Macro series part 4: How to track your macros

So far in the macro series I have explained what macros are, how to calculate your macros and then how to adapt those for fat loss or muscle building. If you do not yet know what your macro split is, then take a read of Part 2 first. In this article I am going to explain how to track your macros, and prove how easy it is!

4 tips on tracking macros

Use a macro tracking app

There are many free apps on the market. My favourite is MyFitnessPal (MFP) and so this article is going to explain how to track using this app. However, you will find that you can apply my advice and tips to any other tracking app.

Set your ‘goal’

Your app will ask you to set your height, weight and gender, and also your macro goals.

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This is where you input the macros that you have calculated for maintenance, fat loss or muscle building (see Part 3). MFP will also let you custom your macros for different days. This is handy if you have lower and higher carbs days.

Build up your food index

Humans are creatures of habit, and you will find you are no different! Most of us eat very similar foods each day. Due to this you will quickly build up a memory of regularly eaten food in your app. With MFP you can either search under recent food, swipe to add a meal from the day before, or copy and paste meals to other dates. See the images below:

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Scan food into your app

If your food has a barcode then you can scan it into your app. This is helpful well you are eating on the go or buy new foods you haven’t eaten before. WARNING: always check that the macros that MFP brings up are the same shown on the packet you are scanning. 

Tips on how to ‘fit your macros’

My advice is not to track as you go if you are new to tracking macros. You may find you quickly meet your  daily macros allowance without realising how much protein, fat and carbohydrates are in the usual foods you eat. Instead, plan a day ahead. Follow these steps:

  1. Input what you KNOW you want/will be eating – so for example you may love having porridge and berries for breakfast.
  2. Go straight to your last meal of the day and put in anything you KNOW you will want at the end of the day. So, if you always have a sweet tooth after dinner then add in the hot chocolate that you love to have. That way you can work your other meals around this and not miss out on the things you love. This is also true if you love peanut butter on rice cakes as a snack. Add that in so you don’t miss out!
  3. Then add in anything you normally eat whilst at work as a snack and for lunch. You can see if foods you may normally buy out will fit in with your macros. If they do then great. However, you may find that foods you were previously eating aren’t always right for your macro split. This is how you start experimenting with meals that do fit. It may also be a good time to consider making your own meals to take to work with you.
  4. If you are eating out for any of your meals at a restaurant you may be able to search for the meal in MFP if other people have eaten there before. This will only be true for larger food chains. Otherwise you can estimate by searching for generic terms. So if you have a chicken burger and sweet potato fries you can search for chicken, sesame seed bun and potato fries all separately. You will need to estimate the weight.

This is an art not a science!

Finally, do not stress out too much about being 100% accurate. You do not have to measure every gram! This is to ensure you stay on track and are not eating widely outside your macro split. As a rule of thumb if you are trying to lose fat you want to be 5 grams on either side of your target number. If you are building muscle then 10g over your target numbers will be fine.

Do not worry about the number of calories! Focus on meeting the grams of each macro, and not meeting the exact calorie numbers.

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