Macro Tracking For the Win! All of Your Questions Answered

Have you ever tried a new diet, lost weight, jumped for joy, and then gained it all back? Have you ever tried a diet just because it worked for a friend, but it didn?t work for you? Have you ever stuck to a plan so rigidly you went a little crazy and ended up eating 25 Olive Garden breadsticks? Maybe you are doing everything you think is right, but that scale is just not budging! *insert high-pitched angry screams*

The cycle of success, failure, guilt, and starting over is a lot to carry emotionally. How about we set the record straight with a few helpful basics about food once and for all?! As I have recovered from an eating disorder myself, one of my biggest personal goals was to improve my relationship with food. I didn?t want to be afraid of it. I didn?t want it to dictate every move of my life or every MOOD of my life. I can confidently say today that so much of my personal recovery has come simply through educating myself about food and a whole lot of trust in the process!

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*Photo credit: James Patrick (right)

Gosh, it’s hard for me to even believe I was ever that girl on the left. I remember so clearly thinking I had my eating disorder under control when this picture was taken. But c’mon?this picture says it all. I may have been free from my binge/purge behaviors, and even free from starvation, but clearly, the scale still controlled me. CALORIES controlled me!!! Macro counting (in conjunction with carb cycling) truly has FREED me, you guys. “So what is this macro counting thing?” you ask. Simply put, macro counting?allows you to take control of your body composition (once and for all), whether you feel you are too big OR too small, WITHOUT deprivation. In my case, I felt too small and wanted to gain…but this same concept?has been applied to carb cycling and has worked WONDERS for those needing to lose weight as well.

So let?s talk about food. Whether you are a clean eater, junk eater, vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, dairy-free, or gluten-free eater, ALL EDIBLE items are made up of 3 macronutrients: CARBS, FAT, and PROTEIN.

Here?s the downright truth: MOST diets fail because of one simple problem?they are not REALISTIC! It?s nearly impossible for even the STRONGEST OF WILLS to commit to an extreme plan that doesn?t account for real life moments like cake at birthday parties, pizza after baseball games, cotton candy at the carnival, handfuls of goldfish, and eating the remainder of your kids? mac and cheese. If you completely deprive yourself of these ?indulgences? for long periods of time, you will either end up in the crazy house OR in a cycle of binge and guilt. So where is the balance? Can you really reach your fitness goals without starving? YES! It?s time to shift our beliefs in food and how it affects our bodies.

I ALWAYS thought that if I ever wanted to see my abs and have nicely defined legs, I would have to consistently eat a perfectly clean diet (think chicken, brown rice, and broccoli), train 6 days a week, and rarely (if EVER) indulge in my love affair with sugar and baked goods. I told myself, sure… abs are nice, but I love donuts. And pizza. And ice cream. What if I told you that you could have abs AND donuts, pizza, and ice cream. Excited? Yeah, me too. Read on.

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Tracking macros basically means consuming a balanced and appropriate ratio of carbs, proteins, and fats every day. An easy ratio to follow is 40% of your calories coming from carbs, 30% of your calories coming from protein, and 30% of your calories coming from fat. To break it down even further, if you need 1500 calories per day, your TOTAL macro intake for the day will be 150g carbs, 113g protein, and 50g fat. But before you start plugging in those numbers, everyone’s breakdown looks a little different according to your needs and goals. We will get there…hang with me.

It?s like working within a budget. How will you ?spend? your macros? To give you an example, I love oatmeal for breakfast! Well, I really love gluten-free lemon cake?for breakfast,?but let?s use oatmeal (my 2nd fave) as the example. Alright?oatmeal alone is mostly just carbs, so I may add some berries (more carbs), some coconut oil for fat, and a scoop of vanilla protein powder. It?s quick, easy, and delish! This meal comes out to be a total of 29g carbs, 14g fat, and 29g protein. That meal gets deducted from my total for the day, and now I have 121g carbs left, 36g fat left, and 84g protein left!

