Counting Macros

How to Count and Track Macros Using MyFitnessPal: A Tutorial

MyFitnessPal can be a great tool to use when you are counting macros or flexible dieting.  (a.k.a. IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros).

However, it can be a bit tricky to set up, so we thought we could help by offering this tutorial guide that you can use to get everything set up, as well as some pointers to use along the way.

NOTE:  [eafl id=”32444″ name=”My Food Diary” text=”My Food Diary”]  or Cronometer or MyMacros+ are great alternatives, that many find far easier to use.

I’ve been using MyFitnessPal ([eafl id=”2853″ name=”MyfitnessPal” text=”iOS”] or [eafl id=”2854″ name=”myfitnesspal android” text=”Android”]) for a long time now and I can see first hand how powerful it is in helping you track your macros and keep track of your calorie burn. It takes some practice and a little patience but after a couple of weeks, tracking becomes routine and highly worth it.

Once you know the flexible dieting/ counting macros basics, here’s how to get started.

Setting MyFitnessPal Up to Use IIFYM

1. Using your mobile device, download the free MyFitnessPal App from either the (Apple app store or Google Play)

2. Open the app and log in using your facebook or twitter account (easiest), or create an account using a valid email address.

3. MyFitnessPal will then ask you to enter some information including your goals, fitness level, height, weight, age, gender, exercise level, and goals. Enter this information as directed.
myfitnesspal set up
4. The app will then construct a plan for you consisting of your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) based on the information you provided, but the app doesn’t use a macros approach so you’ll have to manually enter your own TDEE and macro goals.

mfp-TDEEHere’s how to manually adjust MFP to fit with IIFYM.

First use our macro calculator to calculate your TDEE and Macro amounts.

    • Before you enter anything into MyFitnessPal, you must decide whether you want the app or compatible device to track your daily exercise or not.
    • By tracking your daily exercise, it can give you a much better idea of how many calories you’re burning each day. However, this makes tracking your macros more difficult because they are fluid, meaning the more exercise you do, the more carbs, protein, and fat you’ll have to eat to meet your daily goals.
    • If you want MyFitnessPal to track your exercise, you must choose “SEDENTARY” on our calculator and then enter those numbers manually.

sedentary TDEE

  • A simpler method is to estimate your activity level using our calculator and then enter that data manually into MyFitnessPal and turn off exercise tracking. This way you will simply eat the same amount of each of your macros each day.
  • While this makes it easier to track your macros it doesn’t account for varying exercise levels throughout the week or on rest days.

active-tdee
Here’s how to manually enter your macros:

  1. From the home screen, click on the “More” button at the bottom of the screen.
  2. Then click on the “Goals” heading.
  3. If you are tracking exercise adjust Activity Level to sedentary. Or, choose the appropriate level.
  4. Under the heading Nutrition Goals click on “Calorie & Macronutrient Goals“. Now enter your calorie amount given by our calculator and adjust carbohydrates, protein, and fat to the percentages given by our calculator. Note: You’ll have to round to the nearest 5% increment unless you have the Premium Version of MFP. This allows you to adjust your macros at 1% increments or just enter the gram amount.

myfitnesspal and iifym goals

Not Tracking Exercise (Easiest)

  • To turn off activity tracking under the “More” button, select “Steps”
    Then select “Don’t track Steps”
  • Also do not pair any other fitness tracking apps or devices with MyFitnessPal nor add any exercises in your daily food diary.

adjust steps

Tracking Exercise

  • If you are tracking exercise then enter your Sedentary TDEE and macros as just described, allow MyFitnessPal to track your steps, and pair other apps like MapMyFitness and devices such as Fitbit. Note: I’ve consistently found that FitBit OVERestimates your daily calorie burn so be aware of this
  • Also, for any activity not tracked by these devices, you’ll have to manually enter it into your food diary each day. Does this by clicking the “+”  and then selecting “Exercise“.

How to Enter Food and Track Your Macros

Tracking how much food you eat is pretty simple using MyFitnessPal.

