Tracking macros vs. intuitive eating… the great debate. Or is it? What you need to realize right out of the gate is that BOTH of these nutritional protocols are worth talking about. One requires you to track macros (protein, carbohydrates and fats) and the other requires you to be very tuned in with your body’s natural signals.
The beauty of tracking macros is that you TRULY build awareness around what you’re consuming. This is the very first step in any lifestyle change. Whether your goal is health, performance, aesthetics or a combo of each, the first step in creating an individualized nutritional protocol is building awareness. (NOTE: If you’re struggling with this, fill out THIS APPLICATION.) What we MUST realize is that true intuitive eating is a destination for damn near everyone reading this.
If you haven’t built any awareness around nutrition, intuitive eating is out of the question. Eating intuitively isn’t simply eating what tastes good or what gives you the biggest dopamine rush in the short term. This is eating like a 5-year-old. Intuitive eating is being able to go to the kitchen, prepare a meal, and be able to make an accurate estimation of how many calories you’re consuming and how much protein, carbohydrates and fat make up those calories. But this isn’t the end. You ALSO have to understand how those foods you chose make you feel. If you know you don’t tolerate dairy very well and drink a giant glass of chocolate milk with breakfast every morning, here’s a little hint: you’re not intuitively eating. Learning your body’s signals are key and why building awareness through tracking should be the first step in anyone’s nutritional protocol. Many people have taught themselves to ignore negative body signals. Some of these include:
-Low sex drive
-Poor fitness performance
These are just a few of the signals we have been taught to ignore. What is great is that if we truly build awareness with nutrition, MANY of these things can be alleviated. (NOTE: Exercise is also a very important factor here. Check out the blog I wrote about resistance training HERE.)
Obviously, there are a lot of pro’s to tracking macronutrient intake. We’ve talked about building awareness, so what happens when we track? We literally find out what we’re consuming, and how that is impacting our health, performance, sleep, mood etc. When we figure these things out, we can adjust our macronutrient targets to fit our goals and lifestyle. Our goals will determine how much of each macro nutrient we will consume. Moreover, we will also find out what our food quality is like. This is HUGE for whatever your goals are. I’m a firm believer in the 80/20 rule for whatever your goals are. This means 80% of the time we’re eating whole, minimally processed foods. 20% of the time is saved for emotional/spiritual well-being. Let me explain. When you’re out with your significant other, having drinks with friends, at dinner for a family members birthday, you are feeding your soul. Call me a hippie, call me woo-woo WHATEVER. This is also a part of health. Health encompasses more than just “beast mode” training and a broccoli and tilapia diet. When you have an awareness of nutrition (and training), you’re able to feed your emotional/spiritual well-being without falling off the wagon and binge eating. When we realize that those alcoholic beverages and pizza have an impact on our system that typically isn’t favorable to how our body feels, especially compared to more minimally processed food, we begin to crave the better foods and make better choices. But it all starts with building that awareness and paying attention to how what you’re eating is impacting your body in all aspects.
There are also con’s of tracking macros. The If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) crowd has taken over Instagram over the past few years. The idea behind IIFYM is that you can fit anything into your nutritional protocol so long as it fits into your daily macronutrients. Now, before I say anything about this, if you’re following the 80/20 rule here, IIFYM is great. If you’re eating lower quality foods on a daily basis, even if you’re hitting your macros, you could be compromising health. Many times, IIFYM doesn’t take gut health and hormonal health into consideration. When we eat higher quality foods, our gut is healthier. When our gut health and digestion is on point, we are able to absorb nutrients more effectively. When we absorb nutrients more effectively, we have more energy throughout the day. When we have more energy throughout the day, we get more accomplished. When we get more accomplished, we’re less stressed. When we’re less stressed, we need less stimulants. When we consume less stimulants (caffeine), we sleep better. When we sleep better our hormones are regulated properly. This will lead to long-lasting success in fitness whether your goal is fat loss, muscle building, performance or just general health. Bottom line: quality of food matters. People who say things like, “you can eat whatever you want, as long as it fits your macros” don’t have your best interest (true health) in mind. We not only want to build awareness with tracking, but also have a better relationship with food. Squeezing in a bunch of processed junk every day just because it fits your macros isn’t a positive relationship with food. Learning how food impacts your body, and realizing it is different for each and every person is. Another con of tracking macros is that it can be stressful for some people. I get it. It can be quite inconvenient at times. Weighing, measuring, calculating… it takes work. But here’s something you have to consider: is tracking and building awareness (learning) worth it? Is it more convenient than going through your life unaware of the food you’re consuming? Leading to potential health issues and chronic illness? This is something you have to answer for yourself. Sure, you can try the latest fad and lose weight, but you’ll never truly develop a good relationship with food. You’ll be stuck like so many on the yo-yo dieting train. This is a place no one wants to be.
The pro’s of intuitive eating are extensive. But again, this is a destination and not something you can throw yourself into if you have zero awareness built around nutrition. Eating intuitively is an incredible place to be because you can literally eat how you feel suits you best. You aren’t stressed about tracking or weighing or measuring. You know exactly what you need to stay on track to reach your goals AND remain healthy in every aspect of life. Simply put, intuitive eating is where everyone should strive to be. But, even the most aware folks have periods where they track. Maybe they have a vacation planned and want to really tighten things up. Maybe they’ve been busy in other aspects of life and their nutrition has been a bit “off”. Having periods of time when you track to get back on track is key. Even if it’s just writing down what they’re eating every day for a week, and how they’re feeling throughout the day. The con’s of intuitive eating are little to none, besides the simple fact that there is little to no “structure”. I’d argue though, that if you have an awareness built, there can be some “structure”, even though you’re eating intuitively. But most people aren’t ready to be here. Even most people who think they’re ready, aren’t. I’ve said it, and I’ll say it again, AWARENESS COMES FIRST.
So, you want to begin your journey to intuitive eating? Great! First we have to implement a tracking protocol. After we track for 1-2 weeks we will have an idea of what you’re currently consuming. We will also take your BMR (Basil Metabolic Rate) into consideration. You can read more about that in my free e-book The Results Triangle HERE. Depending on goals and where you are calorically/food quality wise, we will set you up with target macronutrients OR, if you are really struggling with food quality, we will set small goals to start and build on this until you’re ready to get into tracking your macronutrient intake. Again, this will vary person to person (which is why individualized coaching is KEY).
The biggest thing we have to realize is that nutrition is SUPER INDIVIDUALIZED. Meaning every single person reading this is at a different place. Different mindset, different goals, different age, different hormones, different metabolism… you get it. EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT. This is where individualized coaching comes into play. The game plan for a 35-year-old mom who is on the go and has a family is completely different than the 23-year-old who wants to build muscle and look good on the beach. Realize this and hire a professional who will take all of these factors into consideration. If you’re ready to have some accountability, and have a coach that puts your needs first, fill out my nutrition coaching application HERE.