What Are Macronutrients? How To Use Your Macro Calculator Without Stressing Out


What Are Macronutrients


What Are Macronutrients?

There are three major macronutrients important to your health & energy:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Healthy Fats
  • Protein

On a low carb diet, you want to limit your carb intake to force your body to burn fat for energy instead of carbs/sugar. This is done by limiting your carbs to achieve a state of ketosis. See Low Carb High Fat Diet Explained to understand the science behind the way that works – in simple terms. πŸ™‚

Fat is the most concentrated source of energy, which is why you might get a boost from eating sugar. On a LCHF diet (or low carb ketogenic diet), fat is your FUEL. Your body and brain actually run much better on Healthy Fats than they do on carbs & sugar – with a lot less “crashing”, and a lot less health risks!

As you know, on a low carb diet we also track Fiber. Most people subtract Fiber from Total Carbs to get Net Carbs, with a limit of 20 net carbs per day max.

I use MyFitnessPal, which is a FREE Macro Calculator and a great way to keep up with your progress. It also allows you track exercise and calories burned, water intake, and determine accurate nutrition facts for your recipes.

See: How To Track Net Carbs In MyFitnessPal and also watch this video tutorial.

To give an example, I am eating my breakfast as I write this. It’s 1/4 cup Daisy Brand Cottage Cheese, 1/3 cup pecan halves and 2 medium strawberries.

It’s a very healthy LCHF (low carb, high fat) breakfast of “real food”:

Healthy LCHF Breakfast

Here is that meal in the MyFitnessPal Macro Calculator:

Macro Calculator

A healthy low carb diet is approximately 75% fat, 20% protein, 5% carbs. As you can see, this meal fits that criteria very well. The percentages are over your total daily calories, so you can tweak your meals as you go to meet your goals.


Don’t Over-Complicate It! How To Use Your Macro Calculator Without Stressing Out…

People get frustrated and stressed trying to track macronutrients or use a macro calculator to follow a healthy low carb diet. I get that. There is tons of information in MyFitnessPal itself, and facts flying around the web too, and it’s enough to make your head spin! πŸ˜› I’m going to simplify this for you though, and make it super easy…

It’s very important to track properly.

Eating “too lean” can stall your weight loss and tank your energy.

Without tracking, there’s no real way to know how many carbs you’re actually consuming. And there’s no nutrition data or food diary to refer back to if you experience health issues or a weight loss stall.

By tracking, you can easily identify what may be causing certain issues. It also helps A LOT if you ask someone for help, if you have actual data for them to go over with you.

Don’t over-complicate it though, or let it become a total obsession.

Just eat 20 net carbs a day max, and get 70% in healthy fats minimum.

20 net carbs, 70% in fats.

That’s it. Keep it that simple! πŸ™‚

My advice is to eat as much “real food” as possible. The less processed food the better, and the less complicated your recipes the better too.

A good rule of thumb is: Meat & Greens + Healthy Fats. Unless you’re vegetarian of course, in which case you’ll get your protein from other sources.

On the topic of protein…

This becomes a HOT debate across low carb groups & forums: high protein vs high fat. I encourage you to do your own research on that. A high protein diet over an extended period of time can cause serious health issues, most commonly: kidney function. I’ve seen this over and over. Don’t make that mistake.

* If you’re a high protein advocate, don’t freak out on me yet. πŸ™‚

Here’s the thing: While I don’t focus on protein as one of my macronutrients, I get plenty of protein in my diet. More than the recommended amount, even. Protein does not help you build muscle or make you stronger, by the way.

From WebMD: “Adults in the U.S. are encouraged to get 10% to 35% of their day’s calories from protein foods. That’s about 46 grams of protein for women, and 56 grams of protein for men.”-source

You will NATURALLY get enough protein on a LCHF Diet.

Even though the focus is on eating healthy fats, and using fat as your source of energy (instead of carbs), you’ll still get plenty of protein in your diet. I’ve heard people say that you need 100 or 150 grams of protein a day. I’ve also heard people say you should drink half your body weight in water, which is NOT TRUE lol.

On that note, don’t try to go by grams. Just get 20 net carbs a day or less, and at least 70% of your calories in healthy fats. Period. Analyzing grams gets really confusing, because many LCHF foods are both healthy proteins AND healthy fats – like eggs and salmon, for example.

So when it comes to tracking your macronutrients, go by ratios only.

Here are my Macro Ratios for Saturday:

Macro Ratios

As you can see, that is: 78% Fat, 19% Protein, 3% Carbs.

What you don’t see… is that I consumed 116 grams of Protein that day.

