Hitting Macros But Not Calories (Don’t Make This Mistake)


Hitting macros but not calories may be something that concerns someone who is a macro tracker. Is this something you need to be concerned about?

While it is not technically possible to hit macros without hitting the calories those macros make up, it is totally possible to hit your macros but not your overall calorie goal. You should prevent this from happening.

Let’s dive in and discuss it.

Hitting Macros But Not Calories: Is It Possible and Why?

Despite the fact that it is not possible to hit your macros but not the calories they make up in total, it is surely possible to not hit your overall calorie goals, and this can hinder your results.

But first, we need to talk about your overall goals. Is your goal to burn fat? Or maybe your goal is to put on some muscle mass?

While macros are important and you should be making sure you are getting enough carbohydrates, protein, and fat in your diet; you still need to be aware of your individualized calorie goals.

Overall Calorie Goals Just As Important As Macros

If you are tracking macros only and not paying attention to your overall calorie goals, you are not likely going to get the results you want.

Remember, energy balance is important. Whether the goal is to lose weight or gain muscle, you have to be calorie conscious.

If your goal is to lose weight and you are tracking macros but consuming more calories overall than you burn, you will not lose weight.

If your goal is to gain muscle and you are tracking macros but are in a large calorie deficit, you will likely not gain muscle either.

Let’s take for example someone who wants to lose body fat and has a TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) of 2,500 calories per day.

This number is the number of calories this person would have to consume every single day just to maintain their weight. You could also think of this as your basal metabolic rate if you do little no no exercise to calculate your TDEE.


If this person’s goal is to lose weight and they are tracking macros BUT not paying any attention to the amount of calories they need to consume to be in a calorie deficit, they are not going to see results.

In fact, this person would actually gain weight if they are putting themselves in a calorie surplus and consuming more than they burn as part of their basal metabolic rate.

This is why calories and the total calories you consume compared to how many calories you burn is so important. You need to hit your calorie goals.

The Basics on Calories and Macros

The difference between calories and macros are that calories are the unit of energy your body receives from food while macros are the types of nutrients that make up the calories in that food.

In other words, calories are how we measure energy from food while macros are what we use that energy for in our body.

Carbohydrates, fat, and protein all have different calorie amounts as shown below:

  • 1g of carbohydrates has 4 calories
  • 1g of fat has 9 calories
  • 1g of protein has 4 calories

The USDA guidelines for macronutrient percentages or as follows:

  • Carbohydrates: 45 to 65 percent
  • Protein: 10 to 35 percent
  • Fat: 20 to 35 percent

These guidelines can be tailored to fit your goals.

For someone who wants to gain muscle, they might want to increase their protein and carbohydrate intake while someone looking to lose weight might want to lower their carbohydrate and fat intake, which will lower total calories too if done correctly.

Someone who wants to gain muscle might have macros that look like this:

  • Carbohydrates: 40 to 60% of overall
  • Protein: 25 to 35% of overall
  • Fat: 15 to 25% of overall

Someone who wants to lose body fat might have macros that look like this:

  • Carbohydrates: 10 to 30% of overall
  • Protein: 40 to 50% of overall
  • Fat: 30 to 40% of overall

Now that we know how many calories each macronutrient contains and the common macro goal ranges, we can start to see how it would be possible to hit our macros without hitting our calorie goals.

For example, if someone who is looking to build muscle has a TDEE of 2,500 calories per day and their macro goals are set up as follows:

  • 200g carbohydrates
  • 50g fat
  • 100g protein

They would need to eat 800 calories from carbohydrates, 450 calories from fat, and 400 calories from protein.

This equals 1,650 total calories which is less than their TDEE of 2,500.

However, if they were only eating those macro amounts and not paying attention to the calorie amount, they could easily end up eating less than their overall TDEE and could potentially not be getting enough fuel and nutrients to cause muscle to grow.

The result? no gains.

The solution to this? Increase the macro percentages of protein and carbohydrates which will increase overall calories.

The bottom line is that whether your goal is to lose weight or gain muscle, you need to be aware of your overall calorie goals in order to see results.


Paying attention to your macros is important but so is making sure you are hitting your calorie goals in addition to macro goals.

Related Post: 33/33/33 Macros for Weight Loss

What Do I do If I Hit Macros But Not Calories?

If you are hitting your macro goals but not calories, then you need to start re-evaluating your current approach.

First, you need to make sure that your macro goals are set up correctly. If you are setting up macro goals that are not meeting your calorie needs or that are exceeding your calorie needs, your results will suffer and you need to change the macro goals you set.

Once you have your macros set up correctly and are meeting your calorie goals, you need to start paying attention to the calorie amount of the foods you are eating.

