Nutrition

Calorie Counting vs. Macros vs. Intuitive Eating

   Perhaps you want to make a lifestyle change, but you have no idea where to begin. You’ve heard of different approaches, but you have no idea what they mean or which you should follow. Now I’m not here to tell you which method of eating you should abide by. Nor am I here to help you calculate your macros. (I passed Grade 11 math with a 58%, you don’t want me crunching numbers for you, believe me.) But, I am here to hopefully clear a few things up for you, so that you can decide which method best suits your needs and your goals right now. Also, remember that one method generally isn’t superior to the other, the method that is superior will be the one that works best for you, your body, and your lifestyle.

CALORIE COUNTING 

This one is very straight forward. You first set a daily calorie goal, meaning the amount of calories that you will be eating each day. You will then be keeping track of these calories. You aren’t tracking macronutrients (Carbs/Fat/Protein), just simply calories. 

PROS

  • Great for beginners. A method I would personally recommend to anyone making a lifestyle change for the very first time (or the first time in a long time.)
  • Simple to do, as it does not require precise calculating.
  • Apps like My Fitness Pal allow you to enter in the foods that you eat, and then calculates how many calories you’ve eaten and how many remaining calories you have left (based on the calorie amount you have allotted.)
  • Gives you a basic idea of how many calories are in certain foods, which is helpful when learning portion control and serving sizes.

CONS 

  • Not as precise as other methods.
  • Little to no attention to the amount of fat, carbohydrates, and protein consumed each day.
  • Not the most ideal method if you are looking to meet specific goals (muscle gain, wanting to reach a specific body fat %).
  • Easy to over or underestimate calories consumed if you do not measure serving sizes.
  • Other than daily calorie allotment, diet is not specifically tailored to you. 

MACRO TRACKING 

Tracking macros (macronutrients) means that you will be tracking the amount (in grams) of carbohydrates, fat, and protein that you eat in a day. You will still be adhering to your daily calorie goal, so these amounts must fit into your daily calorie allotment. 

PROS

  • Very precise, as everything is measured/calculated.
  • Can be tailored to your specific needs + goals.
  • Your macro goals are not set in stone, and can be re-adjusted over time.
  • Does have some flexibility. For example, if 2 foods have the same (or similar) macronutrients, they can be interchangeable. Google IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) for more on this.
  • Undoubtedly the best method if you are looking to prepare for a fitness competition.

CONS

  • Requires precise calculating, which could be overwhelming to someone just beginning their diet + lifestyle change.
  • Not necessarily convenient, as foods need to be weighed/measured (a food scale will give you the most precise/accurate measurement.)
  • Difficult to track the exact macronutrients for foods that you did not prepare yourself. (ex: Restaurant.)
  • For specific goals or needs (ex: preparing for a fitness competition), macronutrients should be calculated by a professional. This means that it may cost you money to have this done. 

INTUITIVE EATING 

Intuitive eating (sometimes referred to as mindful eating) does not involve calorie counting, macronutrient tracking, or any numerical calculating. It is based upon the premise that our body will provide us with physical cues as to when it is hungry, and when it is full. You can read about the “10 Principles of Intuitive Eating” at www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating/

PROS 

  • No weighing food, calculating grams or percentages, or tracking calories. (*Although for some this could actually be considered a con.)
  • Encourages you to look to your body for cues, letting you know when you are truly hungry and when you are truly full.

  • Can be very beneficial to those that have struggled with disordered eating (I personally fall into this category), as this method does not obsess over numbers (No calorie or macro tracking.)

  • Relaxed method of eating, eating when hungry and stopping once full. 

    CONS

  • No precision.

  • No way of tracking how many calories have been consumed, aside from estimating.
  • Likely would not be ideal for those who have no grasp of portion control/serving sizes.

  • Typically not ideal for someone that is just beginning their lifestyle/diet change. (*This does not apply to someone recovering from an eating disorder.)

  • Not tailored to specific goals.

Always remember that different things work for different people. Those who have had success with macro tracking may argue that it is the best method to adhere to. Likewise, those who have had success with intuitive eating or simple calorie counting may argue that those are the best methods to follow. However, the best or superior method will always be the method that works best for you, your body, and your lifestyle. Experiment with different methods until you decide what works best for you. 

-SK

 

 

 

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