Top 10 Common Macro Tracking Mistakes
Updated: Jul 28, 2022
In this article, I want to cover the most common mistakes that people make when it comes to tracking their macros.
When it comes to your macros, realize that accuracy is the most important thing.
It is great that you are tracking, but without accurate information about your actual intake, any changes to your nutrition and training protocols will be far less effective.
It could mean the difference between adding in an additional day of cardio to an already physically tapped out body when simple switches to your nutrition are what you need to get out of a fat loss stall.
Or it could simply mean, thinking you are putting in the work and hitting your calorie goal, when in actual fact you have been overeating the entire time.
So let’s get into it.
1️⃣ You Eat Like A Child
Your diet is full of hyper-palatable foods, aka “junk” food.
Food companies and food scientists do a great job of enhancing the palatability of foods in ways that make these foods difficult to stop eating, with the main purpose being to increase sales.
Hyperpalatable food by definition tends to be very calorie-dense, nutrient sparse and lacks fiber content. The low satiety effect and increased “yumminess” of these foods cause us to not be able to stop once we start.
An easy way to spot this is to notice foods that are a combination of fat, carbs, sugar, and salt.
This boosts palatability way more than when just one ingredient or taste is present.
Fat + Salt = Cookies, Butter popcorn.
Carbs + Salt = Pizzas, Pretzels.
Fat + Sugar = Cakes, Pies.
Salt + Sugar + Carb + Fat = Salted Caramel Brownie, Churros with Chocolate dip.
I am a strong believer in still having foods that you enjoy (a good ballpark is 10-20% of your calories).
However, if the majority of your calorie consumption is coming from hyper-palatable or ultra-processed food options, you are doing yourself a disservice- from body composition, training and performance, satiety, gut health, energy level, and overall health point of view.
What you want to do instead is to opt for simple, naturally occurring foods like meat, fish, fresh fruit, all vegetables, and whole grains.
This will ensure your meals are filled with quality protein sources, healthy carb and fat sources, sufficient fiber, micronutrients, and water content while giving you the best for your calorie buck as possible.
2️⃣ Eyeballing, Not Weighing Foods, and Logging Generic Entries
All of the above results in you mistracking, and most of the time, under-tracking just how much you actually are eating.
The problem is exacerbated when it comes to very calorie-dense foods- like cooking oils, peanut butter, and nuts for example. This graphic sums it up perfectly.
We got to understand that one of the main purposes of tracking your macros besides knowing your calorie intake, is to learn about how many calories there are in your favorite and most consumed foods, learn about food volume and satiation, and portion sizes, and macro goals.
If you don’t take the time to weigh your foods and are simply keying in generic entries into Myfitnesspal, not only will your numbers be way off, so you can kiss progress goodbye, but you also won’t actually be learning anything.
If you are doing this, realize that tracking macros though tedious, is not something you will have to do forever.
But unless you do it intentionally and accurately for a period of time, you could very well do it forever and still not see any progress.
Which would you rather?
The people that you see on social media that seem to get away with eyeballing and not tracking while maintaining their lean physique have tracked for a long time beforehand that this skill of estimating portion sizes is already second nature to them.
Next, an important point to keep in mind here is that Myfitnesspal is a user-maintained database, so anyone can key in entries and there is no quality control for the data they are contributing.
This means you need to be aware of this when using the platform, always use your common sense when selecting entries, don’t simply treat it as a tickbox exercise, and mindlessly select the first thing that pops up.
Rubbish in rubbish out.
You will run into instances when macro numbers in the app are completely off.
For example, I have seen entries where a Protein source has 0 Protein, and all carbs and fat.
That doesn’t make sense.
So it helps to do a sense check, and find the most trustworthy source possible.
Another method is to add your own personal entry for your commonly eaten foods by referencing food databases.
What to do instead is to buy a food scale and itemize every single thing that goes onto your plate.
Be as specific as possible with the selection: 160g serving of boneless chicken thigh without skin, grilled with teriyaki sauce vs. 1 chicken chop.
Don’t shy away from doing the upfront work.
Especially since your meal choices shouldn’t be changing drastically day to day, week to week, taking the time to search on a food database the number of calories, protein, carbs, and fat in your most eaten foods will save you a lot of headache in the longer term.
3️⃣ You Eat Out or Order Takeout Too Often.
You might be eating out or ordering takeout way too often.
The problem here is that it is very hard to account for the things that you don’t see going into your food.
Restaurants simply do not care about your macros, their main concern is making the food as tasty as possible.
You do not know how much olive oil or cream went into making that plate of carbonara, so it is a guess at best.
I also wanna add that sharing meals with friends can also be tricky if you are not smart about it. So that is one more thing to consider.
What to do instead is to limit eating out and cook more of your own meals.
Depending on which phase of your nutrition you’re working on, a good rule of thumb is to limit eating out to just 1-2 meals per week.
That way you still get the enjoyment and flexibility that comes from eating out to keep you adhering to your diet, but are not sacrificing progress.
And because it is simply not realistic to eat all of your meals at home, on the occasions when you do eat out, opt for foods where you can clearly tell what went into making it.
And do all the basics- pick meals that are easy to deconstruct so you can itemise it easily in your app, prioritise protein, ask for sauces on the side, breast instead of legs, more salad etc.
Another hack that I like to use is to add an extra serving of cooking oil into my macros whenever I eat out. Oils are calorie dense, and I rather err on the side of overestimating than underestimating them.
4️⃣ Your Meals are Too Complex.
If you have 10 dishes at one meal, that also makes weighing and tracking everything accurately 10 times harder.
Save such meals for when you are on your diet break or on special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. It should not be an every day or every-week affair.
