The Fitness Zone
'Macro tracking' is a topic we are hearing fitness goers discuss is the gym changing rooms, more then ever before. But what really is 'macro tracking,' and why are so many people taking the time to measure everything they eat? We ask Kyle Riley, QLD Course Crusader, to shed some light on this popular diet, and here is what he had to say.
Nutrients are substances we consume that are used for energy, growth, and bodily functions. Depending on the nutrient, these substances are needed in small amounts or larger amounts (micro or macro). Those that are needed in large amounts (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) are called macronutrients (‘macros’), whereas your vitamins and minerals and other trace substances are called micronutrients.
Macro tracking is a dietary strategy which looks at the food you consume in terms of the ratio of macronutrients. The idea being, that if what you eat ‘fits’ your individualised macronutrient profile, you will have a better chance of achieving your goals.
As with all nutrition trends, when a concept or way of eating reaches the masses, there are some people who get amazing results and consequently, become very fixed in their approach. They advise everybody to follow the same path as ‘it worked for them’, whilst in reality others may struggle and not get the same outcome.
Nutrition can be a very complex topic and there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration before committing to a particular strategy. I believe, when reviewing any type of diet it is important to look at both sides of the coin to get a complete picture before deciding on whether it will be the right thing for you.
Let’s start with the positives to this approach! Counting your macros allows you to measure and understand how much and what types of foods you are consuming on a daily basis. It gives you a more measurable and somewhat personalised guide with regards to your food intake. It can help you to understand what macronutrients are dominant in certain foods. Through recording, it can shed some insight and raise some red flags. For example, you may not realise the high fat content in your favourite peanut butter and chia seed filled smoothie!
As with anything in our industry, it is certainly not the one size fits all solution and there are some definite downsides that should be taken into consideration when working out the best approach for you or your client. Mindset plays a big part. With any type of nutritional philosophy that requires strict measurement, it can be taken too far. Obsessing about the measure of food could stop you from considering its overall nutritional value. In the wrong person, macro tracking could lead to a mentality of ‘I can eat what I want, as long as it fits my macros’. This takes emphasis away from healthy eating and ensuring that you are getting a sufficient amount of micronutrients within your diet, which are massively important for many important bodily functions.
The truth is, only 5.5% of Australians are meeting the guidelines for fruit and vegetable intake, so while there is no doubt measuring and counting macros is going to give you much more insight into the way a person is eating, for many, we need to actually reign it back and focus on setting solid foundations and behaviours for healthy eating in general before we go down the road of counting macros.
Regardless of what nutritional strategy you or your client follows, it is imperative we consider where people are with regards to their behaviours. If you have a client that has a huge amount of stress, is time poor and has many different barriers around nutrition, it may not be the greatest idea to force them into a routine of tracking their foods. As with any type of behaviour change it is important to enter at the level of the client and assess their readiness to change, then help them to set strategies and behaviours that they feel comfortable and confident changing, and can stick to long term.
If nutrition to you or your client feels like a minefield or is overwhelming, use a reputable source such as the Australian Dietary Guidelines as a reference and work on small behavioural changes to better align with them. Such changes will be easier to manage and have a better chance of creating healthy habits long term.
If you have reached a plateau from ‘eating healthy’ and have not really looked closely at what you are consuming but have a solid foundation in place, it may be worth tracking your intake and making some changes based on your findings, or talk to an accredited practicing dietician.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to nutrition and exercise. We have to personalise our approach and create positive habits that can be followed consistently to give us health benefits for the rest of our lives, not just for quick fix results.