Missing Daily Protein vs Calorie Goals During Cut

I’ve had some success this spring with my “lean-down” phase in regard to muscle retention, and I think it might be due to keeping up with daily goal of getting 160 - 180g of protein daily. It’s tougher to hit that number when my calorie intake is lower, so I’ve switched to lots of chicken and cod. But on some days I may end up with a lower number because I chose something with a worse calorie vs protein trade-off.

So my questions is, on days when I can’t have success on both my calorie target and protein target, which should I choose? When it’s 7pm, I’m not hungry and my calories are at 2100 but my protein is at 120g, I feel like I should eat something to get that extra protein, regardless of the extra few hundred calories it adds.

Or am I overthinking it?

Would you rather have the protein, or know you made maintained your deficit for steady fat loss?

I’ve struggled with it just as you have and I’ve found maintaining a deficit is more important than ingesting incremental protein especially if you’re already ingesting more than 100g per day.


This will come across as douchey but I don’t mean it that way: choose the right foods. There is no excuse to not have success on both the macro and calorie front.

What helped me a ton was planning and getting to know what foods were best bang for buck for my macros; and getting within a certain margin of each with one meal/a set minimum amount of calories to go. For me it was around 20-30 grams of protein, 70-100 grams of carbs plus 10 grams of fat left in my allowance, so around 600 calories by the time I had only dinner left to go. This worked when I was at anywhere between 2700 to 2300 cal/day. As my calories for lower, I sometimes pushed it to around 450 calories, so everything was towards the lower end.

Not douchey at all. In the past I stuck with a rigid daily list with the
exact macros I need, but in the last year I’ve switched over to a more
flexible approach with MyFitnessPal logging. So on days when I don’t have
cod or chicken I may end up missing my target.

It’s not a better way to go than eating in a more structured manner, but it’s better overall for me when it comes to long term adherence – which is the most important thing for me.

But the question was, if you need to forgo one or the other which would it
be? Calorie goal or protein goal?

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Two servings of Metabolic Drive is only 220 calories, but 42g of protein. That’s probably what I would do.


Tough question. Very valid question too in the scenario you set out. I’d say if your calories are edging the low end of what you can tolerate, take the extra calorie hit and get your protein in. If your calories are so low, probably OK to be a bit short of protein.

I would try this 2-step plan:

  1. Set up a meal plan
  2. Follow it

When I’m dieting I’m following the plan day in, day out. There are no options. Randomly choosing foods and not following a proper plan only makes the diet prolonged. Personally, I would much rather spend that extra time gaining mass instead of trying to lose fat.

Yeah, I’m not too keen on IIFYM

But to answer your question: one day of being short of protein will not turn you into a skeleton, but if you have, say 100 calories left and you would need 50 grams of protein, personally, I would just eat it from low-fat cottage cheese (preferably one that tastes horrible so it doesn’t happen again). And yes, I would eat as much as I needed to get that 50 grams of protein. (Yes, it will put you over the calorie goal, but such is life)