What to do instead is to simplify your meals. The bare bones of a solid meal include 1 protein source, a carb source and a serving or two of vegetables. Simple works wonders.
5️⃣ You play Macro Tetris.
You log your food only after you’re done eating.
The problem is that logging only when you’re done with a meal is not planning ahead.
That is like doing a post-mortem.
The damage is done, and you are taking stock of things when it is too late.
While you may be able to get away with it for the first few meals of the day, you might reach dinner with no macros left.. that sucks.
Worse, you might even forget to track what you ate, thinking “I’ll do it later”, but later never comes.
What to do instead is to do a pre-mortem.
You want to plan ahead.
Pre-plan and pre-log your macros for the day, for the week.
That way when it comes to meal time, not only are you less likely to eat something unplanned, you would have reduced the mental fatigue of decision making, be less likely to succumb to cravings, and actually stick to your plan.
6️⃣ You don’t track alcohol
Now the two common problems when it comes to alcohol intake are this.
1 - Not tracking alcohol at all.
2 - Not tracking alcohol correctly.
Whatever the case, this in-depth Alcohol guide will be handy for you.
To summarise what I mention in that guide
The calories in alcohol add up quick, make sure you are tracking it
Determine how many calories are in your drink, by doing a google search
7️⃣ Logging incomplete days or weeks of data
You track your macros and calories only when it is convenient.
This leads to there being a lot of gaps in your metrics and incomplete information.
Without complete information, it is going to be very difficult to make any helpful changes to your nutrition protocols.
There could be many reasons this is happening, one of the most common ones I have found is not wanting to share with your coach when you have gone overboard for the day.
The problem with that is our job is to help you in those exact scenarios and situations. It is not to judge you.
But if you don’t let us help you, this problem will only continue.
So remember that your coach is on your side, your coach wants you to win!
The first step is ruthless transparency so they can meet you where you are at, and help you devise a plan forward.
To illustrate, this is your week’s submission:
Monday- 2000 calories
Tuesday- 2100 calories
Wednesday- 2000 calories
Thursday- 2100 calories
Sunday- 2000 calories
Going based on these numbers, if we extrapolated, it would seem like your average for the week is 2040 calories.
BUT we know that is hardly the truth. If you went on a complete binge on both these days, you could in fact be consuming 3500 calories and 3700 calories each on those days. Not impossible. That would bring the new average to 2485 calories.
If we use the estimate that there are 3500 calories in a pound of fat, and your maintenance calories were 2540 calories, for simplicity's sake, you would need to hit a 500 calorie deficit daily to achieve a 1 pound drop in fat in a week ~ 2040 calories.
But because you ate 2485 calories on average that week due to the two high days, you decreased the deficit you were into 55 calories on average. All else equal, you went from 1 week of achieving your fat loss goal, to now effectively extending that to 500/55= 9 weeks.
What to do instead is log EVERYTHING.
And openly communicate your struggles with your coach.
8️⃣ Forgetting to track Bites, Licks, Nibbles, Condiments, Sauces, Dressings
You forget to track the bites, licks, and nibbles that you take throughout the day.
You finish up your daughters leftovers because you don’t wanna throw it out.
You share meals with friends and don’t track everything you’re really eating. Nachos for starters, cheese balls for appetizers. You get it.
You polish off the last of the peanut butter from the tub with your fingers.. Mmm, finger licking good.
You do really well at ordering a chicken breast sub, and reward yourself for your diligence with ranch dressing.
As much as it pains me to say this, all these seeming small tastes here and there, add up quick.
It may seem harmful individually, but if you begin to have one, two, or three of these throughout the day, they really stack up, and before you know it, the calorie deficit you have worked all day for is now gone, poof, finito.
Again the point here is to be aware of EVERYTHING you are putting in your mouth.
Track everything you are consuming.
It seems neurotic, but I promise you, it will become second nature in no time.
And be a skeptic. Even foods that claim that they are zero calories, low sugar, whatever the label says, be 100% sure it really is in fact 0 calories. And hey, #clean and organic foods still have calories too!
9️⃣ You don’t have Go-To Meals
The biggest thing you will find when it comes to consistently hitting your macros is that the people who get the best results have go-to meals.
They attain consistency and structure not by guessing and eating random foods, but by finding what works and sticking to the same meals over and over again.
It’s kind of like buying only white tee-shirts and black jeans, so you don’t turn up some days with pale blue or pink when you could have just gone to H&M and bought the whole rack of white tee-shirts.
While meal plans are often touted as being unsustainable, the truth is people who stick to relatively “bro” foods on repeat are best able to hit their macros consistently daily without needing to play macro Tetris and check their food app constantly to see if their food fits.
What to do instead is test out recipes and find a few solid meals to keep on rotation.
I would also encourage you to create these specific custom meals in Myfitnesspal so that your numbers are spot on. And then utilize the “multi-copy” function and “copy previous day” functions to save time.
🔟 Adding Calories Back From Exercise
Last but definitely not least, you add back the calories you are expending from exercise into your calorie target.
This is a problem for many reasons
The “calories burned” estimate on your sports watch or Myfitnesspal app is usually inaccurate
The calorie and macro target your coach has calculated for you has already taken your daily steps, activity level, and training, into account. So anything above and beyond the goal would be unnecessary.
What to do instead is to focus on hitting your other activity protocols- steps and training. And disable step tracking data on Myfitnesspal and just use the app to track your caloric intake alone.
If you have reached this far, you are now prepared to begin tracking your macros!!
And more importantly, you are now ready to avoid all of the common mistakes that people tend to make!
If you enjoyed the article feel free to let me know below, I would love to hear from you.
If you are someone who wants 1-1 tailored plan and accountability to reach your physique goals, I would strongly encourage you to apply for coaching!
Thank you for being here! Chat soon!