If you are new to the macro-counting scene here's 5 common mistakes I don't want you to make.
1. Overshooting calorie goals to hit macro goals
What happens when you go over your carb goal? Or you overshoot your protein macros? Should you still aim to hit your other macros as well?
The answer is no. There’s a hierarchy of importance to macro counting.
Assuming your are aiming to lose fat, keeping your calories in a deficit is most important.
On those days that you end up going over in one of the macro categories instead of hitting your two other macros, default to simply hitting your overall calories and letting your macros fall where they may.
2. Giving up too soon
Remember this video about the paper towels? You aren't going to look overwhelmingly different one, two, or even three weeks into the process. You may not even see the scale move much the first couple weeks.
HANG WITH IT.
Sometimes people tell me, “tracking macros didn't work for me.” And when I asked them how long they stuck to their numbers the response is, “Oh, like a week and I didn't see any change.”
Be patient. Fat loss is a slow process. Give your numbers at least 2 entire weeks to work before adjusting anything. If after two weeks of consistency (meaning hitting your numbers spot on every day) there is no change on the scale, in measurements, or in your progress photos, then it may be time to try a small macro drop. But please, for the love of carbs, give your macros a diligent effort before declaring you need new numbers. Which leads me to…..
3. Trying to adjust macro goals too frequently
Your macros are not like your bed sheets. You don't need to change them weekly.
Instead, set your numbers appropriately for your body, stick to them and continue with the same goals for as long as you are getting results. If you reach a weigh loss plateau (definition: 2 weeks of consistency without any change in the scale, measurements, or photos) then you can slightly lower your macros and keep going. But let's stop it with tweaking numbers just for kicks, mmmkay?
4. Logging workouts in MyFitnessPal
I know, I know, it feels so good to log that run you finished. You are darn proud of it and logging it in MFP gives you the dopamine release of checking a task off your list (it's not only me who sometimes will write something on my to-do list after the fact just so I can immediately mark it off, right?).
Here's the problem. MFP doesn't understand that you (or your coach) took your current workouts into account when setting your macros. So when MFP sees that you've burned 400 calories by doing a bazillion deadlifts it will automatically allot you more calories for the day and increase your macro goals.
While it may seem like, “SWEET, more dessert” it's a problem because you are erasing your caloric deficit because you double counted that exercise – once when setting your macros, and again when you logged it.
So as good as it feels, resist the urge to log your workouts in your MFP diary. Or, if you must log them, then be aware your macros may automatically adjust and make sure you are sticking to the right macro goals. *Yes there is a setting where you can tell MFP not to change your macros when you enter exercise, but I don't trust it. I've still seen it automatically update in my client's diaries who have that setting activated. My vote is better safe than sorry – just don't log it.
5. Inadequate water intake
I am a nurse married to a doctor, so I don't get embarrassed talking about your stool, but if you do, you might want to skip this last one—just sayin'.
Drinking water is always important, but it's especially important when you are eating increased amounts of protein. Nitrogen is a bi-product of protein breakdown and nitrogen leaves your body in your urine. Extra protein means extra nitrogen which means extra urine which can leave you constipated.
To combat it the first line of defense is to drink plenty of water (there isn't an exact amount you need—aim to drink enough so your pee is light yellow to clear) and get 25-35 g of fiber per day. If that doesn't fix the problem adding a probiotic supplement can help. If you are still backed up, I suggest adjusting your protein goals down to a level that allows you to be more regular.
Learning how to use macros to hit your body composition goals is a process and the longer you do it the more experienced you are going to get and the less likely you're going to fall prey to these rookie mistakes.