Top 10 Common Macro Tracking Mistakes
Updated: Jul 28
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 e