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Counting Macros but Still Hungry

Counting Macros but Still Hungry? Why & What to Do About It

Counting macros, specifically carbohydrate, protein, and fat intake, is a popular method for achieving fitness and health related goals.

Despite properly tracking their macronutrient intake, some people might find themselves experiencing hunger. 

Obviously, this is not ideal. 

Feelings of hunger can be distracting, uncomfortable, and may lead people to give up on their diets.

This phenomenon can be attributed to various factors, including physiological, psychological, and dietary aspects. 

These include not consuming enough fiber or protein, as well as having an unbalanced macro intake.

Understanding the underlying reasons behind persistent hunger despite macro counting is crucial for effective strategies to manage appetite.

Counting Macros but Still Hungry?

Hunger when counting macros can be caused by different factors, including consuming enough fiber or protein, as well as having an unbalanced macro intake. 

Hunger may also result from not consuming enough calories, being too restrictive in dietary intake, or being dehydrated.

Hunger when counting macros can be caused by a range of factors. 

Below I’ve covered 8 key causes:

1. Inadequate Fiber Intake

Whilst someone may be consuming their daily target macro intake, they may not be consuming enough fiber.

A diet lacking in sufficient fiber intake can lead to feelings of hunger as fiber-rich foods promote feelings of satiety and fullness. 

They do this by helping to regulate blood sugar levels, which help to prevent rapid spikes and crashes that can trigger intense feelings of hunger.

For most adults, the recommended daily intake of fiber is around 30 grams. Consuming less than this can lead to feelings of hunger, despite hitting macro targets.

2. Insufficient Protein Intake

Not eating enough protein can also lead to feelings of hunger. Like fiber, protein plays a significant role in promoting feelings of fullness and satiety.

Inadequate protein intake can result in feelings of hunger, as the body needs this macronutrient for various physiological processes, such as muscle repair and maintenance. 

Whilst people may think they’re getting enough protein if they’re tracking macros, feelings of hunger can be a sign that protein intake isn’t sufficient. 

It’s recommended to have 0.7g – 1g protein per lb of bodyweight but when cutting/dieting you could look to consume 1g – 1.5g in order to improve feelings of hunger and satiety.

See also – Hungry while cutting

3. Unbalanced Macronutrient Ratio

Another reason for feelings of hunger when counting macros is having an unbalanced macronutrient ratio.

When counting macros, it is crucial to maintain a balanced ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. 

An imbalance, such as an excessive intake of carbohydrates without sufficient proteins or fats, can lead to rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

These fluctuations can lead to crashes which cause intense hunger pangs.

4. Dehydration

When focusing on food intake, it’s easy to forget the critical role of adequate hydration. 

Misinterpreting thirst for hunger is common. Inadequate hydration levels can lead to increased feelings of hunger, as the body might signal thirst as a craving for food.

The daily recommended intake of water for adults is around 13 cups for healthy men and and 9 cups for women, with 1 cup equaling 8 ounces. 

** Though, this amount can be higher for those who are physically active.

5. Not Consuming Enough Calories

When calculating macros split, people will also need to know their daily calorie intake. 

When looking for fast results, people may cut their calorie intake significantly. However, this approach can have the opposite effect… 

Rather than helping people to achieve their goals, not consuming enough calories can lead to feelings of hunger, as well as a lack of motivation which can lead people to abandon their diets.

Consuming enough calories each day is important to avoiding hunger so in order to keep consistent progress you’ll want to keep the calories deficit as low as possible. 

There’s a big difference between cutting and losing weight

To burn body fat (not just drop weight) you need an energy deficit which can come from a calorie deficit or an energy surplus. 

This is why increasing cardio or your daily activity levels (through steps) can help you burn fat without having to be painfully restrictive when it comes to calories. 

Personally, I set a calorie deficit at around 200kcal and then once weight loss plateaus, I’ll first increase my step count and then weekly cardio. 

Then, and only then, I’ll repeat the cycle and go into another 200kcal deficit. 

If you keep repeating this cycle you’ll keep burning body fat without needing to have a 1,000 calorie diet that no-one can possibly stick to for long-term results!

6. Being Too Restrictive

Being overly restrictive when dieting can also lead to feelings of hunger. 

Whilst certain meals may fit within macro targets, not having variety in a diet and cutting out foods that people enjoy can lead to cravings and hunger.

See also – How to stop cravings when cutting

You want to be consuming nutrient dense foods like leafy green veg, meat and slower releasing carbohydrate sources. These foods could include: 

  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Rice
  • Sweet potato
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Kale
  • Oats
  • Lean red meat

7. Not Having a Routine

Many people experience hunger because they don’t follow a set routine. 

