Calories vs. Macronutrients: What’s The Difference?


When it comes to dieting, what’s the difference between, calories and macronutrients (macros)?

By definition, a calorie is a unit of energy. Your body use calories found in the foods you eat as fuel necessary to perform its daily functions.

Calories are then broken down into three main macronutrients: Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrate.

One gram of each macronutrient has a calorie value.

1 Gram of Protein = 4 Calories
1 Gram of Carbohydrate = 4 Calories
1 Gram of Fat = 9 Calories

All foods consist of macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients “Macros” are large molecules (protein, carbs, fat) that contain calories whereas micronutrients “Micros” do not, they are smaller nutrients (vitamins and minerals).

Which is better for achieving your diet goals, counting calories or tracking macros?

When it comes to dieting, counting calories and tracking macros both will get you results. But which one is better? That all depends on your primary goals.

If you’re looking to lose, maintain or gain weight that all depends on your daily caloric intake. To lose, you must create a caloric deficit, to gain, you must create a caloric surplus. To achieve your desired physique goal, we need to take it a step further by fine-tuning your macronutrient calories.

As mentioned above, each macro accounts for your daily caloric intake and to achieve your primary goals, we need to find a balanced ratio of protein, carbs, and fats based on your age, gender, weight, height, and activity level.

Ugh, math! Sounds complicated?

Not to worry, here is a FREE Macronutrient Calculator to help you get started.

Finding the right macros can take time, trial and error until you’ve found a healthy balance of what works for you while achieving your goals. Keep in mind, like all diets, whether counting calories and/or tracking macros they work if you are able to consistently adhere to it.

Huh? I don’t understand.

Ok, no problem! Let’s break this down into two examples. One focusing on overall calories and one focusing primarily on hitting your targeted macronutrient with the same overall daily calorie count.

Let’s say your daily intake is 1500 calories, your goal is to lose weight, and you’ve created a caloric deficit and you don’t make any changes to your dietary habits and/or behaviors. Your diet primarily consists of eating the same, whatever you want without a focus on nutrient values. The only thing that’s changed is the caloric deficit. Question is, will you still lose weight?

Yes. Yes, you will but you will continue to look and feel the same, just a smaller version of your current physique. If this is your goal, keep it up!

On the contrary, if your goal is to improve your overall physique, macros matter. You would need to dial in on your macronutrients while focusing on your targeted deficit of 1500 calories per day.

Let’s break this down even more.

In this example, we will take this one step further and break the 1500 calories down into appropriately targeted macros, think of it as setting a budget. Each macronutrient has a calorie value (Protein and Carbohydrates are 4cals/gram and Fat is 9cals/gram (rounded to the nearest whole number)

For simple math, we’ll use the following:

500 calories of Protein (500/4) = 125g
500 calories of Fat (500/9) = 56g
500 calories of Carbohydrates (500/4) = 125g
1500 Total Daily Calories

Still confused? It’s only one extra step.

“Budgeting your Macro Checkbook”

You can still eat whatever you want as long as it fits your macronutrient budget, BUT now, you’re making food conscious decisions and selecting foods based on nutritional value. Meaning, the foods you eat provide the essential nutrients your body needs to perform at its best – you are what you eat!

By focusing on macronutrients, you are supplying your body with proper fuel and nutrition for performance and optimal results.

Not sure I follow, you’re saying I can eat whatever I want as long as it fits my macros and macronutrients are calories?


Do I have to give up my favorite foods? I love pizza, burgers, tacos, and all baked goods and I can’t live without my chocolate!

Absolutely not! You do however need to be more aware of what you eat. Meaning, if you want a slice of pizza or doughnut, and it fits your macros, eat it, and account for it by tracking your macros. If it doesn’t fit, don’t eat it. Simple as that.

However, when it comes to fine-tuning your physique, macronutrients should be your first priority. To ensure you are eating a healthy and well-balanced diet, make sure to eat lean meats, plenty of veggies and fruit, complex carbs, and whole grains all while leaving room for a daily treat if you desire. Life should be full of things you love, including food!

For macro-friendly recipes and meals, visit

To learn more about creating a healthy and balanced lifestyle of Food Freedom, check out my FREE Flexible Dieting guide.