So while people will argue “you need high protein” – they probably don’t realize you’re naturally getting… PLENTY. πŸ™‚ I know that it gets confusing looking at Macro Ratios AND grams – so don’t. Just keep it simple: 20 net carbs max, 70% fat minimum, eating real healthy foods. Keeping it THAT simple will let you take a deep breath, RELAX, and ENJOY your beautiful low carb high fat foods. πŸ™‚

MyFitnessPal gives you tons of data to work with, and that’s a GREAT thing! But it doesn’t mean you have to pay attention to all of it -lol. In fact, just ignore half of what she says. I swear, half the time I think that lady needs Prozac. πŸ˜› haha.

MFP is set up for low fat / low calorie diets, so half the data won’t be relevant to you anyway. Just ignore it.

It’s a good idea to eat the highest quality foods you can to make each of your 20 net carbs and each of your calories “really count” toward good nutrition. The goal of being on a LCHF diet is to become HEALTHY. Not just to weigh less, but to also get HEALTHIER in the process. So make smart food choices, and make each of your carbs count toward a healthier leaner YOU. πŸ™‚

Don’t sweat it too much in the beginning through. Just track 20 net carbs or less, 70% in healthy fats (minimum). That’s it. You’ll naturally start making better/smarter food choices as you go… because reading labels is VERY eye opening! So like I said, don’t over-complicate it, and don’t give in to the “food bullies”. Just track net carbs and healthy fats, and learn as you go.

See: How To Track Net Carbs In MyFitnessPal and also watch this video tutorial.

I hope that helps clear up some confusion, and makes tracking your macronutrients or using your macro calculator EASIER. Because easy is GOOD. πŸ™‚ *cheers*

Lynn Terry,
aka @LowCarbTraveler

p.s. If you have questions about tracking, protein or fat – leave a comment!

There are many healthy foods that are great sources of both protein AND fat. Some of my favorite “real foods” that are part of my regular “low carb staples” include: pecans, walnuts, Daisy Brand cottage cheese (because it only has 3 REAL ingredients!), avocado, salmon, tuna, ribeye steak, strawberries, spinach, yellow squash fried in olive oil, avocado pecan chicken salad, and I love “loaded broccoli” (steamed broccoli topped with butter, sour cream & cheese). YUM!

You can see most of my meals by following along on your favorite social channel if you need some fresh (EASY) low carb food ideas:

instagram low carb @lowcarbtraveler @lowcarbtraveler @lowcarbtraveler pinterest low carb



About Lynn Terry

I love making the low carb diet EASY for people with a busy lifestyle (like me!) with my KISS / Keep It Simple method. :) About Lynn Terry: Host of the Low Carb Challenge
This entry was posted in Health Talk. Bookmark the permalink.


119 Responses to What Are Macronutrients? How To Use Your Macro Calculator Without Stressing Out

  1. Jess says:

    Do you need to count calories also? I’ve tried so many diets and change the way I eat many times and can’t seem to shred these dreaded last 15 pounds. I workout 6 days a week, drink a ton of water and eat good but the scale stays the same.. However I am losing inches and I can’t possible lose any more in my waist. I feel pear shaped.. Chest 36, arms 11.5, waist 24, hips 37, thigh 22. Someday I just want to scream and throw that forbidden scale out the damn window..any suggestions?

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Hi Jess,

      I don’t count calories, but if you’re eating a low carb ketogenic diet your calories are typically in the lower range anyway – as it’s a natural appetite suppressant. Sometimes mine go as high as 2000 but more often than not they’re closer to around 1200. And I lose either way.

      Try JUST eating low carb as a lifestyle, and stop dieting altogether. That will help A LOT. πŸ™‚

      Also make sure you’re not drinking too MUCH water. That can cause all sorts of problems. Many of your foods are high in water content already. See: http://www.travelinglowcarb.com/4884/how-much-water-should-i-drink/

      On your scales, see: http://www.travelinglowcarb.com/5974/your-ideal-weight/ This really changed my perspective on “those numbers on the scale” – and may be particularly important to you given you’re working out so frequently. πŸ™‚

      • Denise says:

        A few years ago I went on a low carb diet and lost approximately 40 pounds. The pounds have all come back, plus some. I saw your blow and started following it and low carbing again. Within two weeks I lost twelve pounds. Now, I have not lost a single pound in over two weeks. Any suggestions?

