Macro tracking is a nutrition tool that accelerates results whether you’re looking to lose weight, gain muscle or maintain your results. When I first discovered macros, I had an “ah-ha” moment where everything clicked. After a long time of spinning my wheels, I began seeing the results I was actually after. Macro tracking WORKS, which is why I released my Macro Book that is an easy-to-follow guide on how to calculate + track your macros to get to your goals. In this post, I am answering the 25 most popular macro tracking questions I receive.
1. HOW TO KNOW IF I NEED TO TRY REVERSE DIETING?
ANSWER: Reverse dieting is the process of slowly increasing calories with the goal of boosting your metabolism so you can burn more calories throughout the day. This was one of the most popular questions; I am going to put together a detailed blog post on reverse dieting but here’s a brief summary. When you calculate your macros following the steps in the Macro Book, you may hit my note that asks you to check if what you are currently eating is significantly less than your calculated maintenance macros.
Let’s use an example: Susie Q calculates her maintenance macros at 2000 calories/day, but she is currently eating 1500 calories and unable to lose weight. Susie Q is an example of someone who would benefit from reverse dieting. She is a chronic dieter, and has been cutting calories for too long.
Our bodies are smart and they adapt. When we drop calories, our bodies will lose weight until they adapt. Then, those cutting calories becomes the maintenance level and in order to lose, you have to cut more calories. 1500 calories is pretty low, and Susie Q’s goal should be to restore her metabolism and overall health so that she can be at a place where she can eat a healthy amount while losing weight. Susie Q will slowly increase calories over a period of time with the goal of increasing her metabolism without gaining weight. See the page in the Macro Book and reverse dieting… more to come.
2. WHAT DO I DO IF I HAVE TROUBLE HITTING MY PROTEIN GOAL?
ANSWER: I’ve shared many times that this is a struggle for me as well. I am not a huge meat eater, and I rely on protein supplements to assist me on a daily basis.
3. CAN YOU ONLY EAT AT CERTAIN MEAL TIMES? WHAT ABOUT SNACKS?
ANSWER: Macro tracking is one of the most flexible eating styles I’ve come across. You could eat 10 meals/snacks or 1 gigantic meal- as long as it’s in your macros. This means you can do what feels best for you and even switch it up day to day. I usually eat: breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, snack.
4. DO YOU TRACK OIL USED IN A PAN WHILE COOKING? CONDIMENTS? MARINADES?
ANSWER: This one is tricky. Typically, I track the oil used when cooking because the majority of it is absorbed into the food. I always track condiments, and be accurate because macros add up. As for marinades- I estimate how much of the marinade was absorbed and I track that portion.
5. WHAT IS THE MOST ACCURATE APP FOR TRACKING MACROS?
ANSWER: Personally, I love My Fitness Pal (MFP). I am in no way affiliated with them or receive any sort of benefit from recommending it. It’s the app I used back in college to track and still use to this day.
6. HOW OFTEN DO YOU RECALCULATE YOUR NUMBERS/MACROS?
ANSWER: I would say to recalculate if your weight fluctuates by 5-10 pounds in either direction (as this would change the BMR calculation) or if your activity level significantly changes (as this would affect the TDEE) calculation.
7. HOW TO CALCULATE MACROS THROUGH A RECIPE? OR EATING OUT?
ANSWER: I believe in a balanced, stress-free approach to food. For recipes, I simply figure out the total macros in the meal divided by the number of portions. Then, I use the numbers for the amount of portions I enjoyed. It may not be 100% accurate, but it’s good enough for me. Many restaurants actually have macro amounts available online and in apps. If they don’t, I just try to find things on MFP that are similar and manually log it.
8. IF I AM TRACKING MACROS… WHAT DO I DO WITH THE CALORIES I BURNED DURING MY WORKOUT?
ANSWER: Your exercise level is taken into consideration in the equations used to calculate your macros. So, you don’t have to worry about figuring out burned calories during a workout and you don’t have to subtract that.
9. ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR VEGETARIAN EATERS?
ANSWER: In the Macro Book, I provide a suggestion on how to tweak for meatless eating. For vegetarians and vegans, protein is probably the toughest macronutrient to hit each day (it is for meatless eaters too), which is why I suggest the slight tweak for your protein calculation. Then, the fats and carbs would be higher but still within the same overall numbers- just different ratios. I also think a vegetarian/vegan-friendly protein powder supplement is very helpful.
10. WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT- HITTING MACRO GRAMS OR MACRO PERCENTAGES?
ANSWER: This can be a bit confusing and I believe this question arises when you’re looking at apps like MFP. MFP shows your daily grams and percentages, but they’re really the same thing. For example, when calculate your macros, you may come out with 25% protein, which for you may be 115 grams of protein. The app will act like it’s 2 different things but 25% is 115 grams, so you’re working towards the same goal just shown 2 different ways.
11. HOW DO YOU CALCULATE HOW MANY MACROS YOU CAN HAVE IN A DAY?
ANSWER: with the Macro Book! There are studied, proven equations that can closely approximate things like BMR and TDEE to get us close to figuring out how many calories/macros to maintain weight, lose weight and gain weight. These calculations are not unique to any one person. However, there are a few and I’ve chosen the ones that are proven to be most accurate as of today. I also break it down in very easy-to-follow steps because that is the biggest challenge when figuring out how to use the equations to get to your macros.
12. FAT/CARB RATIOS? I KNOW YOU SAID TO PLAY AROUND WITH IT BUT I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT A GOOD STARTING POINT IS?
ANSWER: In the Macro Book, I provide recommendations on where to start with the ratios. You’ll see in the steps that I provide in the book, I always suggest beginning with protein. Then, the remaining macros are divided between fats and carbs. The reason I don’t say you need exactly X% of fats and X% carbs is because one of the benefits of macros is the flexibility to do what you enjoy. For example, my husband enjoys higher fats and lower carbs whereas the foods I most love are lower fats and higher carbs. Have confidence playing around with those ratios.
13. WHAT IF YOU DON’T HIT YOUR CARBS OR FATS IN A DAY?
Then you don’t hit them. If I am accurately macro tracking, I aim to be within 5 grams of all my targets, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. The next day, I’ll try again. I DO NOT tweak my numbers the following day based on anything I missed the previous day. Think big picture, and don’t get caught up in a few off days.
14. WHY AM I HITTING MY MACROS BUT NOT CALORIES?
ANSWER: The FDA allows food companies to round up and down on nutrition labels to a certain extent. For example, a cup of almond milk is advertised as “only 40 calories” but it’s probably not 40.000000 calories. This is why your macro and calorie counts can be slightly off. I just focus on the macro numbers.
15. DRINKING OR ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION WITH TRACKING MACROS?
ANSWER: Cheers to that! You can easily track alcohol through macros. Alcohol is actually the 4th macronutrient but you won’t find it on a nutrition label. For example, a White Claw is 100 calories but only shows 2 grams of carbs (because alcohol is not listed). See the page in the Macro Book about how to track alcohol by using the total calories… it can be tracked as a fat, carb or both. On the occasional night, I go out and have several drinks… I don’t track and just enjoy.
16. DOES THIS PLAN WORK FOR ALL AGE GROUPS? OLDER?/PEOPLE GOING THROUGH HORMONE CHANGES?
ANSWER: The Macro Book (and counting macros in general) is probably most beneficial for woman who feel age is a factor. Age is taken into consideration with macros. When calculating your macros, you input your age so it can be beneficial for works for women and men of all ages.
17. SHOULD WE KEEP CARB AND FAT PERCENTAGES THE SAME DAY TO DAY OR CAN IT FLUCTUATE?
ANSWER: My personal belief is that consistency makes macro tracking easier, so keeping my numbers around the same each day day to day helps me stick with it. When getting started, I definitely play around with the fat/carb ratios until I find a percentage that feels right. From there, you could do some adjusting as long as your overall calorie number remains the same. Or, you could keep it the exact same.
18. ARE YOU EVER JUST NOT AS HUNGRY A CERTAIN DAY + IT’S HARD TO HIT YOUR MACROS?
ANSWER: Absolutely – some days, I could eat my entire pantry full of food and other days, I am not interested. I am a big believer in listening to the cues your body gives you. If you’re not hungry, don’t force yourself to eat. If you’re consistently not as hungry as your macros suggest, maybe reevaluate. However, I definitely have days where I just don’t want to eat as much as my macros suggest, so I don’t.
19. CAN TONY SHARE HOW HE TRACKS HIS MACROS IN HIS NOTES ON HIS PHONE?
ANSWER: “Absolutely- so I am a pretty simple eater. When I have a meal, I use the nutrition labels or jump onto google and use reliable sources to figure out the macros in what I just ate. My meals are usually 3-4 food items, so it doesn’t take more than a few minutes. By now, I have most things memorized (or you can keep a little log of macros for the foods you eat often). I log it
It looks something like:
- 40g P, 11 g F, 55 g C
- 85g P, 23 g F, 102 g C
^the 2nd line is line 1 + the macros from meal 2 for a running daily total
^I don’t bother writing down the exact food
20. DO YOU WORRY ABOUT SUGAR INTAKE?
ANSWER: I recommend being aware of sugar intake for overall health. As far as macro tracking goes, the total carbs macro includes sugar so it doesn’t have to be tracked separately unless you want to.
21. HOW LONG DOES IT TYPICALLY TAKE TO SEE RESULTS?
ANSWER: Whether it’s macro tracking, the keto diet, starting a new workout plan, marathon training etc., results are dependent upon you and vary person to person. Also, we have to have a realistic expectation. If Susie Q tracks macros accurately 7 days/week her results will be different than Sally B who tracks macros during the weekdays only. Both are amazing, but do you see how you can’t give any general: “you will see ___ results in ___ days?” There is also studied information on how much body fat the human body can actually lose per week and it’s not realistic to lose 10 pounds of fat per week, every week. And, I wouldn’t believe anyone who tells you anything near that.
22. CAN COUNTING MACROS CHANGE YOUR BODY COMPOSITION? I DON’T WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT- JUST GAIN MUSCLE + LOSE FAT.
ANSWER: Nutrition, like macro tracking, is a tool to help you lose weight, gain weight or maintain weight. What you are describing is exactly what I do, and I eat at my maintenance macros. You can definitely use macro tracking to lose fat, and body compositional changes like putting on muscle will come from your workouts. We cannot sit at our kitchen table, eat all the right things and expect to simply build muscle. For putting on muscle, I highly recommend weight training like these workouts here.
23. AFTER YOU FIND YOUR MAINTENANCE NUMBER HOW DO YOU GET YOUR DEFICIT NUMBER?
ANSWER: Once you use the steps in the Macro Book to find your maintenance, I walk you through picking your goal (ie: lose, gain or maintain), and how to tweak your numbers accordingly. The key to remember is the smaller the tweaks, the better. Our bodies will respond to small changes and from there, we have more room to play with. If you make too big of jump, you eat at the amount of calories you have to tweak. This is where people get pigeonholed into eating very few calories while actually gaining weight.
24. CAN I USE THIS PLAN WHILE BREASTFEEDING? HOW TO ADJUST?
ANSWER: This is a great question and as I’m sure all mamas understand – everything during pregnancy/postpartum is so individual which is why I didn’t want to make a blanket statement. There is general info about how many calories to increase while nursing. BUT, always listen to your body and even a healthcare provider or lactation consultant to help you determine what is best for you. After my supply was well established and when I was exclusively pumping- workouts, fasting and macro tracking didn’t affect it because I was eating and drinking enough.
25. WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST IF YOU HIT ALL YOUR MACROS BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY YOU ARE A LITTLE HUNGRY?
ANSWER: I always try a few craving curbing tricks like enjoying a cup or tea or a BCAA slushie (so delicious!). However, if I’m just really hungry, I’ll make a protein shake or enjoy a lower calorie snack. I personally don’t think the specific macro matters as much as the overall number of macros/calories. Always keep in mind the bigger picture- one day over is not going to ruin your progress just like one great day isn’t going to give you all your progress. Balance!
MORE MACRO ANSWERS:
My husband (who lost 50 POUNDS macro tracking) and I did a Q+A on IGTV. I’ll insert the link here. It’s pretty easy to view + scroll through on the Instagram app.
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an easy-to-follow guide to calculating + tracking your macros for accelerated results
- simplified step-by-step process to calculate your macros
- learn macro tweaks to lose fat, gain muscle or maintain your weight
- everything you need to know (without the excess that is overwhelming)
- full day of eating sample
this is not a cookbook; find 100s of my recipes here