Whether it's training, nutrition, or supplementation, methods evolve. Usually, this evolution makes processes more optimal, efficient, and ensures more progress with less wasted time—"streamlining," if you will.
However, sometimes a process is good as it is, and changing it only makes it more complicated, less user-friendly, and unnecessary. Most of us are aware of trainers who overcomplicate things to appear or sound intelligent, articulate, and impressive. I'm not that guy.
Keep It Simple Stupid
One of the main reasons I developed a following 20 years ago on the message boards was because I keep things relatively simple. I don't fluff things up, and I don't evolve in my ideology or methods unless there is a good reason. I am long past the point of having to impress people with big words, demand respect, or come up with something novel to gain attention in, which I like to call, this "giant sea of turds" online training. In keeping with the idea of Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS), I want to talk about macronutrients and why counting every trace macro is a waste of time.
Let me preface this discussion: You don't have to agree with me.
Hell, it's the Internet, and the Internet is overrun with people who have enough information and knowledge to believe they are decades ahead of everyone else. Nowhere is this more obvious than online training. Many of you will read this and think I am stupid and that you are far superior in your thinking and methods. It's ok; I don't hate you. After working online for 20 years, I have come to expect it. It's just the nature of the beast.
This all being said, you are welcome to continue with your way of doing things. It impacts me and my business absolutely none. The information I put out via elitefts for the last nine years is for no other reason than to help people. If you want the information, great. If you don't, that's great, too.
I do things a little differently than most people. I don't count calories, per se, and I don't count trace macros. Obviously, total calories in and total calories out matter. Obviously, trace macros still have calories, and those calories also count. I don't count trace macros because as bodybuilders, we tend to eat roughly the same five to seven foods every day. We do this because meal prep is easier if we eat the same foods and because our diets are relatively limited—whether for financial reasons or because we eat foods that we prefer vs. trying to consume a broad array of foods with different micronutrient profiles. Yes, the latter would be better from a health standpoint. However, not one of us is in bodybuilding for the health benefits. We came to this game to get HYUGE and RIPPED.
First things first, let's define a "trace macro." An example of a trace macro would be the fat in oatmeal or the protein in peanut butter. "Trace" means a small amount of a macro. The protein in peanut butter is not a complete protein. The protein in oatmeal, rice, a potato, or bread is also not a complete protein. I don't like to count incomplete protein; I prefer to only count complete protein because incomplete proteins will not support muscle tissue like a complete protein will (barring combining different incomplete proteins that can become complete proteins if you know enough about nutrition).
Trace amounts of fats and carbohydrates are a little bit different in that they are not incomplete or complete. However, I still don't count them because it is accepted that there will be trace amounts in different foods.
If you use roughly the same foods daily, these trace amounts of macros will remain constant. If a diet adjustment is needed and macros are lowered, the same foods will be used in smaller portions at each meal. This is akin to having a weight scale that is two pounds off. Yes, it's not providing an exact measurement, but it will still measure an accurate loss of two pounds, five pounds, ten pounds, etc. My point is that as macros are increased or decreased, accuracy is still achieved, and progress is easily gauged without worrying about counting trace macros.
Let's look at an example for one meal:
- 50g protein
- 50g carbs
- 16g fat
When not counting trace macros, the meal would look like this:
- 7oz of chicken breast (pre-cooked weight)
- 1 cup of cooked rice (leveled and packed in a measuring cup)
- 2 tbsp of peanut butter
The fat in the chicken breast is not counted. It is expected to remain constant because chicken breast is a staple in most diets.
The protein and fat in rice are minimal, so these don't count either.
The protein in peanut butter is not a complete protein, so it isn't counted. The carbs in peanut butter are minimal and not counted, either.
If the next diet change called for dropping the carbs to 25g and the fat to 8g, the rice measure would be cut in half, as would the fat measure. The fact that trace macros would also decrease is irrelevant because the same foods are in use.
This method of monitoring diets is not just easy for the trainer to manage, but it is easier for the client, as well. At the same time, it teaches the client the macro profiles for each food they eat. Are there exceptions to counting trace macros? I'm glad you asked.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are always exceptions to any rule. Fat and protein must be counted in cheese, as an example. The protein in cheese is a complete protein, and cheese is considered a fat source. The carbs are minimal, so they aren't counted. Protein in quinoa is counted because it is a complete protein. Fat in salmon, and fat in beef that is fattier than 96/4, must be counted. If white fish is substituted for chicken, fat must be added to the meal. Otherwise, there would be a significant drop in fat intake by shifting to white fish. This is why I don't allow white fish for my clients until or unless we need fat intake to drop very low.
This may seem complicated if you haven't used this method before, but it isn't. Even for those clients who find it complicated the first week, within two weeks, it is easy to understand and even newbie clients understand the method. More importantly, clients report time and time again that it is much easier to manage their diet than to count all of the trace macros. If it were not simple and didn't work, I would not have been able to use this process for the last 20 years for bodybuilders, athletes, regular people who just want to train and be in great shape, and myself the entire time I have competed.
If there was a system that I thought was better, I would use it. The results over the last 20 years with an extensive list of clients back up my claims.
Sometimes, the evolution of methods is necessary to optimize progress. From a dieting standpoint, I have found it to be false. If you are tired of inputting your nutrition information into an app to count your total macros and calories, give this method a shot and see if you don't find it easier to manage your diet.
Ken “Skip” Hill has been involved in the sport of bodybuilding for almost forty years and competing for twenty-plus years. Born and raised in Michigan, he spent 21 years calling Colorado home with his wife and their four children. Four years ago, he and his wife traded the mountains for the beach, relocating to South Florida. His primary focus is nutrition and supplementation, but he is called upon for his years of training experience, as well. He started doing online contest prep in 2001 and is considered one of the original contest prep guys (when the bodybuilding message boards were still in their infancy). Skip’s track record with competitive bodybuilders is well-respected, and he also does sport-specific conditioning, including professional athletes.