Find Your Macros for Weight Loss

Calculating Macronutrient Ratios for Males & Females

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: May 8, 2024

There is a lot of conflicting advice when it comes to counting macros for weight loss. From the no-carb keto diet to the high-carb, low-fat diet, it can be hard to know what to do.

As a nutrition coach and personal trainer, I can tell you that no single answer works for everyone. Instead, the best solution for you depends on your body composition, lifestyle, and weight loss goals. So, how do you determine the macros that will work best for you?

In this article, you will learn about the role of macros in fat loss and get access to a free macro calculator that will help you find your macros for weight loss.

Macros For Weight Loss Graph

The Role Of Macros In Your Diet

A macro-based diet has benefits and limitations. So, understanding the role of macronutrients in your diet is critical before we start any calculations.

Remember that there isn’t a specific macro ratio that will magically burn more body fat or result in more weight loss. Regardless of your macro targets, you must create a calorie deficit to lose weight.

Therefore, it’s better to think of macronutrients as one piece of the nutrition puzzle. As long as you know the bigger picture, you can succeed.

Counting Macros IS:

  • A tool to control calorie intake

  • Dependent on your energy needs

  • Likely to build other healthy eating habits

  • A sustainable approach to weight loss

Counting Macros IS NOT:

  • A one size fits all solution

  • The same thing every day

  • An excuse to eat whatever you want because “it fits your macros”

  • A quick fix

How To Calculate Macros For Weight Loss

Now, let’s calculate your macros for weight loss. I teach my clients to start with their calorie intake and find their macros as a percentage of that.

Next, I’ll walk you through three basic steps to get these numbers and create your fat-burning macro diet.

1. Calculate Calories First

When it comes to losing weight, the most important factor is the number of daily calories you consume. Therefore, setting a calorie goal before calculating your macros is crucial.

It’s best to determine your maintenance calories as a starting point. This number is equivalent to the total number of calories you burn.

We can determine your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) from your basal metabolic rate, daily activity, and exercise. To lose weight, we create a slight calorie deficit, which means you eat fewer calories than you burn.

If this all sounds a bit confusing, don’t worry. You only need to answer a few simple questions, and my calculator will do all the math for you.

a diagram of a calorie deficit

2. Choose Macronutrient Ratio

The next step is to determine your macro ratio for weight loss. Again, there is no magic number here, but some general nutrition guidelines are worth following.

Getting enough protein to maintain muscle mass should be the priority in a weight-loss diet. A high protein intake relates to getting 20-35% of your calories from this macronutrient.

While low-carb diets are popular for weight loss, current evidence doesn’t support cutting them out entirely. Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of energy, so it’s beneficial to get at least 10%, but up to 50% of your calories from this macronutrient.

Lastly, dietary fat intake should round out the remainder of your calories. Here is the range of healthy macro ratios for fat loss when following a low-, medium-, or high-carb diet.

Table 1. Macro Ratios for Weight Loss Diets

Diet Carbs Fat Protein
Low-Carb 5-20% 45-75% 20-35%
Med-Carb 20-40% 25-60% 20-35%
High-Carb 40-50% 15-40% 20-35%

The table above shows that protein intake remains consistent. However, when consuming more carbohydrates, you should lower fat intake, and vice versa. You can also adjust your carb intake daily based on your energy needs; this is called carb cycling.

Macro Ratios for Weight Loss Graph

This graph illustrates the typical macronutrient percentages for a low-carb, medium-carb, and high-carb diet. These are not set in stone, as long as your macros add up to 100%.

3. Convert From Calories To Grams

Now that you know your macronutrient ratios, multiply your total calorie intake by each macronutrient percentage and divide by 100. Once you have your target calories for each macronutrient, we can calculate your macronutrient target in grams.

Each gram of carbs and protein has 4 calories per gram, while fat has 9 calories per gram. Therefore, we divide the calorie targets by four or nine to find the macronutrient targets in grams.

I realize it can be tricky to picture this in your head, so it might help to look at an example.

Weight Loss Macros Example

Next, I’ll walk you through the steps of calculating macros for weight loss, from finding your calorie intake to calculating the grams of carbs, protein, and fat.

Total Calorie Intake

The most accurate way to find your daily calorie intake for weight loss is to measure your total daily energy expenditure with a wearable fitness tracker. However, an easier (and cheaper) option is to use online calculators.

The most common one is the Mifflin-St Jeor equation for calculating your BMR. Then, apply an activity factor to find your total calories burned. From there, you can cut a specified number of calories based on your individual needs.

For example, let’s assume we calculated your TDEE to be 2,400 calories per day. Consuming 2,000 calories daily would create a 400-calorie deficit, a reasonable starting point for weight loss.

Remember that your target depends on your activity level and body composition.

macros for weight loss tdee calculation

Macro Breakdown

Next, let’s say your macro goals are 40% carbs, 30% fat, and 30% protein. Also called the 40-30-30 diet, this is a good baseline for fat loss or muscle gain.

As I mentioned, we now apply the macro ratio to your total calorie intake. Here are your macro targets expressed in calories.

  • 2,000 x 40 / 100 = 800 calories from carbs
  • 2,000 x 30 / 100 = 600 calories from fat (same for protein)

From here, we can easily find your macro targets in grams by dividing the calorie targets by the number of calories per gram for each macronutrient.

  • 800 calories / 4 calories per gram = 200 grams of carbs
  • 600 calories / 9 calories per gram = 67 grams of carbs
  • 600 calories / 4 calories per gram = 150 grams of protein

To recap, these are the daily macro targets for someone following a 2,000-calorie 40-30-30 diet. But what foods should you eat to hit your weight loss macros?

Types of Food

When trying to lose weight, consuming a balanced diet of nutritious foods is vital. Therefore, it’s best to focus on healthy food choices and eat a variety of foods for each macronutrient.

  • Complex carbohydrates include whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal and high-glycemic starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes.
  • Healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, nuts, and dairy products are good long-term energy sources.
  • Lean protein from poultry, wild-caught fish, and grass-fed beef

​Meal Timing

The final aspect of counting macros for weight loss is when you eat your meals throughout the day. This concept is called nutrient timing and generally refers to eating carbs and protein strategically based on your daily schedule.

While meal timing won’t make or break your results on its own, it can provide a small advantage once calories, macros, and food choices are dialed in. For optimal weight loss, the best advice is to eat smaller, frequent meals containing protein.

Additionally, including carbs in your pre-workout and post-workout meals can be advantageous for maintaining lean muscle while dieting.

chart showing meal times for fat loss and muscle gain

Weight Loss Macro Calculator

I understand if all of this information seems too much to process. I created a weight loss macro calculator to simplify the complex parts for you.

You can also sign up for a personalized meal plan that includes over 50 recipes formulated to fit your macro targets. No tracking macros or calorie counting is required!

All you have to do is answer a few questions in the form below. Then, you’ll get an easy-to-follow weight loss macro diet plan specifically designed for your body and fitness goals.

macros for weight loss calculator

Share with your community and get the conversation started!