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Using an app like MyFitnessPal (my favorite) will automatically track these numbers for you when you input your food items into the app. Easy peasy. Now, everyone has different goals, so this ratio doesn?t always translate perfectly across the board. For instance, due to my goals, existing body type, workout routine, and wanting to put on some serious muscle mass, my coach has me eating 55% carbs, 25% protein, and 20% fat every other day, then 68% carbs, 20% protein, and 12% fat the other days. These ratios help me add lean muscle mass to my frame while keeping my body fat low!

So why track macros?

Tracking your macros rather than just calories alone ENSURES that the calories you are taking in go to all the right places in your body. They preserve lean muscle mass and help rid unwanted body fat. That’s the goal! We are so conditioned to jump on that scale in the morning (totally naked, of course, because we need all the help we can get) and jump for joy if the scale goes down. But what if some of that weight loss is muscle mass? Your body just became slightly less efficient at burning body fat. Boooo! So, tracking those macros and being sure that our calories are distributed appropriately can allow us to rest easy and know that weight lost is the weight we WANT to lose?that extra fat jiggle.

What about calories? Do I have to track those too?

NOPE! Crazy enough, 1 gram of carbs always equals 4 calories (yes, whether it?s a gram of sweet potatoes or a gram of white sugar), 1 gram of protein always equals 4 calories, and 1 gram of fat always equals 9 calories. Interesting, right? So, if you are tracking your macros and hitting the same numbers every day, you will also be reaching roughly the same calorie goal each day.

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Can I track my macros AND carb cycle?

YES!! This is just a more DETAILED way to focus on your overall composition and goals. On high carb days, your macro goals may be set to 200g carbs, 120g protein, and 39g of fat, but on your low carb days, maybe you get 125g carbs, 120g protein, and 60g fat. Again, these numbers are just examples, but in short, carb cycling (like in Extreme Transformation) and macro tracking actually work synergistically for maximum results!

The best way to get started on your own is to input your information and goals into a macro calculator, and I’ve got you covered there! Click HERE for an awesome one I found. Then, start tracking using an app like MyFitnessPal. It will take a little while to get the hang of it, but long-lasting and true results are what we are all after, right? Here’s the kicker: Online calculators can be off and not as precisely customized as a plan that comes from a real-life macro coach. The macro coach is going to cost more than ?free? online calculators to get started, but it’s the BEST investment I’ve made for my health and fitness EVER. Doing things on my own has proven to have me going in circles, and having a coach has truly been life-changing. For anyone interested, here are links to my own coach’s team…they are amazing, and I trust them with your plan completely:

Pro Physiques, or @theprophysiques on Instagram, or email them at?[email protected]

I also LOVE my good friend, Cori Baker…who many of you may already follow. She is incredible, is coached by the same coach I am, and is working wonders with her own clientele.?She’s?@cori_fit on Instagram, and her site is corifit.com/coaching.

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Did it scare me to hear my coach say I needed to eat WAY more carbs than I was eating? YEP! Did I doubt it would really work for me? YEP! Was I afraid that eating carbs AND lifting weights would make me “bulk up? or gain weight in places I didn’t want to? ABSOLUTELY. What kept me going was the ability to be consistent on a plan, enjoy foods I always thought were on the naughty list (because they fit into my macros), and? drum roll please… THE RESULTS!! I could not have transformed my body the way I have this past year if it wasn?t for understanding HOW macros affect my body composition. I?m happier than ever, not afraid of food (or the scale), NEVER hungry, and flexible with how I eat. It?s a life I wish for everyone!

Now here’s something crazy…MOST people who need to lose weight actually are coached to INCREASE carbs or other macros when they begin following a macro counting plan. Here is my good friend, Kacey Luvi Pearson.

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She increased her macros (and calories by about 500 a day) over the past 6 months with the help of a macro coach and shredded down to this!! Insane, right? True story. And one story I will be featuring in the upcoming months.

Here are some of my favorite MACROS I always keep on hand!

