If you’ve never tracked your food intake before, let alone tracked macros, it may seem pretty intimidating.
We get it. There are certain people out there who think people who track their macros, log their food, and count calories are “crazy,” or “restrictive,” or even “obsessive.”
And while tracking definitely isn’t for everyone and there are some people who it would not serve…
There is a ton of validity to the “madness” that is tracking.
Tracking gives us structure. It creates the awareness & education that many of us lack when it comes to how much food & what our food is comprised of day-to-day.
Tracking macros also gives us the opportunity to learn how to remain flexible in our nutrition & learn to include “fun foods” in moderation without restriction, unlike many other “diets.” This is why macros tend to be so popular & why many people gain a better relationship with food while tracking macros.
We crave structure in so many other aspects of our lives. There’s structure in our households, in our jobs, in our routines, in our finances, so why shouldn’t there be structure in our nutrition & eating habits?
I mean think about it. If we didn’t structure and monitor our finances to make sure we had more money coming in than going out, we’d be broke. We couldn’t make house payments, couldn’t pay off student loans, couldn’t save up for the vacation we’ve been wanting to take, so we recognize it’s important to be aware of what’s going on within our bank account.
It’s not that we need to be obsessed with how much money is going in vs. going out, but more so about building the awareness & creating the structure around our finances that is key to obtaining financial freedom.
The same goes for tracking your food intake. Tracking macros works a lot like a budget. Until we can actually see what & how much we ate on any given day laid out in front of us on paper/in an app, we don’t really know what we consumed unless we have the education & freedom tracking gives us under our tool belt.
Although we do advocate for & love to get our clients tracking macros, not every incoming Clar-e-ty client we get needs or will succeed with a full macro prescription right off the bat.
For instance, we might get someone coming to us that has never tracked their food before, has no idea what a carb, fat, or protein looks like, eats out more than twice per day, doesn’t exercise, & eats little to no fruits/veggies.
Giving this new client a full macro prescription isn’t going to serve them with where they’re currently at on their health & wellness journey. Nor do they need to track macros to achieve results with where they’re currently at. In fact, there are multiple steps we would take with this client that would be much more attainable for them & make tracking macros easier for them down the road if that’s the route they want to pursue.
So maybe you’re bought into the macro tracking process but are still unsure where to start.
Or maybe you’ve heard of macros before & find it overwhelming how to figure out how many grams of carbs, fats, & protein you need to consume daily.
Well, today’s blog post is going to dive into 5 steps you can take that lead all the way up to tracking macros. We’re going to teach you how to get to macros if that’s something you’re interested in learning how to do in an easy, user-friendly way.
The key is to start small, master each step, & then gradually move on to the next.
Step 1 Tracking portions
If you’ve never tracked your intake before and don’t know what carbs, fats, & protein are, this might be an excellent jumping-off point for you! In the example provided above, a portions-based plan is probably where we would start this client off here at Clar-e-ty.
Now when I say track portions, I mean tracking portions of carbs, fats, protein, & veggies you’re consuming per day. You can do this via a hand-written food log, in a word document, or an excel spreadsheet.
Exact portions will vary from person to person, but generally speaking, most moderately active men need 6-8 palm-sized servings of protein, 6-8 fists of veggies, 6-8 cupped hand-sized servings of carbs, & 6-8 thumb-sized servings of fats. Most moderately active women need 4-6 palm-sized servings of protein, 4-6 fists of veggies, 4-6 cupped hand-sized servings of carbs, & 4-6 thumb-sized servings of fats.
Examples of protein-rich foods include: beef, chicken, eggs, bison, pork, fish/shellfish, dairy (Greek yogurt, milk, cheese), beans/legumes, protein powder (whey, casein, plant-based).
Examples of carb-rich foods include: ALL fruits & veggies, potatoes, rice, quinoa, bread, pasta, oats, cereal, crackers, beans/legumes, pretzels, tortillas, honey, maple syrup, juice, baked goods.
Examples of fat-rich foods include: Egg yolks, avocado, wild-caught fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, etc.), nuts and seeds, dark chocolate, cold-pressed oils (sunflower, sesame, & flaxseed), olive oil, coconut oil, full-fat dairy, baked goods.
Tracking or logging your meals this way when you first start out will teach you how most of your meals should be structured, educate you on what the three macronutrients are, & lay the foundation for portion control in your diet based on your needs.
Step 2 Tracking in an app
Once you master hitting your target portions, the next step to tracking macros for you might be using a tracking app to log your food intake.
Now that you have a general idea of what your food is comprised of and what your portions for each meal might look like throughout the day, logging in a tracking app will give you a better breakdown of your total daily caloric intake & a more detailed macro breakdown of your food.
The key here is to still hit target portions but to just be aware & notice what your total calories and grams of protein, carbs, & fat end up being without setting specific macro or calorie targets yet.
