The Exact Fat Loss Macros Ratio, According to Science

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FYI the Best Macros for Fat Loss Don't Include Cutting Out Any Food Groups or Restrictive Eating

Crunching the nutritional numbers to help you hit your goals

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Oscar Wong

If you're looking into macros for weight loss, chances are you think you want to lose weight, right? Makes sense although, more accurately you're probably looking for the best macros for fat loss.

Do your goals include sculpting lean muscle and learning how to lose body fat? (No, we're not mind readers – we've just got a pretty good suss of how to help you achieve your goals safely and sustainably.)

Enter: macro counting. AKA nutritional number crunching to help quantify the amount of each macronutrient you're eating.

Learning how to count your macros is nothing new, (especially if you've been using our handy macros calculator), however, this approach to healthy eating hasn't always been as mainstream as it is today. Very much the realm of gym-lovers and bodybuilders, learning how to count your macros for weight loss is only just making it into pop culture.

But, before we get nostalgic over the origins of macro counting, let's recap on what it actually means.

What are macros?

The word 'macros' is shorthand for 'macronutrients', a term used to describe the three key food groups you require for your body to function:

  • carbohydrates (to give you energy),
  • fats (to keep you satiated) and,
  • proteins (to build and repair muscle)

    Striking the right balance of these macros and being aware of your overall calorie consumption can be the game-changing hack to effectively build muscle, maintain weight or lose fat.

    Why do I need protein?

    As you might have already guessed, protein is crucial if you want to maintain or build muscle. An important factor of healthy nutrition, adequate protein helps to increase lean body mass by building muscle – the most sustainable path to long-term weight loss.

    'Protein is the building block of all muscles and muscles synthesis,' says Catherine Rabess, dietitian and NHS dietetic manager. 'It's really important to have it in our diet because protein is a source of essential amino acids, which we aren't able to get anywhere else.'

    Amino acids are vital for things like nutrient absorption and tissue repair – both crucial in recovering from exercise. Rabess suggests grabbing some protein within an hour of your workouts. 'It doesn't have to be a protein shake or protein bar – a glass of milk or a handful of nuts will get the job done too.'

    Why do I need carbohydrates?

    Fact: carbs are a necessity. Your body digests them quickly and turns them into sugar, or blood glucose, which you then store in your liver and muscles as glycogen. Together, blood glucose and glycogen fuel high-intensity exercise (e.g. those HIIT workouts at home you've been doing) – the kind you need to burn fat and build metabolism-boosting muscle.

    Why do I need fat?

    Fat makes up cell membranes, promotes nerve and brain health, and increases the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. It also helps protect your bones and organs, as well as being a back-up fuel store for energy. Bonus: it'll also keep you feeling satiated which cuts back on snacking.


    How to track macros for fat loss

    If you're new to the concept of macro-tracking and haven't the foggiest where to start, we recommend you check out our step-by-step macro calculator.

    Or, for a broad overview: counting your macros means monitoring how much protein, fat and carbs you eat within a day. In a nutshell, the macro equation: your total calories = carbohydrate + protein + fat.

    The easiest way to keep on top of all those numbers is with an app like MyFitnessPal, which does all the brain-melting maths for you.

    Seriously though, read our guide to counting macros before trying to tweak them for the best macros for fat loss or weight loss.

    The best macros for fat loss

    Until recently, a common equation for fat loss was 45% protein, 30% carbs and 25% fat. However, more modern research has revealed there is a second formula that can prove successful when trying to decrease body fat into a healthy range.

    • 50% carbs
    • 35% protein
    • 15% fat

      According to McMaster University research, a 5 : 3.5 : 1.5 ratio of carbs, protein and fat (when coupled with doing a four-week workout programme) can deliver healthy fat loss results. And in fact, perhaps better results than when reducing carbs and increasing protein.

      In the study, subjects who ate to this ratio lost 10.5lb fat and gained 2.5lb muscle, compared with subjects eating 15% protein, 50% carbs and 35% fat.

      Those in the second group lost only 7.7lb fat and gained no muscle.

      If you struggled with maths at school, you may want to try our step-by-step macros calculator and get your phone out because – as with all things in the health and fitness world – the specific numbers are personal.

      Once you've worked out your activity levels and your basal metabolic rate (BMR), you can find the number of calories you need to be taking in – and from which sources.

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      What should my plate look like?

      An example plate hitting the above macros would look as follows:

      • 110g roasted turkey
      • 55g brown rice
      • 150g stir-fried cauliflower in 15g oil

        These recommendations come from nutritional therapist Daniel O’Shaughnessy, but as we said, you need to work out what your body needs to fulling establish how you can eat the best macros for weight loss.

        Which foods contain which macro?

        It can be easy to forget exactly what category some foods fall into – so here's a handy reminder, whether you're carnivorous, veggie or plant-based.

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        A reminder: please be sensible with your macros for fat loss

        If you're turning to macro tracking to help you lose fat, it's wise to seek support and advice from a qualified dietitian or nutritionist, says Rabess. Calorie counting and macro tracking can also be an easy way to develop an unhealthy relationship with food.

        Plus, if you start to feel anxious about a rare Saturday takeaway or enjoying a glass of wine on Friday it might be wise to take a step back. 'Feeling the need to quantify every morsel can take the fun and joy out of food,' she says.

        Got that? Use it, but use it wisely. Health is always more than just about one metric.


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