This article has been Fact-Checked by Kendall Kennedy MS, RD, RYT
Carbohydrates, fats and protein are the macronutrients available to humans. Every macro group has its advantages and disadvantages. So what macros are best for weight loss?
Some people swear you need low-carb diets for weight loss, others say you need a low fat diet and then there is a group of people that says protein is bad for you.
Find out what macros are best for weight loss.
Why you need macros
There is a reason these 3 groups of nutrients together have their own name. You need to know why to better understand how they relate to losing weight.
Your body needs energy to function but it can’t just make energy out of thin air. It gets energy from food. This energy is measured in calories. Your body can extract calories from carbohydrates, fat and protein. That’s why they are grouped together.
When you consume too more calories than you use your body stores that extra energy for later use as body fat. In prehistoric times this could be useful in times where you didn’t find food.
However, today calorie rich food is extremely easy to find. Too much body fat causes all kinds of negative health consequences.
To reverse the overconsuming of energy you want to be in a calorie deficit. When you don’t get enough energy from your food your bbody converts body fat into usable energy.
Calorie intake matters for weight loss
Some people used to believe (or still do) that since you store excess energy as fat, you should avoid eating fat. But is fat the cause of weight gain?
The answer is simply no.
Every macro group puts more energy in your body. The excess energy gets stored in your body, no matter what source they come from. It’s true that unused energy from carbohydrates get stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles first.
But when those stores are full, the excess calories get converted into body fat to be used for later.
The message is calories from every source matters. However there are differences between the macros that can influence your weight loss journey. Simply saying “calories in calories out is the only thing that matters” is not the way to go.
Do you need to eat more fat to lose weight?
The first thing you need to know is that there are both bad fats and good fats. Let’s assume you are planning to eat more healthy fats if you’re trying to lose weight.
Consuming more fat-rich foods can actually help you lose weight. These foods are usually very filling compared to the amount of calories they contain in contrast to a lot of other foods.
Hunger and cravings are a big reason people fail to lose weight. It’s important that you know how to reduce them.
Do you need to avoid protein to lose weight?
Consuming more protein can be good if you want to lose weight and there are a few reasons for that.
First of all, protein is helpful for reducing hunger.
Secondly your body has to spend more energy to convert the calories from protein into usable energy than the other macro groups.
Lastly consuming more protein helps you with preserving muscle. This is a big advantage. More muscle means burning more calories.
Do keep in mind that too much protein isn’t healthy either.
Are low carb diets necessary for weight loss?
Carbohydrates are great if you want to get a lot of energy in a short amount of time without having to eat a big amount of food. But since you are trying to lose weight that’s not something you need right now.
All carbohydrates are not made equal. There are “good” and “bad” carbohydrates. The problem with carbohydrates is that in general, they are less filling than the same amount of calories coming from good sources of fat and protein.
Carbohydrates also cause the release of a hormone called “insulin”. Insulin helps your body store energy. Again not something we want if we’re trying to lose weight. You want to expend more energy than you store.
The most important thing about your diet is that you’re able to keep it up. However, you should really consider swapping the carbohydrates in your diet for good fats if you don’t mind the difference. This can help you feel fuller.
You atleast want to stay away from foods with a lot of added sugar. In general, these things are calorie bombs and contain a lot of bad stuff on top of that.
How you should calculate weight loss macros
Firstly you should get an estimate of how many calories you have to consume to be in a calorie deficit. After that you can calculate weight loss macros by looking at how much calories certain amounts of foods contain.
The USDA dietary guidelines recommend the following range of macronutrient ratio for adults (1):
- Protein: 10-35% of daily calories
- Carbohydrates: 45-65% of daily calories (of which 25-30g fiber)
- Protein: 20-35% of daily calories
You do have to keep in mind that these are general recommendations. Individual differences in goals, genetics, and lifestyle habits may be good reasons for implementing different dietary values.