        • Lynn Terry says:

          Hi Denise,

          I just eat low carb “for life” – since having a hysterectomy I gain too easily, too fast. πŸ˜›

          It’s very common to see a brief “hold” and even slight fluctuations during week 2 and week 3. It’s normal, it’s just your body adjusting to such fast weight loss. Assuming you haven’t changed anything from the first two weeks, keep doing what obviously worked! If you did change anything, go back to what you were doing. πŸ™‚

      • Angela says:

        So I’m confused, if you dont track calories how do you make sure you get close to your macros?? 25% of 1200 calories is going to be different than 1800 calories. How do you know roughly how much to eat??

        • Lynn Terry says:

          Hi Angela,

          I only eat when I’m hungry, and I don’t eat when I’m not – or I stop when I feel satisfied.

          I’ve figured out over time about how much I can eat at once, especially with less appetite when you’re eating a ketogenic low carb diet, but that often means I make two meals out of one.

          If you track as you go throughout the day, you can easily see if you need to include a healthy fat with your last meal (avocado, salmon, cheese, cream, macadamia nuts or pecans, an egg salad on the side, etc).

          It’s easier than it sounds. Just put your foods in before you make/eat them and you can see how it works out. Every meal doesn’t have to be 70% fat or 25% protein, it just has to equal out that way at the end of the day.

          You can see my own food diary posts here on the blog for examples of that.

          Here are three of my own MyFitnessPal logs with 3 days worth of meals I had as one example: https://www.travelinglowcarb.com/23774/more-easy-keto-meals/

        • Lynn Terry says:

          Anglea – were you asking about grams or about portion sizes?

          If portion sizes: only eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied.

          If grams – that’s the reason I don’t go by grams, but rather percentages or ratios.

    • Kristi S says:

      Thank you for asking this! I almost never get my 1200.

  2. Traci Knoppe says:

    Thanks Lynn! πŸ™‚

  3. Shannon says:

    I’m a vegan trying to do a ketogenic diet and it is very hard to go below 20 net grams a day because alot of vegan protein substitutes have carbs. I do 50 net carbs a day…will that still bring me into ketosis?

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Hi Shannon,

      You’ll just have to test it and see. They make strips & sticks you can use to test for ketosis. I don’t use those, but you may want to.

      Do you eat things like cheese and cottage cheese, or nuts? Pardon the ignorance, I’m not up to speed on the different levels of vegan diets. I’m happy to help though! What kind of protein substitutes do you use?

  4. Amy says:

    Thank you for this! Do you pay for a subscription to myfitnesspal to track your fiber? It seems that is the only way to adjust my goals to track it. Is that true?

  5. Jean says:

    I read that too much protein (macros) will actually convert it into carbs. Sometimes, I want to eat salmon, but can’t if I ate too much protein that day.

    • Lynn Terry says:

      You’ll read all sorts of stuff online. πŸ™‚ I’ve read too much protein turns to glucose (sugar, which is carbs). The real thing you want to watch out for is eating high protein for an extended period of time – and the effect it may have on your kidneys. I’m not a doctor (obviously, lol) but I recommend you do some research on that – and anything else you “hear”.

      As for the salmon, eat it! It’s a fatty fish. Add some avocado on the side, or make an avocado/mayo cream to dip it in. Or you might make fried avocado slices as a side dish for it. It’s less about the grams, and more about the “macro ratio” – so just make sure you keep your fat at around 70% (or higher) and you’ll be fine! πŸ™‚

  6. Terry says:

    Is there a way to do this on explorer?

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  8. Pam Newman says:

    I don’t know where to find the ‘pie chart’ on MFP.


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  17. Clarise says:

    Thank you so much for all this wonderful. It is helping me tremendously.

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  22. Bonnie Whitworth says:

    I would love a list of the healthy fats that can count with the 70% fat, as carbs are easy enough to figure out…I get the avocado, and pecans (not my favorite…stick in my old teeth), I just want some healthy fats to go along with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Thanks



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  43. Christy says:

    Hi Lynn, I just wanted to thank you for all the great information you post on here. It has been such a huge help to me. I have lost 28 lbs since new years day!!! More importantly my husbands cholesterol has been cut in half. We had been doing what the Dr. said for 2+ years and nothing was happening. When he went last month it had dropped for the 1st time from 308 to 160 (Triglycerides), still high but a HUGH improvement in just over 4 months!! Everything in his blood work had improved, but that’s always been the biggie that we were concerned about. I love that your meals are so simple and easy to prepare. I cook daily but it is just one more on my list of chores, not something I love to do. I am also a Tennessee girl so I was excited to see that we had that in common. I use your blog and Butter Makes Your Pants Fall Off for most of my info (he’s also from Tn.). Anyway, Thank you for all the help!!

