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:  My Food Diary  or Cronometer or MyMacros+ are great alternatives, that many find far easier to use.

I’ve been using MyFitnessPal (iOS or 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? 

You'll Love Our Macro Solution Program

Step-by-step ebooks, or fully customized personal macros coaching. Now with complete vegan edition.

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

128 Comments

  1. Alexandra

    Hello I was wondering if anyone can help. My sister weights 250 pounds and she wants to lose weight but she doesn’t know what to eat or how much to eat can you help please.

    Reply
    • marie c

      I was 218lbs three years ago, now down 50lbs. Diet and exercise. I used My Fitness Pal to track my calories (she can go through the guided set up and enter all her stats and how much she wants to lose, it will calculate the recommended caloric intake and macro breakdown based on her activity level). The biggest thing for me was cutting out wine that I drank every night. I did the Couch to 5K running program and was diligent about my calories. Also, drink lots of water – I’m usually drinking 3L per day. It will make a difference!

      Reply
    • Ted

      Hi Alexandra, I suggest that you get her my book, it will take her through everything step-by-step. https://healthyeater.com/ebook

      Reply
  2. Roani Sandoval

    I just want to say THANK YOU for the information!! I’ve been using MFP since 2012 and I was worried that I may not be able to use it any more now that I’m trying to track my Macros but I also wanted to track my exercise. I’m happy you confirmed that I can use it as long as I enter my Sedentary TDEE. Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Ted

      Hi Roani, You’re welcome! So glad I could help.

      Reply
  3. Jorge Morales

    HELP! So i need to adjust my nutrition goals. IS there anyway you can help
    @CaffeineInformer:disqus

    Reply
    • Ted

      Hi Jorge. Happy to help. Please see the options that are available here: https://healthyeater.com/ebook

      Reply
      • Jorge Morales

        Well i see that Asha had mentioned her protein, fat and carbs…well on myfitnesspal for some reason I have mine set to:
        carbs- 100g
        protein-267g (which i think is fairly high tbh)
        fat- 134g

        I’m current weighing in at 220, Im 5’8″ and i really just want to lose weight and gain muscle. My goal is to weigh 170 or 180. I had a friend mentioned some thing called the “KETO diet” just the other day. And So all this is new to me. If you could please help!

        Reply
        • Ted

          You’re macros wouldn’t be typical of flexible dieting.

          Reply
  4. Asha Tiffany Jones

    Hi!
    I’ve recently read about IIFYM and have just calculated my macros specific to my needs. I’m 5″5, weigh 167lbs with the goal to lose fat. From reading various articles I think I have finally figured out what my macros are.
    Protein – 167g
    Fat – 49g
    Carbs – 160g

    That means that my protein intake is dominant, but typically, and the default macronutrient settings on MFP show that carbs are usually the dominant nutrient. Do you think I have made an error in my calculations? Or is it simply just dependent on the individual? Using these figures, I have adjusted the macronutrients percentages on MFP to 45% (protein) 35% (carbs) 20% (fat), should I change this?

    And just to clarify, on exercise days, I must not follow the recalculated macros on MFP? Just hit the max protein intake then the remaining calories I eat must be carbs?
    Say for days when I strength train and do not know how many calories I have burned, what do you do then?

    Reply
    • Ted

      Hi Asha, Generally carbs are greater to support exercise. I doubt you need that much protein unless you have 167 pounds on lean muscle to support. And, yes if you factored exercise into your equation you have to turn the calorie adjustment off in MFP. You can estimate calorie burn with strength training with MapMyFitness.

      Reply
      • Asha Tiffany Jones

        Oh right, thanks!
        I thought we needed 1 gram protein for every kg we weigh.

        Reply
        • Ted

          That’s a body building rule but doesn’t apply to everyone which is why our calculator allows you to adjust.

          Reply
  5. marie c

    Hello! Very VERY new to trying IIFYM. I’ve been a MFP user for over three years and I love it. My question is regarding having MFP track my exercise. As you said, it adjusts your macros when you add exercise – does this mean I can eat those additional calories/macros on days I exercise? I used the sedentary setting and my breakdown is fairly close to what your calculator gave me, even with the 5% increment limitation! I know on rest days I try to stay within the base macro breakdown, but just wondering how to account for the numbers changing when I add my exercise (5-6 days/week).

    Reply
    • Ted

      Hi Marie, Great to hear! Yes, you eat more on exercise days and MFP will allow you more calories and adjust your macros based on how much you do.

      Reply
      • marie c

        Great, thank you! That helps!! This is overwhelming but the articles I’ve read on your site so far are helping a LOT. Appreciate it!

        Reply
  6. Gina

    Hi , I’m new to counting macros and I want to strip fat and build muscle . It was suggested that I carb cycle but I’m confused how to do that . I calculated my macros based on -20% to lose weight so how do I figure out the number for high and medium carb days ? I will also train cardio 6 days and weights 3 days on which days do I eat high, medium and low carbs and should I have a protein only day ?
    Thanks ?

