I think the reason people are most intimidated by the macro counting lifestyle is because they think it’s too strict. They see weighing out foods and monitoring everything that goes into your mouth as obsessive. But in reality, I find it freeing. Yes, I do keep a log of every single thing I eat, but that also allows me to fit in foods I restricted in the past by fitting them into my daily macros. So the question is, how strict should you be? Ultimately, that depends on your goal.
If you are trying to lose weight and fat, you need to be pretty strict and stick to your macro numbers. Remember, the only way to lose weight is to eat less calories than you burn in a day. For me, that meant trying to hit my macros pretty much spot on. If you plan your day ahead of time (I plan everything out the night before), you really don’t have an excuse to go over your macros! If anything, plan for being a couple grams under just in case you slip up.
If you’re on a reverse diet, you also need to be pretty strict. During my reverse diet phase, I limited full on “cheat meals” and instead fit my favorite treats into my macros for the day. Why? Frankly, it was because I noticed that if I had a cheat meal (which then often turned into an entire cheat day or weekend), I would bloat and the scale would creep up a few pounds. Of course that was largely from salt retention and bloating, but it still messed with my reverse diet because of the weekly average weight. During a reverse diet, you weigh yourself every day and take a weekly average. I noticed that if I had a huge cheat meal, my weight would creep up for the next few days before going back to normal which really messed with my weekly average!
Of course other factors are important when progressing through a reverse diet, like body measurements, but for me, it was easier to just fit treats into my daily macros rather than have to stress about how a cheat meal (or day, or weekend) would hinder my progress.
Ah, now onto maintenance 🙂 . Maintenance macros mean that you are eating the exact amount of calories per day that your body needs based on your metabolism and activity level. If you already completed a reverse diet, these calories should be pretty high, which is awesome. Yay for eating more! While I have not been quite as strict with my maintenance macros, I am certainly not using it as an excuse to be overly lenient. When I was reversing and on fat loss, I ate every scrap of macros I was allowed because I was hungry! Now that I’m more satisfied, I don’t stress if I have 7 g carbs and 4 g fat left for the day (as an example). Since I have a pretty hearty appetite, I’m still hitting my macros closely, just not always as exactly as I was during the other phases.
I’m also experimenting a little more with my carb/fat ratio. For example, if I find that I have 10 g fat left for the day when I’m planning it out, rather than adding just fats to take that up (ex: butter), I might transfer some of those calories to carbs and add in something I like more (ex: an oreo cookie). I’ll take a few of the calories from fat grams and convert them to carbs. Remember, 1 g fat = 9 calories and 1 g carbs = 4 calories.
I’ve also noticed myself taking a few more licks and tastes now that I am on maintenance. I need to remind myself to be careful of this – those calories can add up quickly!
Long story short, the more you put into this, the more you will get out of it no matter what phase you are in. If you half ass it, you will get half ass results. No one is perfect 100% of the time (I certainly am not!) and vacations, cheat days, overeating, etc. will happen. BUT! If you commit and are consistent most of the time, you WILL see results.