Tracking your macros (carbohydrates, proteins, and fat) and your calories can be a remarkably effective way to make changes in your diet.
These changes eventually lead you to your goals- be it gaining muscle, leaning out, increasing performance, etc.
I often use macro tracking when I work with my clients- this can be one of the easiest ways for me to help them focus on how and what they are eating.
However, the more experience I have gained as a nutrition coach, the more I’ve come to appreciate how much room there is for error in the tracking process.
If I have a client who is not reaching their goals and everything else lines up (i.e. sleep, etc), I have to asses if they’re tracking correctly.
Some of the questions I ask are: Are they inputting everything they consume, and if so, are they putting it all in correctly? Are they measuring what they eat before they enter it? If they’re eyeballing things (such as when they’re out to eat) what are they picking as choices?
Here are my guidelines to ensure you’re entering foods correctly into your tracker and to help you stay true to your daily macro/calorie goals.
1. A gram of protein has 4 calories. A gram of carbohydrates has 4 calories. A gram of fat has 9 calories.
You can do some very quick math when you enter something to assess if its right or not merely by looking at the total number of calories. If you see a protein choice has 200 calories but then it says it has 300 grams of protein, simple math will tell you that cannot be the case (if it had 300 grams of protein it would be no less than 1200 calories). This applies to carbs and fat as well.
2. 4 ounces of meat, be it steak, chicken or fish, has around 25 grams of protein.
4 ounces of protein is about the palm of your hand. If you see something that says it has 100 grams of protein in it- recognize that this volume of food would seem like quite a bit (you could be eating upwards of 12 ounces of meat!).
3. Choose the verified (little green check mark) with MyFitnessPal whenever you can.
Users can add in their own macros/foods and these options are made public for anyone to use. Therefor if someone enters something incorrectly, we can end up choosing their option when we enter our macros which can make our macros wrong for the day.
4. Which leads me to my next point- general guidelines when making selections on the tracker:
- Fruits are generally around 100 calories and 20 grams of carbs per item
- Green vegetables are typically very low in calories and carbs- a cup of green beans for example will be around 30 to 40 calories and 10 grams of carbs
- A potato is a carbohydrate and the average potato (including yam and sweet potato) has around 30 grams of carbs in it and is around 150 to 200 calories
- Animal protein options for 4 ounces are generally around 25 grams of protein
- Fats per tablespoon are typically around 100 calories and contain 10 grams of fats (olive oil, butter, etc)
5. Lastly, if you’ve been tracking less than a year, or if you are trying to get things dialed in tightly, measure whenever possible.
Eyeballing comes with experience and it can lead to some serious errors if you eyeball incorrectly- especially with things like sauces. We think we’re only putting one tablespoon of dressing on our salads, where in fact you have put THREE on- which can add up to hundreds of untracked calories in a week.
I also want to make a side note- I am all about “if it fits your macros” for one meal a week.
But if you’re filling up on donuts, fried chicken, and soda as your macro options, we are setting ourselves up to become skinny fat.
When I set my clients intakes for them, I expect their macros to be clean- you don’t want to put the cheapest fuel in your Ferrari- so why would you choose the crappiest foods to put into your body?
I want my clients to be eating vegetables at every meal, and to be having one to two pieces of fruit per day. I want their macros made up of delicious and nutritious foods so their bodies can run as efficiently as possible.
Two other notes- don’t let MyFitness Pal create your calories and macros for you!
First track for a week to see where you’re at now- this will help you make the smallest and easiest changes. Second, head HERE or find a calorie calculator which allows you to consume a reasonable amount of food each day. I don’t want any of my clients EVER eating less than 1400 calories.
If you follow these guidelines and suggestions, you will be much for successful in your macro tracking endeavors. And as always, comment below or message me if you any questions!