You've already heard this before: weight loss is all about calories in, calories out (or CICO). And while that seems like an easy-enough concept, it's much more complicated. Everyone burns calories at a different rate, thanks to a little thing called your metabolism. And with other factors — such as age, sex, and activity level — in the mix, finding your exact calorie target isn't a one-size-fits-all number. (To get a close estimate of how many calories you should eat to lose weight, check out this formula).
This is why many people have turned to counting macros. Macronutrients are what make up the calories in food, and the three types are carbohydrates, protein, and fat. One gram of carbs is four calories, one gram of protein is four calories, and one gram of fat is nine calories. The theory behind counting macros is that you focus on the quality of foods you are eating rather than just calories alone. And if you focus on good-quality food and balance out your macros, you will get a well-rounded diet full of fiber-rich carbs, healthy fats, and lean protein.
But what should your macro profile look like if you're trying to lose weight? "Ideal macronutrient breakdown will vary from person to person, as there are a variety of factors that go into calculating the optimal ratio," registered dietitian and ACSM-certified personal trainer Jim White, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios, told POPSUGAR. And while it will depend on your caloric needs, activity levels, and goals, Jim recommends a standard macro breakdown as a good place to start, which he shares below.
What Your Macro Breakdown Should Be For Weight Loss
"For weight loss, we typically try to increase protein and fat intake and decrease carbohydrate intake," Jim explained. "Protein increases a person's metabolism. With a decreased carbohydrate intake, the body has less fuel to use to get through a high-intensity workout. An increased fat intake allows the body to start using fat as the main source of energy and thus is burned more so than any of the other macronutrients."
Still, he doesn't think people should completely give up carbs or even eat a low-carb diet. For weight loss, Jim recommends a general breakdown of 40:30:30 — 40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat. This ensures you are getting enough carbs to give you energy and fuel your workouts, protein to build muscle and keep you satiated, and fat to also increase satiety and help your body burn fat.
To find out exactly how many calories should come from each macro, you need to know your daily calorie intake. So if you are eating 1,900 calories a day, 760 should come from carbs, 570 from protein, and 570 from fat. For a more in-depth way to calculate your calories from macros, find the equations here.
All in all, counting macros is an excellent weight-loss tool that can also help you create a healthy, well-rounded diet. And while 40:30:30 is a good place to start, you may want to meet with a registered dietitian to determine your exact macro needs. The best part? You can make room for splurges; IIFYM is all about fitting your favorite foods and treats into your diet.