What Macros Should I Eat To Lose Weight? There are a lot of diets out there that claim they can help you lose weight quickly. They promise to help you achieve success, and although these sounds great, it’s not always the case. The goal of this post is to share with you real information about what macros to eat for weight loss so you have a better understanding of food combinations to focus on.
What are macronutrients?
Macronutrients are carbohydrates, fat, and protein. They’re the nutrients the body needs in large quantities. These are opposed to micronutrients, which are vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C and zinc, that the body needs less of, in comparison.
Just about everything you eat is a carbohydrate, fat, or protein, but sometimes a food fits in more than one category. Your average Hass avocado, for example, is:
- 21 grams of fat
- 11.8 grams of carbohydrate
- 2.67 grams of protein
Most people think of bread, cereal, and potatoes when they hear the word carbohydrates. But the list of foods that contain carbohydrates is actually quite extensive. Carbohydrates are essentially sugar molecules. Carbohydrates that contain longer sugar molecules are called complex carbohydrates and take longer to be broken down by the body. They tend to be healthier for you when compared to simple carbohydrates, like table sugar, which is quickly broken down by the body and can cause a spike in blood sugar. Complex carbohydrates can be found in foods, including:
- Whole grains like oatmeal, rice, and quinoa
The different types of carbohydrates can be divided into three categories:
- Fiber is a complex carb the body can’t digest. It helps fill you up and keeps blood sugar levels from rising sharply. You can find fiber in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Starches, another type of complex carb can be found in foods such as grains, oats, corn, and potatoes. Refined starches, like those found in white rice or white flour, act like a simple carb and cause your blood sugar to rise faster. These starches are not as healthy for you.
- Sugar is a simple carb naturally found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy. Sugars give foods a sweet taste and the body quick energy.
A banana, for example, contains all three forms of carbs.
Fats get an undeserved bad reputation because they have 9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate or protein. But healthy fat is an important part of the diet.
Of course, not all fats are created equal.
- Trans fats have no health benefits and, if possible, try to limit them. They are commonly used in processed goods and fried foods.
- Saturated fats are typically found in animal foods like red meat, sausage, cheese, and dairy. Saturated fat is linked to a higher risk of heart disease. Try to limit your intake to 10% of your calories.
- Unsaturated fats are the healthy fats largely found in plant foods like nuts and avocados. You’ll find omega-3 fatty acids, important for heart health, in fatty fish and flaxseeds. Omega-6 fatty acids occur in certain nuts and vegetable oils and are healthy choices in moderation.
Sources of healthy fats include:
- Nuts and nut butter
- Fat-containing dairy
- Vegetable oils
- Oily fish like salmon, sardines, trout, and fresh tuna
Proteins help build bones, muscle, blood, and skin. There are two main types of protein-containing foods, lean and fatty proteins — lean proteins (foods containing protein and less fat) being the healthier choice.
Sources of lean proteins include:
- White fish
- White meat from poultry
- Low-fat dairy
- Egg whites
But that doesn’t mean you can’t consume the whole egg or dairy with some fat. Consuming fatty protein helps you meet your fat macronutrient needs. Healthy fatty proteins include full-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish.
How do you determine your macronutrient needs?
The amount of each macronutrient a person needs varies by genetics, activity level, and goals. There’s no one answer for everyone. A registered dietitian can help you find your sweet spot.
But, you might find that you need to dial one up or down if you’re feeling hungry, lacking energy, or your weight is shifting in a direction you don’t want it to go.
Here is the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institutes of Medicine’s (IOM) recommended macronutrient distribution to get you started:
- 10-35% of calories from protein
- 20-35% of calories from fat (limit trans fats and saturated fats)
- 45-65% of calories from carbohydrates
These ranges were developed to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity and cardiovascular disease. Keep in mind that these ranges may vary depending on factors such as age, pregnancy, and nursing.
How Many Carbs Do You Need to Lose Weight?
It feels like carbohydrate intake has become one of the most controversial topics when it comes to losing weight. For decades, health and nutrition experts have battled it out over low-fat and low-carb styles of eating for the best results. And in recent years, a keto-style diet has taken the low-carb approach even further by restricting them to less than 5% of your calories.
According to the US Dietary Guidelines, Carbohydrates should make up 45% to 65% of total calorie intake. But other popular diets recommended intake as low as 20g of carbohydrates per day.
