It’s a common misconception that tracking macros must happen alongside a regular workout routine. However, that is not the case at all. In fact, I’d say that if you’re not working out and are mainly sedentary, macro tracking might be especially important, since you will not be expending as much energy. Fat loss really just comes down to whether you are burning more energy than you’re taking in, and tracking macros is one of the most accurate ways you can assess that.
The Role of Exercise
People often give working out way too much credit for being a calorie-burner—they might try to “work off” a meal, or believe that a hard training session can allow for a whole lot more food. The reality of it, though, is that most people’s workouts really only account for 5%, MAYBE 10% of the total day’s calorie burn.
That’s not completely insignificant—it is, after all, 5%-10% more calories than you’d burn if you weren’t working out—but it isn’t a free pass to eat all the things, either.
Exceptions for Athletes
There are, of course, exceptions to this. If you happen to be an ultra-endurance or other competitive athlete, doing hours of hard training a day, you are likely burning a lot more calories than the average gym-goer or casual runner. In that case, you’d need to eat a lot more calories than someone who spends the majority of their day sitting.
In this case, counting macros can help ensure that you are eating enough calories to sustain your sport of choice, and that you’re getting appropriate carbohydrates to give your body the energy it needs to perform at an optimal level.
Beyond Fat Loss
Macro tracking is also not just for people who want to lose fat. Let’s say you want to put on some muscle, or you want to really start lifting extremely heavy weights. In that case, eating more calories than you burn off will be important.
Counting macros can help a lot in that case, too—it will help you to understand how much of a bulk you’re in, and where your calories are coming from. Gaining muscle requires sufficient protein to help muscle tissue grow at its best, and enough carbohydrate to power through workouts at the top of your ability level.
Versatility of Macro Tracking
Whether you train or not, whether your goals are fat loss, maintenance, weight gain, muscle gain, performance-related, or something else, counting macros can be an excellent tool to help you get a good overview of what you’re eating in a day.
If fat loss is your focus, you’ll want to make sure you’re in a caloric deficit (i.e. eating less than you’re burning off), but not so much of one that you end up overly deprived. Low energy, deficient nutrition, and muscle loss are all symptoms of a diet too low in calories.
Having an appropriate deficit for your age, weight, height, and activity level is important for healthy, sustainable fat loss, and tracking macros can help you understand not only if you’re eating too much, but if you’re eating too little!
To find out your calorie targets, you can run our calorie deficit calculator.
Macro tracking is also very useful to help understand if there are any significant nutritional holes in your diet. We all need a certain amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrate in order to stay healthy and function well. Many people struggle to get enough protein, and a whole lot of people don’t eat enough fiber-containing foods (eat your veggies, people!).
Counting macros can help give you a really good overview of what you’re eating, and how much of it you’re eating. It can help you understand what parts of your diet might be holding you back in your health and fitness goals, and to learn better ways to manage those eating patterns.
In short, you don’t need to work out to count macros. Macro tracking can have value for you no matter what your goals or lifestyle, and is a tool you can use to help you stay better informed about your overall nutrition habits.
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