Thanks for downloading MacroFactor, and welcome to the MacroFactor community! This post will cover a lot of the questions new users have about the app and will get you up to speed so you can hit the ground running. Everything in this post can also be found in the Knowledge Base, or elsewhere on MacroFactorApp.com, but this should give you a more guided tour through some of the features and functions of the app.
If you find yourself on this page because you’d seen some chatter about MacroFactor online, a friend or family member told you about it, or you just downloaded it on a whim, you may rightly be wondering, “what’s the deal with this app? What does it offer me that other food loggers don’t?”
The short answer: MacroFactor solves a basic but surprisingly complex problem – figuring out how much you need to eat to maintain weight, or to gain or lose weight at your desired rate. And, much like the problem itself, the approach we take to solving this problem is conceptually simple, but analytically complex. We use your weight and nutrition data to calculate how large of a caloric deficit or surplus you’re in, use that information to estimate your total daily energy expenditure, and use that information to make dietary recommendations to help you gain or lose weight at your desired rate.
If you’re new to MacroFactor, I’d recommend perusing this article, which explains how our algorithms work in considerable detail. This article may also be helpful; it explains how MacroFactor solves many of the problems that arise with other popular approaches to weight management that involve calorie tracking.
Setting up a macro plan
We have three types of macro plans: coached, collaborative, and manual.
With coached plans, we design your macro plan, allocate your daily calories based on the questions you answered during onboarding (or when setting up a new macro program), and update your calorie and macro targets week-to-week based on your goals and rate of progress.
With a collaborative plan, we update your weekly calorie targets week-to-week to keep you on track with your goals, but your daily calorie and macro distributions are completely up to you (within the limits of your weekly calorie budget). You can edit and adjust them however you see fit.
With a manual plan, our algorithms are still running in the background (so we can make you a good coached or collaborative plan), but you can manually input whatever calorie and macro goals you want. We will not make adjustments for you week-to-week. We don’t foresee many people using manual mode, but it’s nice to have for some situations (for example, if you want access to our food logger and analytics, but you’re working with a nutrition coach who’s giving you weekly/daily calorie/macro targets).
You can change between these three types of plans any time you want, or edit your current program any time you want (to change macro distributions, to enable/disable/adjust calorie shifting, etc.) without any negative repercussions MacroFactor’s expenditure or nutrition recommendation algorithms.
Daily energy expenditure estimates
Our daily energy expenditure estimate is the core calculation the rest of the app’s logic revolves around. It’s estimated based on your daily energy intake, your weight trend, and reasonable estimates of the caloric content of the weight you’re gaining or losing.
The estimate of daily energy expenditure we start with is based on the questions you answered during onboarding (we use the Cunningham equation to estimate your basal metabolic rate, and our own in-house multipliers to adjust for activity levels, since the standard multipliers don’t separate day-to-day activity from purposeful exercise). However, if you already have a good estimate of your daily energy expenditure, you can manually override the equation-derived estimate; I think our equations are about as good as they could be, but initial estimates of daily energy needs are an inexact science, so don’t be shy about entering your own estimate if you’ve already been tracking your nutrition for a while.
Another way to start with an initial energy expenditure estimate that’s based on your own data is to…
Sync with other data sources
During onboarding, you were asked if you wanted to sync with Google Fit, Apple Health, or Fitbit. We can pull weight data from all three, and nutrition information from Fitbit.
Specific to onboarding, if you sync weight and nutrition information from other sources, we can use that information to generate an accurate, data-driven estimate of your daily energy expenditure from day 1. Otherwise, it takes about 14-30 days to zero in on a highly accurate estimate.
(Note: If MyFitnessPal was already synced with Fitbit, we’ll be able to pull nutrition data from the past 30 days from Fitbit. Unfortunately, MyFitnessPal doesn’t push historical data to Fitbit, so if you sync MyFitnessPal and Fitbit at the same time you’re getting rolling with MacroFactor, we won’t be able to import historical nutrition data)
Furthermore, if you’re used to using another food logger but want MacroFactor’s analytics and ongoing calories/macro adjustments, we can pull your nutrition information from that app on an ongoing basis via the Fitbit integration. You just need to sync MFP with Fitbit, sync Fitbit with MacroFactor, and then list FitBit as your #1 data source priority for nutrition data.
But what if you want a highly accurate estimate of your daily energy expenditure right away, and you don’t want to deal with data source integrations?
Manually entering prior weight and nutrition data
There are two ways to enter prior weight and nutrition data fairly efficiently to speed up the process of generating an accurate estimate of your daily energy expenditure.
The first is via the “Habits” screen (which you can get to near the bottom of the dashboard). Just tap on the day you want to edit, click the little pencil next to the date, and input your weight and nutrition information. To save some time, you really only need to enter weight and calorie information (you can enter macros if you want, but that’s not necessary).
