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  • HuskNutrition

How to Track Your Macros: Methods, Benefits, Disadvantages, and Trade-offs

Updated: Sep 16, 2023


Tracking your macronutrients is a method we use to allow full dietary flexibility with repeatable targets for our users to guarantee our advice is clearly communicated.

  1. For many people, they just want a body that they can manage and are happy with.

  2. Some people, really want to target and refine recovery.

  3. Few people, target precision detail with their body-fat percentages and athletic levels of performance.

So here’s the lowdown.

Macronutrients make up our calories.


Macronutrients (macros) are the three main nutrients that your body needs to function: carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

  • Protein has 4 k/cals per gram.

  • Carbohydrates have 4 k/cals per gram.

  • Fats have 9/cals per gram.

Alcohol and fibre are also included:

  • Alcohol has 7 k/cals per gram.

  • Fibre has 2 k/cals per gram.

For example, if we had an equal 500-calorie meal, there would be equal calories from the three main macronutrients.


166 calories would come from each macronutrient, which would be:

  • 41 g protein

  • 41 g carbohydrates

  • 18 g fat

A good general recommendation for fibre is to acquire 10% of energy per meal, for example, 5g per 500 calories.


By tracking your food and therefore your macros, you can ensure that you are getting the right amount of each nutrient to support your individual needs/outcomes.

There are a number of different methods for tracking macros.

Some people use apps such as Chronometer, MyFitnessPal, Nutracheck or Eat This Much, while others use hand portions or plate portions.


Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages.


Methods

Calorie tracking apps:

Apps are a popular way to track macros.

These apps allow you to scan barcodes, search for foods and track your food intake.

Some popular calorie-tracking apps include: MyFitnessPal, Cronometer, Eat This Much and Nutracheck.


Pros:

  • Widely used as it has a long heritage with a massive database of foods guaranteed to find your meal items.

  • Premium features such as barcode scanning make the app a breeze to use.

Cons:

  • The database of foods has been input by users so foods can be inaccurate.

  • Premium features cost per month and is where some of the unique benefits such as meal scanning (just a photo of the meal can provide calorie and macro information) and defining precise daily macro targets, get lost.


Pros

  • Very detailed app for tracking precise micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as macronutrient data with a free barcode scanner.

  • Pulls information from American food databases (USDA & NCCDB) for the most accurate data.

Cons

  • Seems difficult to navigate as all food goes into a large list with no meal occasion separators.

  • USA database uses American servings such as cups, tablespoons and ounces as opposed to grams and ml.



Pros

  • Generates meal plans based on your dietary goals and preferences.

  • Can be customised to fit your budget and lifestyle in an easy-to-use interface.

  • Includes a large database of recipes.

Cons:

  • Meal plans may not be suitable for everyone's dietary needs.

  • Some users have reported that the meal plans are not always accurate.


Pros:

  • Very accurate food database with a simple-to-use interface.

  • Includes a variety of features, such as meal planning, calorie tracking, and macronutrient tracking.

  • Free to use barcode scanner.

Cons:

  • Does not have as many features as some other calorie-tracking apps.

Trade-Off

Great if you want to eat any food you like and want to track your intake for repeatable targets. It acquires people’s goals in many ways and facilitates full food flexibility as opposed to “rules” and “methods”.

You might have to start and learn more about what’s in your food by looking at the food labels and learning more about the individual macronutrients.

New users to tracking - use Eat This Much and Nutracheck.

If you have experience and a highly targeted goal, use Chronometer or MyFitnessPal.

Hand portions:

Hand portions are a simple way to track macros without using an app.


This method involves using your hands to measure portion sizes of different foods.

For example, a serving of protein is about the size of your palm and a serving of carbohydrates and vegetables is about the size of your fist, a serving of fat is the size of your thumb.


This does mean that you need a list of foods to understand the foods, their food groups and their families.

