You Don’t Need To Count Calories To Lose Weight
The question of whether it’s necessary to track calories or macros is one we get often.
The short answer is, it depends on the person.
Fortunately, though, there are few factors you can consider to determine a more concrete answer, which we’ve outlined below.
Calorie counting is usually used as means for weight loss.
Calorie counting as means for weight loss is typically centered around the goal of achieving a calorie deficit — consuming fewer calories than you burn. When you eat at a calorie deficit, you are eating fewer calories than your body needs to maintain your weight, which results in your body burning stored fat for energy, which in turn can lead to weight loss.
This method involves keeping track of how many calories you’re taking in every time you eat, making sure that the total you reach at the end of the day is under the number of calories your body requires for weight maintenance. It’s important to keep in mind that this number is going to differ from person to person, though.
Everyone burns a different number of calories based on factors such as weight, height, age, physical activity, and more. Because of this, there’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation when it comes to calorie counting. This is also why we recommend experimenting to find what works for your body. We help our meal plan customers manage and tweak this throughout their time on our meal plans.
Tracking macros involves tracking protein, carbs, and fats.
“Macros” refers to macronutrients. These are nutrients that provide calories and which we need in large amounts. The main macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Tracking macros focuses on tracking these three nutrients, as opposed to tracking calories.
Most people who track macros set a daily goal for protein, carbs, and fats, and then use an app to log how much they consume of each nutrient. Getting an accurate macro count involves weighing and measuring food, though many people end up estimating.
While calorie counting and macro tracking are both typically focused on weight loss, macro tracking can also be used for performance goals. Some use it as a means to diet without food restrictions (hence the “If It Fits Your Macros” craze). Others use it as a way to learn more about the food they consume.
Tracking macros and calories works best for athletes and those who are new to nutrition.
One group who can benefit from tracking their food is competitive athletes (especially those who need to maintain their weight for a specific weight class), bodybuilders, and physique competitors.
Tracking macros is helpful for these kinds of athletes because it allows them to stay within specific ranges of protein, fat, and carbs that fuel performance and support muscle retention. It also allows them to easily identify changes they can make in their workouts and recovery. For example, if a bodybuilder or physique competitor is gearing up for a competition, and they are not leaning out or building muscle as desired, they can adjust their macros.
Tracking can also work well for those who are new to the world of nutrition and therefore aren’t sure which foods contain protein, carbs, or fat. Tracking macros in an app could be helpful for learning which foods fall into each category and identifying which foods make you feel your best.
If you lead a stressful lifestyle, diet frequently, or have a history of disordered eating, counting or tracking might not work well for you.
If you have a particularly stressful job or lead a high-stress lifestyle where you feel you don’t have much time to yourself, we recommend skipping calorie or macro counting. This population typically does well with focusing on eating high quality, unprocessed foods and listening to their body’s hunger/fullness signals instead.
Another group that would also fall into this category is anyone who has been dieting for an extended period of time. We recommend giving your body a break from eating at a calorie deficit at least every six months to focus on eating real, whole foods and listening to your body. This helps you become more in tune with your needs instead of relying on a diet to tell you what/how much to eat.
Lastly, anyone who has a history of disordered eating habits and becoming obsessed with food should avoid calorie and macro counting as it can trigger a lot of these habits.
If you’re still unsure, experiment!
Not sure which approach would be best for you? We recommend that everyone experiment. You may find that you love tracking your macros and that it’s a great approach for you. You also may find that tracking macros makes you really stressed — that’s okay too. Some people find that just tracking for a few days every few months helps them stay focused. The goal is for you to try different approaches and take pieces of what works to create your personal nutrition protocol.