Eating at different times each day, and having extended periods between meals, is a key cause of hunger.

If you can get your body onto a regular routine when dieting then you can ignore spontaneous feelings of hunger because you know the next meal is only ‘x’ hours away. 

Spreading your meals out every 2-3 hours is one simple dieting tip people use to reduce hunger cravings. 

Little strategies can be the key for successful diets so check out our full guide on the best macro tracking tips and tricks to make it as easy as possible.  

8. Hormonal Imbalance

Another reason for hunger can be fluctuating hormones. 

Fluctuations in hormones, such as ghrelin and leptin, which regulate appetite and satiety, can contribute to persistent feelings of hunger despite consuming an adequate number of macronutrients.

Psychological and Behavioral Aspects Influencing Hunger

Hunger can also be triggered and caused by physiological and behavioral aspects.

For example, some people experience ‘emotional eating’. 

Emotional triggers, as well as feelings of stress, anxiety, or even boredom, can lead to emotional eating where people consume foods as a response to emotional cues, not necessarily physical hunger.

People may also experience mindless eating. 

This is where people eat without paying attention to portion sizes and food choices. 

This can result in overconsumption, leading to increased hunger despite meeting macro targets.

How to Avoid Hunger When Counting Macros

Now that I’ve outlined causes of hunger when counting macros, let’s look at solutions.

There are a range of different things people can do to avoid hunger when counting macros, these include:

Increase Fiber Intake

Inadequate fiber intake can cause hunger when counting macros. To address this, it’s important to have a diet that is fiber rich.

Foods that contain lots of fiber include fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

These foods should be incorporated into a healthy diet to help promote fullness and satiety, as well as digestive health.

However, when incorporating more fiber into a diet, it’s best to do so gradually. 

Sudden changes in fiber intake can cause digestive changes such as bloating and diarrhea.

Consume Enough Protein

Not consuming enough protein can also lead to feelings of hunger. 

To fix this, prioritize lean protein sources such as poultry, fish, and legumes.

Consuming more protein not only supports satiety and fullness, but also helps to support muscle maintenance and muscle growth.

Balance Macronutrient Intake

Another reason for feelings of hunger when counting macros is having an unbalanced macronutrient ratio.

To address this, ensure a well-balanced distribution of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Swapping out usual carbohydrates and fats for complex carbohydrates and healthy fats can also help to stabilize blood sugar levels and sustain energy levels throughout the day.

As fats are higher in calories per gram (1g of fat equals 9 calories, 1g of protein or carbohydrates are only 4 calories), you want to have a lower ratio of fats. 

A typical beginner macro split could be: 

  • Carbs – 40%
  • Protein – 40%
  • Fat – 20%

Stay Hydrated

Hunger can be mistaken for thirst. 

Maintaining proper hydration throughout the day can help to reduce hunger. 

This is easily done by drinking water throughout the day. Keeping a water bottle handy can help to differentiate between actual hunger and thirst cues.

Check Calorie Intake

Not consuming enough calories can lead to feelings of hunger. 

Whilst it’s tempting to drastically cut calorie intake to try and see faster results when trying to lose weight, this can derail longer term progress.

Gradually decreasing calorie intake can help to reduce feelings of hunger, whilst still giving the same long term results.

You may hit macros in terms of an overall percentage for the day but if your total calories are too low, not only will you experience hunger but a range of other issues when dieting. 

To combat this, you should always think calorie goals as a priority, macro targets should be secondary. 

Prioritize Nutrient Dense Foods

Not all macros are created equally, and hunger can arise from not getting enough nutrients.

Choose nutrient-dense foods that offer a high volume per calorie, such as leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and lean proteins, to promote a feeling of fullness without consuming excess calories.

Have a Varied Diet

Hunger can also result from boredom with a diet. 

Not having variety, or denying certain foods, can result in cravings.

To reduce hunger, ensure variety in a diet. Also, ensure a balance between a healthy diet and sticking to macro targets, and indulging in cravings.

Stick to a Routine

Hunger can also be caused by a lack of routine. 

Establish a consistent meal schedule to regulate hunger cues and prevent excessive snacking or overeating due to prolonged periods between meals.

Stress Management

Emotional eating can lead to hunger. 

Implement stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, or engaging in hobbies to minimize emotional eating triggers and promote a healthier relationship with food.

Professionals such as dieticians and psychologists can also help and offer advice if hunger is related to emotional triggers.


Counting macros can be an effective method for achieving nutritional goals and maintaining a balanced diet. 

However, persistent hunger despite tracking macronutrients can be a result of various physiological, psychological, and behavioral factors. 

By addressing these underlying factors and implementing strategies that promote balanced nutrition, people can get the most from tracking macros.