Following a macro diet is one of the easiest ways to improve your nutrition and support your fitness goals. But getting started can feel difficult if you don’t know where to begin.
Don’t worry, we’ve got your back! Here’s your complete macro tracking starter guide along with free macro counting tools and tips for success.
Why Should I Track My Macros?
Tracking your macros allows you to dial in your diet to your specific needs - helping to take your nutrition and your results to the next level.
Traditionally while dieting, people tend to start with the overlying "calories in versus calories out" approach.
While counting calories can be a great way to lose weight, it can sometimes lead to frustration when you aren't quite seeing the results you want in terms of fat loss.
Counting Calories vs Macros
Fat loss and weight loss often get used interchangeably. However, they are different things that often require different variables to help you achieve results.
Weight loss is the result of a calorie deficit - which causes you to cut into muscle stores and body fat stores to get the energy your body needs. Thus leading to weight loss.
Fat loss can be triggered when you start tracking your macronutrients because of the way your body responds to these key nutrients. Each macro plays a unique role in your health and fitness, and getting the right balance of all three can be key.
By counting macros you can make sure you are fueling your workouts efficiently and feeding your body what it needs, helping you achieve the best results.
How Do You Track Macros?
Here's your step-by-step guide for keeping track of your daily macros.
Step 1: Learn Your Macros
Getting started with tracking macros is all about determining what your fitness goal is. Are you trying to lose fat, build muscle, or maintain your weight and change your body composition?
All of these objectives will have different starting points in terms of macro goals and will vary even further with your activity level. If you are struggling to calculate how many grams of protein, carbs, and fat you need to get started on your diet, try this simple macro calculator.
Step 2: Get the Right Tools
When following a macro-based diet, the easiest way to keep yourself accountable as well as be as accurate as possible is to track them, using either a food diary or some type of app! If you are a more traditional person, a pen and paper may be just fine for you.
However, if you would rather have the convenience of a database of food readily available to you, an app will definitely be the best method for you. Most macro-friendly apps allow you the ability to easily track your macros for a premium feature.
Step 3: Log Your Daily Intake
Whether you are using a macro tracking app or a pen and paper, you’ll want to keep tracking of every single thing you eat and drink each day. This includes the smallest bites and sips - it all adds up!
Here are the top tracking tips to keep top of mind and help you get as accurate as possible:
- Note the actual serving size you ate - this is where a food scale or measuring cups and spoons come in handy. If you don't have these on hand, practice portion control and learn how to get better at eyeballing it.
- Don’t forget to get specific and include all ingredients used, like toppings, seasonings, cooking oils, etc. These can all impact your macro intake, adding a few grams of fat or grams of carbs here and there.
- If using an app, search for brand-specific items or use the barcode scanner to make sure you’re tracking the right food item.
How to Track Macros: App Tutorial
Example Day of Tracking
Here’s an example day of what tracking your macros may look like -
- Breakfast: Two scrambled eggs cooked with 1 tsp of oil, 1/2 cup of oatmeal cooked with water, 2 tbsp of peanut butter (P: 25, F: 28, C: 34)
- Snack 1: Protein shake made with whey powder and water (P: 50, F: 1, C: 0)
- Lunch: grilled turkey burger, baked sweet potato fries, side salad w/ 1 tbsp low-fat vinaigrette (P: 22, F: 16, C: 45)
- Snack 2: 5 oz Dannon light & fit yogurt, 1/2 cup of strawberries, 1/4 cup of Kind protein granola (p: 17, f: 2, c: 32)
- Dinner: 4oz grilled flat iron steak (grass-fed), 6oz steamed brown rice, 4oz steamed veggies (p: 30, f: 8, c: 57)
- Snack 3: Quest cookies and cream protein bar (P: 25, F: 7, C:20)
Total for the day: P: 169, F: 56, C: 188
How to Keep Track of Macros
If you enjoy the comfort of knowing that every single macro is accounted for, then learn how to meal prep and portion foods to match your goals. This can make tracking feel like a breeze and allow you to only focus on accounting for food when you go out to eat.
However, you don't need to get crazy obsessive about it to be successful. It’s all about balance. The best part of macro diets is that they can offer you some wiggle room - helping you decide where the daily cheats and splurges fit into your day.
Tips for Macro Balance
Learning how to take on the flexible dieting approach can be mildly difficult, especially if you'd rather just have days off and not think about it. However, if you are diligent about logging your intake, you can have your cake and eat it too. As long as it is in moderation and you guessed it......fits your macros.
Think about your entire day over just a single food or meal. If prior to that happy hour with your friends, you had a breakfast high in protein and carbs, a lunch high in protein and carbs, and haven't hit your fat intake, you should probably lean towards a healthy fat alternative such as a salmon and avocado salad.
This way, you are visualizing and understanding foods as more than just "healthy" or "unhealthy" but rather as a good source of protein, fats, or carbs. Once you understand this, it becomes MUCH easier to sustain a balanced lifestyle while on the go. As well as enjoy quality time with friends and family without feeling uncomfortable about venturing beyond your chicken and broccoli meal waiting at home.
Learning how to adapt to changing environments is the key to sustaining any diet and achieving long-term results.
Become a pro at hitting your nutrition goals with this free meal prep toolkit for fat loss. An RD-written guide complete with a macro meal planner, food lists, and expert advice to help you get results.