    Reply
    • Ted

      Hi Gina, Sorry but I don’t advocate carb cycling because it’s not necessary. Flexible dieting teaches you to eat normally based on your activity level. No carb days, no protein days etc.

      Reply
      • Gina

        Thanks Ted . Tbh carb cycling seemed a bit extreme to me . But today according to what I calculated I should have 5 meals of 40g carbs 28g protein and 10g fats .. I’m hungry all day . I’m wondering if I have it right . Plus I don’t feel like I have the energy to do my cardio workout .

        Reply
        • Ted

          I really can’t tell based on that because I don’t know your stats. If you eat according to your exercise, on your cardio + weight training days you should be eating more than on your cardio only days. This is the tracking exercise approach listed in the article above. Don’t worry about the number meals but time it so you have a nice hit of carbs prior to your cardio.

          Reply
          • Gina

            Thanks I’ll do that

  7. Cath

    Hello,
    Am I correct in thinking that on rest days I will use sedentary macros and on training days I would adjust it to moderate activity?
    If I am tracking my macros on MFP without tracking exercise using my Fitbit, will I change my macros in the nutrients section for that day?
    And also, I do a lot of hiking on the weekends on my rest days and sometimes training days. Would I change my activity levels for those days to even higher?
    Thanks for all the advice so far! Finding it all very useful.
    Thanks,
    Cath

    Reply
    • Ted

      Hi Cath, Yes that is correct, but I will say that hiking is exercise, so If you hiking that isn’t a rest day and if you hike and workout on a day you’ll need to account for that. It sounds like you may do better with the tracking exercise method where you use sedentary as your baseline and then let MFP /fitbit add exercise calories to your totals.

      Reply
      • Cath

        Thanks for your help!

        Reply
  8. lyndsey zimmerman

    Hello! I just started IIFYM 2 weeks ago and I’m having trouble calculating p/c/f in Myfitnesspal when I cook in bulk? For example, I made turkey meatballs and measured them at 1oz/meatball. I don’t know how to divide the ingredients over the course of a week.

    Reply
    • Ted

      Hi Lindsay, You have to figure out the macros in the entire recipe and then divide it by the number of servings you are getting from the recipe. Once you have one meal saved in MFP you can use it again and again.

      Reply
  9. omimkt

    well, as I used to lose 3 weights within 1 month but still really healthy. I realised drinking water is really really important. But i don’t like to drink ^^.

    My friend suggested me an app that I can both drink water and grow plant (like a pet) so it’s much easier to me :). You can try if you want : Awesome Blossom (Available in Google Play and IOS App Store)

    Reply
  10. omimkt

    Hey guys, why don’t you try Awesome Blossom App – health tracker, water reminder app. Awesome way to make your exercise more fun.

    Reply
  11. lidia

    Hi. Im female 5’8″ weigh 144. I want to loose belly fat but gain muscle in legs and buttock. Do I enter lose 10% or gain in calculator. Also it wont allow me to change from male to female.

    Reply
    • Ted

      Hi Lidia, It seems like “lose 10%” would be the best option. You won’t lose fat in the “gain” setting. I just checked the calculator and I’m able to switch back and forth from male to female as designed. what device and browser are you using?

      Reply
  12. Regina

    Ok I’m purchasing you book! But one quick question, so if I use my Fitbit to calculate my output, I put SEDENTARY on both MFP and your Calculator right? If not using the Fitbit I can keep the activity level at Moderate. I would think best bet is to just keep it at Moderate on your calculator and ONLY eat those macros right? To stray away from extra unnecessary macros. I have started using MM+ (My Macros+) because you can put in your exact macros unlike MFP, and it keeps the Macro information right at the top all the Time, but I’m using MMP for the calculation of the meals…because the other app doesn’t have a large database. But MFP adjusts the macros and this other app doesn’t, so I’m just getting lost lol

    Reply
    • Ted

      Sounds a bit confusing switching between two apps but I do understand the limitations with MFP. If you are tracking your movement you should use sedentary, yes. Then calories and macros will be added in based on how much exercise you do. However, I’ve found FItBit to be highly inaccurate in estimated calorie burn, so be careful of that. Perhaps compare your results to MapMyFitness which I feel is pretty accurate. To make things easier, If you want to go with moderate and not track, simply turn off exercise tracking in MFP. Then it will not adjust your macros or calories. Thanks in advance for buying my book. 🙂

      Reply
  13. Sheena

    How can I account for breastfeeding in my macro goals? I have 8.5% body fat so I do not have fat stores for my body to draw on for making milk. Shouldn’t my fat intake be higher than the average person using the calculator?

    Reply
    • Ted

      Hi Sheena, You would have to add an additional 300 to 500 calories daily to account for breastfeeding. These calories should be divided among your macros at your given ratios.

      Reply
  14. Lua Climent Gomez

    I’ve got a problem with the my fitness pal APP, if my goal is gaining muscle what shall I put in ‘goals’: maintain weight, lose or gain?