1. To get started, click on the diary button at the bottom of the screen.

2. Then click the “add food” button below the appropriate meal.

  • You then can search for a food, enter it manually, or scan the barcode of the food you are eating with your device’s camera.
  • Adjust serving size as necessary and then click the check mark at the top of the screen.

The more you do this, the easier it gets as MyFitnessPal remembers your prior foods and suggest things you normally eat. 

It also may be useful to purchase a digital food scale to more accurately weigh your food and establish more accurate macro amounts.

track food IIFYM myfitnesspal

3. Keep track of your macros as you eat.

  • Scroll to the bottom of the diary screen and click the nutrition button.
  • It will then allow you to use the tabs at the top to see how your macros and calories are tracking for the day in question. “Macros” shows you a pie chart and percentages while “Nutrients” shows you the gram breakdown.
  • Now you can see your progress for the day so far and how many grams short or over you are in meeting your daily macro goals.

Note: Once again, if you are tracking exercise, your macros will be constantly changing based on the amount of exercise you do that day, which can make meeting your goals more challenging and harder to plan for.

nutrition myfitnesspal IIFYM

4. At the end of each day click “Complete Entry”.

As You Continue

MyFitnessPal is designed to track your progress, so every 2 or 3 days you should weigh yourself using a digital scale and enter your weight by clicking the + button and then the purple weight button at the bottom of your screen.

For every 10 pounds of weight lost or gained you’ll need to return to our calculator and recalculate your macros based on your new weight. Then enter this updated info into MyFitnessPal as instructed above.

MyFitnessPal has a lot of resources available to help you be successful such as:

  • Reminders
  • Community support
  • Ability to save recipes, food, and meals
  • Premium version and even personal coaching. (Everything else is free except for this service.)

The more you use MyFitnessPal, the more you’ll discover!

Limitations of Using MyFitnessPal with Flexible Dieting

There are a few limitations with using MyFitnessPal to track your macros as part of the flexible diet.

  • First, the app doesn’t allow you to enter macro amounts, but only percentages.
  • Secondly, these percentages are in 5% increments when our calculator at times could give you 1% increments. Only the Premium Version will unlock the ability to do this. This runs $10 a month or $50 a year paid up front.
  • Thirdly, I’ve noticed when you are tracking your exercise, sometimes things are recorded twice so pay attention to this if you have picked this option and delete the duplicate by touching “edit” at the top of the diary.
  • If you are tracking your exercise, MFP will keep adjusting protein until you are eating crazy amounts if you have a big exercise day.  Find your max daily protein amount using our calculator (including exercise level) and then stop when you get to that amount. Consume the rest of your calories at your percentage of fats and of carbs on big exercise days.

Important!

We want to reiterate the importance of inputting your SEDENTARY calories if you want MFP to track your calories burned through exercise. If you don’t do this you’ll be eating too much since MFP adds exercise calories and macros back into your daily totals.


Do you have any tips or pointers for others who want to use MyFitnessPal to keep track of their macros? 

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Scientific References:
Litman, L., Rosen, Z., Spierer, D., Weinberger-Litman, S., Goldschein, A., & Robinson, J. (2015). Mobile Exercise Apps and Increased Leisure Time Exercise Activity: A Moderated Mediation Analysis of the Role of Self-Efficacy and Barriers. Journal of medical Internet research, 17(8), e195. Study link.
Kruger, J., Blanck, H. M., & Gillespie, C. (2006). Dietary and physical activity behaviors among adults successful at weight loss maintenance. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 3(1), 17. Study Link

Ted Kallmyer is an ISSA certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition, is an expert macros coach, and the author of The Macro Solution. If you need personal help reaching your weight loss/fitness goals see his nutrition & macros coaching options. Follow Ted on Instagram
Last Updated: February 21, 2018

138 Comments

  1. Sarah Samme

    Hi,
    Can you add the food you have in grams?
    If i eat 35 grams of porridge. Can i add that in or does it have to be in servings?
    Many thanks
    Sarah

    Reply
    • Ted Kallmyer (Macro Coach)

      Hi Sarah, MyFitnessPal has most foods listed as grams. For porridge you would be entering each ingredient. Oats, etc.

