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07/24/18

How Bites, Licks, and Tastes Might Be Holding You Back

Imagine this. You’re out to dinner with some friends, celebrating the end of another long workday, and you decide you’re going to stick to your plan and nail your macros. Going over isn’t worth it, and you’re determined to see results and make your coach proud. You’ve checked the menu ahead of time, carefully chosen your meal, planned around it, and have every intention of hitting your macros. No alcohol, no free bread, just your planned meal.

Then the food arrives.

It’s great to have a plan and stick to it, but when you smell everyone else’s food, of course, you want to try everything. At a business dinner, one doesn’t simply take their neighbor’s food. Friends and family? Different story. People want to share; everyone’s offering you a bite of their chicken parm, some extra fries, or a sip of their Manhattan.

We’ve all been there, and it’s all too easy to steal a bite from a friend. It’s the polite thing to do, right? It’s just a few macros. You’ve been on point all day, so stealing a few fries isn’t going to undo your progress.

Those little tastes are a truly excellent way to socialize, try new foods, and lastly, slow down or completely stop your progress.

Do We Hate Fun Food?

Here at Stronger U, we want you to be successful, reach your health and fitness goals, and have fun along the way. No foods are off limits, and this is probably the least restrictive “diet” in the world. We encourage you to work in your favorite treats and snacks in moderation. However, you still need to eat the right quantities of food to see results, and this means tracking every single bite of food that contains a macro.

Is one bite you don’t track enough to stop your progress? Probably not. But if that untracked bite, lick, or taste becomes a habit you practice throughout the day, you may be shooting yourself in the foot without even realizing it. This is one of the first things we look for when people say they are stuck and claim they are hitting their macros. If a dietary audit reveals some untracked foods here and there, that’s usually the culprit, and making sure to track everything gets people right back on track.

Maybe it sounds like I’m being dramatic by making a big deal over a bite of food, or I expect machine-like willpower and perfect macros every single day, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I want everyone to reach their goals with minimal sticking points and headaches along the way. If you enjoy snacks and want to make them fit your meal plan, that’s perfectly fine, if they are accounted for.

No matter how you spin it, being in a calorie deficit to lose fat is going to mean sacrificing some things. As the saying goes, you can eat whatever you want, just not as much as you want. Every off-plan bite, lick, and taste can set you back, which means you’re going to be dieting even longer to see results.

Worst case? You think you’re doing really well, and you really believe you’re hitting your numbers perfectly. Here’s the thing, if you have untracked nibbles of food, you’re not being honest with yourself, whether you realize it or not. This is when you think you’re doing everything right, but you don’t see progress at all, and the frustration creeps in. This is dietary purgatory. Every untracked macro has the potential to set you back just a little bit further, and extend the amount of time you need to spend losing fat.

You may not even realize what’s happening, and genuinely think you’re following the plan to the best of your ability, but let’s take a closer look at how those innocent bites, “just a tastes” and the occasional Cheez-it could be slowing your progress.

Crunch Numbers, Not Snacks

We know that to lose a pound of fat, you need to be in a calorie deficit of roughly 3,500 calories. So if your maintenance calorie intake is 2,000, eating 1,500 calories per day would give you about 1 pound per week of fat loss (500 calorie deficit x 7 days = 3,500 calorie deficit). The numbers don’t always line up exactly like that of course, but let’s assume they do for the sake of this article.

If you stuck to a 500 calorie per day deficit, you’d see fat loss at a nice steady rate. 500 calories may seem like a lot of food to give up, and with the right foods, it can be. It works both ways though, and 500 calories can also be next to nothing with calorie-dense, highly processed foods – the stuff you probably reach for when you just want a little bit; the stuff that sneaks its way into your day.

A few crackers, a lick of the peanut butter spoon, a handful of popcorn at the movie theater – these are things that can add macros very quickly. You may not be eating the whole popcorn in all it’s buttery glory, but taking a handful or two still adds calories, whether you like it or not.

Let’s take a look at some common foods you’ll find around and could be tempted to reach for, and show how they can add up very quickly. These are small servings, the kind most people probably wouldn’t think would be too bad.  

  • 5 Ritz Crackers – 10C, 5F, 1P
  • 4 Milk Duds – 9C, 2F, 0P
  • 1 tsp peanut butter – 1C, 3F, 1P
  • 1/10 In-N-Out Double Double (1 bite) – 4F, 4C, 4P
  • 1/5 cup Captain Crunch – 0F, 6C, 0P
  • 2 Hershey Kisses – 2F, 6C, 0P

If you need a refresher, protein and carbs are 4 calories per gram, and fat is 9. So those 5 Ritz crackers you stole from your kid’s lunch? That’s 89 calories, nearly 1/5th of your daily deficit for fat loss.

The list could go on and on, but you can see where I’m going with that. A bite, a small handful, a few crackers – these seem harmless when you look at them individually, but if you have one untracked snack a day, which can easily turn into two, three, or more, you can really start stacking up the untracked calories, and cancel out any calorie deficit you’re aiming for.

Don’t Forget The Condiments

Unless you’re the kind of person who likes to eat Ranch dressing off a spoon, this next part doesn’t technically fall into the bites, licks, and tastes category, though it’s equally as important. If we’re talking about how easily untracked macros can add up without you realizing, we have to mention the stuff you cook with or throw on your meats and salads.

Drizzling some sauce on your chicken, splashing a tiny bit of olive oil on a salad or roasted veggies, liberally using cooking sprays because the 1/5th of a second of spray time is zero calories – these little things are all too easy to skip tracking, but can pack in some serious calories.

Unless you’re eating plain mustard, or maybe vinegar, check your label. Even low-sugar or low-fat condiments are going to have some macros, and if you get in the habit of blindly adding them to food, assuming the calories are negligible, think again.

Be sure to double check the label as well, which you should be doing anyway. A lot of seasonings and condiments claim zero calories all over the front of the package, or at least very low calories. But the serving size is next to nothing, and if you douse your food in it, now you’ve added macros. If the first few ingredients on something you use include any kind of oil or sugar, it has macros.

Count Everything

As we wrap things up, please understand this article comes from a place of love. Not everyone sneaks in untracked bites, but I know I’ve been guilty of it myself many times, and just writing this makes me want to refocus and make sure I’m tracking everything.

I don’t want anyone to feel incredibly restricted on a nutrition plan, but the truth is, if you’re going to use a flexible dieting plan that allows you to eat any foods, you have to be meticulous with your tracking and measuring if you want optimal results. If you go through this program only tracking “most things” and continue to sneak in bites, licks, and tastes every day, it could easily drag out the amount of time you have to spend in a calorie deficit by weeks.

One little handful or bite of food probably won’t undo all of your hard work, but if that happens every day, and you think about how many calories that could add over the course of 12 weeks, you’ll see why it’s so important to hold yourself accountable and track everything. Nobody wants to be in a calorie deficit longer than necessary, so, tighten up your tracking and you’ll see faster results.

I leave you with the words of the macro-counting legend himself, Mike Vacanti: “Your body is always tracking macros, even if you aren’t.”

Matt Dustin
Coach