How To Hit Your Macros: 12 Tips From A Nutrition Coach

Some links in this article are affiliate links, which means we earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more.

Tracking macros is one thing, but learning how to consistently hit your macro targets is another.

The best ways to hit your macros are to plan, prepare, and log your food in advance to avoid playing nutrition tetris at the end of the day. However, if you do end up with an odd combination of macros at the end of the day, it’s easier to navigate when you know which foods provide protein, carbs, or fat.  

If you’re struggling to actually hit your targets, then I’ve got 12 tips that can help set you on the right path.

These tips are strategies that I use with my nutrition clients to ensure that they’re able to make progress toward their goals without getting overwhelmed or stressed by struggling to hit certain targets.

12 tips how to hit your macros

Tip #1: Plan Ahead

Planning ahead means figuring out what foods you want to eat in the next couple of days (or ideally, a week). This can also include any meals that you know you will be eating out, like catered work meetings, a night out with friends at a restaurant, or a family dinner.

Then, figure out what groceries you need to buy so that you have the necessary ingredients ready to go to make the meals and recipes that you want to eat and will be preparing at home.  

People that plan ahead are much more likely to be successful in hitting their macro targets by having everything on hand. They’re also much less likely to get overwhelmed and give up on the day.

Check out our video of How To Track Macros.

Tip #2: Divide And Conquer

Figure out how many meals and snacks you would like to eat throughout the day, and divide your macros across those meals and snacks evenly so that you know how many grams of each macronutrient you need to eat at each meal or snack.

For example, if your target is 200 grams of protein and you have three meals and two snacks, this could be 50 grams per meal (150 grams) and 25 grams at each snack. Do the same for carbs and fats.

Having macro targets for each meal and snack can make it easier to hit your daily macro targets. It also reduces the likelihood of ending up with weird combinations of macros at the end of the day or hitting your macro targets by lunchtime and having nothing left for the rest of the day.

Tip #3: Leverage Convenience Options

I highly recommend taking advantage of packaged convenience options if you know there are times you won’t be able to cook or you just don’t feel like cooking.

This can include:

  • Deli meat 
  • Pre-cooked hard-boiled eggs
  • Protein bars
  • Protein powder
  • Pre-washed/pre-cut vegetables and fruit
  • Pre-made salads
  • Instant mashed potatoes (way faster than washing, peeling, and cooking potatoes)
  • Instant oatmeal

Not only are these foods faster than preparing whole foods, but they are also often individually packaged with published nutrition information to make them easy to log and eat the stated serving size. 

Anything that’s more convenient is worth the additional price you might pay for that convenience because it will help you adhere to your macro targets.

Tip #4: Pre-Log Your Food

To be sure that your meals and snacks are actually going to add up to your targets, log them all into your tracking app ahead of time (at least the night before). This way, there won’t be any surprises like when you realize at 8pm that you still need to eat another 40 grams of protein.  

The more you practice pre-logging your food, the easier it will be to hit your targets and the less you’ll have to think about what you’re going to eat. This can save you so much time throughout the day and eliminate unnecessary stress.

But, if you do find yourself needing to hit a target at the end of the day (as we all do at some point), Tip 5 can help.

Tip #5: Know Your Single Macro Foods

Single macro foods are foods that provide the majority of their calories from a single macronutrient.

These foods are incredibly helpful when you need to hit a target for one macronutrient without worrying about going over on another one; like getting more protein without going over on grams of fat.

A few quick examples include:

  • Protein: egg whites, canned tuna (in water), or protein powder
  • Carbs: apples, bananas, dates
  • Fat: oil or butter

These foods are great when you are short on just one macronutrient (or two) and you just need to add a little bit more of something to get to your target.

The more familiar you are with single macro foods, the easier it will be to plug in what you need to hit your targets at the end of the day.

Tip #6: Prep Your Meals And Snacks

Even if you’ve made a careful plan for your meals and snacks (Tip 1 & Tip 2), it won’t help if you don’t actually prepare the food that you need to eat for your plan.

