The Best Macronutrient Ratio for Weight Loss

Medically Reviewed on 8/18/2022
The Best Macronutrient Ratio for Weight Loss
When it comes to losing fat, calorie intake (how much you eat) matters more than the ratio of carbs, fats, and protein in the food

Macronutrients are nutrients that your body requires in relatively large amounts for normal growth and development—carbs, fats, and protein.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines’ acceptable macronutrient distribution range (AMDR), recommended percentages of total calorie intake for carbs, fats, and protein are as follows:

  • 45%-65% of your daily calories from carbs
  • 20%-35% of your total calories from fats
  • 10%-35% of your daily calories from protein

Calculating your macronutrient ratio for weight loss is similar to counting calories, but the difference is that you need to consider what foods the calories come from.

Does macronutrient ratio matter for fat loss?

When it comes to losing fat, calorie intake (how much you eat) matters more than the ratio of carbs, fats, and protein in the food.

You can lose weight on any diet if you stay in a consistent calorie deficit, which means you are eating fewer calories than you need for total daily energy expenditure.

So while you can lose fat regardless of your macronutrient ratio, counting macros can help you control your appetite, support energy levels, and protect your lean mass while in a calorie deficit. You can potentially lose more fat, build muscle, and achieve better results overall with a macro diet compared to calorie counting alone.

How to calculate your ideal macronutrient ratio

Your perfect macronutrient ratio depends on your goals, activity level, age, health, and genetics.

For weight loss purposes, a moderate carb (30%-40% of calories), moderate fat (20%-30% of calories), and high protein diet (25%-35% of calories) tends to work for most people.

You can calculate your range of macronutrients based on the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for a 2,000-calorie diet:

  • RDA for carbs: 130 grams
  • RDA for fats: 65 grams
  • RDA for protein: 0.36 grams per pound of body weight

A macronutrient ratio (macro-based diet) looks at the percentage combination of carbs, fats, and protein in your diet rather than the total calorie count alone.

The individual best macronutrient ratio can be calculated based on personal calorie needs, fitness level, and other individual factors.

What are macronutrients vs. micronutrients?


Macro means large, which in the context of nutrition, relates to the size of the nutrient and its importance in energy balance.

Energy balance can be defined as “energy in” (calories taken in through food) versus “energy out” (calories being used for daily energy requirements). Calories or energy are the core of nutrition and health, and the foundation of this energy comes from the three basic macronutrients.

Your choice of macronutrients can have a significant effect on the achievement of fitness goals including endurance, strength, fat loss, and weight gain.


Micronutrients are nutrients that your body needs only in small amounts, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.


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What is the role of each macronutrient in the body?


  • Carbs are your body’s preferred source of quick energy. Excess carbs are converted into glycogen and stored as body fat for fuel.
  • When you consume foods high in carbs, your body breaks them down into a simple sugar called glucose, which provides fuel for the brain, muscles, and various cellular functions.
  • They are important for muscle recovery, endurance, and strength building.
  • 1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
Table 1. Food sources of carbs
High-carb foods Low-carb foods
  • Added sugars
  • Baked goods and desserts
  • Beans, lentils, and peas
  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Whole grains
  • Candy
  • Cereals
  • Polenta
  • Chips 
  • Corn
  • Potatoes
  • Fruit
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Meat and poultry
  • Melons and berries
  • Non-starchy vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Oils and butter


  • Fats are the most calorie-dense macro and an efficient type of energy store.
  • Fat is the source of sustained energy, used as immediate fuel or stored as body fat.
  • Besides providing energy, this nutrient supports the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, and E.
  • When you consume fats, they are broken down into fatty acids and monoglycerides. These compounds help build and maintain cells and provide the body with energy.
  • There are different types of fat: saturated, unsaturated, and trans fats.
    • Saturated and unsaturated fats are found naturally in both animal- and plant-based foods. Unsaturated fat is perhaps the healthiest and is further divided into two types: polyunsaturated (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids) and monounsaturated (lower low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol levels).
    • Trans fats are mostly found in processed and fried foods, which are particularly dangerous for the heart and blood vessel health.
  • 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
Table 2. Food sources of fat
Plant-based fat sources Animal-based fat sources Monounsaturated fats Polyunsaturated fats Trans fat
  • Avocado
  • Vegetable oils
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Nuts
  • Unrefined oils, such as olive and sesame oil
  • Some types of fish, such as salmon and tuna
  • Unrefined vegetable oils
  • Processed foods
  • Fried foods


  • Protein is the building block of the body and is used to maintain and repair DNA, bones, and muscles.
  • It is not a preferred source of energy and is the least likely to be stored as body fat.
  • When you consume protein-rich foods, your body breaks them down into amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein.
  • Amino acids are then distributed through the bloodstream to the muscles, organs, and other tissues. The body reassembles these amino acids into cells and muscle.
  • Protein helps maintain lean muscle, takes more energy to digest (more thermogenic than the other macros), and helps control hunger and reduce cravings.
  • The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend 0.36 to 0.45 grams per pound of body weight.
  • 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
Table 3. Food sources of protein
Plant-based protein sources Animal-based protein sources
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Legumes
  • Soy
  • Red meat: Beef and pork
  • Poultry: Chicken and turkey
  • Seafood: Fish or shellfish
  • Dairy products: Milk and cheese

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Medically Reviewed on 8/18/2022
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