How to Track Macros

how to track macros

Stress-Free Guide to Tracking Macros 

Wondering how to track macros? Macro is short for “macronutrients,” and refers to the proteins, carbs, and fats that make up our foods. Macros are the different building blocks that make up our calories. It matters how many calories we eat in a day, but the makeup of those calories is important, too. 

Most people have no quantifiable data on how much food they’re eating. So it can be hard to effectively work toward their goals and make progress. By using a food tracking app, we can quickly and easily see exactly how much protein, carb, fat, fiber, and calories we eat in a day. Then we have clear and concise data that we can manipulate to elicit our desired outcome (whether that’s improving our health, maintaining, muscle gain, fat loss, etc).

Learning how to track your macros doesn’t have to be time-consuming or stressful, but it can be, depending on how you approach it. This is why I’m a big advocate for Flexible Tracking. Flexible tracking is where we aim for specific protein and calorie goals, and then let carb and fat goals shake out to where they may (while still upholding certain minimums).

How To Track Your Macros: Set Calorie Goals

While online calculators are not perfect, they can be a great way to get started and provide a ballpark estimate of how many calories you might need to eat in a day. My two favorite ways to help estimate this are The Precision Nutrition Calculator and TDEE Calculators. On the Precision Nutrition Calculator, make sure to select “Improve Health” as your goal to get a proper estimate on Maintenance Calories. TDEE is typically a better estimate and starting point for those with higher body fat, whereas the PN Calculator may be a more accurate starting place for leaner and/or super-active individuals.

Remember that you should be eating at Maintenance more than you do anything else. And that we can’t chronically be dieting (:

If in a caloric deficit to lose fat, you will likely need to eat anywhere from ~10-30% below maintenance calorie needs.

If in a caloric surplus to gain muscle, you will likely need to eat anywhere from ~5-20%+ above maintenance calorie needs. When you track macros you want to keep this information in mind.

Dietary Fat Needs

The fitness industry may have led you to believe otherwise, but there’s no superior way to eat (in terms of eating low carb, low fat, Keto, etc) regardless of your goals. There’s actually a lot of room for flexibility in how many carbs and fats we eat. But we do want to consider activity levels, health needs, and of course – personal eating preferences (: If you’re going to track macros, consider your goals.

Fat Goals:

      • When it comes to fats, it can be common to see menstrual cycle/hormone issues if consistently eating lower fat.

      • Current research supports active menstruating women to get at least 20% of daily calories from fats (if not more).

      • If looking to maximize your performance, health, hormones, and well-being, an even safer bet might be to aim for something like ~25-30% of daily calories from healthy fats per day.

      • Understanding that most active individuals need a minimum of something like ~1700-2000+ calories/day (if not more), another good rule of thumb might be to aim for a bare minimum of something like ~60g-70g of healthy fats per day.

    Carbohydrate Needs


        • Carbs can be super beneficial for supporting an active lifestyle, recovery, and building muscle.

        • The more active you are, the more carbs you’ll likely need per day to fuel your activity and lifestyle. Eating too little carbs may negatively impact your workouts and recovery.

        • Chronic under-recovery (working out too much or too hard, consistent under-eating, not taking enough rest days and time off the gym, etc) is where we can begin to see a compromise in our health, hormones, and well-being. Our body likes being consistently well-fed and well-recovered!

        • Carb needs will vary greatly person-to-person, but will likely fall between something like ~3-6g/kg of carbs per day.

        • Guidelines from the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, & American College of Sports Medicine for athletes and endurance training are as follows:
              • Light Activity = 3-5 g/kg of carbs

              • Moderate Activity (~1 hr/day) = 5-7 g/kg

              • High (1-3 hrs moderate to high intensity)= 6-10 g/kg

              • Very High Activity (4-5+ hrs/day) =8-12 g/kg

            • There is no “perfect” macro split. Carb/fat needs can vary greatly depending on quite a few factors.

