How to Track Macros Successfully
Everything you need to know about macros and why you should start tracking them! Plus, tips on how to use the Fit With Iulia app to calculate and track your macros accurately.
Before macros took the fitness world by storm, people were following the simple rule of staying in a calorie deficit. This worked for some people, but others really struggled to achieve sustainable results. Then came IIFYM - if it fits your macros, and it changed the fitness world in the greatest way!
Tracking your daily macros can be a real game-changer in your fitness! It can help you start seeing the results you want all by just helping find how much per nutrient you should be eating for your fitness goals. We've got the lowdown on macronutrients, why they are so important, and how to use the Fit With Iulia Macro Calculator and our new Kitchen feature (macro tracking tool) to start getting the results YOU want!
What are macronutrients?
Macronutrients, macros for short, refer to the three basic components of every diet: carbs, protein, and fats. They help give us energy, grow and repair muscle, and just make us feel good!
Every food is specified as one main macro, either a - carbohydrates, fat, or protein. That is classified by calculating the highest percentage of the macronutrient in each food. So for example, a raw piece of skinless, boneless breast has 21.2 grams of protein, 2.6 grams of fat, and 0 grams of carbs. That would be considered a protein because it's a protein-dense food. It's pretty easy to understand!
But why is counting macros considered better than tracking your calorie intake?
It comes down to food choices. The number of calories you consume is important, but tracking macros is absolutely essential if you are serious about achieving your fitness goal! Think of it this way... Let's say you want to build muscle and you're only counting calories. Your daily calorie goal is 1,800 calories, where do you get the calories from? Well, it's a free for all! You can get them from healthy whole foods and/or processed foods, it's entirely up to you. You might lose weight, but if you're not counting your protein intake you're not going to gain much muscle. That's why tracking macros is important!
A person who is focused on building muscle mass will want to focus on high protein intake. A person who wants to focus on weight loss and fat loss will get better results through a low-fat or low-carb diet. So, everyone's macronutrient ratios are going to be slightly different. And by keeping an eye on your macro intake, opposed to only calories, you'll be able to prioritize nutrient-dense foods over unhealthy foods while also building a sustainable diet plan.
We can't discuss macronutrients without actually talking about them! Most know what protein, carbohydrates, and fats are, but what most don't know is how they actually work, what benefits they give us. So, here's the breakdown of the three main macros so you can understand why you should be eating enough of each!
Protein in our bodies is made up of 20 amino acids, 9 of them are considered to be essential. That means that the body requires them from food sources. Guess what is the best food source to get these essential amino acids? Protein from animal sources! BUT don't worry, you can still get them from various plant sources and/or supplements.
Protein is the building block of cells and muscle structure, it's crucial for muscle growth and recovery. It doesn't end there, protein has many roles in the body! It's used as an energy source, helps keep the immune system strong, provides structure in the body, and so much more!
So, what are the best protein sources?
- Lean, organic meat
- Fish and seafood
Carbs are the body's main source of energy AND the brain's primary source. They are made up of sugars and starches that are then broken down into glucose. There are two main types: simple and complex carbs. Complex carbs are nutrient-dense and digested slowly. Simple carbs are digested quickly and are mostly refined and processed.
Everyone always says "carbs are bad for you! They make you gain weight!". That may be true, but that applies to any food. A calorie surplus makes you gain weight. As for carbs - our body needs carbs to provide us with high energy levels to help us get through the day and to crush it at the gym! It's also the highest source of dietary fiber that keeps our large intestine healthy.
So, what are the best carbohydrate sources?
- Whole grains
- Starchy vegetables
Fats are an essential nutrient, despite the bad reputation it has. Dietary fats are needed for energy and to support cell growth. It's also needed to produce important hormones your body needs and to absorb nutrients - vitamins A, D, E, K. Fats are also more calorie-dense, which means they require more energy to burn. But adding fats to your diet will help keep you full longer, so they can support weight loss as long as you prioritize healthy high-fat foods.
There are four different types of fats: saturated fats, trans fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. The bad fats that you should limit are saturated and trans fats. Stick to healthy fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
So, what are the best sources of fats?
