The pages of muscle magazines could float a ship with the amount of liquid ink that has been put on paper to talk about the macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. We know that each macronutrient has unique benefits but what is shocking is how few bodybuilders can tell you what their daily macronutrient intake is. They may say things like "I just eat a lot of clean food". But that is no different than asking someone what their training program is and they say "I lift weights". There should always be a well-thought-out plan if you want to maximize your results.
And that means you need full transparency, not secretive, “proprietary blends.” You need to know exactly what you’re putting into your body.
So here are 7 reasons to take control of your macros:
- You’ll learn a TON about nutrition just by tracking. This may seem silly, but it’s true. I’ve taken the highest degree you can get in nutrition, a PhD in nutritional sciences, and yet the most I ever learned about nutrition was by tracking macronutrients. I started doing it back in 2001 and it was way harder back then, as I had to use a book of food counts, but I learned so much about what was in foods and which foods could be used to meet my daily macronutrient goals.
- You’ll know your maintenance level calories and macronutrients. By tracking your protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake, you will be also tracking your calories by default. Protein has 4 calories per gram, carbohydrates 4 calories per gram, and fat 9 calories per gram. By tracking over time you will get a really good idea of what level that you tend to maintain your bodyweight at. This is going to be very helpful when it comes to making adjustments during a gaining or fat loss phase, or when planning out your next one.
- You’ll be able to gain muscle more efficiently. I can’t tell you how many times when people are in a gaining phase they say “I don’t know why I’m not getting bigger, I’m eating a ton!” But when I actually sit down and calculate their intake, they are eating 2300 calories. They would express shock and swear they thought they were taking in over 3000! By tracking your macronutrient intake, you will KNOW what level of calories and macros you are gaining on. So if you are eating 2300 kcals from for example 200g protein, 240g carbs, and 60g fat (remember protein = 4 calories per gram, carbs = 4 calories per gram, fats = 9 calories per gram) and not gaining, then perhaps you should bump it up to 2600 or 2700 calories and you can bump up your macros in order to accommodate this. The point is you will KNOW and it will not be a bunch of guess work.
- You’ll be able to lose fat more efficiently. For the same reason that tracking helps with gaining fat, it will help with losing fat. If you are not losing bodyfat and you are eating 2000 calories, then you will know and you can reduce your macronutrient intake accordingly to get your fat loss jump-started.
- You will have a TON of data over time that is easy to access. Due to the popularity of smart phones, there are many really great macronutrient and data trackers. Myfitnesspal is an extremely popular one and you can sync it with your phone and desktop/laptop. My Macros+ is probably the best one for iPhone, in my opinion, and I believe they will also have one for computer in the future. What is so great about this? You will have an entire history of your intake going back years and you can see what you were eating, when you were eating it, and how your body was responding. By learning from your past you will be able to better program for your future.
- You will be able to get creative with meals and make nutrition more fun. Instead of just eating the same old foods over and over, by tracking your macronutrients, you will be able to create fun meals to fill out your daily intake. Anything that fits your ratios is fair game. This is going to increase adherence, as it will be more fun for you. Get creative with your shakes, try baking with protein powder (the Quest ones are great for both purposes, and I like that they tell you exactly how much whey and casein you’re getting). No longer do you have to pack 4 meals with you every time you leave your house. Instead you will have the ability to grab food on the go or incorporate easy travel options like Quest Bars that are packed with high quality protein and fiber, taste great, but will still fit almost anyone’s macronutrient goals.
- It eliminates the ‘cheat’ mentality. Ever have a day where you can’t eat your normal foods and it turns into an all you can eat buffet and you wake up many pounds heavier, pissed off that you just sabotaged several weeks of hard work? Why did it happen? Because you weren’t flexible with your nutrition, you had no idea how to incorporate other foods. But if you are tracking your macronutrient intake, you don’t have to fall victim to the ‘cheating’ mentality. There are no cheats, just hit your daily macronutrient intake. If your friends are going out for pizza, there’s no reason you can’t join them on occasion. Instead of eating 2 large pizzas on your own because you are ‘cheating', just fit a couple of slices into your daily macronutrient intake. Is it something you want to do for every meal? Of course not (plus it’s impossible unless you are eating over 5000 calories per day). But having a modest amount of these foods and being able to stay on target and consistent with your goals is much better than completely falling off the wagon.
Most scientific research consensus shows that diets FAIL… not because they don’t work, but because people simply cannot stick to them. The limiting factor for improving body composition is not magic foods, or being hardcore enough… it’s adherence. Use a program that allows you maximum adherence and consistency. Tracking macronutrients allows you to do that and learn more while you go through your physique career.
About Layne Norton
Layne Norton is a professional powerlifter and IFPA &NGA natural pro bodybuilder. He has a BS in Biochemistry from Eckerd College and a PhD in Nutritional Sciences with honors from the University of Illinois. He has written articles for magazines including Muscular Development, Planet Muscle to name a few. Learn more about Layne Norton: www.biolayne.com