A friend of mine recommended I did a blog on this topic, after pointing out that her social media was riddled with PTs and fitness industry people going on about their calorie deficits, macro ratios, low-carb diets and so on. “It’s overwhelming for someone who just want to be fit, and not necessarily want to look like a fitness model,” she said. “Do I really have to do all that to be fit? Isn’t eating healthy and varied and exercising regularly good enough anymore?”
She made some very good points, and really got me thinking. The short answer to the questions raised is no, of course you don’t have to count calories or track your macros to be fit or reach your goals. There are plenty of people out there who don’t track everything they eat and they maintain, or at least close to, what would be their ideal physique and fitness levels.
What are your goals?
The devil is in the detail, however. It all depends on what your goals are, where you’re at in relation to reaching those goals and whether you seem to have become stuck in progressing towards those goals. A lot of people could benefit from tracking their calorie intake for a while, especially in relation to their BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) and current activity levels.
I’ve seen countless posts on Instagram pointing out that people tend to grossly underestimate the amount of calories in the everyday food they consume. By tracking your meals for a while, and I’m taking for a few weeks or months, not forever, you could develop a really good sense of what your calorie intake actually is, and thus help push yourself along to your goals. This is especially true if you’re left with a stubborn bit of fat you just can’t seem to get rid of, or you can’t grow any bigger despite eating like a maniac. For the first example, it might be a simple task of the person reducing their daily calorie intake by 100 or 200 more calories. And for the second, it could be that the person still simply aren’t eating enough in relation to the calories burned on a daily basis.
Guesswork might not be enough
If you’re just guessing the amount of calories you’re consuming and burning, you might be putting blocks in the road to reaching your goals because your calories in versus calories out are just pure guesswork. If you want to lose body fat, you need to be in a calorie deficit. If you want to gain bulk and size, you generally need to be in a calorie surplus. And generally speaking, you don’t work either of those two out just by guessing.
After I started tracking my daily calorie intake well over a year ago now, I have definitely made advances that I wouldn’t have made without knowing the finer detail in my intake versus output. And I now days where I don’t track anything until the evening, whereby I make a guess in regards to what my calorie intake and macro ratio might be before I put everything into MyFitnessPal. A lot of the time, my guesswork is really close to reality. And that’s because I’ve been doing it for so long, that I’m getting a really good sense for the amounts of calories in food and what their macronutrient ratios look like. I’m definitely not aiming to track my intake forever!
On the other hand, if you’re happy with where you’re at in relation to your fitness goals without tracking anything in the first place, you have your answer there. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!