Whether you’re new to macro tracking or have been at it for a while, you’ve likely thought to yourself, “do I need to track macros to lose weight?” or, “do I have to track macros forever?”
If you’re expecting a quick yes or no answer, you’re in the wrong place. And, if you’re tempted to find an article that does provide a black-and-white solution, it won’t get you far.
Why? Because everyone is different, the answer to this question will also be different depending on your body, current goals, preferences, and what season of life you’re in.
So, today we’re digging into a few things to consider when wondering if you need to track macros to lose weight so you can decide for yourself. And, if you need a little support, a WAG coach will take your unique situation into account and guide you in finding the nutrition approach that works best for your body, goals, and lifestyle.
Tracking Macros and Portion Sizes
At first glance, macros represent a few daily number-based goals you strive to hit. But, it goes far beyond that—diligently tracking macros is one of the fastest ways to learn what’s in your food and how that specific intake impacts your body.
Macros help you recognize portions and gain an understanding of what a balanced, nutrient-rich diet looks like for you. It also allows you to make confident decisions when you’re out of your routine or element. For example, if you need a higher protein, lower fat portion option at a restaurant, you know to look for grilled chicken, lean beef, or white fish. If you’re heading out for ice cream with your family, you can confidently order a scoop (vs. three!) and fit it into your targets for the day.
Spending time being diligent with your macros gives you invaluable tools to reference for the rest of your life. Even if you choose not to track macros forever, you will undoubtedly be able to make more informed choices once you’re tracking stint is over.
Tracking Macros vs. Calories
If you’re coming from calorie tracking, you’re probably wondering if tracking macros is the same as tracking calories and which is better. There are a few reasons tracking macros is different (and often, more effective) than tracking calories. Learn more here!
Why Keep Tracking Macros?
Flexible dieting is about finding the best way to manage your nutrition! So, before we discuss moving away from diligent tracking, it’s important to understand that there are plenty of reasons that you may choose to continue with what's working.
You enjoy tracking macros
For many, the daily routine of planning and logging food is a comfortable part of their day. In the same way, some people thrive off of using daily organizers to map out their day, some people like to do the same with their food.
You want to maintain a very lean physique year round
Maintaining a lean body fat percentage at all times takes a high level of accuracy. So, if that is important to you, tracking is likely going to be your best bet.
Your sport requires tracking macros
If you compete in a weight-specific sport, you may go through times when you can put macro tracking away, but if you have a competition coming up and need to be a certain weight by a certain time, tracking macros is an effective way to get your body where it needs to be for game day.
How to Maintain Progress Without Diligence
Many people use macro tracking to help them reach a specific goal, then prefer to put what they learn into practice while letting go of strict tracking.
So, if you’re currently tracking and feel called to move away from it, you’re not alone. And, if you’re wondering if you even want to get started tracking macros because it feels like a forever commitment, we promise, it isn’t. ;) At WAG Nutrition, we work with many clients who choose not to track or want to transition out of tracking. In these cases, we focus on other healthy habits and goals.
If you’re wondering how you can hold onto your hard-earned progress while letting go of strict tracking, we have a few tips.
Maintain Your Habits
Your food choices matter, whether or not they go into your food tracker. A common mistake is to stop tracking and resume old habits, which will quickly undo your hard-earned progress.
From there, keep your other healthy habits in place as well:
Get 7-8 hours of sleep
Drink at least 100oz of water per day
Stick with a regular exercise routine
Meal prep and make sure you have healthy foods available in your fridge
Stick with any self-care routines you have in place (walking, reading, journaling, etc…)
Ease Into It
Going from rigid tracking to no structure at all can be overwhelming, and you might feel a little ‘lost’ in terms of your nutrition.
If you want to move away from tracking, start with one untracked day per week and continue with your normal foods and portions. If you continue maintaining your weight and composition for a few weeks, add another untracked day until you intuitively eat seven days each week.
We recommend starting with a weekday vs. an untracked weekend day when it is tough to stick with a routine, and food temptations are generally higher. And, if jumping right to a free day feels like a stretch, start with one meal per day and build from there.
Focus on Meals, Not Macros
Before you call it quits with tracking, make sure that you have a true idea of what portions of protein, carbs, and fat look like. Rather than putting all your attention on your macro goals, aim to be able to build balanced meals and do away with mindless snacking.
How to Have the Best of Both Macro Tracking Worlds
Most things in life are cyclical, and your choice to track or not to track can be, too—it is not set in stone. We work with many clients who track during parts of their journey, take a step back when it makes sense for them, and come back to it when their goals change.
Here are a few times you may want to return to tracking:
Dialing in Consistency
Everyone will go through periods where making memories is more important than obsessing over macros. And, after those seasons, you may feel like you want to dial things in a bit more.
Maybe you had a once-in-a-lifetime trip prioritized diverse cuisine and experiences. Or, maybe you just scrambled through a busy life transition or have been a little looser than you would prefer. Jumping back to diligent tracking is the easiest way to rebuild accountability, tighten up body composition, or reset your balanced habits.
Learning What Your Body Needs Right Now
Your goals and body change over the course of your life. And, if you’ve spent some time away from tracking, you may not need the same macros now as you did last time around. So, coming back to tracking can help you nail down what intake you need to support your performance, body composition, and overall health goals based on your current needs.
Cutting Weight Without Stress
If you’re an athlete that sits comfortably a pound or two over your weight class, being able to save yourself stress and guesswork by tracking a month or two out from a meet ensures that you won’t have any last-minute surprises for weigh-ins while fuelling your body to rock it on a meet day.
Leaning Out for a Vacation or Special Event
There are occasions when you want to look your best—maybe you’re headed to the beach with friends, or your wedding is coming up—getting back to tracking for a few months can help you dial into your dream physique.
There are many reasons you may decide to track macros to lose weight. And, there are many times in life when it may make more sense to put it away for a little while. If you need some support deciding what is best for you during this stage of your life, a WAG coach can help you narrow down a nutrition approach based on your goals, body, and lifestyle. Learn more about our membership options here.