Macros for dummies

Hey there! I just started with MyFitnessPal and signed up for it to tell me my macro info.

Here's a few things I've run into today:
- I don't think I'm going to use all of the allotted calories...I'm not supposed to eat all of those if I'm not hungry for them, right?
- Same kind of deal with the macro counter. If I'm not hungry for more food, what happens if I don't hit all the macros?

Any tips? I want to do it right but I get overwhelmed by all the websites I've been searching on trying to find the answer.


  • Kait_Dee
    Kait_Dee Posts: 171 Member
    Hi! I've been a macro counter for years and I think it comes down to your goals - if you're trying to gain weight, you're going to want to get those calories in - eat'em if you got'em!

    If you're looking to lose weight, I'd do my very best - oftentimes folks under eat and it becomes unproductive and unhealthy because your body isn't getting what it needs.

    If you need some support in trying to economize or find ways to get those macros in, send me a friend request - I'd be more than happy to give you some tips on how I've made it work for the years (115lbs lost; purposeful regain for bodybuilding & multiple contest preps over the years!)

    Wishing you well!!
  • laurenkwinn
    laurenkwinn Posts: 2 Member
    Thank you so much!!! I will ☺️
  • gpanda103
    gpanda103 Posts: 175 Member
    I wouldn’t force yourself to eat if you aren’t hungry. If you don’t hit all the macros then… I will end up burning my popcorn. Hit those macros. Just kidding, it’s not the end of the world. I would place an emphasis on protein though
  • ahoy_m8
    ahoy_m8 Posts: 2,832 Member
    When trying to lose weight, I consider the calorie goal a maximum and the macro goals to be minimums.

    Calories: If I'm not too hungry for all the calories one day I'm pretty sure I will be the next day. Eating too few calories is not a problem I have. Ever. Many people "bank" calories for the weekend. It's average intake over time that matters.

    Macros: I track fat, protein and fiber. (There is no minimum or maximum for carbohydrates so I don't track them.) I look at my weekly average macros more than daily macros. As long as I am reaching the minimums ON AVERAGE, I don't worry about it too much.
  • msbobbie910
    msbobbie910 Posts: 1 Member
    Kait_Dee I would really like some help with meeting macros. It seems easy enough until I get to the end of the day and see that I'm short in some areas.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 24,845 Member
    Others are right: Calories are what's directly linked to weight loss. Macros are for health, body composition, satiation, energy level, and that sort of thing - that's important stuff, too, though.

    Macros (and other nutrients) can indirectly affect weight loss: If we get sub-par nutrition (or too low calories), and have less energy, we'll probably subtly rest more and do less in daily life, burn fewer calories, lose weight a little slower. If we get sub-par nutrition (or too low calories), we may have more trouble with fighting cravings/appetite, so not be able to stick with our calorie goal long enough to lose weight. But it's still calories that have the direct effect on weight.

    If you do decide you want to work on getting closer to macro goals, what helped me with fine-tuning macros to where I wanted them was using my food diary as a tool.
    Every few days, I'd review my food log, and notice patterns. If I was persistently under on something, and wanted to improve that, this is what I'd do:

    1. First, look for foods that were contributing relatively many calories to my day, but weren't so important to me for feeling full, for nutrition, or for tastiness/happiness - things that in that sense weren't worth the calories I was spending on them, to me. Those were foods I could consider reducing or eliminating, to make calorie room for foods that would better help me meet my goals. (Often, they were things I was eating more out of habit than true enjoyment.)

    2. Then, I'd try to identify foods I personally like eating that were good sources of the nutrient I wanted to increase. (More about how to do that later in this post.) I'd try out a new eating pattern, with those new foods replacing part or all of the "not worth so many calories foods". If those new foods worked out, I'd keep them in rotation. If not, I'd try something else.

    Over time, by repeating that "review and adjust" pattern, my routine eating habits converged on the nutrition I wanted to be accomplishing, while still eating in a way that I enjoyed. In essence, my eating habits gradually got better.

    I personally would not feel comfortable posting something like "message me or friend me for tips". When someone does that, I wish they'd give their tips right here in MFP public, where other readers could potentially benefit. (Also, it makes me wonder if they're selling something. We used to have a lot of "coaches" from a multi-level marketing company (I won't name the company) that did that "PM me for info" thing. I hope no one would do that hidden marketing now . . . but that's another reason I wouldn't do that, personally.)

    Instead, I sometimes post these horrifying long essays, which I guess is bad in another way. 🤷‍♀️ Can't win!

    MFP's macro defaults aren't terrible for most people, but they aren't magically ideal for all, either. They can be adjusted based on experience, or based on more individualized nutritional guidance. For individual nutritional reasons, some people prefer to estimate macro needs in grams, and eat to those goals. Some sources of information that I found useful for that are:

    This thread in MFP from a trainer type who used to post here:

    (Scroll down a bit for the macro-specific part.)

    This personalized estimator from USDA (which, for my taste, lowballs protein for the cases of active people, aging people, or people in a calorie deficit):

    This research-based protein needs estimator (and explanation) from a respected site (that doesn't sell protein supplements):

    If you're having trouble getting enough protein specifically, this thread may be helpful:

    I have another good resource about protein for people over 55-60, who have some specialized needs, but OP looks younger. If anyone wants that, say so, and I'm happy to post it.

    If you're having difficulty getting other macros, there are lots of charts on the web like this one:


    Or just do a web search for "food sources of protein" or whatever nutrient's of interest. (Obviously, watch out for biased advocacy sites, people selling products - stick with mainstream good sources like USDA, other government health/nutrition authorities, major respected clinics/universities, and that sort of thing.)

    You can also post in the "Food and Nutrition" section of the MFP Community, and ask a specific question there ("I keep coming up short on healthy fats, but I still have calories: What foods do you like, in that situation?" - that kind of thing.)