What If I Go Over on One of My Macros?


Author: Tom Franclemont

When Things Don’t Go as Planned

You forgot to plan ahead today and it’s not even time for dinner yet, but you’ve already used up all of your fats for the day. What are you possibly going to eat that only has protein and carbs?

Don’t worry…your macro targets aren’t that strict!

Remember that your total calorie intake is what determines overall weight loss or gain. Regardless of macronutrient intake, as long as you eat less calories than you burn, your body will need to utilize its fat stores to make up the difference. This is similar to the idea that if you want to get out of debt, you need less money going out than coming in.

But, our goal with tracking macros is to make sure that we are losing body fat and not just weight in general. To do this, our body needs “enough” protein (0.7-1.0 g/lb) to preserve muscle mass during the calorie deficit (1).  It is also important for overall health that we get “enough” fats (2). 

If you used our Macros Inc calculator to determine your daily targets, it doesn’t recommend the bare minimum for either of those macros, so that way if you come up a little short once in a while, you’re still fine. But, after you have “enough” of each of those, the rest of your calories for the day are pretty much up to how you prefer to use them.

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Using a Flexible Approach to Meet Your Needs

You can think of your daily calorie allowance as a financial budget. Protein is your mandatory bills like rent, utilities, groceries, etc. You really need to prioritize your spending so that you are covering that first. You might be able to skimp just a bit here and there on something like your grocery bill, but if you’re not paying your rent and utilities consistently, it’s going to lead to issues.  Likewise, if you’re not getting sufficient protein on a regular basis, then you run the risk of losing muscle mass.

Fats are literally your savings account. For a healthy financial budget, putting a portion of your money towards savings is always important.  This should be an intentional priority before you spend your money, rather than just putting whatever is left over into your savings account.  Occasionally, you might put a little less into the bank so you can make a “fun” purchase, but if you’re always neglecting your savings to buy non-essential items, you could be headed for trouble in the long run.

After you’ve covered your “bills” (adequate protein intake) and put some money into “savings” (adequate fat intake) though, then you have the freedom to spend the rest of your paycheck as you prefer. For most people, that will typically be buying things they want so they can enjoy life (carbs) rather than just getting by. However, you also might choose to take on another non-necessity “bill” (more protein) like subscribing to Netflix or choose to put some extra money in your savings account (more fats) instead of treating yourself to a new pair of shoes or an 84” inch TV.

How To Make Adjustments

When it comes down to it, the most important thing is to stick to your calorie allowance for the day. So, if you find yourself nearly out of fats or protein for the day, but with plenty of carbs left to eat, you can swap some of those calories from one macro over to another.  For more details on how to do that, you can check out our NutriWiki article on Swapping Macros.

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