I've had a love-hate relationship with food tracking, probably the same as most people. The love part is having great results in terms of body composition, energy, performance and also feeling good about being in control of what I eat, and the hate part was...well it takes effort! But is that a good enough reason to slack off? Here's some of my thoughts...
Some people say that calories don't matter and food quality is more important. Great, you eat organic avocados and coconut oil all day, you've got loads of healthy nutrients going into your body (which is AWESOME don't get me wrong) but if you ignore calories/macros completely then you could still be overeating and you are going to gain body fat...so you may be getting healthy in some ways, but getting less healthy in other ways kind of cancels it out. Look, I'm not saying the calories in your food are everything, it's pretty clear that a balanced metabolism is vital too, but the First Law of Thermodynamics is just a fact: energy in and energy out must be in balance or there will be a change in weight. Calorie surplus = weight gain, calorie deficit = weight loss (AS LONG AS THERE IS ALSO A BALANCED METABOLISM....topic for another post).
No matter what your goals, there will be associated calorie and macro targets which will aid you. Fat loss? Yeah. Muscle gain? Certainly. Sports performance? You bet. It's not just a weight loss thing, and there are some great pieces of research out there showing things like the optimal protein intake for hypertrophy (muscle growth), or the best carbohydrate intake for recovery from endurance training. One of my goals on this blog and in my online coaching group is to pull together research like that and pass it on to you in an easy-to-digest format, so keep checking back. If you've got a simple (not easy, simple) goal like losing excess fat, then keep it simple: Calories, and protein. Calorie target will depend on your gender, age, weight, height, and activity level, and protein should be at least 30% of calories to optimise for fat loss. You can get the number of grams of protein you need by multiplying your daily calorie target by 0.075.
Tracking takes effort. Yeah? Get over it you lazy fucker, nobody said it was going to be easy. Do you know what else takes effort? Having to live your life unhappy with your health and fitness levels, body composition, weight, etc etc. Which takes more effort? In my experience, the latter. Suck it up, and make the effort...and guess what? It gets so much easier once you've been doing it a while. Plus, the results are worth it: there is no getting away from the science. Also, it feels good to have a solid handle on what you're doing, and that self-esteem that comes from taking positive steps will outshine any inconvenience.
Tracking religiously does not need to continue forever, but at the start it is massively important in order to learn about what you're eating. I have lost count of the number of times a client has been shocked about the number of calories/amount of carbs/amount of fat found in certain foods (or drinks). If you don't track, you don't know what you're eating. Use macro tracking to learn, because knowledge and understanding of what you are doing and why is key to long-term success. Once you've got a good base of knowledge you can make much better choices, even when you're not tracking.
So those are my thoughts on tracking macros! Have you tracked before? How did you find it? Comment and let me know!