Alright guys! So last post we learned how to calculate our macros, and in the previous post we learned all about if it fits your macros and flexible dieting. In this post we will learn exactly how to track our macros!
I have been tracking macros for almost 1 year. When you first begin tracking it can seem like a daunting and overwhelming task. Learning what protein, fat and carbohydrate content certain foods have and knowing if the sources you’re using on your tracking app are reliable can certainly be frustrating.
I am here to tell you that when I first started tracking it was hard. It took me a while to figure out what to eat in order to fit my numbers and macros perfectly. I am definitely a creature of habit and often times eat the same thing everyday or every week. Now-a-days I can track my macros in under 5 minutes for the entire day. You might not believe me, but I promise it gets better with practice!
– – – – –
The app/website that most IIFYM-ers use to track their macros is My Fitness Pal.
This is by far the easiest app and website I have used to track my macros. I used to use Spark People back when I was just counting calories and not really concerned about macros, and essentially lost a large amount of muscle. Go me.
But anyways, My Fitness Pal is free and convenient. You set up your profile and you’re ready to go. From My Fitness Pal you are able to log your daily weight (if you weigh in everyday), search for foods from their database, and even scan the bar code of the product you’re about to eat (my favorite perk!).
That being said, when you first set up your profile, you’re going to want to set it up as a custom system because we all have individual macros. When you try to set this up at first, My Fitness Pal breaks the macros down into percentages by 5%, which isn’t really that helpful. I have found a solution that has helped me create my custom macros down to the gram!
Here you will find a Java Script Bookmark to download and install that allows you to tweak your macros as much as you want. When you get to the “Goals” page, simply hit the button where you’ve bookmarked this script and it will turn the protein, fat, and carb percentages into individual grams or individual percentages. From here you simply insert your individual macros that you calculated out, but you ultimately have to set your total calories as well. So make sure that your macros in calorie calculation form add up to your total calories for the day. If that’s confusing, please see the previous post about calculating macros!
– – – – –
Now that your goals are set, you’re ready to start tracking your food. A few key points on tracking your macros accurately while using MFP.
When you first start tracking, I would scan the majority of the foods that you’re going to eat “frequently”. I say frequently because honestly I eat the same foods for breakfast and snacks. When you scan them and use them almost everyday, they will continue to show up in your “recent” or “frequent” tab everyday.
As you can see, these are the foods I use most commonly, almost everyday.
That way you can just change the quantity of the item, but you never really have to search the database for them again. You also can search within your recent and frequent tab of foods you have previously scanned and use quite often. When you scan the product, make sure the information is comparable to the packaging.
Some people say MFP is not accurate, and I have found that to be true maybe 20% of the time. When searching for lean meats (chicken, ground turkey, etc) always search “Chicken breast USDA” or “Ground Turkey Breast USDA”. This will give you the calories and macro information from the USDA, which is the most accurate regarding some of these lean meats. Again, you can always scan the packaging, which will give you the most accurate information.
Most brand name foods are in the MFP database such as Green Giant Vegetables, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Thomas English Muffins, etc. All you need to do is search these foods and you’ll be able to find the correct information. Like I said, now I usually just search from my recent or frequent tab since I’ve built my own database up quite a bit.
MFP also has a tab to create recipes or “my foods”.
In the recipe option you can either search the database for ingredients or you can again scan the packaging itself. Create your recipe and save it, and it will always show up in your recipe section.
My “Recipes”. Yes, I like to use my crockpot to make all of my protein sources.
When you create “my foods,” you can input whatever the macros may be.
This is “My Foods” tab complete with Chipotle and Arby’s.
My favorite example for this is Chipotle. You can go online to the Chipotle website and find the nutritional information. From there you can select what options you want (burrito, bowl, salad, cheese, guac, etc) and it will give you the calories and macro breakdown. You can then input these into MFP under “My Foods” and you will forever have it saved.
– – – – –
MFP is available either via app for your phone or online. They sync together so your nutrition information is always up to date.
The biggest thing when tracking macros is being accurate and accountable. You will never see any weight loss or progress if you are not accurately tracking your macros or accurately following your macros. How will you know if your macros are set appropriately if you constantly go either over or under every.single.day? I cannot stress enough the importance of being honest with yourself when tracking.
One last thing – when tracking your macros you should use the following guidelines when going over/under your alloted amount:
Protein: +/- 5 grams
Carbs: +/- 5 grams
Fat: +/- 2 grams
Obviously it’s going to be difficulty initially to hit your macros perfectly and honestly, mine are usually + or – a few grams, and that’s ok. The point is to be consistent with tracking and try to hit them as close as possible.
– – – – –
Have questions or want further help? If you’re interested in macro counting or using flexible dieting or have questions about programming, please e-mail me as well at firstname.lastname@example.org.