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Congratulations to you both, Christy – that’s awesome! πŸ™‚ Kudos for taking control of your health, together, and seeing such great results!!

      Hopefully we’ll get to meet soon, as I host low carb meetups around the world – and of course here in my home state as well. πŸ™‚ *cheers*

  44. Penny says:

    I have downloaded Firefox but noticed when you show what you have eaten, below everything it shows a percentage in green. Is that how it should look when I enter info in myfitnesspal?

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  56. clarise says:

    I put fiber in my tracking on MFP, but it doesn’t show net carbs. Did I miss a step? It show the fiber, and carbs, but not net carbs.

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  61. Sydney says:

    Lynn….how do you test for ketosis if not with the strips? Blood? Did you buy a glucose testing machine or something?

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Hi Sydney! I don’t test. I can tell by the way my body feels if I’m in ketosis or not. I have a very lean feeling in ketosis. I plump up with water weight immediately (even a pound is very noticeable) if I knock myself out of ketosis. Or I know for sure if I eat something off plan πŸ˜› haha. Sometimes it surprises me until keto flu hits me 3 days later – then I know I WAS out.

  62. Carmen VanVliet says:

    Can you tell me how to get the Macronutrient Pie Graph up on MyFitnessPal page? I have filled in all the numbers and my percentages are the same as yours, Lynn, but no round pie chart appears with the percentages. Frustrated!

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Hi Carmen,

      Do you have the Net Carbs column? If not, you need to install the hack – or if you clicked to add it to your browser, make sure you do the final step of activating it. If you did both, restart your browser or even your computer and see if that helps. Let me know! πŸ˜‰

      • Carmen VanVliet says:

        Lynn – just an update. I was able to download “tampermonkey” on my Mac Computer and it works in conjunction with Safari. I didn’t have to download Chrome, which I’m not too fond of. My Macronutrient Pie Graphs are now on MFP page. Yea! πŸ™‚

        • Lynn Terry says:

          Awesome, Carmen – and good to know, because I use my Macbook on the go. πŸ™‚ Thank you!!

          • Carmen VanVliet says:

            Your welcome. I was a little confused regarding the micronutrients – 75/20/5 is how I have mine set. After rereading your posts about percentages vs. grams, I think I get it and I am doing it correctly as my percentages for today met my goals, with the fat being closer to 80%. But after reading your info on that, it looks like it ill be ok. Time will tell

            Thanks for all your explanation posts on the micronutrients and percentages.

          • Lynn Terry says:

            That’s correct, Carmen. πŸ™‚ The key is to keep it simple: 20 net carbs max, 70% fat minimum.

            Everything else should work itself out fine if you just focus on that only. Ignore goals, calories, grams, etc.

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  65. Jenni says:

    Hi Lynn! I’ve been doing this for five weeks now and have lost 18lbs so far. A few weeks ago I had an insane amount of energy and was bouncing off the walls at times. But within the last week my energy has started to decline and I have not cheated at all. According to MFP I’m staying really close to 20/70 bit I’m starting to wonder if I need more fats to get that energy back or has my body now adjusted and that stage over? Also I was wondering why so many people are having trouble getting their fats in and doing fat bombs to help. I struggle to keep mine between the 70-85 range daily and most days I’m still hungry. Any suggestions?

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Congrats, Jenni – that’s amazing weight loss in short time! πŸ™‚

      My advice: Go back to your food diaries and see if there is anything new or different. Did you change anything, start/stop anything? If so, go back to what was working better for you – and resulted in more energy.

      If everything is exactly the same, increase healthy fats.

      You shouldn’t be hungry! Are you also eating low calorie? Good sources of healthy fats that are also super foods and very nutritious include pecans & walnuts, salmon, tuna & avocado.

      • Jenni says:

        Thank you for replying Lynn! With the fats I struggle to keep mine between 75 to 80. Sometimes they are doubled what they should be. I do the BPC in the morning (2 cups with a table spoof of butter & coconut oil and about three tablespoons of HWC. That is all I’ve been doing for breakfast. Then lunch is usually a subway steak salad with ranch and dinner usually a meat, fat and green veggie. I snack on pecans. I’m not doing low calorie.

        • Lynn Terry says:

          Hi Jenni,

          You’re going by percentages – not grams – right? So 70-80% fat and keeping your protein at 25% or less?

          Are you still feeling hungry and low energy? If so, at what time of day does that usually hit you?

