Get To Know About Macros For Weight Loss: How To Count Them Right?

Reviewed by Elizabeth Gonzalez Cueto, MD

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macros for weight loss

Counting macronutrients is a powerful technique for achieving weight loss and optimal health. I know this from personal experience. When I started my weight loss journey, I spent countless hours exercising, but saw little progress. It wasn’t until I gained a thorough understanding of energy balance and macronutrients that I began to see significant results.

With careful tracking of my protein, carbohydrates, and fats, I lost an incredible 70 pounds in just under six months. My weight dropped from 238 to 168 and I felt healthier and more energetic than ever before. I can attest that counting macros truly works.

By using this technique, you can ensure that you’re eating the right amounts of each macronutrient to support your weight loss goals and overall well-being. So, whether you’re just starting your journey or looking to make some adjustments to your current routine, I highly recommend giving macro counting a try.

If you are interested, we have put together an article and address: 

  • What Are Macros or Macronutrients?
  • Why Should You Follow a Macro Diet for Weight Loss?
  • How Do You Find Out How Many Macros You Need?
  • Does Counting Macros Help You Lose Weight?

Why Should You Follow A Macro Diet For Weight Loss?

Counting calories/macronutrients can be useful for weight loss[1]. It is already known that weight management has many health benefits. Macronutrients contain calories, therefore counting macros will dictate how many calories you take up in the day. 

So by following a macro diet, you can consume fewer calories than your body needs to maintain a larger bodyweight, thus driving a calorie deficit. The net calorie deficit would accumulate over time and then help you lose fat and weight. 

There are ~3500 calories in 1 lb[2] of fat. If you are able to follow a near accurate macro counting diet, with a 500 calorie deficit per day, you would expect to lose on average 1 lb fat per week. Perhaps more weight from the glycogen and water.  

Macro tracking is not only limited to weight loss, it can also help reverse diet and prevent a rebounded weight gain. 

macros for weight loss

What Are Macros Or Macronutrients?

Macros or macronutrients are the essential nutrients that the body requires in large amounts to function correctly. Carbohydrates provide energy to the body and are a primary source of fuel for the brain and muscles. They come in two forms: Simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are found in foods like fruits, honey, and sugar, while complex carbohydrates are found in foods like whole grains, vegetables and legumes.

There are 3 macronutrients[3] and all play a unique role after consumption. I have highlighted these macronutrients below. 


Proteins are complex molecules made up of 21 amino acids, including 9 essential amino acids and 3 branched-chain amino acids. These amino acids act as the building blocks of protein and are crucial for muscle growth and repair.

While protein contains 4 calories per gram, it requires 30% of its own calories during digestion, absorption, and metabolism. High protein foods like whey, egg, chicken, beef, and fish are essential for meeting daily protein requirements.

The recommended daily protein intake globally is approximately 80-100g per day, although this may vary depending on the country. Athletes, exercise enthusiasts, and those interested in weight loss may benefit from consuming more protein.

Protein requirements vary from person to person, but a good rule of thumb is to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight. This typically puts individuals within the range of 150-160g. Further in this article, we will discuss the importance of protein in greater detail.


Carbohydrates are available in two forms: Complex and simple. Complex carbohydrates are more fibrous and micronutrient-dense, meaning they contain vitamins and minerals and take longer to be absorbed by the body. Simple carbohydrates, on the other hand, are typical sugars that are quickly absorbed.

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for the human body. After consumption, they undergo various processes and are stored in the form of glycogen in the muscles, liver, and brain. Glycogen serves as an energy source, particularly during exercise, and is broken down to provide energy.

This is one of the primary reasons why I rarely recommend low-carb diets to healthy, active individuals. The recommended daily intake of carbohydrates for the general population is around 300g, although this may vary depending on activity level or weight loss goals.

Dietary Fat

Have you been advised to include healthy fats in your diet? It’s highly recommended. If your coach ever tells you that eating fats will make you gain weight, it may be wise to decline their advice.

Healthy fats have a crucial role in regulating hormones like testosterone, which in turn, can impact muscle mass and overall appearance. However, it’s essential to note that dietary fat contains the most calories among all three macronutrients, providing up to 9 calories per gram. This is why it’s important to limit fat intake and opt for a low-fat diet.

The recommended fat intake is around 36-60g with no more than 20-30g coming from saturated fats[4]. When it comes to dietary fats, we need to look at food quality. Healthy fat foods  can include: Olive oil, nuts, cheese, fat content in meats etc. 

Which Macro Is Most Important For Weight Loss?

The macronutrient ratio you consume has a significant impact on your body composition, and for weight loss, protein is the preferred macro. To ensure you are getting the right amount, it’s crucial to track your protein intake accurately.

Protein has the highest thermogenic effect among macronutrients, around 30%. For instance, consuming 150g of protein amounts to 600 calories, and about 30% of these calories are used up for digestion, absorption, and metabolism, resulting in approximately 180 calories burned.

Compared to other macronutrients, protein offers a more significant thermic effect. Carbs have a thermic effect of about 8%, while fat has the lowest at 3-4%. For instance, eating 60g of fat equals 540 calories, and digestion only burns up to 16 calories at most.

In addition, dietary protein plays a vital role in building and maintaining lean body mass, which is another reason it is favored for weight loss. Muscle tissue is the most active tissue, and if you maintain a healthy muscle mass, your metabolic rate will remain effective for weight management. For every pound of muscle tissue, you can burn approximately 6 calories, which may not seem like much, but it adds up and contributes significantly to your total daily energy expenditure.

How Do You Find Out How Many Macros You Need?