For example here is a very short list:

Proteins

  • Fish: salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel

  • Lean meat: chicken, turkey, pork tenderloin, steak

  • Tofu

  • Eggs

  • Beans: black beans, kidney beans, lentils

Carbohydrates

  • Whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread, oats

  • Starchy vegetables: corn, potatoes, peas

  • Fruits: bananas, apples, oranges, berries

  • Yoghurts and milk

Fats

  • Unsaturated fats: olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds

  • Saturated fats: grass-fed butter, coconut oil

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: fish oil, walnuts, flaxseed

Non-starchy vegetables

  • Dark green vegetables: broccoli, spinach, kale

  • Other vegetables: raw carrots, tomatoes peppers, onions, cucumbers, celery, courgette, aubergine

It’s easy to do and you can adapt it to many situations.


Every meal consists of, as a minimum:

  • 1 palm-sized amount of protein

  • 1 fist-sized amount of carbohydrates

  • 1 thumb-sized portion of fat

  • 1 fist-sized amount of non-starchy vegetables

From there, you tailor your food and meals to your requirements.


Pros

  • Promotes very healthy eating using whole food, home cooking, preparing and eating regular meals.

  • Adaptable to many eating situations including travelling, buffets and meals out.

Cons

  • Works great if you enjoy whole foods but needs adapting if you want to incorporate snacks and some foods you enjoy.

  • Hard if you don’t enjoy cooking or don’t have access to store items.

  • Feels quite limiting as it’s tough to track things like crisps, chocolate you love or soups, stews and ready-made meals.

  • Needs planning ahead.

Trade-Off


It’s not highly detailed and accurate as macros and calories but it has simplicity.


Needs consistency (just like all methods) and a way of tracking your portions and intake daily.

Requires a lot of mindful eating, slowing down to eat and being more switched on to your internal hunger and fullness.

Plate portions:

Plate portions are another simple way to track macros.


This method involves dividing your plate into foods that belong to their families including protein, carbohydrates and fat.

Depending on your time of day, preference or goal, the plates are divided differently.

At most meals:

  • You fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables.

  • One-quarter of your plate with any protein.

Then the remaining quarter you can fill with:

  • Carbs only (bread, pasta, lentils, legumes, potatoes)

  • Fats only (avocado, cheeses, houmous, pate)

  • 50:50 carb and fat (potatoes with butter, bread with butter, pasta with pesto, beans with cheese, oats with peanut butter)

Post-workout

  • You fill half of your plate with starchy carbohydrates.

  • You fill half of your plate with protein.

We keep fat and fibrous veg very low to help the uptake of carbohydrates post-workout.

Trade-Off

Another really simple method that’s easy to do and follow. Plate or bowl, it’s easy enough to do.


Needs a lot of control and to be able to cook and prepare your own food.


Can get inaccurate when plates are larger/smaller.

Benefits of Knowing and Tracking Macros

There are a number of benefits to tracking macros.

Tracking macros can help you improve your health by helping you to make healthier food choices.

When you track your macros, you become more aware of the nutrients in your food, which can help you to make choices that are better for your overall health.

Tracking macros can help you to become more aware of your food choices.

This can help you to make healthier choices more often and to avoid unhealthy foods.

Disadvantages of Knowing and Tracking Macros

There are also a number of disadvantages to tracking macros.

The potential for obsession:

Tracking macros can be obsessive for some people. If you find yourself becoming obsessed with tracking your macros, it may be a sign that you need to take a break from tracking.

The time commitment:

Tracking macros can be time-consuming. If you don't have a lot of time or just aren’t willing to track your macros, it may not be the best method for you.

The cost of tracking apps:


Some calorie-tracking apps can be expensive. If you are on a budget, you may want to consider using a free app or hand portions instead.

Trade-offs


There are a number of factors to consider, such as your individual goals, your lifestyle, and your budget.


If you are considering tracking macros, it is important to weigh the benefits and disadvantages carefully and decide what is right for you.

Conclusion


Tracking macros can be a helpful tool for people who are trying to lose weight, improve their health, train hard or just simply to become more aware of their food choices.

However, it is important to be aware of the potential disadvantages of tracking macros before you decide if it is right for you.

If you are interested in tracking macros, there are a number of resources available to help you get started.


You can find calorie-tracking apps and we provide clients with Nutracheck and MyFitnessPal guides as well as hand portion guides too.

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