Once you get comfortable tracking in an app, we can then start getting into the nitty-gritty!
Step 3 Track protein + grams of fruit/veggies
Now that you’ve gotten used to what your portions should look like & know what you consume daily looks like laid out on paper, you’re ready to start tackling hitting a protein target & grams of fruits/veggies.
At this point, you might feel confident knowing how to structure most of your meals, but to get specific results, you might find it helpful to get into macros by just tracking a protein target + grams of fruits/veggies.
The reason we also like to include tracking grams of fruits/veggies in there is that even with macros & the flexibility tracking macros brings, we don’t want to throw food quality out the door.
Tracking grams of fruits + veggies, as well as having a specific protein target is also a more inviting way to start weighing & measuring your food more accurately. This way you’re not putting everything you eat on a scale or using measuring cups for each part of your meal, but just putting your protein & fruit/veggie sources on the scale to once again bring awareness to measuring out what your portions should look like.
Up until this point, you’ve just been “eyeballing” your food intake using hand-sized portions which is helpful & inviting in the beginning, but “eyeballing” can lead to over & underestimating.
An example I always like to use is weighing out a serving of peanut butter vs. eyeballing it. Chances are your eyeballed serving of peanut butter is more like 2 to 3 servings which over the course of a day, can add up to a large difference in how much you think you’re eating vs. how much you’re actually eating.
I like to tell clients that are on the fence about weighing & measuring their food that since they’re taking the time to track their food, they should feel empowered to weigh & measure as well. It’s important to learn what two tbsps of peanut butter looks like, what 5oz of salmon looks like, what 130g of banana actually looks like so that when they are eating out at a restaurant, or eating at a dinner party and they do need to eyeball their portions, their portions will be much more accurate than before.
Step 4 Track calories, protein, + grams of fruits/veggies
Now that we’re getting close to having all the ends & outs of tracking as tools under our belt, we can then get into a specific calorie target.
Having a specific calorie target is crucial for knowing whether you’re eating in a caloric deficit, you’re eating at maintenance, or you’re eating in a surplus. Although the steps laid out above will get you results to a certain extent, specific goals will require specific tracking later on down the road.
It’s important to notice throughout this step where your carbs & fats typically end up for the day even though the focus is still on total calories, protein, & grams of fruits + veggies. Although carbs + fats aren’t as important as tracking overall calories, protein, & food quality, they will make a difference in the long run for increasing performance inside & outside the gym, your overall mood, sleep quality, hormone production, etc.
Step 5 Tracking a full macro prescription
Now that you’re consistently hitting a calorie target, a protein target range, & grams of fruits + veggies, you’re ready to graduate to a full macro prescription!
At this point, you’re probably confident & have all the tools + skills needed to hit a full macro prescription or target ranges for protein, carbs, & fats.
It’s important to note here that although you might not be tracking grams of fruits + veggies in this step, it doesn’t mean they aren’t still important to include at most meals.
Each step builds off one another. What you learn in step 1 is going to help set you up for success in steps 2, 3, 4, & 5.
The amount of time you spend at each step will also vary from person to person and depend on how comfortable you are moving forward to the next step.
And some of you may never want to or even get all the results you need from just step 1 or steps 1-3 and that’s totally fine! Some people never need to get into a full macro prescription to achieve their health & wellness goals, but many do learn to love the process and find food freedom in doing so.
The goal of tracking is never to do it forever. Our goal at Clar-e-ty is to set our clients up with the tools they need so that once they’re ready to venture out on their own, they never need to track again unless they really want to.
Many people find an improved relationship with food, biofeedback, and all aspect of their life through tracking & working with a Clar-e-ty Coach. They learn how to go about the rest of their lives intuitively eating and using the skills they learn with us to guide them along their nutrition & wellness journey.
Others find comfort in tracking their food every once in a while, or during certain seasons of their lives as long as it doesn’t interfere with holidays, special events, or their relationships.
Hopefully, after reading this blog, you feel ready to tackle macros or any of the other steps leading up to macros.
Tracking macros shouldn’t feel overwhelming and if it does, you might just need to dial it back a few notches & start smaller to work your way up to a full macro prescription.
It’s all about figuring out what strategy works best for you & taking things at YOUR pace.
This is why there’s so much value in working with a Clar-e-ty Coach.
We’ve taken clients from step 1 all the way to step 5 (& even beyond) & prepared them for each step in an approachable & inviting way.
We want to meet you where you’re at and help you achieve your goals no matter what step you feel like you’re ready to tackle.
If you’re looking for some support or want to learn how to track more in-depth, you can head to the link below & sign up for one-on-one coaching today!
Resources and Coaching:
Online Coaching here.
[Free] Nutrition Guide here.
Recipe & Macro Guide here.