If you’d rather enter all nutrition data at one time, and all weight data at one time, you can enter them individually on the “Nutrition” and “Scale weight” screens (at the bottom of the dashboard). Just click the “+” on the top right of the page to enter your data.
Any recent data you enter will help our algorithms start updating your energy expenditure estimates faster, but there’s really no point in entering more than 30 days of prior data (the impact of data older than 30 days on expenditure is minuscule).
And, I just want to make it clear, if you either don’t have recent weight and nutrition data, or you don’t want to deal with entering old weight and nutrition data, that’s 100% fine. We’ll generate good estimates after about 14-30 days of consistent logging, and keep them updated over time.
As one final note, if you manually enter historical weight and nutrition data (or import it via integrations after you’ve completed onboarding), your estimated energy expenditure will be updated automatically, but your macro recommendations won’t update automatically. We want people to be set up out of the gate with a macro plan as soon as they finish onboarding, and we don’t want to require users to back-log data first (that would be a really tedious initial interaction with the app), but we also don’t want people’s macro plans to change without warning. After entering or importing historical data, from your dashboard, click “Macro Program” –> “Create New” and then go through a few quick steps to set up a new plan that reflects your updated energy expenditure estimate.
Food logger features
Now that I’m done talking about things you’ll probably only need to worry about once, let’s move on to features you’ll use every day: food log features!
Our food logger does a lot of cool things that either don’t exist elsewhere in the food logger market, aren’t common in the food logger market, or take a lot more clicks to perform in other food loggers. However, since we opted for a fairly major redesign of features and functions that are more-or-less the same in most other food loggers, it may not be immediately obvious how to do all of the things you’d want to do.
Make sure to take a moment to acquaint yourself with the food logging section of the Knowledge Base. You should probably anticipate a few days of friction while you get used to our food logging flows, but once MacroFactor muscle memory sets in, our best-in-market food logging workflows will save you a ton of time.
Our one Achilles’ Heel
Our algorithms are remarkably durable, and can handle almost anything you throw at them. They work their best when you log your nutrition and weight consistently and accurately, but they do a great job of rolling with the punches, and accommodating less-than-perfect tracking. We believe that you shouldn’t need to be a robot to get the most out of MacroFactor.
However, our algorithms have one major Achilles heel: partial food logging.
For example, if you log your breakfast and lunch one day, but not your dinner, the app will have no way of knowing that you simply forgot to log your dinner, and that your actual calorie intake was 30-40% higher than what you logged. That will feed into our daily energy expenditure calculation, which will then feed into our calorie and macro recommendations moving forward. Partial logging (especially if done consistently) is really the only way to break our algorithms.
So, if you find yourself in a situation where you’ve logged some food for a day, but you either can’t or don’t want to log anything else for the rest of the day, you have a few options (arranged from good to great):
1) Delete what you’ve already logged. Our algorithms do a good job of dealing with missing data.
2) Simply “quick edit” the day with an estimate of your total calorie intake. Don’t stress about it too much; it doesn’t need to be perfect. As long as your estimate is in the right general ballpark, it’ll all work out.
3) Our recommendation: Use the quick-add feature to estimate the total caloric content in your unlogged meal(s). Again, anything in the right ballpark is totally fine; if you think you ate 1000 calories, but you actually ate 1500 calories, that’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things (it would work out to an error of ~25kcal/day over the time span that’s relevant for our algorithms – a pretty inconsequential error).
Since partial logging is the only thing that our algorithms struggle to deal with, we have plans to make it harder to partially log days by accident. We’d like to add a notification system that people can opt into (perhaps asking people to look back over their food log in the evening, to make sure they logged everything), or an update to our weekly check-in system that will ask you about days when total calorie intake was considerably lower than normal, or when you didn’t log any food intake at times that you typically log some food. Cory and Rebecca have been adding new features at an absurd pace, and protecting against the one Achilles’ heel of our algorithms is a high priority, so addressing this is top-of-mind.
For now, though, just be vigilant about partial food logging.
Bugs and feature suggestions
We’re not a big faceless company that takes a long time to answer questions and respond to feedback. We’re also not just dumping MacroFactor onto the market and resting on our laurels. We plan to roll out pretty significant updates, pretty frequently. MacroFactor is our baby.
If you have a question about the app, ask away. We encourage you to ask in the subreddit or Facebook group. If you have a question, it’s likely that someone else has the same question. You can use the support email address ([email protected]), but we’d love to be able to answer it publicly for everyone.
If you come across a bug, let us know! We’ll investigate it and work to fix it. For reporting bugs, use the in-app contact form. Reporting bugs via this route provides us with more data to pinpoint the issue faster.
If you have a feature request, don’t hesitate to make it. I think it’s already the best product of its kind on the market, and we want to pull further away from the pack. You can post feature requests in the Facebook group or subreddit to generate discussion, but make sure you also submit your feature request to our feature request portal. That’s also where you can find our public roadmap.