    Reply
  15. Kathy C

    Hi Ted, got the book great information that I will keep going back to. Just to clarify when using MFP to track my exercise it will keep readjust my daily macros ~adding protein at the percentage specified, without limit.
    So, if my daily protein macro is set at 116 g (35%) before any exercise, no matter what MFP recalculates due to my activities, only eat 116g of protein and eat the rest of those adjusted macros as carbs.

    Reply
    • Ted

      Thanks for purchasing my book, Kathy. 🙂 Yes, this is one of the problems with tracking exercise since MFP will keep adding protein well beyond what you need. Cap the protein when you get to 1 gram per pound of body weight and then eat the rest of your required calories as carbs in place of the extra protein. All the best for 2016!

      Reply
  16. Morgan Hachenberger

    Hello. So, if I am using a Fitbit and have it synced to MFP, I should choose “sedentary” as my activity level on MFP?

    Reply
    • Ted

      Hi Morgan, That’s correct but you should have inputed our calculator’s macro percentages and TDEE calorie amount for your sedentary calculation into MFP. If you’ve done that, you’re all set. If you manually entered the macros it should adjust the calories automatically anyway.

      Reply
      • Morgan Hachenberger

        Hey Ted! Thanks so much! I used your calculator and it gave me a TDEE which I manually entered into MFP. I changed my activity level to sedentary. Is it normal with a sedentary setting for it to say you’ve burned way more calories exercising than normal?
        For example, on average I burn around 600 “extra calories” exercising and my Fitbit just adds that into MFP as additional calories I can eat. Yesterday, once I changed my activity level to sedentary, even though I didn’t even exercise yesterday, it said that I burned 1,050 extra calories…..is that normal?? Is it just because I changed my setting that it appears that I burned more than normal?

        Reply
        • Ted

          Doesn’t seem right to me. Looks like there’s a setting wrong somewhere.

          Reply
  17. Samantha

    Hello, I’m so confused, I work out 6 days a week, I do 30 min cardio 3 days a week and 30 min strength training the other 3. I am not having MFP track my exercise at all, I entered “moderately active” in your macro calculator and I also entered that into MFP, but reading in the comments, specifically in “AngelaTuck” comment, you told her that putting “sedentary” in her MFP was correct but in your article above you said to only put sedentary if you are tracking your exercise with MFP, which I am not doing, so am I supposed to put “sedentary” or “moderately” in MFP?? Thank you!!

    Reply
    • Ted

      Hi Samantha, As far as the comment you mentioned I was talking about her rest days not her exercise days. If you aren’t tracking exercise then you should enter your appropriate exercise adjusted numbers into MFP and turn activity tracking off. Does that clear things up for you? Do you know how many calories you are burning during your exercise? I just want to make sure you are using the correct setting.

      Reply
  18. Jenny Harris

    Help!! This flexible dieting thing is proving to be so complicated for me. :-/ Not sure if I’m over analyzing things, or what, but I’m really hoping I can get it figured out, because I’d love to use IIFYM to lose/maintain weight. How important is it to factor in exercise when calculating macros for weight loss? Can I just eat my sedentary daily macros and be ahead of the game, or do I need to make accommodations for the e exercise? Also, I have a hard time meeting my protein requirements, and am generally over my carb range. I’m not eating your typical carbs (pasta, breads, rice, etc.), mostly just fruit, yogurt, protein bars, and still am over nearly every day. Any suggestions? I’d really like to make this work, as, in theory, it seems like a practice one could maintain long term for a heathy lifestyle…

    Reply
    • Ted

      Hi Jenny, So glad you are flexible dieting and once you get the hang of it, I think you find it as great as I do. It’s really important to factor in exercise and eat as close to your macros as possible. I think you would benefit from reading my book. It breaks the diet down step by step and explains why the above aspects are really important. Check it out here. https://healthyeater.com/ebook

      Also this article will probably help you with getting more protein. https://healthyeater.com/out-of-a-macro

      Reply
      • Jenny Harris

        Thank you!

        Reply
  19. Rachel Hunter

    I hit my calorie intake and my macros are spot on but MFP says that I’ve eaten more grams of my P/C/F. How is the possible and will affect my results?

    Reply
    • Ted

      Hi Rachel, Yes, this results from errors in the nutritional info in MFP’s database. It shouldn’t hinder your results, so just keep doing what you’re doing and be aware that MFP isn’t infallible.

      Reply
      • Rachel Hunter

        What do I do if I hit my gram amount for P/C/F amount but I’m haven’t hit the calorie intake. Do I stop eating?

        Reply
        • Ted

          All calories come from P, C, F so if you hit your macros you’ll hit your calories. The only exception being drinking alcoholic drinks. Alcohol is 7 calories per gram. Again there are errors in MFP, so sometimes they don’t align. Focus on your macros and you’ll be sweet.

          Reply
          • Rachel Hunter

            Thank you!!!!

  20. Donovan Conrad

    Is there a new hack for MyFitnessPal since they changed it and added the Premium option or do you just have to pay for it to get the extra features? Trying to be cheap here 🙂

    Reply
    • Ted

      Ah crap, I didn’t even realize the hack above was no longer working. Thanks for pointing that out. I’ll do some research.

      Reply