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Determining Your Macro Ratios

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

Following a healthy, well-balanced diet over the long term requires flexibility. That’s why tracking macros to ensure you have a balance of carbs, protein and fat, is so popular. The process starts by calculating a target calorie intake based on your height, weight, physical activity level, gender and age. There are a small number of phone-based apps that can help you do this. Then, you can determine a macro mix based on your goal (i.e., weight loss, maintenance, building muscle, etc.)

How To Calculate Your Macros

Some of the phone-based apps may have a default ratio for weight maintenance. An example might be 50% calories from carbohydrates, 20% calories from protein and 30% calories from fat.

Let’s use this baseline mix as an example for a person with a 2,000-calorie target intake.


To stay in weight-maintenance mode, you’d multiply target calories by the ratio of calories per gram. Remember: Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, protein contains 4 calories per gram, and fat contains 9 calories per gram.

2,000 X 0.5 = 1,000 calories/4 calories per gram = 250 grams carbohydrates 2,000 X 0.2 = 400 calories/4 calories per gram = 100 grams protein 2,000 X 0.3 = 600 calories/9 calories per gram = 67 grams fat


If you are trying to build muscle and enhance your physical performance, you’ll want to prioritize protein. In the above example, you’ll want to decrease carbs to 40–45%, increase protein to 30–35% and shift fat to around 20–25%.


If you are working toward a weight loss goal and not seeing results after a few weeks, then you may want to tweak your macronutrient mix. Try decreasing carbs to 40–45%, increasing protein to 25–35%, and keeping fat around 20–25%.


The keto diet has become a trendy fad diet for people looking to lose weight and emphasizes calories from fat (70%) and 20% for protein, leaving just 10% for carbs. (As a reminder, many experts remain cautious about using the ketogenic diet)


If you are looking to improve heart health, you may want to put a special focus on reducing saturated fat and limiting refined carbs. Some of the phone-based apps may set your saturated fat limit at less than 10% of your total calories.

If you exercise less than 30 minutes per day, try a macro breakdown that’s 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat.

If you exercise an hour or more per day, you’ll likely want more energy from carbs, so try 45% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 25% fat.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of your macro mix, it’s important to focus on high-quality calories. A good rule of thumb is to prioritize whole foods over processed ones wherever possible. For carbs, choose more nutrient-dense whole grains and starchy vegetables over highly processed refined carbohydrates and sugar. For fats, choose heart-healthy options like nuts, avocados, fatty fish and olive oil.

Once you’ve determined your macro mix, be consistent about tracking with your phone-based app, and adjust as needed. Your mix changes as your body and goals progress. It’s a constant process that requires attention when it comes to food labels and meal-time decision-making, which is why it’s more of a lifestyle change. To set yourself up for success, try to plan with meal prepping, or ask the Discipline Fitness Coach for a meal plan, today!

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