Tracking Macros

“Tracking macros” has become an increasingly popular term in the nutrition field. Personally, this is my preferred method for my own personal nutrition and for my clients through nutrition coaching, however I understand it’s not for everyone. In this blog, we’ll talk about how to track macros, what it entails, the pros and cons, and action steps to go in this direction. 


Macronutrients, most commonly referred to as “macros”, are the components that make up calories. Calories is the unit of measurement for the energy our body takes in and expends. If you exercise or perform an activity, you burn calories. If you eat food, you take in calories thus fueling your body. We having  a blog that gives the background to macros: 

When you track your macros, you are making note of the amount of protein, carbs, and fats you are consuming in a day. You can do this by logging your food into an app, which then calculates the macros for you. There are several apps that are best for this, but the top ones are: MyFitnessPal (MFP) and Lose It! 

Pretty straight forward, right? Yes and no. Essentially, all you have to do is log your food into an app, but there are intricacies involved. In order to be accurate, you need to know the exact amount of food you eat. For example, if I were to log in my lunch to the MFP app, which is typically ground turkey breast with a bunch of vegetables and some cheese, I will have to record the following:

  • 3.5 oz Turkey Breast, uncooked

  • 200 grams of Broccoli, raw

  • 60 grams of green onions, raw

  • 30 grams of banana peppers, raw

  • 28 grams of shredded mozzarella cheese

Notice that I have all of the measurements for each food in that specific meal. I do this by measuring each item on a food scale before I cook and prepare the food. It’s easy and straightforward, especially since I’ve been doing it for a few years, however it can be tedious when you have a busy schedule or if you don’t have access to a kitchen at work. Some people may also think it’s stressful at first because it’s a new thing to them. Rest assured- it does get easier and becomes a habit once you’ve practiced it a few times. 

What about foods that are pre-packaged? If you look at pre-packaged foods, like a protein bar, you will notice the wrapper has the nutrition facts per serving size. This makes it easier to track the food. In the MFP app, all you have to do is “scan the barcode” of the food item (protein bar, for example) and it will record the macros. For the serving size of one protein bar, it is typically 8g Fat, 25g Carbs, and 20g Protein…if you adjust the measurement to be half of a bar, then it will record 4g Fat, 12.5g Carbs, and 10g Protein. 

Should I Track my Macros?

It depends. There are several factors I consider when I work with someone on their nutrition:

  • Do they have good nutritional habits, such as eating whole foods and fulfilling protein requirements everyday, and/or preparing meals in advance?

  • Are their goals specific and require accuracy? This is mostly for those with performance goals and/or strict weight loss goals. 

  • Does tracking macros fit with their current lifestyle? What does their current work/life schedule look like?

  • How much experience/knowledge do they have with nutrition?

    • The worst thing to do is to overwhelm someone with macros and tracking without having them take small steps to get there. It can lead to frustration and unsustainable changes, so my goal is to make sure they build a foundation with nutrition before stepping into the world of tracking macros. 

How do I know my macros?

This is the big question when you start tracking…how much protein, carbs, and fats should I be eating per day?! This is the trickiest part of tracking, because it requires trial-and-error and is very specific to each person. 

There are several equations and macro calculators out there that can spit out an estimate, however the most accurate way to do it is to do the following:

  • Without making any changes to your routine or habits, record your food intake/macros for 1-2 weeks. Be as accurate as possible. 

    • This will give an idea of your current nutritional intake and habits you may have 

  • Make note of the following:

    • Average Calories/day, Protein/day, carbs/day, and fats/day

      • Daily calories/macros and weekly averages

    • Weight fluctuations (if you have fat loss/muscle gain goals)

    • Hunger levels and fatigue levels– this will tell us if you’re getting enough food intake or if you’re not getting enough

  • Adjust your macros to meet your goals

    • Weight loss: focus on caloric deficit with adequate protein intake

    • Weight/muscle gain: focus on caloric surplus with adequate protein intake

    • Healthy sustainable lifestyle: caloric maintenance with a split of protein/carbs/fats that meets the client’s needs/preferences

    • Performance based: caloric maintenance or surplus, with a focus on carbs

Each person’s macros and nutritional needs are different. One thing that people do is they compare macros with other people, without realizing that each body is different and what works for one person may not work for the other. There are some people who have high caloric needs and their metabolism burns through calories at a fast rate, while others may not be in that same boat. This is why it’s best to use the trial-and-error approach to find out your macros, instead of using a calculator/equation or copying someone else’s numbers. 

Next Steps

So you wanna start tracking…cool! Below is a list of steps I recommend to help you get started!

  1. First, without making any changes to your current habits, find out your current nutrition intake and macros through the “trial-and-error” approach. 

    1. Use this time to become familiar with MFP (or another tracking app).

    2. Become familiar with the food scale and how to weigh food and track accurately.

  2. Adjust your macros based on your goals.

    1. This is where a nutrition coach is extremely helpful. They are familiar with how to make changes to macros, what numbers are reasonable, what would work best for you based on your habits/current intake, etc. They eliminate any “guessing” in your nutrition journey. 

    2. Do not constantly make changes; make them as needed…some people will have more frequent changes than another. Remember, nutrition is highly specific to each person. 

  3. Start getting used to meal prepping, planning meals in advance, focusing on whole foods, and limiting processed foods. 

    1. Know what foods are optimal for protein, carbs, and fats. 

  4. Start making smarter nutritional decisions.

    1. Start building habits such as eating at the same times everyday, keeping foods simple, becoming familiar with your food scale, learning the tracking app (such as MFP), and pre-planning your meals every day to make sure you’re accurate and within your macro targets. 

Take-Away Message

Tracking macros is the most accurate approach to nutrition. You have the opportunity to tailor your caloric and macronutrient intake to a high degree when you know what your current energy consumption is. However, it is not something I recommend jumping into if you’re not ready or if you haven’t dieted properly before. Before tracking macros, I recommend making small sustainable changes and becoming familiar with the basics. From there, continue building your nutrition habits and adding components of “macro tracking” such as weighing food, becoming familiar with the MFP app, aiming for a protein goal every day, etc. If you have any questions, or are interested in nutrition coaching, feel free to reach out to me at 🙂