how to get started with tracking macros: step-by-step guide

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Wanna get started with macros but don’t know how? Keep reading!⁣

STEP 1. DOWNLOAD A TRACKING APP & START LOGGING YOUR CURRENT EATS.

First, download an app that you understand and/or are familiar with! My favorite tracking app is Cronometer.

Next, start logging your current daily intake without changing anything about your eating pattern. Track your meals, snacks, and beverages, as well as those little bites, pieces, licks and tastes! Resist the urge to change your typical eats because this stage is just about establishing a logging routine and learning about your normal eating habits.

Spoiler: if you can’t commit to this step for at least a week, you’re probably not ready to track macros because you don’t have the bandwidth in your life to accommodate the detail and energy it requires. There might be a better time for you to focus on this, so hang in there and wait for a calmer season.

STEP 2. PAY ATTENTION TO THE MACRONUTRIENT BREAKDOWN OF YOUR MEALS, BUT IGNORE CALORIES.

You’ve got a few days of data in your food diary. Take a look at the breakdown of the protein, fat, and carbohydrates in your meals at the end of the day and ask yourself some questions:

  • Do my meals have some protein, fat, and carbohydrates? Are my meals disproportionately higher in one or two macros compared to the others?
  • Do I average about the same amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates day to day, or is there really no pattern to how much I eat of each?
  • Where (i.e. which foods) do I get most of my protein from? Where do I get most of my fat from? Where do I get most of my carbohydrates from?

This step is all about informing the next steps to come in the process: knowing how to manipulate your typical meals to have more or less protein, fat and carbohydrates after you get a macro prescription.

STEP 3. FIND A FREE ONLINE CALCULATOR TO DETERMINE YOUR MACRO NEEDS & COMPARE TO YOUR FOOD DIARY.

Determine your first set of macro targets, also called a “macro prescription”, by identifying a free online calculator and submitting some basics about your health.

After you determine your first set of macro targets, ask yourself a few questions like:

  • How far away am I from my protein, fat, or carbohydrate goals, on average?
  • What can I realistically change right away to start getting closer to my macro targets, i.e. increase the serving size of protein in my meals, cut back on how many carbs I have in my coffee drink, add a little fat to my post workout meal, etc.?
  • Do I need to move toward more whole, real foods that I can manipulate in serving size instead of mixed meals or packaged items?

STEP 4. PICK ONE MACRONUTRIENT TO FOCUS ON AND START MAKING CHANGES TO MEET THAT MACRO.

Pick one macronutrient that seems like it’s the farthest away from your macro prescription goal. Ignoring calories and both of the other macronutrients for now, focus on making changes to your typical meals and snacks to get you closer to your daily total goal. Don’t worry about perfection in this step – getting within +/- 10-15 grams of your macro goal is sufficient in this learning stage.

For most people, the first focus is protein because unless they’re really conscious about getting it at every meal, they’re probably drastically undereating what’s needed to see health, body composition, and athletic performance changes.

The focus of this step is to master one macronutrient to build your confidence in tracking macros before moving on to mastering the other macronutrients.

STEP 5. AIM TO GET WITHIN +/- 5 GRAMS OF ALL YOUR MACRO TARGETS.

You’ve gained some momentum and you’re feeling confident with several weeks of tracking under your belt. Now, it’s time to really shoot to hit all three macros within +/- 5 grams by the end of the day.

If you can string together at least a week of macro tracking within 5 grams of your macro total goals, it’s time to start to assess how you look, feel, and perform.

Start to pay attention to your hunger and fullness, energy throughout the day, performance in and recovery from exercise, and mood and sleep changes. Notice the way your clothes are fitting – are they loser in some areas, tighter in others? Let this start to inform you that you’re on the right track and to keep going!

STEP 6. ASSESS HOW YOU FEEL AND MAKE CHANGES IF NECESSARY.

Given an honest assessment about how you’re feeling, looking and performing, you might start to ask yourself some questions to help you determine if your macro prescription should be tweaked to serve you better.

Do I feel hungry or satisfied between meals? Do I have enough energy to rock my workouts or do I feel like I am hitting a wall here? Am I sleeping soundly or experiencing disrupted sleep since starting with macro tracking?

If yes, for example, consider increasing your calories just slightly with additional carbohydrates and/or fats to see positive changes in these areas.

Macro tracking is a skill you develop over time, with practice. The closer you get to your macro prescription, consistently, the more data you have to inform whether the eating pattern is supporting how you want too look, feel and perform.

Remember, no one starts as an expert – not in the kitchen, not while riding a bike, and certainly not here. The trick is to JUST get started and practice a little bit each day.

calculate your macros with my downloadable guide