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  68. Alesha says:

    Hello! How do you find out how many carbs are in fruits? Typically there’s never ingredients when buying fresh fruit. And is there a tracker where you can just put what your eating and it counts for you? Ha.. (Wishful thinking, I’m sure )
    Thank you in advance, Alesha.

  69. Leann says:

    What food are healthy fats and how do you count them to ensure 70%?

  70. Ruth A Fritton says:

    Where do I get the My Fitness Pal Macro Calculator?

  71. Laura says:

    So I understand keeping the net carbs below 20 and I try to stay within my protein limit. But what about fat? Do I need to stay within my fat limit? I’m using cronometer to track macros and wondering if I go over the fat limit, will I not lose weight? Will i burn the fat I’ve eaten that day instead of stored fat/excess weight?? Do I need to limit fat? I’m confused.

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Hi Laura πŸ™‚

      You want to keep it simple: 20 net carbs max, 70% fat minimum. The protein should be 25% max, but that usually takes care of itself easily if you are doing 70% fat minimum.

      It IS just a minimum – I often do 80% fat or more. And the more healthy fats you include the better your weight loss & energy. πŸ˜‰ So no, you do not need to limit fat.

      The ideal kinds of fats to consume are: salmon, ribeye, avocado, pecans (and other nuts), real butter, coconut oil, olive oil, heavy cream, real cheese. Eggs are a good healthy fat (about 50/50 protein/fat) so cheesy eggs scrambled in real butter are great for example. Avocado is great salted & fried in butter too!

  72. Seema says:

    Hi any idea from where can I download an excel version of nutrional value of foods.
    Been searching high and low for sometime but cant find.
    Thanks in advance.

  73. Laura says:

    I’m wondering if the sticks say I’m in ketosis, dies that mean I’m losing weight? Or not necessarily?? By sticks I mean the test sticks.

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Not necessarily. Weight loss is not linear, it will have dips then holds, even when you are in ketosis.

      • Laura says:

        So how do I know if this is working for me? I have lost weight but not sure the exact amount because I can’t bare to get on the scale yet. The sticks say I am in ketosis so do I just keep doing what I’ve been doing??

        • Lynn Terry says:

          As long as you are tracking everything you eat, doing 20 net carbs max and 70% fat minimum, and staying in ketosis… it will work. πŸ™‚

          Not overnight of course, but you want natural weight loss. Not super fast – which results in hair loss, sagging skin, etc. So just keep doing what’s working and enjoy the results!

  74. Edra Ridpath says:

    You say to do 20 carbs or less and 70 percent fat to make it dimple. 70% of what? I just dont understand the macros. Is the 70 percent of total calories? So i have to track my calories? So confused, ive been eating low carb but not losing.

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Hi Edra πŸ™‚

      I use MyFitnessPal to track my macros: carbs, fiber, fat, protein, etc – as explained in this post. While I don’t count calories, that is what you base your fat/protein percentages on. So you want to do 70% fat minimum, 25% protein max.

      This is how I have my MyFitnessPal account set up to track it, and show me a graph with my ratios/percentages: http://www.travelinglowcarb.com/4448/myfitnesspal-hack/ It’s really easy once you get the hang of it!

  75. Laura says:

    For the past few weeks I haven’t lost any weight. I’m in ketosis according to my urine strips and I’m under 20 net carbs daily. I try to eat plenty of healthy fat. I have a lot of weight to lose, so I’m wondering if I’m missing something. What do you think I’m doing wrong? I’ve been low carb for about 2 months and lost some weight at first but not lately. Help!!

  76. Laura says:

    Hi Lynn,
    I was using cronometer but have been winging lately. I figured if I was in ketosis, I didn’t have to use it every day. Also, cream cheese and cheese are on the list of culprits. I do eat those. I’m going to try the app that was suggested and cut out most cheese and cream cheese. Hopefully that’ll do it.

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Going back to tracking consistently will help you figure out what to tweak. Making sure you are getting at least 70% fat every day is the first thing I would watch. Eating any leaner stalls my weight loss. But yes – track super close and let me know what you discover. πŸ˜‰

  77. Martha says:

    How do you make sure you get 70% fat if you can’t use the tracker you refer to?

    • Lynn Terry says:

      Hi Martha,

      There are a number of apps and online trackers. Is there a reason you can’t use any of those?

      Honestly there’s no other way. I was just tracking net carbs on paper before I started using MyFitnessPal (it’s free). I finally had to start using it to figure out why my weight loss stalled out – my macros were off! πŸ˜‰

  78. Lena says:

    I have a question about calculating recipes like when i make a shake or cauliflower crust pizza??? Any suggestions

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