Counting Macros

How To Track Macros In the Foods You Eat Painlessly

By Ted KallmyerUpdated February 11, 2024

What are macros?

Macros are 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.

The philosophy behind macro counting is the idea of flexible dieting.

Understanding how to calculate and adjust your daily macro goals is one of the most important aspects of a macro diet.

Once you’ve figured out your TDEE and macros, it’s time to track the macros in what you eat, whether you want to lose weight or reach some other fitness goal.

Tracking macros for beginners

There are three ways to determine the macro content of food.

  1. Use nutritional food labels.
  2. Use a digital food scale to calculate macros.
  3. Use a macro-tracking app to add up daily macros.

When macro tracking, use the Greater Goods Nutrition Scale.

It not only weighs the food, but it shows the macros.

How to track macros using nutritional labels

Sample label

Almost all foods sold in grocery stores have food labels except fresh produce.

However, some bulk stores have much of their produce bagged and nutritionally labeled.

There are five items to locate on the food label.

  1. Serving size
    If you eat more than one serving, multiply all your macros by the number you eat.
  2. Total Fat
  3. Total Carbs
    You can subtract the fiber grams from this amount to get your Net Carbs.
  4. Fiber
  5. Protein


In the sample label, we find:

Per 1/4 cup serving, we get 2.5 grams of fat, 23 net carbs, and 5 grams of protein.

You can track fiber if you wish – most nutritionists recommend an intake of 18–38 g of fiber per day for adults.

Record this information in a food journal or enter it into a food tracking app.

What are net carbs?

Net carbs are the carbohydrates in a food that can be digested and absorbed by the body.

Fiber is not digested and absorbed, so it is not included in the net carb count.

Some people track net carbs for accuracy, but for beginners, tracking total carbohydrates is easier.

Remember to do this with every food you eat during a particular day.

There are some exceptions:

  • 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.
  • Some foods (such as meats and vegetables) may not have any macro information listed at all. If so, you’ll need to use a digital food scale.

How to weigh food and use a food scale to track macros

With a digital food scale, you can weigh food to determine how much of a certain macronutrient is in it.

If you have basic scales, here’s how to measure macros.

  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.
  3. 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 can then fill the bowl or plate with the food item.
  4. When the number stabilizes, record the amount.
  5. Use a food database like to figure out the macros.


chicken breast example

Here, we have a piece of chicken that weighs 5.8 ounces raw.

Search the database for raw, skinless chicken breast. Then, change the serving to 5.8 oz.

From this, you learn that the chicken breast has 0 g of carbs, 2 g of fat, 38 g of protein, and 0 g of fiber. Record this in your food diary or log.

Do you weigh food raw or cooked for macros?

Always weigh food raw.

Meats and vegetables consist of a lot of water weight, which will change during cooking.

Do I weigh rice or oats cooked or uncooked?

You almost always weigh the dry ingredient first, but it depends on what reference database or recipe you are using.

Most will say, “Half a cup of rice, dry.”

Should I weigh my food in grams or ounces?

In the USA, foods are weighed in ounces, but nutrition databases (and our macro calculator) always list macros in grams. In all databases, you can choose your unit of weight.

How to track macros when eating out

Most popular fast food restaurants publish nutrition on their website. This information is also available in macro tracking apps like MyFitnessPal.

  • Search for the meal (app or website).
  • Enter details into your app.
  • Trust that the person making the meal followed the company recipe and portion guidelines 👨‍🍳.
  • Go easy on the drinks.

Plan ahead. It can be difficult to find a menu item that fits with your remaining macros.

It’s a good idea to save a hefty portion of each macro when you know you’ll be eating out (especially fat).

Go easy on the drinks

  • A few beers or wines, and you could be at 500 calories in liquid carbs.
  • Alcohol calories get classified as carbs, so be aware of this when eating out and perhaps limit yourself to one alcoholic drink.
  • Avoid sugary sodas and go with water or no-calorie beverages instead.

How to track macros at restaurants

Independent restaurants can be tricky because they don’t post their nutritional information.

  • I look at the menu and identify a few options that match my remaining macros.
  • When the meal comes, I note the ingredients used, and I search for them on MyFitnessPal. If you’re unsure of something, ask your server or chef.
  • I estimate serving sizes generously because it’s better to overestimate calories than underestimate.

Example: Searching for a similar item
When ordering a California burrito, I can locate a similar entry in MyFitnessPal, ensuring it’s roughly the same size. For accuracy, I pick the highest caloric option from three, typically 800 calories, over the lowest at 600

Most of us underestimate our calorie intake – especially with restaurant food. Feels less guilty right? Don’t stop eating out – but realize you could easily go over your TDEE without attention.

How to track macros with an app

There are many macro tracking apps, and MyFitnessPal (MFP) is one of the most popular.

If you opt to use MyFitnessPal, see the tutorial on how to set it all up.

Apps have three methods for finding a food’s macros:

  1. Scan an item’s barcode with your phone’s camera.
  2. Search the app’s food database.
  3. Manually enter the food’s macros from a nutrition label.

With most apps, you only need to enter the food once. From then on, the app will learn.

A macro app will track macros for you

Once you enter foods, the app keeps a running total of your calories and macros for the day. You can quickly find out how much of each macro you have remaining.

Finding and keeping track of your macros may seem daunting at first, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

View article sources


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