Tricks to hit your macro ratios in MyFitnessPal

For nearly half a year I’ve become very accustomed to logging my food and seeing how many calores I’m eating on a daily basis.  Since then, things have gotten a bit more intricate as I’m also trying to adhere to a specific macro ratio for the day.  Macro is short for macronutrient.  So “macro ratio” means the proportion of carbs, fat and protein relative to each other. I am basically following the leangains guide and macro-cycling is one of the finer aspects of this system.  Leangains also incorporates calorie restriction (if one wants to lose fat), 16/8 intermittent fasting, and calorie cycling (eating more on workout days, less on rest days).

Priorities: Making sure you eat within the intended calories is more important than adhering to the macros.  I got the 16/8 IF and calorie cycling down pat after weeks of getting comfortable with it.  I’ve only recently decided to hunker down on the macros because I am finally used to everything else.  However, I just want to remind you that there’s really no point in adhering to the macros if you’re eating way too many calories than you’re supposed to.  Also, don’t worry too much about macros until you’ve reached less than 15% body fat if you’re a man or 20% if you’re a woman.

Example of my Macro Ratio Goals:

  • Rest Day:            30% carbs, 30% fat, and 40% protein.
  • Workout Day:   50% carbs, 15% fat, and 35% protein.

(For anyone familiar with leangains, these ratios above are for a 50/50 – 75-25 setup)

  • In plain English the above means…
    • I try to make protein a priority and keep it fairly consistent on all days.
    • On workout days, I load up on carbs but keep the fat as low as possible.
    • On rest days, I keep the carbs low but can have more fat than workout days.

Confused much?  It sounds hella confusing if you’re not familiar with this stuff and the concept sounds foreign.  In the beginning I couldn’t adhere to it whatsoever because I didn’t know which foods were appropriate.  It’s taken me weeks to acclimate to it and I’m slowly getting it! I’m beginning to see the light so I wanted to share what’s been helping me!

Here are the things that helped me…

Since I use the MyFitnessPal app religiously, visually seeing the percentages and a pie-chart helped a lot.

1. Check the macros throughout the day by going to Home->Daily->Pie chart icon (on the top right).

Tapping Home, Daily, and then the Pie chart icon reveals this.

2. To see the visual for a specific food… go to the next day (because that diary is a clean slate), add the food, and then look at the pie-chart to see the ratio for that specific food.  I often do this before I decide to eat the food to make sure it’s somewhat appropriate for the day!

We could see that this food combination has protein, carbs and no fat. (Perfect for a workout day.)

3. If the food seems appropriate, click the tool icon and click “Copy Meal to Today.”

This’ll automatically copy it to the current day so you don’t have to re-enter anything.

4. If the food is not appropriate, like for example if the carbs seem way too high (cause it’s a rest day) or if the fat is too high (for the workout day), make a mental note that this food is appropriate for tomorrow if you alternate your workout/rest days.  If you choose “Remember Meal” then it will store this meal combination in the “My Meals” section for the future when you want to add it to your diary.  This is particularly excellent for home-made meals that are made up of many ingredients.

Other Tips to stay within your macros

I’ve learned to make protein a priority everyday.  If I eat protein-dense foods early on, then I will feel satiated, get most of my calories in and then I could pick and choose whatever foods may fit in my remaining macros.

People with experience say that over time you will get used to remembering what food/combination works for whatever day.  Some also say they easily stay within their macros because they eat the same things everyday.  This works well for independent folks.  Others who have to eat with their family may not be able to eat the same things everyday because the food available isn’t always in their control.

Count the net-carbs: MyFitnessPal includes fiber in the total carbs.  In reality, what’s important are the Net Carbs (Total Carbs minus Fiber).  That’s why it’s often totally okay to eat lots of green veggies without worrying about the carbs.  So for example, don’t worry that a broccoli is high in carbs.  It’s not actually that high if you subtract the fiber! (It’s something like 4 grams of fiber for every 10 grams of carbs, so it’s actually 6grams of carbs, a 40% reduction if you just note the net carbs.)

Also, if you’re like me and eat a lot of plants (like a vegetarian) such as beans, quinoa, lentils, legumes, etc., then you may want to reserve those for the workout days because the carbs are high.  (Yes, they are high in fiber too, but these are calorie dense foods that you can easily overdo on a rest day.)

Here’s a real life example of how you may decide what you’re going to eat using the MFP app.

If I want to have some tuna, I could input the tuna and then go to the pie chart to see what the macros are for tuna alone.

Tuna, like any other meat (chicken, beef, turkey, fish) is predominantly protein, some fat and zero carbs.

Next I could see how adding mayo will affect the ratio.

The mayo dramatically increases the fat. (This may be fine for a rest day but prolly not for a workout day.)

So if it’s a workout day (or I just want to get even more protein in), let’s see how replacing mayo with non-fat Greek yogurt changes things.

I now have a meal that’s extremely high in protein, low in fat and carbs. This could work on any day, but most especially on a workout day because of how low the fats are. (Tip: Add Dijon mustard to the Greek yogurt to make this a delicious combo with the tuna!)

Next, we could make this an actual sandwich.  Here is what happens if we sandwich this between two slices of whole wheat toast.