When you’re unprepared, it’s easy to turn to convenience options like vending machines or drive-throughs and although you can make those work, they’ll always be less accurate than having meals that you’ve prepped at home.

To set yourself up for success with prepping your meals and snacks, pick a block of time (1-2 hours) during your week to devote to batch cooking to prepare food for the days ahead.  

You don’t necessarily have to assemble the entire meal ahead of time, but if you cook some ingredients then they will be ready to quickly assemble into meals. 

This might mean grilling or baking a tray of lean protein choices like pork tenderloin or chicken breasts or thighs, cooking a large pot of pasta or rice for complex carbohydrates, and washing, peeling, and cutting fruit and vegetables.

I generally like to prepare 2-3 options for protein, carbs, fat, and veggies so that I can mix and match throughout the week.

Tip #7: Eat Similar Meals Each Day

Whoever said “variety is the spice of life” wasn’t into macro-tracking. Eating similar meals each day, at least when you first start out, can get you in the groove of hitting your per meal targets more easily.  

I prefer meals with 5 ingredients or fewer.

Pick a lean protein source, a complex carbohydrate, some veggies and/or fruit, and a small amount of healthy fat.  Add some of your favorite spices or sauces, and voila, you have a meal. There is no need to follow a fancy recipe unless you want to!

I highly recommend learning to cook some staple foods, but if you’re not keen on cooking you can still make it work. 

For example:


Home-cooked meal option: grilled chicken breast served with a baked potato with sour cream, and steamed green beans with butter.

Convenience meal option: rotisserie chicken breast served with instant mashed potatoes with sour cream, and pre-made salad with store-bought olive oil vinaigrette.

The second option is very fast and the only “cooking” is adding boiling water to the instant mashed potato powder. 

Yet both meals can have the same calorie and macronutrient profile, so it shows that you don’t actually HAVE to cook very often to achieve success with macro tracking.

Tip #8: Incorporate Fun Foods

While it’s important to get the majority of your intake from minimally processed whole foods, it’s still very valuable to include foods that bring you joy, even if they don’t offer as many nutrients.

Like Dietitian Jessie Hulsey says:

“A key factor in maintaining long-term adherence involves finding ways within your chosen diet plan that allows treats which promote enjoyment within our lives rather than guilt or restriction that often accompanies traditional calorie counting based plans.”

If you don’t incorporate foods that you enjoy then you’ll be less likely to adhere to your macro targets because you’ll feel like you’re missing out, and possibly even be driven to binge on these foods later on.

Jessie also explains that she has:

“Worked with several clients who have lost weight AFTER they allowed themselves to have a dessert nightly, because it helped them stop binging at night, satisfied their cravings, and improved their relationship with food.”

If you plan for these foods and log them ahead of time, you will see how you can structure the rest of the day so that you can still hit your macro targets while incorporating foods that you genuinely enjoy (even if they’re not the healthiest).

Tip #9: Pre-Portion “Problem” Foods

While you can plan to have the foods you love by fitting them into your macros ahead of time, it can be challenging to stick to just having the serving size that you planned when the food is extra delicious and it comes in a large package.

For example, I love snacking on potato chips, but I know that once the bag is open I’m going to find it hard to stop. So instead, I buy mini “Halloween” sized bags of chips because I can eat the entire bag, but it’s still just one small serving.

Peanut butter (and other nut butters) are also notoriously easy to “over-scoop,” so I recommend buying the individual packet (like the ones you see at breakfast restaurants) to ensure you’re having a reasonable amount.

If it’s not possible to buy the snack in a small package, then I suggest measuring out individual servings and storing them in separate containers or Ziploc bags. I do this with trail mix and other bulk foods that are way too easy to overconsume.

Tip #10: Use “Macro-Friendly” Recipes

Many dishes and desserts that are traditionally high in calories (and usually also high in fat and/or carbs, and lower in protein) now have “lightened up” versions that are lower in calories, higher in protein, and lower in carbs and/or fat.  

