How to Track Macros 101

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What’s up, foodies and fitness fanatics? Today, we’re talking about something that sounds more complicated than it is – macros tracking.

Macros, short for macronutrients, refer to the three major nutrients that make up our food: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. And why should you keep tabs on them? Well, they are the key to acing your nutrition game and achieving fitness goals. It’s like having a secret weapon that helps you make informed choices and ensure you’re getting the right balance of nutrients.

Why You’re Here

For Weight Loss

Let’s talk about weight loss. We’ve all been there, scrolling through Instagram and feeling jealous of those #fitspo influencers with their chiseled abs and toned legs. By tracking your macros, you can ensure you’re getting the right balance of carbs, protein, and fat to support your weight loss goals. It’s also a great way to hold yourself accountable and stay on your course.

Here’s something to remember though: only counting macros is not enough. You also need to eat clean and have healthier overall lifestyle changes.

For More Energy

Raise your hand if you’re constantly feeling tired and sluggish throughout the day. (I raised both of my hands, did you?) Yep, aside from wanting to lose weight, we also want to do more. This is closely related to our Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).

Macro counting helps boost your energy levels. By eating the right balance of nutrients, you give your body the fuel it needs to power through your day. So, if you’re sick of feeling like a sleepy sloth, don’t just count calories, give macro tracking a try, too!

For Overall Health

Let’s be real, we all want to live our best, healthiest lives possible.

By monitoring your macro intake, you can make sure you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function at its best. Plus, it’s a great way to learn more about your food choices and adjust your diet based on your body requirements.

What Are Macros and Why You Should Care

Simply put, macros are the three major nutrients that make up the food we eat: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

And why should you care about tracking macros? Here’s a simple truth: counting macros works. Tracking your macros can give you a more precise understanding of the nutrients you’re consuming, and can help you achieve specific fitness goals more efficiently.

For example, if you’re trying to gain muscle mass, you’ll likely need to consume more protein to support muscle growth. On the other hand, if you’re trying to lose weight, you may need to reduce your overall calorie intake, and tracking your macros can help you make sure you’re still getting enough of each nutrient while staying within your calorie goal.

Counting Calories Vs. Counting Macros

Now that we’ve covered the basics of macros, let’s dive into the world of counting them.

You may have tried to figure out how many calories you should be eating to gain or lose weight. That’s calorie counting – the tried and true method of monitoring your food intake – but did you know that counting macros is a more precise way to track your nutrition?

Let’s break it down. Calories are made of macros. That’s why a nutrition label has fats, carbs, and protein in grams of the food or product.

There are:

  • Carbohydrates – 4 calories per gram
  • Fats – 9 calories per gram
  • Protein – 4 calories per gram

Tracking calories is simply keeping track of your daily calories. It’s a great way to keep a simple diet and ensure you’re not overeating or under-eating. However, it doesn’t care much about your diet quality. You could eat 1,500 calories of pizza and still technically be within your daily calorie limit, but you’d be missing out on important nutrients like protein and healthy fats.

That’s where counting macros comes in. By tracking the amount of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats you consume in a day, you’re able to get a more precise understanding of the types of nutrients you’re consuming.

So, is one better than the other?

It really depends on your individual goals and preferences. If you’re just looking to maintain a simple diet and keep your calorie intake in check, counting calories may be the way to go. But if you’re looking to fine-tune your nutrition and optimize your fitness goals, counting macros is your way to go.

Of course, it’s important to note that neither counting calories nor counting macros is a one-size-fits-all approach. Everyone’s body is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. That’s why it’s important to listen to your body, consult with a healthcare professional, and experiment with different approaches until you find what works best for you.

The Three Macronutrients

Now let’s move on to the stars of the show.


First up, carbohydrates. They’re everywhere, right? But not all carbs are created equal.

Simple Carbs

We have simple carbs that are made up of one to two sugar molecules, which are easy to digest and give you a quick energy boost. However, that boost doesn’t last long and you’ll soon find yourself feeling sluggish and hungry again. They also spike blood sugar levels. So, you should avoid letting simple carbs be the bulk part of your diet. Except for fruits.

Complex Carbs

Complex carbs, on the other hand, like what the name suggests, are a string of sugar molecules. These carbs take longer to digest and give you a slow, steady stream of energy that lasts longer. The more complex the carb, the better. Great examples are starchy vegetables like corn, lima beans, and peas and 100% whole-wheat bread.


Next up, fats. Ah, the dreaded “F” word. But don’t worry, not all fats are bad for you. In fact, dietary fats are the most concentrated source of energy, minerals, and vitamins.

