Tracking Macros: A Guide for Beginners
You may have heard of macro tracking, but maybe you aren’t sure what it is, why it matters or how to get started.
Macros, short for macronutrients, are the nutritional compounds your body uses for energy in order to function: carbs, fats and proteins. Tracking your macros is simply a tool to make sure you’re giving your body the fuel it needs to reach your goals, whether that’s more energy, building muscle, or regulating your metabolism which can lead to healthy weight loss.
What Are Macros?
Macros, short for macronutrients, are the categories of nutrients your body needs the most: carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Each one plays a vital but different role:
- Carbohydrates are your body’s main and preferred energy source and play a key role in muscle growth. These include sugars, starches and fibers.
- Fats ensure your brain, nerve, joint, heart and hormones are supported. Healthy fats include fatty fish, avocado, nuts, seeds, organic dairy, cooking oils, and more.
- Protein builds and maintains lean body mass, creates hormones and enzymes, and much more. This can include seafood; meat, poultry, and eggs; beans, peas, and lentils; and nuts, seeds, and more.
Why You Should Track Macros
Macro tracking can be a powerful tool to help you gain insight into your regular eating patterns and educates you on the food you’re putting into your body. While it isn’t necessary to track macros to see results, it provides clear and transparent insights into how you fuel your body and allows you to course correct if needed.
“It can be very helpful when a person has specific fitness goals because it takes all the guesswork out of nutrition and helps a person to identify specific areas to work on, and guides them on eating for their goals,” explains Kylie Morse, Fit Body’s in-house Registered Dietitian.
How to Track Your Macros
A simple macro calculator will give you a daily ratio to aim for based on your weight, height, age, gender, activity level and fitness goal. Next, you’ll have to manually add up each gram of carbs, proteins, and fats you eat to make sure you’re meeting your ratio. Or you can use the Fit Body macro calculator to do the math for you!
How to Use Fit Body’s Macronutrient Calculator
If you’d like to track your macros, the Fit Body app makes this a breeze. Here’s how:
- Open the Fit Body App.
- Click on the nutrition tab (the fork and knife symbol).
- Add food in by selecting the pink plus symbol.
- You can either search for specific foods to track, use the barcode scanner to input ingredients, add a recipe from the Fit Body app, or select a meal plan which automatically calculates all of your macros for you based on your personal details and goals you input when you signed up.
- The food tracker will show your total calories, protein, carbs and fat and any remaining calories or macros you need for the day.
- You can then adjust your ingredients and portion sizes until you’re in range of hitting your macro goal.
Protein: Get within +/- 10g of your goal
Carbs: Get within +/- 10g of your goal
Fats: Get within +/- 5g of your fats goal
Calories: Get within +/- 50 calories of your goal
Commonly Asked Macro Questions
Macro FAQ #1: What’s the difference between tracking macros and calories?
Macros are simply the breakdown of your total calorie goal. So, if you are tracking and hit all of your macros perfectly, you will also hit your total calorie goal perfectly. The benefits of tracking macros versus only tracking calories is that you are ensuring your total calorie intake is balanced and in line with your goals.
For example, if your goal is to lose weight while also maintaining your hard-earned lean body mass, you want to make sure that you are not only in a calorie deficit, but eating enough protein as well! Without paying attention to macros, your overall calorie intake can become easily unbalanced and lacking in one or more of the macronutrients.
Macro FAQ #2: Should you add in or subtract calories burned from exercise?
Morse explains that when the Fit Body app calculates your calories and macros, it includes your activity level so you should not add back in the calories you burned from your workouts.
“It is also important to keep in mind that estimated calorie burns from fitness watches and trackers are often inaccurate and can greatly over-estimate energy expenditure, so it's important to take these numbers with a grain of salt!” she explains.
Macro FAQ #3: Is it equally important to eat the allotted calories as hitting the macros?
“Overall, calories are king,” Morse says. “If weight loss is your goal, hitting your calorie goal is most important. However, hitting your protein goal is also very important if you are working on increasing muscle mass and gaining strength. If total calories and protein are met, having some variance with your carbs and fats actually affects physical progress very minimally,” she explains. “So, when you are first starting out, try to just focus on total calories and your protein goal.”
Macro FAQ #4: Do you need to track macros to see progress?
No, not necessarily. Counting macros is a tool — like a food diary — to keep you on track for the goals you’ve set for yourself. If you’d rather not track every day, we recommend tracking once or twice a week. Chances are that the food you eat during the week is pretty similar, especially if you meal prep. It’s helpful to be able to make sure you are in the ballpark for your macros but they don’t need to be perfect every single day!
Some people may be hesitant to track macros if they know it can lead to unhealthy fixations on numbers. If you struggle with disordered eating in any way, then we don’t recommend monitoring your macros until you have a healthy hold on your relationship with fitness and food. That comes first!
Macro FAQ #5: Do you need to track macros every single day?
The short answer is no.
Morse says that, “many people think you either have to track every day, or not at all — but this is not the case! Many Fit Body girls only track two to three times a week to make sure that their typical eating patterns are in line with their goals. Tracking does not have to be all nothing!”
At the end of the day, Morse says that macro tracking “is simply a tool to help guide you while working towards your goals, so be sure to use it as often or as little as you like.”
Macro FAQ #6: What if you’re having a hard time hitting the protein goal?
Use the food tracker in the Fit Body app to enter your meals the night before you eat them. This will help you see how to adjust your portions to ensure you do hit your protein needs. Otherwise, you may reach the end of the day and realize you’re way under your protein goal. To prevent that from happening, plan out what you’re going to eat ahead of time!
Oftentimes you may not even need to add in additional protein-rich food into your routine, but simply increase the portion sizes of the protein you do already eat! Increasing your protein serving by 0.5 to 1 oz. (15 to 30 grams) at each meal may seem small, but it actually adds up significantly by the end of the day. Including a protein shake post-workout is also a great and easy way to get in an additional 20 to 25 grams of protein per day as well.
Member Perk: Fit Body’s Registered Dietitian can give you tips on how to increase your protein intake based on the foods you eat often, so don’t hesitate to reach out via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Macro FAQ #7: What is a good starting point for setting your macros?
If your goal is to lose weight, we recommend eating about 30% of your daily calories from protein. Additionally, if your goal is to maintain or gain weight we recommend focusing on about 20% of your calories from protein. With your remaining calories it is important to find a balance of carbs and fats that YOU enjoy!
If your total calorie and protein goals are met, having some variance with your carbs and fats has minimal impact on overall progress. So this means if you enjoy eating more carbs and less fats, or visa versa, that’s okay! Having balance between all of the macronutrients is important as they are all vital for our health, but overall finding a balance that you enjoy is key. This is just one of the many ways we can individualize our nutrition to find the most maintainable and enjoyable way of eating for us!
Remember that the Fit Body app has over 300 recipes and set meal plans if you’d prefer a more structured plan calculated with your personal macros in mind.
You've got this, girl! 💪🏻