June 17, 2021 (Updated: July 9, 2021)
Macro-based diets have been popular for a long time now, and for good reason. Provided you are setting your targets properly, tracking accurately, and hitting your targets, you can achieve predictable weight changes. Each of these steps is difficult in its own way, but we will be sure to cover all 3. Macro-based diets are also great for people who are interested in building or preserving muscle since they usually have a goal for daily protein intake. Counting your macros requires you to pay a little more attention to the foods you are eating than alternatives like calorie counting. It can make you look past the first line on the nutrition label, and help you develop a better understanding of the contents of different food items.
Assess your situation before beginning a diet that focuses so heavily on food measurement and nutrient tracking. While macro-focused diets work for many people, they can also serve to worsen eating disorders or set them off in the first place. Consider whether you should begin this type of diet, as there are many alternatives if you think you may be affected by this type of lifestyle. You should only engage in close analysis of your food if you are confident that it will not affect your relationship with food, and that it will only serve to improve your overall health!
Chances are that if you are considering a macro-based diet, you will be interested in strength training to some degree. You are also likely interested in eating a certain amount of protein each day. If you don’t know how much protein is enough, there are a few sources that you can check out.
I would recommend doing some research of your own. You can start with the question How Much Protein Is Enough and read deeper as you need to.
If you are looking for a quick answer. A commonly followed rule of thumb is to consume 0.8-1.0 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight if muscle gain is your primary focus.
There are many macro calculators available on the internet. Of course, we would recommend using the calculations provided in the Prospre App by going to the “My Goals” page in the drawer, and setting a new weight goal.
After putting in your age, sex, current weight, goal weight, and activity level, Prospre can calculate your macros. Macro calculators can give you a good estimate for where to start, but ultimately you will have to make tweaks to your targets to ensure they are right for you.
A great way to get a handle on where your maintenance calories should be is by tracking what you eat now without changing your eating habits. Your maintenance calories is the number of calories that you need to eat per day for your weight to stay the same. If you are not sure about the concept of “maintenance calories”, check out Why Counting Macros Will Help You Lose Weight.
Here is a little calibration experiment that you can do on your own. Keep track of your weight and your food for about 2 weeks (at least one week), and calculate the average of your daily calories during the calibration period. To take the average, add up all the calories from each day, and divide by the number of days.
If your weight at the end of the calibration period is different from your weight at the beginning, follow this formula to find your maintenance calories with (NOTE: your weight must be in pounds, if you use kilograms, replace the number 500 in the formula with 1100):
Maintenance calories = average calories per day + (starting weight - end weight)*500.
If you know the number of calories that keeps your weight stable, you can increase your deficit (the amount of calories you burn per day, less the amount that you consume) by 500 calories per day, for each pound of weight you would like to lose each week.
You can increase your deficit by adding exercise, or reducing the number of calories you are eating!
In order to track your food accurately, at a minimum you will need a few things: A kitchen scale and/or measuring cups, a food tracking app, an understanding of nutrition facts labels, and an iron will.
Don’t worry too much about getting one serving of food down to the gram, just track the weight that the scale reports. At the end of the day, whether you had 234 mL or 247mL of milk for breakfast, there is no need to slowly drip milk into your cup until you achieve the “perfect amount”. The goal is just to report your eaten food as accurately as possible!
For measuring portions, I like to recommend the scale over measuring cups because you won’t have to wash your measuring cups all the time. Since you can zero your plate or bowl or glass and add ingredients one at a time, the weight scale can actually make your measurement tasks significantly easier. One downside to using a weight scale is that every now and then you will find yourself out of batteries. And most scales that I have had, use some obscure battery that I don’t have in the house. So if you do buy a kitchen scale to help you hit your macros, be sure to get some extra batteries right away! You don't need anything expensive, here is a Kitchen Scale from Amazon that I found that should do you just fine (purchases from this link will support Prospre!).
Of course, measuring cups are a viable alternative for tracking your food. However, some food labels may not have a volume measurement listed on the package, but they almost always have a weight listed for their serving size (sometimes, such as in the case of beverages, the opposite is true. Luckily most liquids are close enough to the density of water that we can treat them as if 1mL = 1g for a good rough estimate). And of course, when measuring dry and wet ingredients in the same meal, you are bound to end up with lots of cleaning to do.
