everything you need to know about tracking macros to lose weight

If you’ve never heard of “counting macros” or “tracking macros” don’t worry—up until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t either! And if you’re already seasoned in the art of macro-counting, then I hope your experience has been as great as mine has been. I first heard about this method of dieting a couple of months ago when I started following several fitness gurus on YouTube (sometimes a girl just needs some extra motivation). As I was busy bookmarking workout after workout on my phone, I kept coming across videos about this term I had never heard before: macros.  

At first, the concept of tracking macros sounded so overwhelmingly confusing to me that I thought, who actually does that? Spoiler: I do! With the passage of just a couple of months, along with the determination to get into shape and get healthy, I found myself eager to try tracking macros in my own diet and exercise regime, and see where it would take me. Let’s just say that in the few short weeks I’ve been dedicated to this habit, quite a few things have changed… Here’s everything you need to know about tracking macros:

What are macros, anyway?

The term “macros” is short for macronutrients, or in other words, nutrients that the human body needs a healthy supply of to work optimally; specifically, carbs, proteins, and fats. Tracking these nutrients in a daily diet is a common habit for bodybuilders and fitness gurus alike, as it provides the body with plenty of energy sources to fuel high-intensity workouts, but still helps shed fat when consumed in the right proportions. Basically, forget everything you once knew about restrictive dieting—tracking macros is all about a lifestyle change that improves your relationship with food. Instead of seeing food as an indulgence, the habit of tracking macros treats food as fuel (don’t worry, it allows room for a little indulgence, too!).

How are they calculated and tracked?

Like I mentioned earlier, the idea of tracking macros seemed daunting and complicated at first, but in reality getting started is way easier than you’d think! First, I had to get my macros broken down into numbers so I would know just how many proteins, carbs, and fats to consume each day. (I used this online calculator and it was a cinch.) Once I got my macro breakdown figured out, I simply put the numbers into MyFitnessPal on my phone and went from there. I chose to use this app since I was already familiar with it, but macros can be tracked through many different health and fitness apps, so take your pick!

Then, once I got the foundation set, all I had to do was input what I was eating each day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, and my app broke each meal down into proteins, fats, and carbs right there before my eyes. But keep in mind, this was the easy part… The part that took a little more effort was choosing the right foods to hit my macronutrient goals each day. But with a little practice and consistency, I started seeing changes in several areas of my life in what seemed like no time at all. Keep scrolling to learn about 5 of the most notable changes that happened when I started tracking my macros…

see what happened when one of our editors started counting macros in her diet

1. I got a crash course in Nutrition Facts 101.

Within the first day of tracking my macros, my eyes were opened to what was actually in the foods that I had been eating for years, that I thought were decently healthy. Let’s just say, I was given quite the rude awakening (that I definitely needed!). Seeing my foods broken down into calories and nutrients—as well as visually seeing how many grams of those nutrients I had left to eat after each meal—was incredibly educating, and soon enough, the next time I went browsing the aisles of the grocery store, I saw everything in carbs, proteins, and fats, instead of just picking up the first thing that looked tasty in that moment. I’ve heard so many people say “if anything, try tracking your macros one time just to educate yourself on what you’re putting into your body,” and I couldn’t agree more.

2. I stopped “boredom snacking.”

I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been guilty of this one… It is so easy to get carried away when snacking out of boredom, and keeping track of my macros has done wonders in this area. Instead of eating whenever and whatever I wanted, I started planning my meals in my app each day, which created the most positive domino effective I’ve experienced in a long time. (Exhibit A: Eating regular, balanced meals throughout the day kept my metabolism up and kept me feeling consistently full, which meant no more mindless snacking and no overeating. Go figure!) Long story short, instead of grabbing the first snack I saw in my house, I made more conscious decisions about what I was snacking on and when, because I knew I had to hit a macronutrient goal at the end of the day.

3. I beat the bloat (most of the time).

I’m one of those people who is totally prone to bloating easily if I eat just a little bit too much sugar, bread, or dairy. Luckily, when I started tracking my macros bloating became the least of my worries. Because I was putting more wholesome and balanced foods in my body, there was nearly nothing in my diet to make me bloat up like a balloon, and the fact that I was eating more regularly (as opposed to skipping meals and then making up for it with unnecessarily large portions) meant that in just a week or so, I was fitting into my clothes better, and feeling slim even after eating a filling meal. Bloat, bye!

4. I got more out of my workouts.

When I began tracking my macros, I thought that the most satisfying result would be feeling and looking slimmer. While that part was definitely welcome, an unexpected change I saw in myself was the increased energy I felt, both in and out of the gym. I was getting more healthy “fuel” in my diet than I ever had before, and it showed! I found that instead of stopping frequently to catch my breath at the gym and in classes, I was able to handle high intensity workouts without breaking a sweat (figuratively, of course) because my body had the fuel it needed to keep my energy up.

5. I pushed through my plateau.

For me—and for many others who have adopted the habit—tracking macros has been a game-changer. While my diet still isn’t perfect, counting my macros gave me just the push I needed to get out of that all-too-familiar health and fitness slump. I can definitely say that this has been a sustainable way to “diet”—so much so that I actually look forward to hitting my macro goals each day. I know this is just the beginning for me, and I can’t wait to keep counting my macros for weeks and months to come.

Would you ever try tracking your macros? Or if you’ve already tried it, what was your experience?

Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!

Team LC

Photos: Be Well By Kelly, LaurenConrad.com