How to Track Macronutrients- 3 Methods That DON'T Use a Fitness App
By far the most popular method of macronutrient tracking is using a fitness or food tracking app. There are many benefits to tracking with a food tracking app but it is NOT the only effective method of macronutrient tracking.
If you are not a fan of the food tracking apps but still want to learn how to track macronutrients then may I introduce three methods you can use to track macronutrients that do NOT use a food tracking app.
In this article we will discuss:
Why track macronutrients?
While the most commonly reported reason that people track macronutrients is to lose weight, there are several extremely useful reasons to track macros that have nothing to do with weight loss.
A brief overview of these reasons include:
Create awareness of what you eat.
Maintain current physique or body composition.
Increase athletic performance.
Recover from illness or injury
Boost recovery from pregnancy & support breast feeding efforts.
Just like there are many reasons WHY you may be learning how to track macronutrients, there are also many ways to do it.
How to track macronutrients with the palm method.
The palm tracking method uses your own hand as a measuring tool to estimate portion sizes of different food items. In this way you are able to learn to intuit portion sizes of different foods. Palm tracking can help you be more consistent in tracking as it does not require you to have access to extra measurement tools which makes tracking in restaurants, parties, and social events easier.
You may also benefit from using a paper or digital check list to mark off your daily palm targets as you reach them which can be an added step that some may find tedious. Ultimately- palm tracking increases your awareness of portion sizes and leads to greater sustainable results as you learn to "eye-ball" your food portions and make more informed food choices as a result.
As with any method of tracking, there are going to be pros and cons.
Uses only your hand as a tracking tool and doesn't require extra measurement tools.
Increases your awareness of portion sizes.
Supports consistency when tracking in restaurants or social events.
Has been shown to be equally effective in aiding weight loss as mobile app tracking.
Usually requires a professional to calculate your palm portion recommendations for you to follow in tracking.
Can be easy to "over- portions."
Takes time to learn to visualize portions in palm values.
Usually still requires using a paper tracker or notebook function of mobile device to check off palm portions for each day.
I have a whole blog post that goes in depth on how exactly how to track macronutrients using the palm method where you can learn more.
How to track macronutrients with the photo journal method.
Photo journaling is a great method of tracking if you want to increase your awareness of your food habits. All you need is a camera or your smart phone to take photos of your food before you eat it.
There are several pros and cons to this method of macronutrient tracking.
Only uses a camera and requires no formal tracking of food in portion sizes. Increases awareness and mindfulness of current food habits.
Has been shown to help individuals reduce food intake and make more nutritional food choices over time.
Has been shown to be useful for weight loss goals.
Has not been shown to be effective for muscle/strength building, sport performance, or body recomposition goals as it does not provide enough specific food information and oversight.
Requires you to always have and utilize your phone or camera in social circumstances where it may otherwise be undesired.
How to track macronutrients with the manual journal method
A tried and true tracking method is manual journal entries. This is the non-digital version of tracking using a food tracking app and requires you to measure and weigh your food as well as calculate the calories in the food weights and record them. For many this is a more time-consuming tracking option but may be preferable if you want to prioritize accuracy of data and prefer non-digital devices.
Generally speaking, manual journaling requires more time and intention to create sustainable habits as well as a dedication to manually calculating food energy totals which is why it is not the most popular option though it can be the most accurate one.
Pros and Cons of manual journaling:
Can increase accuracy as you weigh and measure your food and use basic food energy conversions to calculate calorie totals.
Is not tied to digital devices.
Allows you to easily track other biofeedback markers as desired such as hydration, energy levels, etc.
Requires an understanding and ability to execute food energy calculations for each entry.
Can be more time consuming as you need to weigh and measure each food item as well as manually calculate energy totals.
Requires you to carry your food journal with you throughout your day or with you to meals.
In the end the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of any food tracking method is your ability to be consistent. As you can see there are pros and cons to each method but your ability to be consistent in any method is the factor that will determine both its effectiveness and therefore your overall success in reaching your goals.
Choosing the right food tracking method for you requires an intentional evaluation of your goals and lifestyle needs so you can choose the method that will best allow you to accurately track your macronutrients, consistently track them, and use that data to assess how your food is helping you reach your goals or any changes you need to make with your food habits in order to reach your goals faster.