I Started Tracking Macros at My “Happy” Weight and Here’s What Happened.
I’ll preface this by saying this is not my first attempt at tracking macros, however, this is certainly my MOST CONSISTENT attempt, over the LONGEST amount of time. I’ve tried tracking macros 2 or 3 other times in the past, each short-lived, and typically ended up crying into cans of tuna at 9 pm. I’m happy to say I’ve learned a thing or two since then. One thing being, I don’t care for tuna. Another being, I don’t need to eat it in order to win at the macro game.
Prior to my macro tracking journey, I basically followed the “calories are king” mentality when it came to fitness and weight loss. I’ve been a calorie counter on and off for almost as long as I can remember…typically “on” when I’ve got a vacation or event coming up, or just feel fluffy, and “off” the rest of the time. My weight fluctuation, until recent years, had been a roller coaster for the past 2 decades – losing and gaining the same 20-30 lbs, on top of the weight gains/losses during and after my 2 pregnancies.
My “happy” weight has always been 145 lbs. Why? I dunno. Probably because that’s what I weighed when I felt as confident in my skin and as happy with my body as we females ever really do. 145 pounds was also about the lowest weight I could realistically maintain and still enjoy my preferred lifestyle. I was sitting pretty at my “happy” 145 when I decided to make a change and start tracking macros last year.
I’ll explain the when, why, and how of my macro tracking adventure in just a bit, but first, you might be wondering…
What the Heck are “Macros”?
Simply and quickly put, macronutrients, commonly referred to in the health & fitness industry as “macros”, are the components that make up the food you eat. They are broken down into 3 categories: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. All 3 are vital for energy production and for our bodies to function properly. Each gram of carbohydrate or protein is equivalent to 4 calories, while each gram of fat is 9 calories. For more macronutrient basics, this article goes into greater detail.
Counting Calories vs Tracking Macros
If your aim is weightloss, either method will get the job done. If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight. I’d say “no one is gonna argue that”, but alas, some people are stupid. Based on my experience, calorie counting gets results when done consistently using sustainable methods.
Macro tracking is a closer look at the calories you’re consuming, and manipulating them in order to efficiently fine tune your body composition. Macro tracking can be beneficial for weight loss, fat loss, and muscle gain, depending on the desired outcome. Tracking macros involves multiple target numbers, as opposed to calorie counting’s one main goal.
(**This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission. Thanks.)
How my Fitness Journey Started
I started BBG in May 2018 at 163 lbs and 3 months postpartum after baby #2. In conjunction with improved eating habits, I reached 145 lbs – an 18 pound loss – by that October (for reference, I’m 5’8″ tall). Then I ended up gaining about 10 pounds back between then and the following January. Unfortunately, I got bitch-slapped by Halloween candy, drop-kicked by Thanksgiving crescent rolls and pumpkin pie, and pile-drived by Christmas cocktails and cookies.
I want to emphasize that I didn’t miss a single workout the entire holiday season. My 10 pound gain was all due to subpar nutrition choices. So. Yeah. Write that down. Once I got back to my “normal” eating – more fruits and veggies, less trash – I once again hit my “happy” weight of 145 lbs in March 2019.
Why Did I Decide to Track Macros?
From March to July I maintained my weight with mindful eating and consistent workouts. But by the time July came around I had been doing this whole fitness thing for 14 months and was ready to mix things up. Honestly, for no real reason other than maybe wanting to build more muscle.
I was already “happy” with my weight and all, but I felt a little stagnant. Sometimes you just get bored, ya know? I wanted a fresh challenge and the extra boost of motivation that trying something new brings. Plus, I was just finishing my 5th 12-week round of BBG and had made another scary decision…I decided to switch SWEAT programs and try weight-lifting based PWR.
Up to this point I hadn’t tracked a single calorie since starting the BBG program, and I’d never tracked food from a place where weight loss wasn’t the goal. This was unfamiliar territory, for sure. In the spirit of wanting to get stronger I thought I would try my hand at a calorie target with a protein goal, to make sure I was getting enough of both to build muscle.
How I Determined my Macro Targets
I used a few free calorie/macro calculators from online coaches like James Smith and Thoresen Fitness to get an idea of what my maintenance calories and protein goals should be. Again, my goal was no longer weight loss at this point.