Good Fat

Good (unsaturated) fats help keep our skin healthy, improve brain function, and even protect our hearts.

Good fats are found in foods like nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil. You can also get your healthy fats from fatty fish like salmon, which is not only delicious but also affordable if you buy it canned.

Bad Fat

Bad (saturated) fats are not as bad as you think; after all, it’s still a dietary fat vital to the body. When moderated, it’s a great energy source, lowers the risk of heart diseases, and protects internal organs like the lungs and liver.

Trans Fats

No matter how bad fats can be, they will never be as bad as trans fat that you need to completely avoid. Some examples are fried foods, baked goods, and margarine.


Last but not least, protein! Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue, and it’s also important for keeping you feeling full and satisfied after a meal. The body breaks down protein into amino acids (the building blocks of proteins).

Essential Amino Acids

Essential amino acids are those that our bodies can’t produce on their own, so we need to get them from our food. There are 9 of them: histidine, leucine, lysine, threonine, tryptophan, isoleucine, methionine, phenylalanine, and valine.

Non-Essential Amino Acids

Non-essential are those that our body can create on its own.

Great sources of protein that won’t break the bank include eggs, chicken breast, and canned tuna. You can also get protein from plant-based sources like lentils, chickpeas, and quinoa.

Figuring Out Your Macros

Knowing why you should count macros is great, but now what?

When it comes to tracking your macros, you need to figure out how much of each macronutrient you should be consuming. This will vary depending on your individual goals, body composition, and lifestyle.

To find your individual macro needs, you can use a macro calculator. These calculators will ask for your age, height, weight, gender, activity level, and goal (whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle, or maintain your current body weight). They then give you a breakdown of how many grams of each macronutrient you should be consuming each day. However, these online calculators are often a one-size-fits-all and don’t take into account factors such as your lifestyle, health history, and other things that are unique to you as an individual.

The best is to work with a nutrition coach so you understand what you need, why you need them, and how you can incorporate these changes into your life.

Moving on – Let us cue you in on a secret, two actually! If you want to rock your macro game like a boss, you must know about optimal protein intake and fiber counts.

Optimal Protein Intake

So, how much protein should you be consuming? Well, the answer isn’t as clear-cut as a perfectly cooked steak. The general rule of thumb is to aim for around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. That’s 56 grams for an average sedentary man and 46 grams for a woman.

Note that this can vary depending on your individual goals and lifestyle.

If you’re a gym junkie or an athlete, you may need more protein to support muscle growth and recovery. In fact, a systematic review found that consuming 3.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight supports muscle growth or maintenance.  

On the other hand, if you’re more of a couch potato, you might not need as much. That being said, you still need to make sure you’re getting enough protein to keep your body running smoothly.

Fiber Counts

Now, let’s talk about fiber. Fiber is like the superhero of the food world. It keeps your digestion humming, lowers your cholesterol levels, and helps keep you feeling full and satisfied. But how much fiber should you be aiming for? The recommended daily intake for adults is between 25-30 grams per day.

Sounds like a lot of kale, huh? Don’t worry! There are plenty of delicious and fiber-packed foods out there, like whole grains, fruits, and veggies. And if you’re struggling to hit your fiber goal, you can always supplement with a fiber powder or supplement.

Pros of Tracking Macros

  1. Accountability – Tracking your macros keeps you accountable for what you’re eating. This can be especially helpful if you’re trying to reach a specific health or fitness goal, like losing fat.
  2. Flexibility – Unlike other diets, macro tracking doesn’t limit what you can eat. Instead, it focuses on the amount of each macronutrient you consume. This means you can still enjoy your favorite foods, as long as they fit within your macros diet.
  3. Customizable – Macro tracking is highly customizable. You can adjust your macros based on your individual needs and goals, and tweak them as you go. This allows you to create a plan that works for you and your lifestyle.

Cons of Tracking Macros

  1. Time-consuming – Tracking your macros can be time-consuming, especially at first. You’ll need to weigh and measure your food, and input it into a tracking app or program. This can be a lot of work, more so if you’re busy or always on the go.
  2. Obsessive – Counting macros can be obsessive for some people. At worst, it can lead to disordered eating patterns, and cause stress or anxiety around meals. If you find yourself obsessing over every gram of food, it may be time to take a step back and reevaluate your approach.
  3. Inaccurate – Tracking your macros isn’t an exact science. There’s room for error in measuring your food, and not all tracking apps or programs are created equal. But still, tracking your macros will keep you consistent and is better than not tracking at all.