You might need to increase the portion sizes of some of your meals or snacks in order to get enough calories throughout the day or even decrease the amount.

And lastly, make sure you are weighing and measuring your food at first so that you can be as accurate as possible with your calorie tracking.

Hitting your macros is important but if you want to see results, you need to make sure you are also hitting your calorie goals.

As we discussed putting gaining muscle and shedding fat all revolves around energy balance which is done by burning more calories than your body consumes to lose fat or eating in a slight surplus to gain muscle.

Calories are important. End of story. You could set up your macro goals and think they are perfect, but if your calories are not sufficient for your overall goal, it is not going to bring you any results you want.

Hitting Calories But Not Macros

If you are hitting your calorie goals but not your macro goals, you need to reevaluate the types of foods you are eating and the amount of macronutrients they contain.

You might need to increase your protein intake if you are looking to build muscle or decrease your carbohydrate intake if you are trying to lose weight.

The one thing you do not need to do is decrease protein intake.

Protein is important for building muscle but is also vital for preventing muscle loss when you are trying to lose body fat.

How can you achieve this? It all has to do with your food selection.

If you are trying to increase protein intake, look for foods that contain ample amounts of protein but are also healthy such as:

  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Beans
  • Lean Beef or Turkey

If you are looking to decrease carbohydrate intake, look for foods that have a lower carbohydrate content such as:

  • Leafy greens such as Kale and Spinach
  • Vegetables such as Broccoli and Cauliflower
  • Fruits such as Strawberries or Avocado
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Cheese and Greek Yogurt

Another awesome tip for decreasing your carbohydrate intake is to opt for foods sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as Stevia or erythritol instead of foods that contain sugar.

You can also look for foods that are high in fiber as they tend to have a lower carbohydrate content as well.

Making small changes to the types of foods you are eating can help you hit your macros without going over your calorie goals.

Paying attention to the quality of the food you are eating is just as important as paying attention to the quantity.

Focus on Overall Calories and Protein Instead

If tracking macros is starting to feel a little overwhelming, you can choose to focus on total calories and protein alone, rather than tracking macros.

Whether your overall goal is to build muscle or lose body fat, you can get there without tracking macros. Tracking macros is not necessary to reach your goals.

Remember, the key to losing weight (body fat) or gaining muscle is energy balance which is done by being in a overall calorie deficit or a calorie surplus.

Protein and carbohydrates are also necessary to grow muscle and protein is needed in a fat loss phase to prevent the body from using muscle as fuel and decreasing overall muscle mass.

If your goal is to gain muscle, you can simply make sure you are in a slight calorie surplus by tracking your caloric intake in addition to your protein intake.

Related Post: Can You Get Bigger Arms in a Calorie Deficit?

You will likely be getting enough carbohydrate intake if you are not focused on low carb options.

You should be aiming for at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight for muscle growth, if not more.

Now, if your goal is to shed body fat, you can choose to focus on calorie intake in the same exact way, but by making sure you are in an overall calorie deficit.

You do not have to restrict carbs to lose body fat. It is not necessary.

You do need to make sure that you are getting an ample amount of protein in your diet however, and you can aim for 0.8-1.0 grams per goal weight.

If you want to learn more about a calorie deficit and how it works, check out the article below.

Related Post: Eat Whatever You Want in a Calorie Deficit

What if you want to put on some muscle and burn fat? The answer is to eat in a very slight calorie deficit.

This means that instead of calculating a 500 calorie deficit per day for yourself, aim for less. You can start out with a 100-200 calorie deficit and still push just as hard in the gym for gains.

Inaccurate Calorie/Macro Tracking Apps

If you are hitting your macros but not calories, the reason may be due to inaccuracies with food tracking apps such as MyFitnessPal or Lose It.

These apps use data that can be entered by anyone, and it may not always be correct.

What can you do about this? One easy way to make sure your macros and calories are accurate is to look at the nutrition label yourself if you can before entering.

If you cannot find a nutrition label for your food and must use the app, you must make sure that the foods have been verified by the app as being correct, or do additional research elsewhere before logging it.

Food/calorie tracking apps are great, but you should still be making sure what you are entering is correct.

Last Words

Hitting macros but not calories is likely due to inaccurate calculations and can be an issue because it might hinder your results.

At the same time, hitting calories but not macros can also be an issue and will have to be remedied to see results.

If this is happening, all you have to do is recalculate your goals and know what your maintenance calories are before making goals for yourself.

If macro tracking is getting the best of you, you can just choose to focus on total calorie intake and protein intake, and you will still get the results you want as long as what you are doing is accurate.

Inaccurate macros is not the end of the world, but inaccurate calorie intake can definitely have an impact on the results you see.

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