Providing a generic nutrition plan that suggests an X amount of macronutrients isn’t the right approach. It’s a bit complicated and a nutrition plan should be customized to the individual.

Factors like age, genetics, concomitant diseases, height, weight and gender are taken into account when calculating calorie requirements. There are various formulas available to estimate the necessary calorie intake, which can then be divided among the three macronutrients based on the individual’s activity levels and lifestyle.

For instance, if you frequently engage in strength training at the gym, you may require a higher protein intake and moderate carbohydrates and fats. This will support your energy demands and assist in recovering from muscle damage.

The NHS has a rough estimate[5] for the general population, which is thought to put you in the ballpark of energy balance. The NHS recommends 2500 calories for male and 2000 calories for women to maintain weight. For weight loss, they recommend dropping back 600 calories. So this would put male at 1900 calories for male and 1400 calories for females. 

Abiding to the guidelines to some extent,  a male counting macronutrients could look like the following. 100g of protein = 400 calories (21%), 300g of carbohydrates = 1200 calories (63.2%), 33.3g of fat = 300 calories (15.8%). This equates to a total calories of 1900. 

Does Counting Macros Help You Lose Weight?

Counting macros is an optimal way to lose weight[6] and that is as healthy as possible. 

Counting macros and tracking daily calories is not the only way to achieve weight loss. It is also possible to achieve a caloric deficit by consuming nutritious foods that are naturally lower in calories and more satiating, combined with an active lifestyle.

There is no such thing as a “best” diet. The most effective diet is one that an individual can maintain in the long term. It is not advisable to follow a fad diet that may provide initial weight loss, only to gain it all back when reverting to normal habits.

Flexible dieting can be incorporated into a macro diet. This means allowing yourself to include some favorite foods as long as they fit within the macros and calorie requirements. For instance, a cookie containing 30g of carbohydrates, 5g of protein and 8g of fat can be added to the total daily macro intake.


Macronutrients are essential components of energy, and there are three of them: Protein (4 cals/g), carbohydrates (4 cals/g) and fat (9 cals/g). Tracking macros inherently tracks calories, enabling individuals to achieve their calorie target and create a caloric deficit for weight loss.

Of all the macronutrients, dietary protein is the most important for weight loss. It burns the most calories during digestion and promotes muscle growth. Muscles are the most active tissue in the body, so having more muscles results in more daily calorie burn.

Every person has different macronutrient and calorie requirements based on their height and weight. Recommended calories may also be available for the general population. 

In summary, tracking macros can be helpful for weight loss.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is tracking macronutrients the only way to lose weight?

NO! You do not necessarily need to track macros to hit a caloric deficit. A caloric deficit is what helps you lose weight from fat.

Can you lose weight without a caloric deficit?

Weight loss can be achieved through muscle, water, and glycogen. Body fat is impossible to lose without a caloric deficit.

What is the most important macronutrient for fat loss?

PROTEIN! Protein takes the most calories for digestion and helps builds muscle, which

+ 6 sources

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  1. Isenmann, E., Dissemond, J. and Geisler, S. (2021). The Effects of a Macronutrient-Based Diet and Time-Restricted Feeding (16:8) on Body Composition in Physically Active Individuals—A 14-Week Randomised Controlled Trial. Nutrients, [online] 13(9), p.3122. doi:
  2. Isenmann, E., Dissemond, J. and Geisler, S. (2021). The Effects of a Macronutrient-Based Diet and Time-Restricted Feeding (16:8) on Body Composition in Physically Active Individuals—A 14-Week Randomised Controlled Trial. Nutrients, [online] 13(9), p.3122. doi:
  3. Zhao, Y. and Araki, T. (2021). Evaluation of Disparities in Adults’ Macronutrient Intake Status: Results from the China Health and Nutrition 2011 Survey. Nutrients, [online] 13(9), p.3044. doi:
  4. NHS Choices (2023). Fat: the facts. [online] Available at:,children%20should%20have%20less [Accessed 1 Mar. 2023].
  5. NHS Choices (2023). Calorie counting. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2023].
  6. Isenmann, E., Dissemond, J. and Geisler, S. (2021). The Effects of a Macronutrient-Based Diet and Time-Restricted Feeding (16:8) on Body Composition in Physically Active Individuals—A 14-Week Randomised Controlled Trial. Nutrients, [online] 13(9), p.3122. doi:


Zaakir Shakoor, Nutritionist
Nutrition, Exercise & Health Specialist/Writer
Zack Shakoor Kayani was born and raised in the South East of England/London. Zack has attained a bolus of knowledge regarding biosciences through academia and his career experiences. In terms of his educational background, he has a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology (Hons.), a Postgraduate diploma in sports nutrition with the International Olympic Committee, and a Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences from Middlesex University. Zack has been fortunate enough to apply his Exercise Science and Nutrition Knowledge to aid Hundreds if not Thousands of Patients and Athletes, providing 1-1 consultation, Personal training, Information sheets, offering recommendations to collate nutrition and exercise programs, etc. Not to mention, in 2022, he authored a book called 'The 'Good' Coach Weight Loss Solution.


Elizabeth Gonzalez Cueto, MD
Medical Doctor & Medical Writer
My name is Elizabeth and I am a Medical Doctor (MBBS) with experience as a medical and research article writer, reviewer and proofreader. I have worked for the American Journal of Case Reports, the Medical Science Monitor, and Pacific Medical Training as a medical article reviewer and writer. Besides, I have worked as a medical interpreter and translator for Angel City research and SC3 Research group as a medical research assistant for several clinical trials. My academic background includes many international scientific environments like Oxford University, United Kingdom. Hannover Medical School, the University of Tours, France. the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico.

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