This change in macronutrients usually makes it easier to fit these special foods into your targets, while still giving you the same enjoyment so that you don’t feel like you are missing out.  

Additionally, they are often made with more whole food ingredients, so they provide you with more beneficial micronutrients and can be more physically satiating than the original version.

A quick internet search will give you macro-friendly options for just about any dish, just like:

Tip #11: Manage Your Food Environment

Your food environment is where you store, prepare, and consume food. It also involves the eating habits of those close to you, and even what restaurants are near your house and place of work. We are so easily influenced by our food environment. 

“If a food is in your possession or located in your residence, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate will eventually eat it.”

Dr. John Berardi, Precision Nutrition

Essentially, if food is near you, you are more likely to eat it. If there are certain foods that are making it hard for you to stay on track with your macro targets, consider ways that you can make the food less accessible/available AND how to make your planned meals and snacks MORE accessible/available.

For example, you could:


● Avoid keeping certain foods in your house, meaning you have to go out and make a specialty purchase to have them. An example would be going out for ice cream rather than keeping a container of ice cream in your freezer.

● Store certain foods at the back of the pantry, in the freezer, or in the basement. An example would be keeping candy in a sealed container in the pantry rather than in a bowl on a table.

● Drive a different route to avoid passing your favorite takeout restaurants (out of sight, out of mind), to decrease the temptation to go through the drive-through.

● Stay out of the break room at the office if you know it will likely have a box of donuts. Consider getting a cooler or insulated lunch box so that you can store your meals and snacks at your desk, instead.

● Plan social outings around activities instead of food. For example, meet friends for walks instead of for brunch.

Tips like these will change the foods that you see during the day, which has a surprisingly large impact on the foods that you eat during the day.

For more tips on improving your food environment check out: 34 Tips For Getting Used To Eating Less (Science-Backed)

Tip #12: Track As Best As You Can

Don’t get so hung up on precise measurements that you simply give up when it’s not possible to track as accurately as possible. 

Like Dietitian Adrien Paczosa says:

Be realistic and no need to be perfect when tracking your food. Food is not meant to be perfect and it’s ok to not get it ‘right’ all the time.

For example, you’re not likely going to be able to weigh or measure food at a restaurant or at a friend’s house, and you won’t know the exact ingredients or amounts, either. Find an entry in the database that looks close enough, and use it. Use a similar food item from a chain restaurant, or a food description that is close to what you are eating, like “Lasagna, homemade.”

Even if your estimate was off by 350 calories, this is only a 50-calorie difference in the weekly average. That’s way better than not being able to calculate a weekly average at all.

Related Article: What Happens If I Don’t Hit My Macros? Should I Worry?

Final Thoughts

My favorite quote on this topic is “consistently good is better than occasionally great.” Incorporating these tips can help you get closer to your macro targets and minimize stress at the end of the day, but you shouldn’t strive for perfection every single day.

What To Read Next

Reference

Hunter, J. A., Hollands, G. J., Couturier, D. L., & Marteau, T. M. (2018). Effect of snack-food proximity on intake in general population samples with higher and lower cognitive resource. Appetite121, 337–347. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2017.11.101


About The Author

Lauren Graham
LAUREN GRAHAM

Lauren Graham is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She focuses on helping busy professionals balance healthy eating and purposeful movement.  Lauren has a background in competitive swimming and is currently competing as a CrossFit athlete.  She has a passion for training, teaching, and writing. 

Macrofactor

Here’s My #1 Ranked Macro Tracker

After trying 18+ food trackers, MacroFactor is my #1 Pick. Here’s Why:

  • 50% of the cost of other trackers and has greater functionality & accuracy
  • The most customizable tracker on the market
  • Constantly adapts to your metabolism and is easy to use

After trying 18+ food trackers, MacroFactor is my #1 Pick. Here’s Why:

  • 50% of the cost of other trackers and has greater functionality & accuracy
  • The most customizable tracker on the market
  • Constantly adapts to your metabolism and is easy to use

Read my review