PROTEINS:
grilled chicken
extra-lean ground turkey
eggs/egg whites
Greek yogurt (nonfat, plain)
cottage cheese (low-fat)
protein powder (I use whey, but adjust according to your own food sensitivities)

CARBS:
brown rice
white rice (yes, I said ?white,? believe it or not)
sweet potatoes
red potatoes
white potatoes (there?s that ?w? word again?I?ll save my why for another post)
KIND granola
Udi?s gluten-free bread
Kodiak Cakes pancake mix (not gluten-free?but was a fave of mine before I pulled gluten. The Power Cakes are high in protein too!)
fruit
cereal (yes, I can eat cereal again!!)
oatmeal
brown rice powder (Quest is the only brand I know of that makes this. Great for shakes and baking gluten-free)

FATS:
flaxseed
olive oil
avocado
cream cheese
shredded cheese
coconut oil/butter
peanut butter

Be happy, healthy, and never go hungry!

Xoxo,

Heidi

Related reading:

Carb Confusion
The Power of Protein
Carb Cycling 101
Heidi-Approved (& Macro-Friendly) Fast Food Picks
Ask the Powells: How Do I Gain Healthy Weight?
The Extreme Cycle | Meal Planning Tips
Eating with Macros: A Day in the Life

*This blog was a collaborative effort with my good friend, and fellow macro counter, Kacey Luvi Pearson. Thanks, Kacey, for lending your experience, and for spending time putting our brains together and pen to paper on this one!

260 Responses

  1. Ok. I’m so confused lol! I’ve had my macros done but want to do turbo carb cycling. I read your book and have a copy of the carb cycle pdf (it doesn’t have exact measurements of food just basic portions). I’m confused because I’d like to know exactly how many macros per meal I should eat (this would help my brain). Also I don’t know how to adjust those to higher carb days? So far my macros are 175p 140c 47f; but that’s waaaay over he 1200 allotment on the pdf chart??? Can you help?

    1. Hi Janelle: Here are some macro recommendations for the Turbo Cycle: High Carb Meal: Protein: 40%, Carbs: 40%, Fats: 20%. Low Carb Meal: Protein: 40%, Carbs: 20%, Fats: 40%. And remember, each gram of protein or carb = 4 calories, and each gram of fat = 9 calories. Hope that helps – you can do this!

    2. Thank you for responding so quickly. Another question. Do I base the percentages on 1200 calories (low carb day and 1500 (high carb day)?
      On high carb days, I dont add any fat to my meals except the fat that may be in the protein or carb sources correct?
      Thanks. I really want to do this correctly. I appreciate all your help πŸ™‚

  2. Hello! Every time I see this picture of the chicken and veggies, I’m always curious how the chicken was cooked! I assume in a slow cooker, with salsa? Something else? It looks so yummy and I need to know! Thanks!

  3. Hi Team Powell,

    I just started my Turbo-carb cycle journey and I already made progress. Had my weight in this morning and I’ve been very happy to experience that carb cycling really makes a difference! πŸ™‚
    The other day I accidentally ate too much fat instead of the 40% I saw that due to a few walnuts that I added the percentage was 74% instead. If something like that happens either with too many carbs consumed or too many fats in my case. What is the best thing to do? I could not find an answer in the book choose more, lose more and was hoping that you could help me what the best solution would be? I was thinking to skip a meal, but maybe that’s not the best solution. Iam looking forward hearing your advice. Thanks for your great work! πŸ™‚ Best wishes, Betti

    1. Hi Betti: You’re doing awesome! If you ever have a little hiccup, just begin again the next day. These things happen, and it’s nothing to worry about! Just do your best, and you will be fine. πŸ™‚

    2. It’s very helpful to know that I can just start again on the next day in such cases πŸ™‚ thank you!

  4. I really want to hire your coach. I need to gain weight. Is 8 weeks enough to learn what I need or would I need to be prepared to buy her program for another 8 weeks after that? What is the best way to get in touch with her? She has not responded to my email or Instagram comment.

