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Monday, 24 July 2017

My Experience Counting Macros

Counting macros is something that's becoming more and more popular. I can't scroll through my Instagram feed without seeing someone mentioning it and I certainly can't go on YouTube without seeing IIFYM (if it fits your macros) videos. But what are macros? What does it mean to count macros?

Macros is an abbreviation for macronutrients. There are three macronutrients and this is where calories (food energy) comes from - they are protein, carbohydrates and fat. Counting macros is when you track how many grams of each macronutrient you're eating in order to reach a goal (weight loss or gain) or perhaps just remain at your healthiest weight. Everyone's macronutrients are different and so many factors go in to working out what your ideal macronutrients are for the goal you'd like to reach.

DISCLAIMER - Before I get into this, I want to stress that counting calories is very un-me and definitely isn't what Nourishing Amelia as a brand is about. I promote eating in abundance, eating to make your mind and body feel it's happiest and it's healthiest and I believe it's about counting the goodness in food and going off how it feels rather that anything else! 

Why I Started
A little while ago I decided to try macro counting for the first time, after seeing so much information about it and hearing so many people rave about it I thought I'd give it a go myself to see what results I'd see from counting my macros consistently. I was intrigued to see if my body would change at all and I was also interested to see whether I was eating the optimum about of protein, carbohydrates and fat for my body type and lifestyle. I used to calculate my macros with the goal being slow and steady fat loss (and hopefully muscle gain at the same time, although this isn't always possible!), and I used popular food tracking app My Fitness Pal to track what I was eating in each day in order to reach my macronutrient goals. I didn't set out to reach a certain weight and I didn't really have any expectations. 11

The Beginning
Before I started tracking my macros I didn't know how well I'd stick to it, whether I'd forget to measure out everything I was eating and whether I'd forget to enter the details into the My Fitness Pal app but I actually stuck to this quite well. I wasn't super strict if I was going out for a meal or seeing friends - I still lived my life and didn't let tracking my macros become a burden, however I did track all of the food I was eating most days. I have to admit, it was a bit of an adjustment going from just chucking my food into a pan or onto a plate to suddenly weighing all the ingredients out and entering them into the app each time but I soon got used to it and it didn't take much time to do (although, sometimes I was majorly hangry which only got worse with having to wait that bit longer to eat my food!).

The first week was interested, I didn't notice much of a change in how I was feeling but I was fascinated to see all the nutrients I was getting into my body each day - I was pleasantly surprised to see I was hitting pretty much all my vitamins and minerals goals each day, even things like calcium which I was pleased about as I don't eat dairy. In terms of my macros, I found hitting my fats super easy (I love nuts, seeds and avocado!), my carbs were spot on most days and when they were a little under that was just the best (I got to eat more oats, pasta or fruit!) but my protein was under most days. This is something I wasn't expecting, because I thought I got plenty of protein in my diet as I include it in every meal and every snack...(more on this later).

Adjusting and Changes
After a week's trial and error I started becoming more aware of what macronutrients were in the foods I was eating, I realised which foods were highest in fat, which foods would help me hit my protein goal and which foods were going to keep me feeling fuller for longer in order to avoid mindless snacking. After a week I did start to feel different, I found I had more energy than before and I felt mentally clearer too! I felt like my body was thriving and functioning in the optimum way, and I also noticed I wasn't snacking so often. I didn't really see any bodily changes at this point, but after just under 3 weeks of tracking macros I would say I saw a difference. I felt leaner, I looked more toned and I felt like my body was stronger - this was probably down to the increase in protein and eating my carbohydrates mainly around my workouts for optimum recovery.

Negative Impact
To start with I loved macro counting - I found it useful and I felt great doing it! But as time went on, I saw it as this massive chore, and like it was a chore I couldn't not do. I felt like I HAD to track my food or at least try to intuitively hit my macros throughout the day. I found myself sometimes not eating the food I REALLY wanted just because it didn't fit into my macros for the day, so this could mean not eating some carrot sticks and hummus or a small handful of cashew nuts because it meant I'd go over my fat for the day which is utterly ridiculous, those foods are so good for you! Or it could mean I'd deny myself treats, which is just not good for your mental wellbeing (we all need a little bit of something sweet every now and then!).  I was also scared my body would change if I stopped tracking my macros, I thought I'd gain back any fat I lost or I'd lose muscle that I'd gained.  This never got out of control, and I'm lucky that I saw those warning signs before I let them get too much for me to handle but it's something to really consider if you're thinking about tracking macros. Watch out for the signs!

I also found it took the joy out of eating a little. I mean, did I really want to weigh out my delicious porridge ingredients every morning? Did I want to ration how much ice cream I could eat? Did I really have to try and estimate the macros of my takeaway pizza? Nope.

Another point to make is that you shouldn't take your macros for gospel. My protein was very high, and while I do think I need to consume a decent amount of protein as I work out a lot I don't think it needs to be quite as high as it was. So I was putting this pressure on myself to hit this protein goal every day when actually my body didn't need it!

Is It Worth It?
My experience counting macros was a mixed one, on one hand I liked how I felt in my body and I definitely noticed some changes in my physique but on the other hand I could see myself getting a bit too obsessive over it if I wasn't careful and I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself to hit those targets each day, when I really didn't need to.
I think there's far safer and more fun ways to get the results you desire without having to weigh out all the food you eat and without having to enter it all into an app, but I know macro counting does work for some people which is great. I'd just recommend being cautious and always listen to your body. Never let anything take away your joy in eating!

Live Happy, Live Healthy


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