Dieting to lose weight is one thing—and there are plenty of ways to do it—but the macro diet, specifically, is more than a weight loss strategy. Counting macros instead of calories helps you better understand your food, ensuring that you eat nutrient-dense meals to fuel your body and mind while potentially helping you lose weight in the process.
At the end of the day, weight loss comes down to one factor, regardless of gender—calories in vs. calories out. As long as you are in a calorie deficit, you should lose weight.
If you belong to a gym or tune in to the health community, chances are you’ve heard the term “counting macros.”
Fats have the most calories of all macronutrients, providing 9 calories per g.
Your body needs fat for energy and critical functions, such as hormone production, nutrient absorption, and body temperature maintenance (2Trusted Source).
Though typical macronutrient recommendations for fats range from 20%–35% of total calories, many people find success following a diet higher in fat (3Trusted Source).
Fats are found in foods like oils, butter, avocado, nuts, seeds, meat, and fatty fish.
Macro calculator: Do macros really work for weight loss?
Short answer: yes, with one caveat – you must be in a calorie deficit for this weight loss calculator to work.
While there are a plethora of factors that come into play in losing weight (sleep, activity, medications, health conditions…), experts tend to agree that on the surface, a calorie deficit is one of the simplest and most effective strategies for weight loss.
Why do I need carbohydrates?
Fact: carbs are a necessity. Your body digests them quickly and turns them into sugar, or blood glucose, which you then store in your liver and muscles as glycogen. Together, blood glucose and glycogen fuel high-intensity exercise (e.g. those HIIT workouts at home you’ve been doing) – the kind you need to burn fat and build metabolism-boosting muscle.
How do you meal plan on the macro diet?
If you don’t already cook, meal planning may sound stressful–but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some things to consider:
- Determine how many meals you’ll actually need for the week. If you want enough food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the work week, then technically you’ll need 15 meals.
- If you want fool-proof meals, invest in a crockpot so you can throw in your meat and veggies for a designated amount of time and monitor progress.
Protein: 4 Calories per Gram
Dubbed the ‘muscle macro’, protein is made up of long chains of amino acids. There are around 20 different amino acids commonly found in plant and animal proteins – in varying proportions, depending on the food – but only nine are ‘essential’, which means your body can’t make them. Examples of high-protein foods include: fish, chicken, beef, Greek yoghurt, tempeh, cottage cheese, eggs, jerky, lentils and tofu.
Favorite Alternative to Counting Macros
Instead of fixating on certain specific macro totals in your diet, consider the Oldways approach, which emphasizes whole foods and celebrates traditional ways of eating, whether that’s a Mediterranean diet or African heritage diet. Find produce-filled recipes and learn more about the thinking behind this style of eating, which is meant to sustain you for the rest of your life.
How to Calculate Macros
Generally speaking, you want 45 to 65 percent of your total calories to come from carbohydrates, 20 to 35 percent to come from fat, and 10 to 35 percent to come from protein. You’re probably thinking: “Wow, those ranges are huge. How do I know if I fall on the low or the high end for each macro?”
To sort that out, you’ve got a couple of options.
- The Easy Way to Calculate Macros, which relies on online calculators to do the math for you
- The Math-Lover’s Way to Calculate Macros, which will require many different mathematical calculations
Disadvantages of macro-focused nutrition:
- Can be confusing to the inexperienced
- Requires weighing and portioning food
- Doesn’t take micronutrients into account
- Can undervalue protein quality, fiber, and vegetables
- Food labels aren’t necessarily accurate
Determine your macronutrient ratio.
Your macronutrient ratio (also called your “macronutrient split”) refers to how much of each macronutrient you’re eating.
For most people, a good split is 15 to 35 percent protein, 40 to 60 percent carbohydrates, and 20 to 40 percent fat.
(This is just a framework. You can modify these proportions according to your preferences.
Macro ratio for muscle gain
The Gain button puts you in a 20% calorie surplus.
The macro breakdown is designed to build muscle fast in conjunction and must be combined with a comprehensive weight training program.
It can also be used by underweight people.
TIP: Try starting with the maintenance goal and gradually increasing calories from there if you want lean muscle gains.
Calculating Your Weight Loss Macros
The quickest way to calculate your weight loss macros is with a macro calculator like this one.
With a little practice, though, it’s easy to calculate your weight loss macros on your own.
Here’s a six-step method to estimate your starting macros and to adjust them as needed to meet your goals.
How Much Protein Do You Need to Lose Weight?
Protein is the most unique of all macros because it is not a preferred source of energy and is the least likely to be stored as body fat. Protein also helps maintain lean muscle takes more energy to digest (more thermogenic than the other macros), and is thought to help control hunger and reduce cravings.
Research continues to suggest that higher protein intake may support more weight loss, but the amount of protein you actually need is still widely debated.
Tally Your Macros
From there, you can adjust your calorie intake up or down depending on your weight loss goals. For example, if you want to lose weight quickly, you may need to eat fewer calories.
If you have a lot of muscle mass or are very active, you may need to eat more calories. The best way to find out what works for you is to experiment with different ratios and track your progress.