My journey with tracking macros. How I became a believer in counting macros to help me reach my goals, perform my best in the gym, fuel my body properly, and find my food freedom.
I’ve counted macros on and off (in some form or another) since 2015. In 2016 was when I was really like, shit tracking macros works.
Now, I am not saying counting macros is for everyone – it definitely is not. There are so many different tools and approaches that people use to achieve their goals, and that is the beauty of it. What works for me, might not work for you.
But counting macros has worked so well for me and as I continue to talk about them, I want to share how I got started with them. This is my journey with counting macros.
History with tracking macros
Before we get into it, let’s talk briefly about my history with macro tracking. It hasn’t always been rainbows and butterflies.
My first discovery of a macro-based approach was back in 2012-2013. I had started CrossFit and read about the zone diet. That didn’t go so well as I tried it and was starving, so I gave up pretty quickly. After that, I played around with tracking some in My Fitness Pal, but they give horrible recommendations as to how much food to eat.
In the past, I’ve worked with coaches that were drastically underfeeding me and I felt so restricted. I didn’t realize this at the time though.
I remember asking a coach I had at one point about getting more carbs because I was running a half marathon soon. She said I was fine and I didn’t need it anymore. I believe I was eating around 100 grams of carbs 😐
Knowing what I know now, that is no way to fuel your body, especially for a very active female who does CrossFit 5-6 times a week and is about to run a half marathon. I eat way more carbs than that now and I don’t do CrossFit anymore and rarely run.
I cycled on and off counting macros for a long time because of the numbers that were given to me at various points along my journey. Truthfully, I think a lot of people go through this as well too. But over the years, I’ve learned to use them to benefit me rather than hinder/restrict me.
What made me a believer in tracking macros?
It was the fall of 2016 and my friends and I had just signed up for a marathon (my first one!) and we set some lofty goals. We wanted to qualify for the Boston marathon. Looking back, that is a pretty ridiculous goal to set, but hey, go big or go home they say right?
If I was going to be serious, I knew I had to be serious about fueling myself. I had done all kinds of diets before – pescatarian, zone, paleo, Whole30, and macro counting. I lay out my history with diet and exercise and my health and fitness journey – it was a very bumpy road, to say the least.
In the summer of 2016, I just finished my second Whole30 and was eating mostly paleo. Deep down, I knew I needed more carbs to fuel myself.
I was lucky enough to have someone calculate my macros for free and gave me some numbers to hit while I was training. When I got them, I was blown away! I believe it was around 1850 or so calories and 185 grams of carbs!!!! Cue the, WOW, ALL THE FOOD feeling!!
The funny thing is, looking back I was drastically under fueling myself. I was training for a marathon, doing CrossFit, taking treadmill HIIT classes, and working various jobs around town on my feet. But this was so much food for someone that chronically undereat and restricted herself.
During that time, I finally made a connection about my eating habits and fueling myself and my training. I felt stronger, my runs felt great, and I was recovering better than before. Sure I still undereating, but it was more than I had ever eaten.
And you know what happened? I ran my first marathon in 3:33 and qualified for the Boston Marathon. Don’t ask me how, because I honestly have no idea, but I did it. Sure I put in the hard work of training, but this was the first time in my life where I was actually fueling myself for performance (even though I didn’t know I was still under fueling).
I don’t think I’ll ever run again run a marathon again but there’s always an inkling in the back of my head wondering how it would go knowing what I know now about fueling myself.
Tracking macros after my marathon
Although that experience showed me the importance of fueling myself, I still struggled. Sometimes you can just get caught up in some unrealistic goals.
I took a short break from tracking macros after that and then jumped full swing into them at the beginning of 2017. During that time I had my up and downs though. My only goal was to get leaner, I was restricting myself, and not eating enough. Although I did see some good results with body composition and performance, it was unsustainable in the long run.
I stopped in the fall of 2017. Did another Whole30 in the spring of 2018. Then started working with another coach in the spring of 2018. Can you see the cycle?
I wanted to stop trying all these diets and find food freedom. My period had been nonexistent for the past 10 years and I knew that was a huge problem too.
I was also getting married in the fall of 2018 and I would be lying if I didn’t say I wanted to look my best for that.
With working with another coach, I truly was able to find food freedom. She had me eating more than ever, scaling back on all the high-intensity workouts, listening to my body, and enjoying the journey.
Where I am now
And that’s where I am now. I tracked consistently from summer 2018-early spring 2019. I took a break and started back up again in fall 2019 as I felt myself not feeling my best. Turns out I was undereating again. I’ve tracked pretty consistently since. But I’m also not so strict and use my numbers as a goal and not an end-all-be-all as I have in the past.
Currently, I am tracking my macros (I’m doing a surplus to gain muscle!) and have the best relationship with food I’ve ever had! I am eating more than ever (2200+ calories), have no restrictions around foods, and fuel myself to feel my best. Most of my diet is whole nutrient-dense foods, but I eat everything in moderation.
I’ve had my period for 2 years now and am the happiest with how I feel and look than I have ever been.
Will I track macros forever? Hell no. But right now it feels good and is helping me achieve my goals. What I tell my clients is, the goal of macros is learning how to build a balanced plate, learning about portion sizes, and seeing that all foods can fit while we are working towards our goals.
We are learning habits to guide us in the long haul. And if we ever feel like we have fallen off track, we can come back to macros if needed.
If you have any questions on my journey or tracking macros, drop them below!