learning to balance treats in moderation but also choosing to nourish your body with the micronutrients it needs will set you up for lifelong success.
Untracked meals can serve as both a relief and a challenge. Often times, when clients report elevated food focus (and aren’t dieting for a show) it’s because they are constantly trying to figure out algorithms on how to hit every target within +/- 1g. Adding in an opportunity to enjoy a meal to satiety can help relieve that stress and food focused feeling. Initially, however, many people struggle with knowing how to have that new freedom with food and how to implement an untracked meal without completely blowing it out.
Whenever I recommend untracked meals to my clients, I typically encourage them to have something they wouldn’t normally track but to make sure that it doesn’t spiral into a full on binge that leaves you feeling worse than when you did when you were tracking everything down to the gram. This is why choosing to eat out can be really helpful in the beginning when you’re adding in untracked meals. Enjoy your dinner out instead of being surrounded by all the food in your pantry.
Untracked meals or days do not mean you completely negate all healthy habits you’ve ever established with food. It’s far, far from that. The point is to be able to still engage in those healthy habits without opening up a tracking app or using a food scale. You can choose to eat the same exact foods in roughly the same portions without tracking for a day, or even a meal to start. One of the benefits of tracking is that you learn what macronutrient components your food is made of; what is high in carbs, lower in fat, etc. With that knowledge, you can still use your best judgement to eat like a person who cares about their health and physique while also having some more flexibility. Never confuse “untracked” with “eat like an asshole.”
Everything should be seen on a continuum. When someone is just starting out, simply tracking a few key habits is the best place to start. Next you’ll want to get a bit more specific and start tracking. Tracking is the best tool to get the most consistent results, period. But at some point, if you can’t see past those three numbers, that is the problem. Being able to have fully untracked meals and days can be an absolute game changer once a client fully understands what is in the food they’re eating and the portions they’re consuming.
These habits don’t get built overnight. This is a process that takes time but if you’re invested in yourself, you’ll be willing to put in the work.
Written By Team LoCoFit Coach Karina Noboa