      Reply
  2. Jennifer Goring

    Someone posted about increasing only the fat and carbs if you have MFP adjust for exercise. How did you distribute that? If you set protein to 0% how much did you put for carbs and fat? Thank you

    Reply
    • Ted the Macro Coach

      60% carbs 40% fat would probably be a good way to split the extra calories if you don’t want any to go towards protein.

      Reply
  3. Mara

    Hello Ted, I’m not really sure what activity level to choose. I do weight training 4 days a week. I usually don’t do a lot of cardio except my 5-10 mins on the treadmill for my warm up before my weight training workouts. Somedays I will do yoga and light walks with my dog. I also have dance classes 2-3 day a weeks. Usually about 2 hours light dancing and about 30-45mins of moderate dancing hours in total a week. Should I put “moderately active” in the IIFYM calculator or “light activity”?

    Reply
    • Ted the Macro Coach

      Hi Mara, You can get a better sense of your daily calorie burn by using our activity calculator here. It should help you determine which to choose. I can’t really tell because I would need a bit more information.

      Reply
  4. Adrianne

    I use to be able to see my macros for each item I ate that day & there was a banner after the last meal/snack that said “goal” which helped me to know how close I was to reaching that particular macro, but now it’s gone. All I see now are the macros for the total meal and no “Goal” at the bottom. Does anyone know how I can get that display back showing macros for each item and a running total on the food diary page?

    Reply
    • Ted Kallmyer

      If you click on the food item, it shows you the macros for that particular food. To see your running totals for the day, click on “nutrition” at the bottom.

      Reply
  5. Lisa

    Does each meal need to be in close to desired percentage in Macros, or does the end of the day just as desirable?

    Reply
    • James

      If you come out at the end of the day with the right percentage, you’re doing well! Breaking down into meals can help you learn the appropriate macro amounts at each meal time. But focus on the overall daily total.

      Reply
  6. Lara

    Hi Ted, I was wondering if you could help me with something. I’m a 23yo female, I weight 77kg and my height is 161cm. I started using MyFitnessPal a couple weeks ago to track my eating, but I was just trying to stay within the calories that the app calculated for me, which was 1350 calories. After 2 weeks of following it (although last weekend I exceeded my calories a little and brought my weekly average to 1415 calories, I ended up losing 2kg. The situation is, anytime I calculate my TDEE with your calculator, it gives me a higher calorie amount! But since I lost a good amount of weight with the app amount, I don’t know what I should do. Is it because I’m obese and I have to calculate with lean mass? I aim to lose 41pounds approximately. I hope you can help me!! Thank you very much!

    Reply
    • Ted Kallmyer

      Hi Lara, It looks like MFP has you at your REE (resting energy expenditure) while our calculator is adding a sedentary factor. Since you aren’t laying in bed all day but up living your life etc., you should be accounting for that movement. Otherwise, you risk plateauing if you are in too much of a deficit. Besides, your weekly average was almost what our calculator recommends for you and you lost at a good rate. Do you do additional exercise? You should be accounting for that as well if you want to keep your metabolism healthy.

      Reply
  7. Suzanna Fennell

    I am so confused on the Macros I set up as 20/70/10 as my goals . Today I put in what I had and now the total shows 2% carb, 82% fats, 16% protein I am not for sure if I should read the total as I am over on fats and protein or that is what I have left to go. Please help. Thanks

    Reply
  8. Amy

    How you track ALCOHOL into MFP?? I was told to log as either fat (dividing calories by 9) or carbs (divide by 4). Bit I can’t figure out how to log it into the system.

    Reply
    • Ted Kallmyer

      MFP adds alcohol to your Calorie totals but not your macros because it is its own macro. One days you drink, hit your protein target but let the alcohol calories count toward your fat and carbs so stop tracking when you hit your calorie total for the day. The remainder of your carbs and fat will be used up by the alcohol.

      Reply