Is there any proof that cutting carbs is an efficient way to lose weight, and how many carbs do we actually need?
First, as far as we know, weight loss is only accomplished by eating fewer calories than you burn each day. So the argument is not whether or not eating too many carbs will make you fat; it’s whether or not eating fewer carbs can promote more body fat loss during a calorie deficit. And whether or not low carb diets offer specific advantages over other macro diets for weight loss.
The truth is, there is plenty of research suggesting low-carb diets may be more beneficial than low fat. But there are also large, high-quality studies implying no difference between the two.
What we can take away from the science is that everyone is a little different when it comes to their dietary needs. We are in need of more individual approaches to dieting and more research, looking at what variables we should be guided by.
They type of carbs you choose is likely more important than the amount for most people.
Carbohydrates come from anything that grows out of the ground, including fruits and vegetables – and carbohydrates contribute fiber to the diet. They are the body’s quickest and most efficient source of fuel and the only macro that is able to readily supply energy to the brain (ketones can also do this, but requires your body to go into a state of ketosis and metabolize fat into usable fuel).
They are also important for muscle recovery, endurance, and strength building. And they play a role in helping regulate our energy, mood, and self-control. Lack of carbs can actually make you “hangry,” tried, and even create brain fog. And poor blood sugar control from too much added sugar and poor dietary choices can do the same thing.
Depending on your fitness level and personal goals, striving for low carb intake (less than 100g of carbs per day) may not be the best solution. But the less active you are, the fewer carbs your body needs.
Depending on your calorie level, you will want to eat roughly 30 to 60% of your calories from carbohydrates. Use this quiz to get your carb macros!
Carbohydrates are embraced in the athlete world. Macro timing and balance have been a popular tool for optimizing performance and results, and this approach can be applied to the average eater. Understanding how carbs work and adjusting your intake of high-quality options to support your daily needs through carb cycling may be an alternative approach to just eliminating carbs altogether.
|Higher Carb Foods||Low Carb Foods|
|Added SugarsBaked Goods and DessertsBeans, Lentils, and PeasBreads and TortillasCandy and SweetsCerealsChips, PretzelsCorn and PotatoesFruitMilkPastaPolentaRiceWhole GrainsYogurt||CheeseEggsFish and ShellfishMeat and PoultryMelon and BerriesNon-Starchy VeggiesNuts and SeedsOils and Butters|
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. US Dietary Guidelines recommend 0.36 to 0.45 grams per pound of body weight – while others argue this amount is based around getting minimum adequate needs for the general population and does not take into account differences in body composition and fitness needs.
Overall, science suggests that approximately 0.6 to 1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight with sufficient energy intake can support building lean mass while cutting calories.
And while some research still argues that eating more than 0.8 grams/pound does not result in any additional benefits, additional intake has not shown to be harmful either.
How Much Fat Should You Eat to Lose Weight?
Dietary fat is essential for good health, but because it is the most calorie-dense macro, it can also be easy to overdo it.
The amount of fat you need each day to lose weight ultimately depends on the person. Some people are much more efficient at utilizing fat for energy and do well on a higher fat diet, while others prefer higher carb intake – this is partially determined by your fitness needs as well as your overall lean body mass.
For most, keeping your fat intake around 20% to 30% of your calories will support good health and provide an ideal macro ratio for fat loss.
Benefits of counting macros
There are several benefits of counting macronutrients.
Preventing health conditions
Some studies state that tracking macronutrients may help prevent certain conditions.
For example, there is some evidencer that middle-aged adults consuming 6% of their daily calories as protein, and increasing this amount to 17% as they grow older, may protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
Additionally, high carb diets may help treat and protect against diabetes and cardiovascular conditions.
People may also wish to consult with a healthcare provider for dietary guidance if they have diabetes or vascular or cardiovascular conditions.
Maintaining a moderate weight and reaching fitness goals
Counting macronutrients may help people maintain a moderate weight.
There is evidence that following a starch-based carbohydrate diet of 7–15% fat can reduce body fat percentage and reduce the likelihood of health complications from obesity in the short term.
A 2017 study notes that people may be more likely to maintain a moderate weight if they track the amount of food and nutrients they consume over a longer period.
Additionally, counting macronutrients may help people reach their fitness goals.
Another 2017 review suggests that diets high in protein, such as those that involve consuming 1.4 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, help maintain muscle mass during resistance training.