Your food tracking app will play a big role in your ability to track your macros accurately. You need to know how to use it, and you need to be able to trust the data that it shows you.
Of course, we are again going to suggest Prospre but there is a good reason behind it!
Most of these products work similarly. They have a database of foods for you to search from, and a diary of the foods you have eaten. You start on the diary page, select the add food function, and search the database for the appropriate food. Then you will simply enter the correct amount of that food as per your measurement method, and add it to your day. As long as you can achieve this, and you trust the food entries in your tracker, you are all set.
Prospre offers some other features. Most notably a meal planner, which can help you hit your macros each day without having to think about how you are going to do it. You can use your own recipes, schedule your favorite meals, and get an automatic grocery list and follow the plan to a tee to hit your macros with ease. We also have an AI Coach to help guide your journey and give you the ability to fit in treats so that you can not be bogged down by a restrictive meal plan.
We know exactly where all of the food in our database comes from. Prospre uses the USDA FoodData Central Database for the items that receive a green checkmark. These foods will be a highly accurate representation of the actual ingredient. They even include up to 154 nutrients, which is a lot more than other food databases. The other entries in our database come from the USDA as well, but they come from their branded database. These foods are less detailed but can also be trusted to be accurate.
If you can’t find what you are looking for in our database, simply use our nutrition facts scanner to scan the nutrient label on the packaging of your food, and add it yourself. We make it easy for you to add foods that perfectly match what you are eating.
Of course, the best course of action would be to know that everything you are eating will come together to hit your macros at the end of the day. There are a few ways you can get a meal plan for your macros.
Prospre can help you achieve this with a custom meal plan. You can use your own recipes, and ensure that the plan is one that you truly want to follow. Since generating a meal plan is as easy as clicking a single button, you can tweak your settings and recipes as much as you like, and keep trying until you see a plan that works for you. This will guarantee that you will hit your macros at the end of the day, and there will be no concern of going over. The downside of using a meal planning app is that you may have to buy a subscription to access some features that you hope to use. Prospre has a free version, as well as a 7 day trial of Prospre Pro for you to try out before committing to a subscription.
You can spend the time to create your own plan. Simply log your food in your tracking app ahead of time to ensure that your macros will be perfect at the end of each day. The downside of this is that it is time-consuming, but at the end of it, you will be able to choose what you eat! However, it can be difficult to find a combination of foods that work out. Getting your groceries can also be a bit of a challenge
You can hire a coach to do this for you. Some people enjoy the accountability of hiring a coach, and you won’t have to worry about all the work involved in creating a meal plan. The downside of this approach is that coaches can be expensive, and they can’t get a full picture of your preferences in order to make you the perfect plan. These plans are similarly difficult to shop for unless your coach includes a grocery list.
You may find at the end of the day that you are missing a particularly high amount of one macro, or you may find you are approaching your goal for one macro. Don’t fret! This is why it can be helpful to have some “fixer foods” lying around the house. A “fixer food” is a food that is high in one macro, but very low in others. This can help you balance out all of your targets without going over on others. Some examples for each macro are as follows:
Of course, there are many other “fixer foods” to choose from, but these are some examples that you can pull from!
Since Foods that are high in protein exclusively are hard to come by, and often not that enjoyable on their own, I would recommend that you aim to include protein earlier in the day. This can make it much easier to hit your targets later in the day because the variety of foods that are high in both fat and carbohydrates is far greater. This will lead to less scrambling to hit your macro targets as the day draws to a close.
You are all set! You should now have a great starting point to begin your macro-based diet! Do your research to find out what numbers you need to be hitting, learn how to track your food accurately, and then do your best to execute your plan! If you are having trouble, you can always write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will do our best to help you out. Cheers! And Happy Tracking!
I'm a strength-sport enthusiast with a passion for nutrition. I'm also one of the co-founders of Prospre. I started weight training at 13 and from my time competing in bodybuilding, powerlifting, and weightlifting, I've developed a few different perspectives on fitness and nutrition. I like to write about cool things I have learned about nutrition, and easy things you can do to improve your eating habits.