Counting Macros: Step-By-Step Guide

Counting macros is a guaranteed effective way to promote long-term positive changes. That’s why consistency is critical when you count macros versus simply winging it.

What To Expect When You Count Macros

When you count macros, you’ll be more aware of the foods you’re eating and the nutrients they contain. You may also find that you have more energy and feel better overall as you focus on fueling your body with the right balance of macronutrients.

Remember, counting macros is just one tool in your health and fitness toolbox. Don’t get too caught up in the numbers or stress yourself out over hitting your goals perfectly. Instead, focus on progress, not perfection, and enjoy the journey toward a healthier, happier you.

How To Set Your Daily Macro Goals

Step 1: Have a basic understanding of your current eating habits. To do this you can write down what you eat for five or seven days, so you have an idea of your totals. You also need to think about your body composition to assess your health.

Here’s a tip: Men with more than 25% body fat and women with more than 32% body fat should bring down their body fat percentage first.

Step 2: Determine your targets. This will depend on your goal: Do you want to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain it? Based on your decision, it’s now time to set your daily calorie intake and macronutrient breakdown.

Your macronutrient ratio will revolve around your preference. Some questions you’ll need to think about are:

  • Do you want to eat on the high end or low end of recommended protein intake?
  • Do you want to eat a balanced mix of fats and carbs? Lower fat? Lower carbs? Within range?
  • Do you plan to keep or change your activity levels? Your weight? Habits?

Step 3: Choose a tracking method. There are a variety of ways to track your macros, from pen and paper to apps and online programs. Choose a method that works best for you and your lifestyle.

Step 4: Weigh and measure your food. To accurately track your macros, you need to know how much you’re eating. Invest in a food scale and measuring cups to make sure you’re getting the right amount for each food group. Then, input your food into your tracking app or program. This will give you a breakdown of your macro intake for the day.

Step 5: Adjust as needed. If you’re not hitting your macro goals, adjust your food intake accordingly. You may need to modify your meal plan or try different foods to hit your targets.

Best Tools To Use

Here are some of the tools to help you in your counting macros journey:

Tracking Apps

  1. MacroFactor
  2. Cronometer
  3. MyFitnessPal
  4. My Macros+
  5. Carb Manager

Online Calculators

  1. IIFYM Macro Calculator
  2. DamnRipped Macro Calculator
  3. Macros Inc Calculator

As we mentioned earlier, it’s still best if you discuss your macros with a nutritional coach.

Other Tools

  1. Digital Food Scale – This little gem is an absolute game-changer when you want to accurately count macros. With a scale, you can weigh your food and know exactly how much you’re eating down to the gram. If you’re always on the road, a travel food scale is helpful for going out to eat or being away from home.
  2. Measuring Cups and Spoons – While a kitchen scale is great for weighing solid foods, measuring cups and spoons can be more convenient for liquids and powders.
  3. Portion Control Containers – If you’re someone who likes to meal prep, investing in some portion control containers is a great idea. These handy containers are pre-measured to hold the perfect amount of protein, carbs, and fat, making it easy to portion out your meals for the week. Plus, they’re great for taking your meals on the go, whether you’re headed to work or the gym.

Best Practices for Tracking Macros

Now that you have all your tools ready to go, what comes next?

Pay attention to the nutrition label

First and foremost, you’ve got to know how to read nutrition labels. That’s right, those little boxes on the back of your food packages that seem like gibberish are actually packed with valuable macro information.

Pay attention to serving sizes on food labels, because that’s where people tend to trip up. And don’t forget to look at the ingredient list to make sure you’re not eating anything that doesn’t fit your macros or your dietary restrictions.

Plan your meal ahead

Next up, plan ahead. This means knowing what you’re going to eat throughout the day and making sure it fits your macro goals. Meal prep is a great way to stay on track, but if you’re not into that, at least have a general idea of what you’ll eat for each meal and snack. This way, you won’t be caught off guard and tempted to grab something that doesn’t fit your macros.

Now, there are instances when you can’t turn down a get-together and you need to eat out. You’re afraid that you may not meet your macros. Sadly, you might be right – but only if you let it be. Counting macros doesn’t mean you should stop eating out altogether, you just need to be more prepared. For instance, MyFitnessPal is a great resource for finding nutrition information on restaurant food. You just have to be sure that the numbers in the app make sense because there is no verification on the user-entered items.

Understand how to measure or weigh your food

Here’s a good starting point: Should you weigh food raw or cooked?