- Nuts and seeds
- Olives and olive oil
- Fatty fish
- Nut butter
How to track macros successfully
As you can see, each macronutrient plays an important role in your body! Fitness goals or not, eating enough protein, fat, and carbs is necessary for your body to be running at optimal levels. But if you are following a strength training program, like Fit With Iulia's goal-focused home and gym workouts, then you should consider tracking macros or follow a macro diet plan like IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros).
IIFYM - If It Fits Your Macros is a form of flexible dieting that helps people with weight loss without being too restrictive. This form of dieting only focuses on the three macronutrients, no calorie counting. That way you can eat the number of macronutrients you need to achieve your fitness goals. People often prefer this method of dieting because it's flexible and easy to maintain, less restrictive than others, and there are no forbidden foods. This removes the pressure and guilt that comes with restrictive diets, and you still get results!
To get started on your macro tracking journey and get better, effective results, here are steps/tips to follow that will make it easier and sustainable!
Step 1: Calculate macros
The first thing to do is actually calculate your macros! Your macros are based on your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) and your fitness goals. There are two ways to calculate your daily macro goals: doing it yourself or by using a macro calculator. Doing it manually is great, but why do the math when I can do it for you! And it takes less than 2 minutes!
The Fit With Iulia Macro Calculator is designed to give you the best target macros possible for your goals. Here's how it works:
First, input your general information like gender, height, weight, and age - this will calculate your TDEE. So we know the number of calories you need per day to maintain your energy.
Second, input an estimate of your body fat percentage. Not many macro calculators ask for this, but it is important. So you can understand why I'll give you an example... Person A can weigh 195 and have <20% body fat, person B can weigh 195 and have 30% body fat. They weigh the same, but their body composition is different therefore their macro ratios are going to be different. For those who don't know the exact number, my calculator displays icons to help you estimate which body fat percentage fits you.
Third, choose your body type. There are three body types: endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph. I want to be as accurate as possible with your macros, that this question is included. Let's briefly explain why...
- Ectomorphs are naturally thin and have a higher metabolic rate, they also have a better carb tolerance. So depending on their goal, they'll most likely get results with higher carbs.
- Endomorphs have a larger structure, more fat, and typically slow metabolisms. They don't tolerate carbs well, so their results will be different than an ectomorph body type. They'll most likely work better with a low-carb diet.
- Mesomorphs are the best of both worlds. They have a naturally athletic body and lean muscle mass. They can gain weight easily, but they can also lose fat and gain muscle easily. Their results will depend on their goals and will be different than ectomorphs and endomorphs.
Fourth, input your activity level. This information has to do with your TDEE. The more active you are, the more calories you need. So try to be as accurate as possible. We've simplified it into five categories:
- Not active - Sedentary job/lifestyle and no exercise.
- Lightly active - Sedentary job, so you're sitting most of the day, but you workout 1-2x a week.
- Active - Sedentary job, but you participate in moderate exercise 3-4x a week.
- Very active - Active job, think mailman, construction worker, a job that requires you to be moving around. Intense exercise 4-5x a week.
- Super active - Active job and intense 5+ workouts a week.
Lastly, enter your overall goal. We have the three main goals:
- Lose weight - This will put you at a slight calorie deficit, the percentage depends on your body type.
- Maintain - This shows you the macro ratios that will keep you at your current weight.
- Gain muscle - This will put you at a calorie surplus, the percentage depends on your body type.
Step 2: Get the right tools and equipment
To count macros as accurately as possible, you need to have the right tools! There are two things everyone should consider investing in – A food diary (or macro tracking app) and a food scale.
You can either go the traditional route and track macros in a food diary or make your life easier and less stressful by downloading a food tracking app! These apps make tracking macros easier by having a huge food library readily available to you, all you have to do is search or use scan the barcode of a food item, enter the serving size, and save it! And for those who don't know, the Fit With Iulia app has a feature that provides you with a space to track your macros – because healthy eating and good nutrition are needed in order to reap the benefits of Iulia's goal-focused workouts!
