Going out to eat can be tricky when you’re tracking macros. It’s hard to tell exactly how much of what you’re eating. You don’t know what secret ingredients are hidden those meals. Sometimes, you also just want to relax and not have the stress about worrying about whether you’re hitting those macros 100% of the time.
Should you count your macros?
Should you not?
It depends…as always!
When you SHOULD count macros [when dining out]:
If you are a person who is prepping for a competition or a show
If you’re currently in a cut
If you eat out more than 3-4x/week
If you’re only consistent to your macros <60% of the time
When you should NOT count macros:
If it’s a rare occasion
If your goal is to build a sustainable diet
If you’re celebrating a big event
If you’re 80-90% consistently hitting your macros
Now, it’s important to note that this isn’t always the case…just times where it is MOST likely appropriate to track and count macros.
Whether or not you’ve decided to count your macros when eating out, there’s a few key steps to follow during the day leading up to your night out:
Whether you’re going to the gym, out for a run, or simply going for a 20-30 minute walk, get the blood flowing at least 20 minutes during the day.
Choose nutrient-dense foods
Your meals during the day until you go out should be mostly protein and veggies. This will 1. conserve a ton more fats and carbs for later in the day when you’re going out to eat and 2. ensure that you’re getting in all the essential micronutrients you need that day. Protein and veggies are usually the smaller portions of meals when going out to eat, so eat them earlier in the day when you can prepare them, so you don’t have to worry as much about them when you’re going out to eat.
Reduce the number of meals
This is a great calorie- and macro-saving technique for you to use. This will save you more fats and carbs for that later—and bigger—meal. Usually, we go out to eat on days that are not in the typical schedule, most often on weekends. This strategy of reducing the number of meals often times makes your day flow a lot better and gives you more time to spend outside with friends and/or family.
Your approach to dining out is going to vary based on whether you’re tracking or not tracking that meal.
1. Plan ahead of time. Figure out where you’re going and look up the menu ahead of time. Decide then (when you’re not as hungry or swayed by other people’s orders) what you’re going to order.
2. Choose trackable meals. Choose something that is deconstructable, meaning it has a protein, carb, and veggie.
3. Some restaurants will have logs already inputted. This isn’t often the case, so you’ll need to use your best judgment when choosing a selection. Choose the selection that seems most representable. If you’re ordering fish, potatoes, and broccoli, and you’re choosing between potato selections that are 200 cals, 230 cals, 400 cals, and 100 cals, then likely that 200-230 cal option is most accurate.
4. Always add 1 serving of fats by just logging 1-2tbsp of olive oil or some other oil. Restaurants sneak in a LOT of butter and oils because that’s what makes food taste so good.
5. Limit alcohol to one drink…if that!
6. Plan the rest of your day around that meal to ensure you’re still hitting your macros.
When NOT tracking:
80-90% of the time when you go out, follow the above guideline.
1. Plan ahead of time and decide what you’re ordering.
2. Choose easily trackable meals with a protein, carb, and veggie.
3. Exercise that day.
4. Reduce the number of meals to 2-3 before going out.
5. Eat mostly veggies and protein in those earlier meals.
6. Limit alcohol to a max of 3 drinks.
When out for a rare occasion or an occasional time where you just want to enjoy life and let loose a little bit, then do it. Still exercise that day, reduce the number of meals, and eat protein and veggies in the hours leading up to dinner. If you’re like me and you LOVE food, look up the menu just to get excited for what you’re going to eat. Then above all, just enjoy it.
There’s a time and a place to track your intake. When in the depths of a cut or when prepping for a competition where you NEED to be 100% on point with your intake, then yes you’re going to want to track when eating out. However, that’s only maybe 1% of the population. Most of you are simply wanting to eat to live and to find the lifestyle diet that works for you. Not every meal can or should be a free-for-all. That’s why I’ve detailed the approach I use when going out to eat…but I make sure that at least 1-2x/month, I let guards down and I just enjoy the day that comes and the food that comes with it.