Are Meal Plans Superior to Tracking Macros?

Since the early 2010’s tracking macros has only risen in popularity in and outside of the bodybuilding and fitness industry. With the introduction of smartphone apps such as myfitnesspal it’s become far easier to track and understand one’s calorie consumption. It’s opened the door to a much larger audience of people to begin eating right and exercising. The older generation mostly ate according to a meal plan they, or a coach created, leaving little room for variety. Eating the same foods every day may be easy for competitors, but the average person who just wants to improve how they look and eat healthier typically has a much harder time with this. This begs the question: “Is a meal plan superior to tracking your macros?”

For anyone wondering, a meal plan approach is a diet plan where one’s meals are listed out in order with the amount and type of food supposed to be eaten, meal by meal, every day. A macro tracking approach lays out how many grams of protein, fat, and carbohydrates one is allowed to eat in a day, and the person then creates their own meals and eats to fit those requirements.

Tracking macros led to the “if it fits your macros” diet (or IIFYM for short) which then became popular. There was actually a bit of controversy behind it for a while. This came about due to the idea that all macros and calories are created equal. For example, eating poptarts to reach your carbohydrate goal would bring about the same benefit as eating sweet potatoes. After all, if the two foods have the same number of macros wouldn’t this be true? This obviously didn’t last long as the argument had little ground to stand on once you factor in micronutrient content, and the negative effects of high amounts of sugar in one’s diet.

Meal plans are pretty tried and true at this point. There’s no room for variability, and this becomes a double edged sword. While this leaves no wiggle room for variety or changes, it also creates a 100% consistent approach. When you’re eating the same food everyday it leaves nothing to chance. It makes modifying one’s diet to produce results very simple. It’s like changing a variable in a math equation.

However, tracking macros has become a tool used by even high level bodybuilders at this point. They typically modify it into a more structured style. When you’re tracking your macros you’re able to create a meal plan for yourself while still picking and choosing the foods you like and prefer. It also gives you the option to allocate your calories into times of the day you prefer. You’re able to do this all while still consistently eating the same group of foods, which still leaves very little room for chance or slip ups.

So, are meal plans better than macro tracking? Not necessarily. It’s a very person dependent basis, but you can achieve similar results using both methods. What matters most in the diet method is the level of adherence of the individual. If a client constantly slips up and cheats on a meal plan, but can be 100% perfect while tracking their macros instead, I’d always prefer to go with the macro tracking option. Personally, I track my macros that are given to me by my coach and create a meal plan based on that. I typically stick to the same foods, and I usually always eat the most optimal foods, but in prep it does allow me to eat in a way I enjoy the most while still making the most efficient progress.

In conclusion, I would argue that meal plans aren’t necessarily flat out better than tracking your macros. Both methods are effective and beneficial in their own ways. However, if tracking your macros is too tempting for some people or they aren’t strict enough about it, then a meal plan style diet would be the superior option.

As always if you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out or on Instagram @Mattgoz9.

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