The new Kitchen feature in Fit With Iulia is essentially your food journal. All subscribers are able to access the kitchen after calculating their macros one of two ways:
1. Through the Fit With Iulia Macro Calculator – The FWI Macro Calculator will ask you a series of the utmost important questions, including age, weight, height, body fat percentage, body type, activity level, and fitness goals.
2. Completing a 5-day assessment – This entails an in-depth assessment to get target macros that are more personalized to how you already eat! It involves a five-day period in which you will need to add everything you consume. The app will calculate the total calories and macros consumed, save them, and at the end present you with an assessment summary about your actual macro results.
After you’ve received your macros using the Macro Calculator or starting your five-day assessment, you’ll be redirected to your Kitchen!
You'll see your target macros up top, and below that is your space to Plan and Journal! Plan is the spot where you can plan meals ahead of time or input them as you go using their expansive food library. This is meant to help make it easier for you to plan your meals according to your macros. The app is also designed to be user-friendly so we included a way to search through the food library by Carbs, Fats, and Proteins to make it easier for you to find the macros you need most. We'll even indicate whether it’s gluten-free, lactose-free, vegan, vegetarian, healthy, somewhat healthy, or not healthy!
So, essentially Plan is where you want to plan and document all your healthy meals, and all your entries are saved under your Journal! This feature is awesome, and something not many other workout apps provide, but should. Diet and nutrition are the most important part of a fitness journey, and not having good nutrition will make it even harder for the results to come. The Kitchen will help you fine-tune your diet in a way that's enjoyable for you but also gets you the results you’ve been wanting while helping you build healthier eating habits.
The second thing you should invest in to help you track accurately is a food scale! It can be easy to overeat if you're not tracking, and although you may think you're only eating one serving size, it could be that you've taken more than you thought. Having a good scale will ensure that you're inputting all your meals as accurately as possible. Fortunately, they are not that expensive, and most simple ones run about $10-30. After a couple of months of using the food scale, you'll start to become familiar with portion sizes. This can be helpful when there's not an exact match for the food you're eating on your tracking app. You can roughly estimate with your hands, and based on experience, what the serving size is.
Step 3: Grocery shop and plan your meals
If you're serious about your goals then make the effort to set aside time one day every week to plan your grocery list, meals, and shop! Going grocery shopping prepared will help you avoid buying unnecessary and possibly, unhealthy, foods. So, take the time to plan your meals for the week that way you can create a grocery list before you go shopping.
If you prefer not to meal prep, at least create a meal plan every week. Tracking and documenting your meals as you go can increase the risk of either going way over your macros. Planning your meals either a few days or a week in advance can help you stay on track and make it easier to account for treats and any social outings. Meal planning sounds intimidating and stressful, but it's not if you follow our tips on how to create a meal plan for your macros.
Step 4: Start tracking to achieve your goals
Once you've calculated your macros, got your tools, and have a set grocery and/or meal plan then it's time to start tracking!
Consider downloading a food tracking app like Fit With Iulia! Aside from providing you with weekly goal-focused workouts, the app will calculate your macros and give you space to track them to ensure that you're eating enough to supplement your high-intensity training! There are other tracking tools you can use, but what sets Fit With Iulia apart is that there are so many other features that you can use on top of tracking your macros that will help make your fitness journey easier, approachable, and sustainable. One last thing to keep in mind... Once you start tracking and you start losing weight, or building muscle then revisit the Fit With Iulia Macro Calculator. You want to adjust your macros after losing weight and fat, or building muscle because the original macro results were based on the information before you started dieting. So every couple of weeks or once you get significant results, update your macros!
Now you have all the information you need to get started tracking macros successfully and get the results you deserve! And if you are interested in the Fit With Iulia app and what it has to offer, we have a way you can try it for free – subscribe to activate a free 7-day trial. This will give you an opportunity to explore the entire app for 7 days without paying the subscription fee. Meaning you'll have free gym and home workout plans for a week, get accurate target macronutrient ratios for your goals, a space to track your macros, progressive overload, and personal progress.