When it comes to tracking your macros, it’s best to weigh your food raw whenever possible. This way, you’re getting the most accurate measurement and can ensure you’re keeping to your macro diet. Plus, it’s easier to track your portion sizes when you’re working with raw ingredients.

Here are some more tips:

  • Additive: Place a plate or bowl on the food scale, zero it out, and add the food. Zero it out, add the next food, etc.
  • Subtractive: Put the food container (e.g. peanut butter) on the scale, zero it out, and scoop it out. The negative number is how much you took.

Always have your food scale at easy access at home

When it comes to measuring and weighing your food, precision is key. Use your kitchen scale to weigh everything from your chicken breast to your sweet potatoes, and use measuring cups and spoons for liquids and powders. And don’t forget to always have your food scale at easy access at home, because trust me, you don’t want to be digging through your kitchen cabinets trying to find it when you’re hungry.

Learn to eyeball volumetric measurements

Volumetric measurements… sounds fancy, eh? But all it really means is estimating the volume of something without using a measuring cup or spoon. For example, it’s easy to remember what a tablespoon of peanut butter looks like. Plus, a tablespoon of everything will always be the same size. That tablespoon scoop of peanut butter is the same size as a tablespoon of yogurt or jam.

Same with a cup. A cup of cooked rice is the same size as a cup of chopped broccoli.

And let’s be real, sometimes you just don’t have a measuring spoon handy or you don’t want to wash it when you’re done. That’s where eyeballing comes in handy.

But let’s be clear, eyeballing isn’t the most accurate way to measure your food. So if you’re just starting out with macro tracking, it’s important to use your measuring cups and spoons to get a better sense of what different volumes look like. Once you’ve got a good feel for it, you can start to eyeball things when you must.

Common Pitfalls When Tracking Macros

Newbie Dilemma

It’s easy to get excited when you start to count macros. But here’s the thing: if you don’t have enough knowledge or experience, trying to do everything all at once can be overwhelming, confusing, and frustrating. If you don’t know how to properly calculate your macros, understand the macronutrient breakdown of different foods, or even how to meal prep, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Not only can it be overwhelming, but it can also be counterproductive. If you try to do everything all at once, you might end up feeling burnt out, exhausted, or discouraged. And if you’re not seeing the results you want, you might even give up entirely.

So, what’s the solution? Take it slow and steady. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your perfect macro-tracking routine.

Set It And Forget It

Ever heard of the “Set It and Forget It” approach? This is when you calculate your macros, set your goals… and then don’t think about it again. Ever.

While it’s great to have a plan in place, it’s important to remember that things change. Your activity level might increase or decrease, your weight might fluctuate, or your goals might shift. That’s why it’s important to re-evaluate your macros on a regular basis and make adjustments as needed.

The All or Nothing

We’ve all done it at least once. This is when you become so fixated on hitting your macros exactly that you start to feel anxious or guilty if you go over or under.

While it’s important to aim for your goals, it’s also vital to be flexible and forgiving. One day of going over your carb goal isn’t going to ruin everything. Remember, tracking macros is a tool, not a punishment. Don’t stress about being 100% accurate.

Not Tracking Everything

Another common pitfall is not tracking everything. This might sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget to log that handful of almonds or that splash of cream in your coffee. Even small things can add up over time, so make sure you’re tracking everything that goes into your mouth. If you’re not sure about the macros of a particular food, do some research before you eat it.

Pre-Packed No-Nos

Speaking of research, our next pitfall is relying too much on pre-packaged foods. While it’s certainly convenient to scan a barcode and have all the macros automatically calculated for you, packaged meals aren’t always equivalent to healthy foods. They can be high in sodium, preservatives, and other additives that aren’t good for you.

Alternatives To Counting Macros

Focus on One Macro First

If you’re new to macro tracking, focusing on just one macro can be an excellent way to ease into the process without feeling like you’re drowning in information. It’s a great way to build a solid foundation and then gradually add in the other macros over time.

Protein is the most important macro to track to maintain muscle mass. Plus, it’s often more filling than carbs or fats, so you might naturally eat fewer calories overall.

Sign Up To A Meal Plan Service

If the idea of calculating your macros and meal prepping every week sends you into a cold sweat, let others do the macro tracking for you. Many companies offer pre-made meals that are already portioned and balanced for your specific goals. All you have to do is heat them up and enjoy. It takes the guesswork out of meal planning, while still ensuring that you’re getting the right balance of macros. They can be expensive though.