    1. Hi Sheena: Keep trying to get ahold of her, she might be busy, so please be patient. And we with you the best!

  5. Hi Heidi ?
    I’ve a question about calories and how much to eat…. I’ve lost 19 lbs ( 9kg ) and I done it with eating less calories. About 1500-1200 and sometimes less. But now I’ve started training a lot…I train every day, but have one day I take it easy ( in a week). But I reached a plateau and my weight is not coming off although I train like a “madmen” ? and eating less…some days my training (I use a pulse watch) burn off more than I’m eating… One day my intake was 1500 but I trained off 1700… Should I raise my calories? Because it is starting to be so hard to eat little and train hard, or should I continue to eat 1200-1500 ? Also starting to feel tired and sooo hungry.. It is so hard in all this diet and calorie world…but I still need to loose about 18-19 lbs before I’m hitting my goal.
    Love Anna

    1. Hi Anna-Lena: The key to weight loss is to burn more calories during the day (through regular daily activities and working out) than you consume – to create a calorie deficit. You might find some tools you can add to what you’re already doing in Chris and Heidi’s carb cycling program, and you can learn about the nutrition part of it here: https://heidipowell.net/2713. On the Easy, Classic, Turbo, and Fit Cycles, women eat 1200 calories on low carb days and 1500 calories on high carb days. On the new Extreme Cycle, you’ll eat about 1500 calories every day. Sometimes it’s the type of food, and when you’re eating that food, that can make a difference. Hope that helps!

  6. I have studied and totally get the basics of Carb Cycling. Is there a formula for figuring out my Macros? I know 40/30/30 but it there a basic breakdown for carb cycling?

    1. Hi Carrie: Here are general macro recommendations for the Easy, Classic, Turbo, and Fit Cycles: High Carb Meal: Protein: 40%, Carbs: 40%, Fats: 20%. Low Carb Meal: Protein: 40%, Carbs: 20%, Fats: 40%. For the new Extreme Cycle, there’s a “Create Your Own Meals” chart in this post: https://heidipowell.net/10617. Hope this helps! πŸ™‚

  7. Hi, this post has been an eye opener!! I went and looked at the link to determine my macros and I get it, I eat too Much hidden sugar, but actually underway a lot. I never believed my trainer, but the facts speak for themselves. I’m super busy, so how do you meal plan and calculate to hit your macros?? Is their a website you can use to design a meal plan? Just to get me up and running?? The only way I can think of is put my food ideas into myfitnesspal, tweak until I meet my needs, write it down and cook! But their must be an easier way!! I’m a PhD student on a tight budget (uk economy is about to go tits up) who is active so I like to sort my weeks food on a Saturday. Could your tam point me in a direction to kick start my improved diet please?

    You guys rock. Keep on inspiring.

  8. Hi Heidi and team,

    Can you please help me figure out the correct amount I need for macro counting for weight loss. I need to loose 30 lbs and I tried so many other diets and when I’m done the weight comes back on so I am hoping with this method I can use for a lifetime and lifestyle change. It seems so difficult to me for some reason.

  9. So I am just starting carb cycling, as well want to track macros. I’m going with the turbo cycling, and for macro counting used the tracker Heidi recommended on on of the blog posts. In doing so, it adds 400 extra calories to my diet, and I adjusted to the 40/30/30 rule. So my question, how do you handle on the low carb days to meet 40% carb intake? Today, I only hit 26%, protein was right on, but I need to adjust my fat. Thanks in advance! I’ve done paleo on and off and found great results, but want to try something a bit less restrictive to avoid my inevitable binges.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Monica: Chris and Heidi have figured out all of your macros for you in carb cycling (for both low and high carb meals) for the Easy, Classic, Turbo, and Fit Cycles; however, if you’d like to count your own macros, here are some general recommendations: High Carb Meal: Protein: 40%, Carbs: 40%, Fats: 20%. Low Carb Meal: Protein: 40%, Carbs: 20%, Fats: 40%. Hope that helps – you can do this!

  10. I’m excited to try out carb cycling using the Extreme Transformation as my guide. I’m not a fan of the of cooking different meals for every meal but I appreciate the variety that was offered. Am I allowed to pick and choose/mix and match/interchange the high carb and low carb meals? I plan to cook in very large batches to get us through the week but want to keep it simple for our busy schedule.

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