When it comes to weight loss, research shows that how many calories you consume each day may matter more than the amount of carbs, fat, and protein in your diet.

The energy, or calories, in the foods and beverages you consume come from three macronutrients.

Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are the three macronutrients your body needs in large amounts for healthy growth and development. They also play a big role in your weight loss journey because they could influence:

  • how hungry or full you feel
  • your metabolic rate
  • appetite hormone responses
  • muscle recovery

A recent trend in weight loss is counting macronutrients. This is similar to counting calories but differs in that it considers where exactly your calories are coming from.

Keep reading to learn more about the best macronutrient ratios for weight loss.

The most important nutritional factor for weight loss is being in a calorie deficit. This refers to a state where you burn more calories than you consume.

A calorie measures the amount of energy a particular food or beverage contains. One calorie contains approximately 4.2 kilojoules (kJ) of energy.

Each macronutrient contains a different number of calories per gram (g). For example, proteins and carbohydrates each contain 4 calories per 1 g, while fats contain 9 calories.

Cutting fat may seem like the easiest dietary change for weight loss. However, it’s important to look at the diet for weight loss as a whole. Fat is, in fact, an essential macronutrient.

Eating a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet includes all three macronutrients. Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates may each play a different role in your weight loss journey.


Proteins are made from different combinations of 20 amino acids. These help in the formation, management, and recovery of your muscles.

Protein plays a key role in supporting weight loss because it could help:

The recommended daily intake of protein for adults is at least 56 g for males and 46 g for females, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2020.

That said, research suggests that eating 1.2–2 g per kilogram of body weight (g/kg/bw) may be more beneficial for weight loss and muscle retention.


Dietary fats, or lipids, often get a bad reputation for weight loss due to their association with some health conditions, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.

However, fats are an essential macronutrient. They help your body in several ways, such as aiding in the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Fats can be divided into healthy and unhealthy fats.

Healthy fats include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.

Unhealthy fats include trans fats and some saturated fats, which are often found in fried, greasy, and ultra-processed foods. These have all been associated with weight gain and cardiovascular disease risks.

Research suggests that consuming 10–30% of your daily calories from healthy fats could help promote weight loss. However, it’s recommended to keep saturated fats under 10% of your daily calories.


Carbohydrates also get a bad rep for weight loss. For example, research suggests they don’t keep you satiated as long as protein.

However, like fats, there are healthy and unhealthy types of carbs.

Unhealthy types of carbs include refined carbs. These are highly processed foods that remove nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals from them.

Refined carbs are associated with weight gain. They could increase your levels of insulin, a hormone that allows your body to use glucose as energy. However, high insulin levels could make you hungrier, causing you to eat more.

Research suggests that replacing refined carbohydrates with whole foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains can help promote weight loss and higher energy.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025 suggest getting 45–65% of your daily calories from healthy carbohydrates.

The ideal macronutrient ratio for weight loss may vary depending on several factors, such as your age, health condition, and overall goals.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025 suggests the following daily macronutrient ratios:

  • Protein: 10–30% for people ages 4 to 18 years; 10–35% for people older than age 18 years
  • Fats: 20–35% for people ages 4 years and older
  • Carbohydrates: 45–65% for everyone

Despite these macronutrient ratios, many different diets claim to be more beneficial for weight loss. These may focus on adding or eliminating certain macronutrients, such as high protein, low carb, and low fat diets, among others.

What does the research say?

There are studies to both support and oppose different macronutrient ratios for weight loss.

However, the most important nutritional component of weight loss is being in a calorie deficit. This forces your body to draw energy from its current stores (body fat) regardless of the macronutrient makeup of your diet.

Research suggests that you can lose weight healthily and sustainably regardless of your macronutrient ratio. For example:

  • A 2020 review found that several macronutrient ratios promoted weight loss, as well as dietary habits like meal timing and eating larger meals for breakfast.
  • A 2020 review of 121 studies compared the effects of 14 popular diets on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factors. The authors found some differences in weight loss and blood marker levels across the different diets. However, weight loss reductions occurred in all 14 diets, regardless of the macronutrient ratios.
  • A 2018 study divided 600 people with overweight to a low fat or low carb diet. After 2 months, participants in both groups began adding either fats or carbs back into their diet. After 1 year, the low fat diet group lost 11.7 pounds (lbs) (5.3 kg), while the low carb group lost 13.2 lbs (6 kg) — a mere difference of 1.5 lbs (0.7 kg).

While the macronutrient composition of your diet may not directly influence weight loss, it can affect your ability to adhere to a reduced-calorie diet.

To increase your chances of success on a reduced-calorie diet, individualize your macronutrient ratio based on your preferences and health.

Along with a calorie deficit, it’s important to consider the quality of the calories you’re eating.

For example, three cups (270 g) of raw broccoli and two doughnut holes each have close to 100 calories.

However, broccoli’s nutritional properties, such as high fiber, can keep you satiated for longer. This could help you manage and control your caloric intake throughout the day to safely lose weight.

Some ways to increase the quality of your diet to promote weight loss may include:

  • Eating nutrient-dense foods: These foods pack many beneficial nutrients and contain high amounts of fiber, which can help increase feelings of fullness.
  • Snack on protein: Eating high protein snacks may have weight loss benefits, such as reducing your appetite. Protein also requires more metabolic energy to digest than fats and carbs, known as the thermic effect. This means 20–30% of its calories are simply to digest it, compared to 5–10% for carbs and 0–3% for fat.
  • Limit unhealthy fat and high carb foods: Foods high in fat and carbs without much protein can stimulate the reward center in your brain. This could increase your cravings, which can lead to overeating and weight gain.

How do I figure out my macros to lose weight?

Instead of trying to figure out your macros for weight loss, it’s better to calculate your calorie deficit. First, you’ll have to calculate your maintenance calories. You can do this by using the Body Weight Planner from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or calculating your basal metabolic rate (BMR).

Then, subtract 300–500 calories from your maintenance calories. This will give you a calorie deficit target that can help you lose weight healthily and sustainably.

What is the ideal protein macro for weight loss?

Some research suggests that consuming 1.2–2 g/kg/bw is beneficial for weight loss.

What is the best macro ratio to lose weight?

Research suggests there isn’t an ideal macro ratio. The most important factor for weight loss is being in a calorie deficit.

What is a good macro diet for beginners?

A good macro diet for beginners could follow the macronutrient recommendations for adults in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025. Of your daily caloric intake, 45–65% should come from carbs, 20–35% from fat, and 10–35% from protein.

Macronutrients refer to carbs, fats, and proteins — the three basic components of every diet.

The acceptable macronutrient distribution ranges are 45–65% of your daily calories from carbs, 20–35% from fats, and 10–35% from protein. However, remember that your macronutrient ratio doesn’t directly influence weight loss.

Instead, it’s important to focus on being in a calorie deficit.