The toast spikes up the carbs which is totally fine for a workout day but probably not for a rest day. If I’ve hit my carbs for the day, I could forego the toast and make romaine lettuce wraps or seaweed/nori wraps instead (a la “protein style”).

So is all of this super tedious?  YES.

Is this rocket science? NO.

Does it get dramatically easier with time? YES.

The more often you do this, the more it will become second nature to you.  You will remember what works and doesn’t work.  Just take it easy. Some people adhere to the macros by eating the same things over and over.  I can’t always do that, but I try and it works.

Here’s some more supplemental info

Since I follow a 50/50 – 75/25 plan at the moment, that means I adhere to a 30c/30f/40p ratio on rest days and 50c/15f/35p on workout days.  These numbers are a total bitch for me to remember and MyFitnessPal doesn’t support macro-cycling or calorie-cycling to help me in this regard.

So how do I remember that I have to eat 30 / 30 / 40 on rest days and 50 / 15 / 35 on workout days?

All the standard goals of the day in MFP are set to what I need to do for a REST DAY.

Go to the actual MFP website (not the mobile app). Click My Home -> Goals -> Change Goals -> Custom and set everything to the ideal rest day.

Since the macro ratios are different for a workout day.  I took the time to put this info in my Notes program on my phone and I just refer to this note every time to refresh my memory of what I should be adhering to.  Eventually, you will remember it by heart.

In your notes put anything you can to easily reference it.  The screenshot is taken from this IF calculator.

Protip: If you ever want to easily upload a screenshot straight into imgur, you have many options available here.

So anyway, I thought I would never be able to figure out this macro-ratio bit because it seems so complicated and overwhelming, but just like anything else, it’s slowly becoming second nature the more I do it.  Remember, I’ve been logging calories in MFP for 5 months.  I didn’t jump into macro cycling all of a sudden. I’ve been slowly adding on each concept as I go along.  First it was calorie counting, then it was IF, then it was calorie cycling, and lastly it’s been the macro side. And as always, remember staying in your caloric range is more of a priority than the macros, so don’t lose sight of the reality.

And last but not least, don’t ever be too hard on yourself for not being able to follow things to a tee.  You are not a machine.  These things take time and perseverance.  If you have the motivation to do it, you will find a way and figure it out.  Hope this helps.

If you found that interesting, also check out these tips to help calorie counting become second nature!

  • OJay

    Loved this! I just started MyFitnessPal today, but am a bit taken back by the calorie breakdown ratio it has set up for me. I’m a 5’7″ female, 133lbs, and am pretty much in the skinny fat phase. I’m trying to gain muscle and tone up: become a lean machine. I put in for losing 1lb/week. The app has me at 55%c, 30%f, and only 15%p. Is it just me or is that way too many carbs and not enough protein? Anything you can suggest would be helpful, thanks!

    • Antranik

      It’s a bit much… you could definitely try bumping up the protein and sacrifice the carbs. It’s recommended you get about 0.8g of protein for every pound of body weight, so at 130lbs, you just need 100g of protein, which is about 400 calories coming from protein (cause 1 gram of protein is 4 calories, just like carbs).

      Go to the actual MFP website (not the mobile app). Click My Home -> Goals -> Change Goals -> Custom and bump up the protein.

      And as for fat, make sure you don’t go below 0.4g/lb… so in your case make sure you’re getting in 50 grams of fat everyday to ensure proper hormonal balance. (Some people think fat is evil and try to keep it super low, but all the macros are important in their own special ways.) Hope that helps!

      • OJay

        Thanks so much for the feedback, I really appreciate it! I love to get as much health education as I can. I’ve changed it to 30% carbs (92g), 35% protein(108g), and 35% fat (48g)… which is the closest I could get it to 100g and 50g. We’ll see how it goes. :)

  • Geraldine Del Rosario

    Hi! I love your blog because we are similar in some ways. I’ve been using MFP since last year just to lose weight so I just kept at 1200 cals daily and it worked. I’m now at my ideal weight of 100 lbs for a 5 ft petite asian female. But now I want to progress further and gain lean muscles (don’t mind getting heavier if it is muscles) and now have just become more conscious of the macros I take in. And boy, was I shocked at the pie chart results. Turns out I am not eating enough protein and eating way too much fat and carbs. Can you suggest a basic macro combination for beginners? My MFP is currently set at 40-40-20 (20% fat).

    • Antranik

      Hi Geraldine! Good for you for your weight loss! Setting the protein to be somewhere between 30-40% should help a lot in terms of satiety and muscle building. However, caloric intake trumps macros, meaning, if you want to put on muscle mass, you need to eat at least slightly over maintenance to do it efficiently, so make sure you are at least eating at maintenance even with that kind of ratio that puts extra emphasis on protein. Also, if you have trouble getting protein in, it’s easy to with whey/soy/pea/hemp protein powder in a shake or blender bottle. If you’re doing everything right (eating enough+building strength through a strength-training program), then you can put on about a quarter pound of muscle every week as a female. It doesn’t sound like much, and it isn’t (men can put on about double that amount), but as the months go by the changes will definitely be present. Just make sure you are doing a program that emphasizes muscle growth through strength training (not endurance).

  • Anthony B

    Super helpful! Thank you again!