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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.


MACRO MIX FOR WEIGHT MAINTENANCE

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


MACRO MIX FOR BUILDING MUSCLE

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%.


MACRO MIX FOR LOSING WEIGHT

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%.


MACRO MIX FOR KETO

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)


MACRO MIX FOR HEART HEALTH

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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