Calories and protein were the 2 numbers I was most focused on in the beginning. Carbohydrates and fats sorta fell where they fell, and honestly still do even now, although I do keep an eye on fat at least a bit. My goals and target numbers are absolutely different from yours for a myriad of reasons. You can NOT simply use some random person’s calorie goal and macro ratios and assume you’ll see the same results. So, please check out some free calculators, research for yourself, and/or look into a macro coach if you choose to give it a go.
I upped my protein goal slightly from the calculators I used, based on some reading, to about 0.8-0.9g protein per lb of my then bodyweight of 145 lbs. I also decreased my maintenance calories by about 100 – only because the number sounded cray-cray high to this veteran, weight-loss oriented calorie counter. And there I had it – my new challenge to eat close to, but not over, 2000 calories and at least 125 grams of protein per day.
To make tracking easier, I decided to use the MyFitnessPal app (free version). To set my protein intake goal within the app, I was also required to enter goal numbers for fat and carbohydrate macronutrients. This part I sorta made up. I figured this whole thing was an experiment anyway, and knew I wasn’t (and I’m still not) married to any numbers. I knew it could all be changed down the road depending on how I felt and how my body reacted.
Pro Tip: Tailor the numbers to your goals as best as you can, or hire a coach, and know if it’s not a right fit you can change course. You have that power and right. You never truly fail, only learn how to succeed. Check out my friend’s blog to see her transformation based on this important concept.
The courage it takes to change up your eating habits and/or exercise routine is worth mentioning. Because this wasn’t done out of fear or without fear, as oxymoron-y as that sounds. I wasn’t scared of being at a stand still with my progress, and at the same time, I was nervous I’d backtrack. But sometimes you gotta say, “What the hell!” and see what happens. New challenges, risks, goals, and effort can be motivating and pleasantly surprising. Plus, I’ve found being brave enough to dabble int he unknown typically pays off in the long run.
My Results from Tracking Macros Without Trying to Lose Weight
Fast forward a year and here I am, pleasantly surprised! I am consistently weighing in 10-15 pounds below my “happy” weight. The weight at which I’d been holding steady for essentially 9 months prior to tracking. The weight I’d only briefly been below due to unplanned situations and unsustainable conditions one other time in my entire adult life. My body composition has changed, and I’m leaner and more toned than I’ve ever been.
It didn’t take the full year to notice my body changing. Things were happening in the first few months, and with time and consistency, my body has continued to respond.
Here is an Instagram post showing my 3 month PWR progress, which was also happened to be my first 3 months of macro tracking:
I’ve been satisfied with what the fat-loss has done for my shape and athletic performance. Even though I noticed a drop on the scale early on, I decided to stay the course rather than tweak the numbers to find true maintenance calorie/macro targets. See? The goals and the journey are ever-changing as you progrees, so long as you keep on keeping on.
My Macro Tracking Advice
In the last year I’ve weighed and measured my food most of the time, and I’ve actually enjoyed it. I know counting and tracking isn’t for everyone. It 100% is right for me in this season, but that doesn’t mean it’s the way to go for you now, or even ever. And that’s okay. If you do want to track – and if you made it this far I’m assuming you’re keen on the idea, or at least curious – here are a few pointers based on my year of experience.
- Let go of perfection. Macro targets are guidelines and ballparks. Be flexible and show yourself grace. Imperfect consistency wins over sporadic perfection any day. If you find yourself obsessing about the numbers and feeling very negative about the whole thing, maybe tracking isn’t a good fit for you. Take a break from it and come back to it at a different stage in your life, or not at all.
- Prioritize protein and calorie targets. Carbs and fats are easy to come by and of lesser concern overall, but protein can be a bit trickier. For some ideas, check out my go-to protein sources. And, of course, calories are still king. Focusing on just 2 goal numbers, at least to start, can be less intimidating than all 4!
- Get a food scale. I use this one. Measuring cups and spoons can be great, but I find I dirty fewer dishes and get more accurate quantities using my scale. Knowing actual portion sizes can be eye-opening, and is a skill that comes in handy when you’re no longer tracking.
Hopefully you can use this information as a foundation on which to build your own macro journey. Starting anything can be scary and challenging, so take things slow and allow yourself time and grace to learn what works best for you and be patient. Need more macro-friendly meal and snack ideas? Follow me on Instagram and check out my stories and highlights to view my daily food diary.