Learning to track macros to lose weight can be intimidating. Read this step by step guide to clear things up.
Merely tracking calories for weight loss is history and good riddance. Instead, tracking the types of calories you consume to help you target body fat is what tracking macros achieves. Tracking macros instead of calories allow for greater flexibility in your diet. Typical diets call for many restrictions, often cutting your favorite foods from your diet. This sort of approach is unsustainable and a recipe for yo-yo dieting which is detrimental to your health.
Macros or macronutrients are protein, carbs, and fat. Tracking macros for weight loss is simply tracking how many grams per macronutrient (protein, carb, and fat) you need to eat for your weight loss goal. You can eat any diet you choose with macro counting. Whether vegan, paleo, vegetarian or pescatarian, it all works because it's not about what you're allowed to eat. It's about what you can fit into your macro goal. So let's dive right in.
Tools You Will Need to Get Started Tracking Macros
1. A Calorie Tracker With a Large Food Library
MyFitnesspal or My Macros + Diet ($3) are both great options. However, MyFitnessPal is a calorie tracker that will allow you to easily track macros for an annual fee of $50. Alternatively, My Macros + Diet is a macro tracker with a one-time fee of $3.
You will enter your macro goal, and track how much of each macronutrient you're eating by the gram, into your calorie tracker.
2. A Quality yet Inexpensive Digital Food Scale.
A food scale is going to be your greatest tool and should be an immediate purchase. You can grab a quality scale for under $15 on Amazon. It is the only way you will know how many grams of each macronutrient you are eating towards your daily goal. "Eyeballing" and estimating your food amounts is the quickest way to a lack of progress and frustration. Consistency is crucial to losing weight, and you will really see results when you're tracking accurately and consistently using your food scale and calorie tracker.
3. Your Daily Macronutrient Goal.
Use my free macronutrient calculator to enter your current stats and diet goal. It will quickly calculate for you how many grams of each macronutrient you need to eat per week. It will always be a free tool, and you will always have access to it. Bookmark it, because you will need to use it periodically as you get closer to your weight loss goal.
As a general rule, make sure to plan to eat 1g of protein for every pound you weigh.
How to Manually Calculate Your Macros
If you'd rather track old school, here are a couple common macronutrient ratios for losing weight. These ratios determine what percentage of your calories should come from each macronutrient. These are merely goal ratios. Over time, you may need to adjust your ratios, until you find the ratio that provides you the most food flexibility with the best results specifically for you. Here are the numbers and calculation you will need to manually calculate your macros.
Typical Macronutrient Ratios for Losing Weight
Common High Protein Low Carb Ratio
40% Protein/ 40% Fat/ 20% Carb
Common High Protein Moderate Carb Ratio
40% Protein/ 30% Fat/ 30% Carb
Calories Per Gram of Macronutrient
1g of Protein = 4 calories
1g of Carbs = 4 calories
1 g of Fat = 9 calories
Formula for Calculating Grams
The grams per macronutrient are what you will weigh your food as on your food scale, and track using your calorie tracker. For this example, let's say your daily calorie goal to lose weight is 1580 calories and you want to follow a moderate carb ratio:
(.40 Protein) x 1580 calories = 632 calories / 4 calories per gram of protein = 158 grams of protein as your goal
( .30 Carbs) x 1580 calories = 474 calories / 4 calories per gram of carb = 118.5 grams of carb as your goal
(.30 Fat) x 1580 calories = 474 calories / 9 calories per gram of fat = 52.6 grams of fat as your goal
Based upon the macronutrient ratio you chose, you would want 40% of your calories to come from protein, 30% of your calories to come from carbs, and 30% of your calories to come from fat.
Your calorie goal for losing weight was 1580 calories. If you needed 40% of those calories to come from protein to achieve your weight loss goal, that would equal 158g of protein per day based on the above calculation, and so on.
You would then enter your protein, carbs, and fat goals by the gram into your calorie tracker, and you would weigh your food by the gram.
You daily macros would be 158g of protein, 118.5g of carbs, and 52.6g of fat.
So what can you eat? The answer is, whatever you want, as long as it adheres to those numbers. That's the beauty of tracking the types of calories you eat, instead of just calories, it's flexible.