Do you want to lose weight, fit into that dress hanging in the back of your closet, or those jeans that no longer go past your thighs, feel more energized, or even gain muscle? If any of these sounds like your goal for the year, then the macro diet plan might just be the weight loss plan you have been looking for.
What Is A Macro Diet Plan?
The macro diet is nothing new in the health and fitness world. This eating plan has been around for a while now and is better known as the If it Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) Diet or “flexible dieting”. The two main things that attract many to this diet are the fact that (7)
- The macro diet plan for weight loss claims that you can eat whatever you wish – just as long as it fits in your macros and still lose weight. You do not have to cut out your bread, cheese, potato chips, or wine while on this meal plan.
- You do not need to count calories – When it comes to weight loss, counting calories has been hailed as the answer to shedding those extra pounds. While it might work, it is also a hassle that takes time and can take the joy out of mealtime. This eating plan takes the hassle away from you, letting you enjoy your meals.
How To Plan A Macro Diet?
Before delving into how to plan a macro diet plan schedule we must first understand what macros are and how they affect our bodies. Macros aka macronutrients (not to be confused with micronutrients), are molecules that we all need in large amounts to survive. The three main macronutrients that we all concentrate on and count are carbohydrates, protein, and fats.
They work as follows (1):
- Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy. Once consumed, they are broken down and turned into glucose that the body and organs use to fuel their daily function.
- Proteins are known as a bodybuilding block for the body, but they do more than this. This macronutrient is responsible for building organs and bones, regulating metabolism, and maintaining a neutral environment preventing inflammation, which often leads to illnesses.
- Fats – Contrary to what many believe, not all fats are bad for you. Good fats give your body energy, support cell growth, act as a protective layer around your organs, keep you warm, and help your body absorb some nutrients and produce vital hormones, among many other functions (6).
An important fact to note is that while the macro diet plan pays attention to your macronutrient consumption, it does not mean that micronutrients are out of the picture and should not be consumed. Remember that a micronutrient deficiency often leads to impaired immune and visual function, poor physical, and cognitive development as well as increased risk for anemia and mortality (3).
Micronutrients aka vitamins and minerals – other than vitamin D – are easily found in food sources such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and lean sources of protein, along with healthy fats, such as nuts and olive oil (10).
How To Count Macros For The Macro Diet Plan?
Now that you know and understand how these nutrients affect your body, here is how to plan a macro diet:
Understand How Much Macros You Need To Consume And In What Ratio
The national dietary recommendations suggest that you should consume your macronutrient in the following ratio (2):
- 45 to 60% carbohydrate
- 20 to 35% fats
- 10 to 35% protein
Keep in mind these are recommendations for the general population; you can change up the percentage depending on what diet you want to follow. For example, someone following a high protein diet may choose to eat in the following rations 25 %carbohydrate, 35% fat and 40% protein. It all depends on your individual preference.
Determine What Your Calorie Intake Is Per Day, Then Calculate How Much You Need To Consume To Lose Weight
Calculating your calories at this point helps you understand how much energy you burn in a day. People who live sedentary lives burn less than those who are always moving around but to determine the exact numbers for your macro diet plan, it is better to get the exact number (9):
Here is how to manually calculate your calorie expenditure:
For women: (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age) – 161
For men: (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age) + 5
Once you have this number, proceed to multiply it with the figures below, all determined by your lifestyle:
- Sedentary: x 1.2
- Lightly active: x 1.375
- Moderately active: x 1.55
- Very active: x 1.725
- Extra active (working out twice or more per day): x 1.9 – This option is usually left for athletes
To lose weight, it is suggested that you should consume 10 to 15 percent below what you’re burning every day – the final number.
If this sounds too complicated, you can use a calorie counting app to help you determine how many calories you consume a day. From here, you can cut the recommended 500 to 1000 calories a day to help you create a calorie deficit (4).
Calculate Your Macros
With the final number at hand, go back to the FDA recommended macronutrient ratios and remember that each macronutrient corresponds to a specific calorie amount per gram:
- Carbs = 4 calories per gram
- Protein = 4 calories per gram
- Fats = 9 calories per gram
Here is a simple calculation to help you better understand how this works.
Let’s assume that you need to consume 1800 calories a day for weight loss, and you are using the 45/35/25 ratio:
1800 calories per day x 0.45 (percentage of calories from carbs) = 810 calories/4 (the number of calories per gram of carbohydrate) = 202.5 grams of carbohydrates
1800 calories per day x 0.35 (percentage of calories from protein) = 630 calories/4 (the number of calories per gram of protein) = 157.5 grams of protein
1800 calories per day x 0.25 (percentage of calories from carbs) = 450 calories/9 (the number of calories per gram of fat) = 50 grams of fat
To make it happen, you will have to keep your macros below 202.5 g of carbs, 157.5 g of protein, and 50 g of fat every day.
Again, if this maths don’t make sense to you, using an online macro diet plan calculator can help you determine these numbers without sitting down and doing them yourself. A macro diet plan calculator is also useful as it enables you to log and keep track of your meals every day.
