How To Track Macros In the Foods You Eat Painlessly
How to track macros in foods doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems. Here are some easy ways you can get the process started quickly.
Once you’ve calculated your TDEE and Macro amounts it’s time to start tracking the macros in what you eat to lose weight or for whatever your fitness goals may be.
One of the most challenging aspects of Flexible Dieting or Counting Macros is not only tallying your daily macro amounts but also figuring out how many grams of carbs, protein, and fat are in the foods you eat.
Luckily the technology most of us have at our fingertips has made this process a whole lot less painful and this guide will help even those that might not be tech-savvy make sense of how to count macros.
What Are Macros?
Just in case you don’t already know, macros are simply the three macronutrients that provide energy and nutrition to your body.
- Protein: The tissue builder.
- Carbs: The activity fueler.
- Fat: The connector and energy storer.
Now that you have the basics down, here’s how to start the tracking process quickly.
Three popular ways to easily track your macros
- Using food nutritional labels to calculate macros.
- Using a digital food scale to calculate macros.
- Using MyFitnessPal to tally daily macros.
I personally use a combination of all three, but some may just use one method or two methods depending on their access to technology.
How to Track Macros Using Nutritional Labels
Almost all foods that are sold in grocery stores have food labels except for fresh produce. But, stores such as Trader Joes and similar even have much of their produce bagged and nutritionally labeled as well.
There are 5 Items to locate on the food’s nutritional label.
1. Serving size. If you are eating more than one serving multiply all your macros by the number you are eating.
2. Total Fat
3. Total Carbs: You can subtract the fiber grams from this amount to get your Net Carbs. Net carbs are the ones your body can actually use for energy, but some just track total carbs to keep things simpler.
In figure one, I find that per 1/4 cup serving; I’m getting 2.5 grams of fat, 23 net carbs, and 5 grams of protein. Also, note the fiber as you should aim to eat about 25-40 grams per day.
You can then record this information in a food journal or enter it into a food tracking application.
Remember to do this with every food you eat during a particular day. Prepared meals will already have the macro amounts of ALL ingredients listed on the label.
Some foods may list the serving size in ounces or grams, and again, some foods such as meats and vegetables may not have macro information on their label. If this is the case you’ll need to use a digital food scale.
Using a Digital Food Scale to Track Macros
A digital food scale lets you weigh food so that you have a point of reference in determining the macronutrient amounts in food.
However, the scale will not tell you macro amounts unless you buy a more expensive one with a built-in food database, which is handy for those that don’t have a smartphone or for those that don’t feel comfortable using apps or other tools.
Here’s how to use the basic version as it requires the most steps.
1. Turn the scale on and set it to ounces or grams. (USA versions default to ounces.)
2. Make sure the scale reads 00.00 and place the food on the scale.
You may also use a plate or bowl but you must place the bowl on the scale first and then hit the zero button. You then can fill the bowl or plate with the food item.
3. When the number stabilizes record the amount.
4. Use a food database like Calorieking.com to then figure out the macros.
Here we have a piece of chicken that weighs 5.8 ounces raw. I search the above-mentioned database for raw, skinless, boneless chicken breast and get this.
I find out that 5.8 ounces of raw chicken contains 0 g of carbs, 2 g of fat, 38 g of protein, and 0 g of fiber.
I then record this in my food diary or log.
How To Keep Track Of Macros Using The MyFitnessPal App
If you have a smartphone, using MyFitnessPal (MFP) or another similar macro tracking app is the easiest way to keep track of your macros while counting macros or flexible dieting.
Here’s a tutorial on how to set it all up, so I won’t go into those steps here. But once the app set up, here’s how to find the macros in the food you are eating.
MFP has three methods for finding a food’s macros:
1. Scan an item’s barcode with your phone’s camera. (easiest)
- Open your food diary and select an appropriate meal.
- Click the barcode icon in the bottom left corner of your screen.
- Once MFP finds the item, enter the appropriate serving amount.
2. Search MFP’s extensive food database.
- Open your food diary and select an appropriate meal.
- Type your food in the search box. (This also works for most chain restaurants.)
- Select the listing that best matches.
- Adjust the serving size as needed. (You may need to use a food scale for meat and fresh produce items.)
3. Manually enter the food’s macros from a nutritional label. (You’ll rarely have to do this.)
- Open your food diary and select the appropriate meal.
- Click create a new food and enter the information as directed.
As you add food to your diary it gets easier because MFP remembers your frequently used foods for easier addition later.
A macro app will track macros for you…
Once you enter foods into MFP or your app of choice it keeps a running total of your calories and macros for the day and show’s you how much of each macro you have remaining.
The app also builds nice graphs and visuals for you to better understand how well you are balancing your macros and how close or far away you are from your goal.
Looking at the photo above, you can see that I have 41 grams of protein left for the day, 72 grams of carbs left for the day, and 1 gram of fat left for the day.
My goal for the rest of the day would be to eat foods that are protein and carb dominant.
Finding and keeping track of your macros to lose weight may seem daunting at first, but as with anything, the more you do it the easier and quicker it becomes. Plus, we are blessed with some really great technology that makes the job so much easier and way less painless. By tracking macros accurately, you’ll quickly be on your way to achieving your diet and fitness goals.
Do you have any tips on how to track macros?
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- Yannakoulia, M., Yiannakouris, N., Blüher, S., Matalas, A. L., Klimis-Zacas, D., & Mantzoros, C. S. (2003). Body fat mass and macronutrient intake in relation to circulating soluble leptin receptor, free leptin index, adiponectin, and resistin concentrations in healthy humans. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 88(4), 1730-1736. Study Link