            • Ultimately, you’ll need to test and see where you feel best, what you enjoy most, and what works best for you (:

            • But as we’ve discussed, it’s actually not a big deal if carb and fat totals vary day-to-day (as long as we’re keeping in mind minimums, specific health needs, and activity levels).

          Example Of Flexible Macro Tracking “In Real Time”

              • My maintenance needs are around ~2300-2400 calories/day. I prioritize ~130g protein + no less than 2,300 calories each day

              • I could have a day that ends at ~130p 300c 75f or ~130p 200c 120f… both are still around ~2300-2400 calories and get the job done.

              • I tend to be super active, so I definitely feel best when I’m smashing carbs. But due to my hypothyroidism, I also don’t personally feel super great if fats are super low either.

              • I’ve found I feel best when I’m not super low carb OR super low fat. There’s no skipping trial and error. See where YOU feel best!

            My Favorite App To Track Macros = Cronometer

                • Food entries in Cronometer tend to be more accurate than MyFitnessPal or other tracking apps I’ve used

                • You can set as many or as few goals as you like for protein, carbs, fat, calories, etc

                • Ability to record blood glucose levels, body weight, body temperature (to track menstrual cycle), etc

                • Can “star” your favorite food entries for quick and easy logging in the future

                • Ability to multi-select and copy from previously logged days for super quick food tracking

                • The app also monitors vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, etc (iron, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B12…)

                • If you’re a nutrition coach, you can graph your client’s data and also restrict data from the client as desired. For example, a client could log their food, but only the coach would see the macro totals, calorie totals, food data, and so on.

              Setting Up Cronometer

                  • Enter your gender, height, weight, and date of birth. Select Maintain on the next screen. Enter your email, create a password, and then verify your account

                  • Click Settingsin the lower right corner. Under Targets, select Energy Settings:
                        • Enter 0 for BMR, 0 for Activity Level, and 0 for Weight Goal, making sure the box for Imported Activity & boxes for Variable Calories Burned are both unchecked.

                    • Click Settings in the lower right corner. Under Targets, clickMacronutrient Targets:
                          • Set macros using Fixed Values

                          • Track carbs as Total Carbs

                          • The pre-generated macro/calorie goals are trash. Delete them. Here is where you can set your goals. You can also set protein/cal goals and leave fats/carb goals blank

                      • Go back to theSettingspage. Click Display:
                            • Unselect Show Energy Summary

                            • Select Show Macronutrient Breakdown

                            • Unselect Show Highlighted Targets & Show Weight Goal

                        • I personally do NOT recommend connecting your Apple Watch, Garmin, FitBit, etc as it will automatically change your goals and food-tracking data. “Calories Burned” is also typically inaccurate/fake news and not usually worth paying attention to

                      How To Log Your Food

                      Entering Food In Cronometer:

                          • Aim to weigh + measure your food as much as possible in either grams or ounces. Try to avoid using measuring spoons or cups and opt for a food scale as much as possible

                          • In Cronometer, use the Orange (+) button at the bottom and then click Add Food

                          • Scan the barcode on your food or search for your food. Let’s say you are logging blueberries. Search, select the entry, then change the amount/serving size (ex: 100 grams)

                          • Feel free to “star” the entry (top left corner) if you plan to use this entry regularly

                        To Copy Foods From A Previous Day:

                            • Change the date to whichever day you want to copy from. Then click the 3 vertical dots in the upper right corner

                            • Click (+) Multi-Select and then select the food entries you wish to copy over to today

                            • Click the 3 vertical dots in the upper right corner again. Select Copy. Click back to today’s date. Three vertical dots. Then hit Paste. Ta daaaa!

                          Want More Information?

                          Check out my e-book, The Ultimate Guide To Nutrition, Muscle Gain, & Fat Loss!

                          Not everyone can afford a one-on-one nutrition coach (or has the desire for coaching), so this e-book is my way of continuing to bridge the gap. This book will support you in your goal to love your body and find freedom through food, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle. 

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