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Should You Track Calories Or Macros?

If one thing is true about losing weight, it is that there’s no shortage of methods and advice on the best ways to do it. And, if there is one truth about how to lose weight, it is to create a calorie deficit. That is, burn more energy (which is measured in calories) than you consume in your diet

If you’ve been trying to reach and maintain a healthier weight for a while, you may have heard that counting ‘macros’ is also helps to manage your weight. Macros is short for macronutrients, which are the main nutrients your body needs for energy and good health. Macronutrients include fat, carbohydrates and proteins.

Creating a calorie deficit and/or tracking your macros can help you lose weight. But, which method is better for weight loss, tracking calories or macros?

Before we answer the question, we need to understand a little more about each method

Tracking Calories

Tracking your caloric intake means monitoring the total number of calories you consume each day. A calorie is simply a unit of energy used to measure the amount of energy in the food you eat. The idea behind calorie counting is to make it easier to create a calorie deficit (or energy deficit), while maintaining a healthy caloric intake. (It’s different for everyone, but it’s generally recommended that women should consume about 2,000 calories per and men should consume about 2,500 calories). If you know how many calories you consume, you’ll know how many you need to burn or reduce from your diet.

Tracking Macros

Tracking macros involves monitoring the amounts of carbohydrates (carbs), proteins, and fats you consume. Each macronutrient plays a different role in your body.  Carbs give your muscles and nervous system energy. Protein supports many functions in your body, including tissue structure, your metabolic system and your hormone system. And fats help you store energy, protect your organs and absorb fat-soluble vitamins. \

Getting the right balance of macronutrients is key to good health and healthy weight loss.  Everyone is different, but it’s recommended that a healthy, balanced should have 40% to 50% carbs, 25% to 35% proteins and 25% to 30% fats.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Calorie Tracking

Calorie tracking is a popular part of many weight loss methods. But it helps to know why and what to look out for to avoid some pitfalls.


It’s Easy to Do

Counting calories is a straightforward way to measure and control your food intake. It allows for flexibility in food choices as long as you stay within your calorie limit. This flexibility can help if you have specific eating preferences or restrictions.

It Helps Control Food Portions

Overeating is a major contributor to weight gain. This is especially true if you overeat subconsciously. Tracking your calories makes you more aware of how much food you are eating, which helps you better control serving sizes and avoid overeating.

It Helps Maintain a Healthy Energy Balance

Calorie tracking isn’t just about counting the calories in the foods you eat. Your body also burns calories to maintain its functions. These include your cardiovascular and digestive systems, and all your daily activities. By tracking calories, those that you consume and those that you burn, you get a better understanding of how to create a healthy deficit for weight loss.


Nutrient Quality & Density

Again, calories are just a measure of the energy in the food you eat. But the calories in a bag of potato chips shouldn’t be equated with the calories in the potatoes the chips were made from. Potato chips, other salty, factory-made snack foods, and many packaged foods are highly processed. Important nutrients, especially fibres, are stripped away during food processing. In addition, salt, sugar and flavour enhancers are added.  That not only adds to the number of calories in the food, but the absence of fibre makes those calories more easily metabolized into energy in your body. Energy your body needs to burn. If not, it gets stored as fat. It all comes down to needing to consider where your calories come from, versus just how many calories you consume.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Focusing exclusively on calories can create a deficiency in both the macro and micronutrients your body needs. Those deficiencies can rob your body of the energy and support it needs to healthily lose weight.

Can Become Obsessive

When you track calories, it’s important to remember your goal: healthy weight loss. If not, you risk calorie counting – and creating a calorie deficit – becoming the goal, and that can have negative effects on your health. Use calorie counting as one aspect of your weight management, but don’t let it rule your life – or even what you eat at any given time.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Macro Tracking

Macro tracking isn’t as common as calorie tracking. It’s often used by those who are more active in fitness regimens. But, used correctly and it can be a major contributor to healthy weight loss.


Nutrient Density

If there is an opposite to nutrient deficiencies in the foods you eat, it is good nutrient density in foods. Tracking macros emphasizes food quality and helps to ensure the balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, in your diet. And a balanced diet is key to healthily losing weight.

Tailored to Your Needs

Everyone’s macronutrient needs are different. It’s why the portions of macronutrients in a balanced diet are expressed in ranges, like 25% to 35% proteins, versus set mounts.   Healthy levels of macronutrient intake for you can depend on your activity levels, body composition, and weight management goals. By tracking macros, you can tailor your intake to meet your specific needs.


Difficult to Track

So how much is there in a carrot? Unfortunately, with the emphasis on calories, it’s not as easy to track macronutrient levels in many foods. You may need to learn about the macronutrient content of various foods before calculating your intake. Fortunately, you can use nutrition apps, like MyFitnessPal, Lose It!, or My Macros +, to help track your macros.

Can Become Obsessive

Like calorie tracking, macro tracking can become a fixation, versus your real goal of better weight management. Stay mindful of the foods you eat, how much you eat and your overall health. But don’t fixate on the numbers – calories, macros, or those on your weight scale.

Tracking both calories and macros can be effective for weight loss. Which one you choose, or if you use both, is really about your preferences and what works best for you. Call or visit your nearest Herbal One location and speak to a nutrition counsellor to learn more.

If you enjoyed this post, check out our recent article The Relationship Between Self-Love And Weight Loss.


If you have any questions or concerns, stop by, call, or email your Herbal One centre and our qualified counsellors will be happy to give you tips and some great ideas that will help reach your weight loss goals.

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