A Beginner’s Guide to Tracking Macros

  • By Scott Mooney
    By Scott Mooney Six Star Ambassador

Tracking your macros is a great “diet” strategy that can be used by anyone from fitness professionals to someone just trying to stay in shape. Tracking your macros is an excellent tool, because it is a form of “flexible dieting.” One of the big problems with diets is that a majority of people return to their pre-diet weight within three years of their diet. Flexible dieting allows people to eat clean most of the time, while also allowing treats to feed your cravings. This makes it much easier to stay on track with your diet and lead to a lifestyle change, as opposed to just dieting and rebounding.

Protein 4 calories per gram
Carbs 4 calories per gram
Fats 9 calories per gram
Alcohol 7 calories per gram

Tracking your macros is essentially a way of counting calories. You can make this much easier on yourself by downloading a calorie tracker on your smartphone. Most are 100% free and make tracking your food intake way easier. Some examples are MyFitnessPal, Lose It! and FatSecret. The great thing about these apps is they have food databases that cover most foods, including popular restaurants and grocery items.

So, how many carbs, fats, protein and alcohol should you have? Obviously, alcohol consumption should be kept to a minimum when trying to get in better shape. (But, that’s the beauty of this diet. You can always add a drink to your daily intake and make it work!) For first-timers, your protein should be 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. Fats should be 25% of your daily intake. And carbs should take up the rest. Women should aim to have 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day. Men should aim to have 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day. This is a good starting point if you are trying to LOSE or GAIN weight.

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This takes a lot of trial and error. Everybody’s body is different. Stay close to these macros for a few weeks and see how your body responds. Now let’s say you want to lose weight. You may want to try a low-carb diet. You may want to switch your macros to 10% to 30% carbs, 30% to 40% fats, and 40% to 50% protein. As you can see, you don’t just cut carbs. You must increase other macros to make up for the lower carbohydrate count. Try this using the same total calories for a few weeks before decreasing or increasing your total calories.

If you want to gain weight, you may want to try a high-carb diet. Macros may look closer to 50% to 60% carbs, 25% to 35% protein, 15% to 25% fat. Some may think you want more protein when gaining weight, but actually the opposite is true. You can back off the protein a bit when gaining. You need an increase in protein when trying to preserve as much muscle as possible when the carbs are cut back.

When starting to track your macros, weigh or measure EVERYTHING. It takes some time to get used to what a cup of something looks like or what weighs 6 oz., etc. When you get some experience, you can get away with estimating. You may be thinking, “This is great! I can eat whatever I want, as long as it fits my macros!” And this is true. BUT, this isn’t as easy as it seems. Many of the foods need to be CLEAN, so you can have some treats. Keeping carbs as low as 10% can be much harder than it seems. Once giving this a try, you’ll realize that this diet strategy is still mostly clean eating with some small treats.

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If you want to give macro tracking a try, remember that this does take time, patience and work. Don’t look on social media at the fitness people posting their delicious foods that fit their macros. They tend to not post the four or five meals before that were all healthy foods. But, with a little hard work and trial-and-error, it’ll become easy and you’ll be on track to achieving your dream body in no time!

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