You’re spending so much time each day to make sure that you are eating your exact macros, nothing more and nothing less. However, there are some reasons why this might be a fruitless endeavour and might be better to adopt a more ballpark approach.

Food values are generalised on packages, so it would be remiss to adopt a specific macro tracking approach. Even if you were to eat the exact same foods and in the exact same quantities, you probably wouldn’t be getting the exact same nutrition as the day before. Keep these 6 things in mind the next time you are about to waste half a night tracking your macros to the microgram.

1. Your portion is not mass produced

Food products are mass produced, that is a fact we can’t escape from, no matter how many organic labels you slap on it. Therefore, the nutrient values given in the labels are based on average amounts, so some meat products might have slightly lower or higher protein amounts than others. This will impact your macro count at the end of the day, but without a more definitive way of finding out what the actual amounts are, you will have just have to go off the info you are provided.

2. Water content plays a role

The more water that is present in your food, the heavier it will be. Various factors play a role in the water content of food, from storage all the way through to preparation. For instance, if you put in a pinch too much of salt while cooking rice, it will hold onto more water. The same concept will apply to something like potato’s, you can cook chips or a whole potato but the chips will probably have more calories despite being the same weight, due to water content.

3. Nutrients are altered by nature

Nature is not the same as an automated factory line, a factory line is precise and must conform to specifications. Nature fluctuates, and so the type of food you are eating, the area where it is grown, and when it was harvested in relation to how ripe it was, all impact on the quality and nutrient profile of foods. For example, there is an increase in sugar content when certain foods are overripe, but a much higher starch content before it is ripe. Also, grapes that are grown in the Cape are sweeter or better than grapes that are grown in the Highveld because the climates are different.

Again, since you cannot determine when and where your produce was produced and harvested, a general approach is much better.

4. Nutritional info at restaurants aren’t precise

This may not be a huge influence if you aren’t frequenting eating houses very often, but they do still play a role. Foods at restaurants are prepared based on recipes, but that doesn’t mean that the chef is measuring your chicken breast on a scale to make sure it is exactly 200g. Therefore, it is well worth your while to just take it with a pinch of salt, or at face value because there is a slim chance that your entrée will match exactly.

5. Food labels are unpredictable

More often than not, the methods used to determine total calorie and macro values on food labels are somewhat outdated, so they only provide estimates. There have been numerous studies done by the American Medical Association showing that macro amounts have differed as much as 20% compared to what was stated on the labels. Methods have evolved and become slightly more accurate, but again, labels are mass-produced so if one packet of food has as little as 30g of food more than another, they won’t have the same calorie count.

6. Digestion differs per person

The way each of us digests food and the rate at which food is broken down is different in each person. For example, you might be able to digest red meat and potato much easier than others, or it might be more difficult for you. This alters the bacteria in your gut, and therefore the digestion of the rest of your food. Also, you won’t be absorbing the same macros from foods that your body has difficulty digestion.

Stop tracking to the milligramme

Reading this you might be thinking that food companies are lying to you, or that your favourite café is trying to swindle you. This is not the case at all. Food demands are so high because the vast number of people buying produce, it makes it close to impossible to give the exact nutrient values for varying food products. That is why you should adopt a ballpark tracking method, so as long as you get your macro values within a range (10g for carbs and protein, 5g for fat), you can count your diet as tracked. You will still be in control but with some flexibility, and not waste so much time tracking your food to the exact microgram.

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