Try Flexible Dieting

Flexible dieting is all about balance and moderation. Instead of obsessively tracking every gram of food, you focus on eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods, while still allowing yourself some flexibility to indulge in your favorite treats.

The idea is that if you’re generally eating a balanced diet, the occasional indulgence won’t derail your progress. This approach can be a great option for those who don’t want to feel restricted or overwhelmed by tracking every little thing.

Is My Macro-Tracking Working?

When you’re counting macros, progress can come in many different forms. It might be hitting your protein goal every day for a week, seeing a drop in body fat percentage, or even just feeling more energized throughout the day. Whatever progress looks like for you, make sure to celebrate it! Pat yourself on the back and keep pushing forward.

A great way to know if your counting macros is working is by taking progress photos or measurements. By doing so, you can see changes in your body that might not show up on the scale. Remember, progress takes time, so be patient.

But how long does it take for macro counting to work? Everyone’s body is different, so the amount of time it takes to see progress can vary. 

However, as a general rule of thumb, I recommend tracking your macros consistently for at least 4-6 weeks before making any major changes. This gives your body time to adjust, and you, the time to see how your current tracking is working.

My Macro-Tracking Experience

Let me tell you about my own macro-tracking experience and the ups and downs I faced along the way.

First off, let me just say that counting macros is not a one-and-done kind of thing. It’s a continuous experience that needs to be integrated into your lifestyle. And trust me, it’s not always easy.

When I first started counting macros, I was gung-ho and ready to take on the world. I meticulously weighed and measured every single piece of food that went into my mouth. But as time went on, I started to face some problems.

The first issue was that I found it difficult to stick to my macro goals when I’m out at social gatherings. I mean, who wants to be that person who whips out a food scale at a restaurant? Not me! I had to learn to estimate my portions and make educated guesses about the macro content of my food.

Another problem was I was getting bored with my meals. I had to get creative with my meal planning and find new recipes that fit my macros.

But despite these challenges, I’ve found that tracking my macros has been incredibly beneficial for me. It’s helped me become more aware of what I’m eating and has allowed me to make healthier choices.

So, if you’re thinking about tracking your macros, here are some tips to stay motivated:

  • Find a community – Joining a group of like-minded individuals who are also tracking their macros can be incredibly helpful. It provides a support system and a place to share tips and tricks.
  • Plan ahead – Meal planning is key to sticking to your macros. Make sure you have plenty of macro-friendly options on hand so that you’re not tempted to stray.
  • Mix it up – Don’t be afraid to try new recipes and switch things up. Eating the same thing day in and day out can get old fast.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself – We all slip up from time to time. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Just get back on track the next day and keep moving forward.

Remember, tracking your macros is a journey, not a destination. Embrace the process and make it a part of your lifestyle. There is no time limit to when you should start or stop counting macros

You are in control.


So there you have it, macro counting doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With a bit of patience, a pinch of organization, and a dash of creativity, you’ll be on your way to hitting your macronutrient goals like a pro. Remember, tracking your macros is not about restriction, it’s about finding balance and making sure you’re giving your body the fuel it needs to perform at its best.

So grab your food scale, fire up that tracking app, and let’s get macro-tracking!


How do beginners track macros?

To be successful at tracking macros, consistency is key. Start by setting realistic goals and make a plan to track your macros every day. Use a food tracking app to log everything you eat, and don’t forget to measure your portions accurately.

Remember that it’s okay to slip up occasionally, but getting right back on track is important. Over time, tracking macros will become a habit, and you’ll become more aware of the nutritional value of the foods you eat.

Don’t be afraid to seek guidance from a registered dietitian or nutrition coach if you need help along the way.

How do I figure out my macros?

The first step in tracking macros is to determine your daily calorie needs based on your goals and activity level. Next, decide on your macro ratio based on your goals, such as weight loss or muscle gain. A common starting point is 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat, but this can vary.

Use an online calculator to determine your recommended daily intake of each macro, and then track your food intake using a food tracking app. Remember that these calculations are just estimates and may need to be adjusted based on your progress and individual needs.

What macros should I track?

Ideally, you should track all three macros: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Each macro plays a different role in the body, and tracking them can help ensure you’re meeting your daily nutritional needs. Carbs provide energy, protein supports muscle growth and repair, and fat helps with hormone production and nutrient absorption.

To determine your daily macro needs, use an online calculator and decide on your ratios based on your goals, such as weight loss or muscle gain. Then, track your food intake using a food-tracking app to ensure you’re hitting your macro targets each day.

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