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Sample Macro Diet Plan For Weight Loss
Below is a simple 3-day macro diet plan for weight loss to help you start your journey. The meals from breakfast, lunch and dinner are all perfectly balanced and work great for any macro diet meal plan for weight loss
Meal 1 – Breakfast salad
2 large eggs, 56 g mozzarella, 1 thinly sliced medium-sized tomato, 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, basil leaves for serving
Calories: 375. Fats: 27 g. Protein: 26 g. Carbs: 7 g
Meal 2 – Stuffed sweet potatoes
2 medium sweet potatoes, 4 large eggs, 1/2 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 medium-sized avocado, 2 tbsp coconut milk, salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste
This makes 2 servings.
Calories: 405. Fats: 17 g. Protein: 19 g. Carbs: 44 g
Meal 3 – Sushi roll bowl
1 cup cooked white rice, 4 oz seared ahi tuna or salmon, 1/2 avocado, 1/2 chopped cucumber, 1/4 cup seaweed snacks, 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, coconut aminos to taste
Calories: 469. Fats: 13 g. Protein: 34 g. Carbs: 54 g
Meal 4 – Chicken Bake
88 g cream cheese, 60 g salsa verde, 396 g diced green chilis, 2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp garlic, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1.5 tsp salt, 1 can diced tomatoes, 860 g chicken tenderloins, 180 g medium ear of corn, 1 whole wheat bread, 14 g shredded Mexican cheese
This is enough for 6 servings.
Calories for one serving: 255. Fats: 4.6 g. Protein: 39.5 g. Carbs: 13.9 g
Total Intake for the Day: Calories: 1504. Fats: 61.6 g. Protein: 118.5 g. Carbs: 118.9 g
1 large egg, 2 egg whites, 1 slice sourdough bread, 1/4 cup mashed avocado, salt, black pepper, and sriracha for seasoning
Calories: 291. Fats: 11 g. Protein: 21 g. Carbs: 27 g
Meal 2 – Herby-citrusy chicken salad
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, 1 minced shallot, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1 cup broccoli slaw, 1 cup chopped asparagus, 2 cups baby spinach, zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon, 1 tsp za’atar, 85 g shredded cooked chicken, 1/4 avocado, 1/4 cup green goddess dressing, 1/4 cup minced fresh herbs
Calories: 479. Fats: 19 g. Protein: 32 g. Carbs: 45 g
Meal 3 – Spring roll chicken bowl
For the chicken – 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, 4 minced garlic cloves, 1 tbsp lime zest, 2 tbsp fresh lime juice, 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce, 2 tbsp avocado oil, 1 tbsp honey, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 907 boneless, skinless, chicken thighs
Lime dressing – 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1/3 cup avocado oil, 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, 2 tbsp chopped cilantro, 1 tbsp honey, 3 minced garlic cloves, salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
For the salad – Cooked rice, iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, cilantro, green onions
This makes 6 servings.
Calories for one serving: 537. Fats: 25 g. Protein: 36 g. Carbs: 42 g
Total Intake for the Day: Calories: 1307. Fats: 55 g. Protein: 89 g. Carbs: 114 g
Meal 1 – Cheesy spinach wrap
1 whole-wheat tortilla, 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 2 cups fresh spinach, 1 large egg, 1 egg white, 2 tbsp crumbled low-fat feta cheese, 1 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes
Calories: 254.8. Fats: 10.8 g. Protein: 16.2 g. Carbs: 23.2 g
Meal 2 – Instant pot pork stew
870 g pork, 400 g diced onion, 110 g chopped celery, 259 g chopped cups carrots, 1 tbsp Italian seasoning, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 8 garlic cloves, 793 g blended tomatoes, 3 tbsp tomato paste, 283 g steamed cauliflower, 2.5 cups beef broth, 1 cup cooking wine
This serves 8 people.
Calories for one serving: 227.9. Fats: 2.7 g. Protein: 27.8 g. Carbs: 23.1 g
Meal 3 – Roasted chicken with veggies
34 0 g new potatoes, 2 bunches scallions, 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 3/4 tsp ground pepper, 1/2 tsp salt, 4 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs, 2 tbsp sherry vinegar, 2 tbsp chopped fresh green herbs (of choice), 1 tbsp whole-grain mustard, 1 tbsp finely chopped shallot
This makes 4 servings. Serve with 1 cup of wild/brown rice
Calories for one serving: 522. Fats: 22 g. Protein: 28 g. Carbs: 53 g
Meal 3 – Chicken casserole
453 g cooked boneless skinless chicken breast, 425 g cauliflower rice, 1 small onion, 1/2 cup carrots, 1/2 clove garlic, 1 tbsp ghee, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 3/4 cup buffalo sauce, 1/2 cup egg whites
This serves 4 people.
Calories for one serving: 265. Fats: 13 g. Protein: 24 g. Carbs: 13 g
Total Intake for the day: Calories: 1269.7. Fats: 48.5 g. