Macronutrients Vs. Calories: Which One Should I Track?

So you have finally discovered that in order to have lasting weight loss, there is no quick fixes.  And you have learned that in order to get the results you want, you have to work at it, and put some effort forward


You have come further than most people.

So you have figured out that you have to track, but which is better…tracking calories or tracking macronutrients?

What is a macronutrient?

A macro (or macronutrient) includes fats, carbohydrates and proteins.

So, when you are tracking macros, you have a set daily limit of fats (oil, butter, avocado, peanut/almond butter, coconut oil, etc), carbohydrates (fruit, peanut butter, grains like rice, bread, quinoa, pasta; avocado, sweets, etc), and protein (chicken, beef, shrimp, pork, peanut butter, avocado, rice, bread, beans).

Wait a minute… but I said avocado was a fat, a carb and a protein.

How could that be?

Most food are macro whores!  That means they contain 2, or more macronutrients, and so when you eat them, they will count towards multiple macros.

Fun isn’t it?

Well, it is fun!  And when you reach your limit, then you are done for the day.  So you gotta space them out and eat them wisely!


What is a calorie?

A calorie is a measure of energy.  Each of the macronutrients have an amount of energy.  So when you eat, say a piece of bread, it contains 15g of carbs.  Well, your body doesn’t see grams, it sees energy.  So, while you are tracking 15g of carbs, your body sees 60Kcal – or kilocalories of energy.  Each gram of carbohydrate and protein equals 4 Kcal, while each gram of fat equals 9Kcal

Yep, fat is more “energy dense.”  Why is that important?  You will see later.

Each body has a limit of Kcal it can consume before it starts storing the excess food as fat.


So, in other words.  Your body’s limit is where you neither gain or lose weight.  You stay the same.  Your body uses the same amount of energy as you take in.  It’s a balance.  If you eat less, you will lose weight, and if you eat more, you will gain.


So what’s the verdict?

You need to know both, but don’t need to track both!

First you need to know your maintenance level of calories (as stated, that’s the number of calories that you need to eat to maintain your current weight).  It’s very important information.  It’s vital, actually, if you want to go on a responsible weight loss, weight gain, or weight maintenance plan.

Calories are based on sex, height, weight and activity level.

You gotta know (roughly) how many calories you need to eat.

It’s not exact though, so you have to follow your weight.  If you start gaining weight (you allow a few pounds of flux for hormonal changes) or losing weight consistently, you need to change your calorie level.

This is a very important step, but you don’t need to track the calories.  Why?  Say, to maintain weight, you need 1800 calories.  Well, you can eat 1800 calories in peanut butter, right?

Well, I could.  Definitely!  Just get the spoon out, and stuff!

But would that be healthy?  Would I get all the nutrients my body needed for the day to maintain my active lifestyle of raising four kids, doing spin and lifting heavy?

Prolly not, but I would like to try!


Back to the Macronutrients

The macronutrients are very important.  My goals are to  become stronger and more fit.  This means I need to maintain/build muscle and have enough energy to continue to lift weights/increase weights.  Plus, I need enough energy to take my kids to the pool, and cook breakfast, lunch and dinner and enjoy life.

This is where the macronutrients come in.  If I lived solely on peanut butter, I wouldn’t function so well, would I?  I would have eaten a grotesquely  amount of fat, and very little protein or carbs.  I wouldn’t have enough protein to maintain/build my muscle or have really enough energy for what I need to do for the day.

It’s a lose-lose for mommy and her goals and a very sad day.  🙁

Thing is, I like happy days, and getting results.  So you take your calorie level, and you decide what your goals are.  Are you wanting to gain weight and get stronger, lose fat and get leaner, or just stay and lift like crazy?

Then you calculate your macro breakdown based on those goals.  Are you a weight lifter or runner?  You calculate your protein, carbs and fat based on this.

So for me, right now, I am reverse dieting.  This means I am controlled “over eating” above my maintenance level of calories.  I am moving up slowly, with the purpose of giving my body a dieting break, getting stronger, being kind to my body – and yes, gaining fat – with the idea of losing it and becoming even more lean.

So since I want to maintain/build muscle, I am eating my weight in protein, and then calculating my carbs and fat based on my weight lifting, and needing energy to lift heavy weights.

I don’t track calories, I track grams of protein, grams of carbs and grams of fat.


Where do I track?

I track using My Macros +, it’s an app on my smart phone.

I have been tracking for a few years.  I have built a large database of my favorite foods using Self Nutrition Data.

It’s really easy to use, not only for adding food, but for creating recipes.  If you add your own data, it’s more accurate.  I have had tons of success using this app, and wouldn’t change.  I trust it.  It takes about 3 months of consistent adding to create a custom database, then tracking is super easy and fast.

I have lost fat, maintained and gained muscle using this app.  It’s like gold for me, and I don’t use anything else.


What questions do you have about tracking?  I would love to hear them.

About Lisa

Hey! Thank you so much for stopping by. I'm Lisa - a homeschool mom of 3 (2 boys and 1 girl). I care about the strength of the family in America, and often blog about babies/kids, natural parenting, homeschool, and marriage. Before you leave, please sign up for my monthly newsletter (on the top right). If you do, you will be well rewarded with notification of all giveaways and sales - which will not be announced on the blog. Google+ Profile

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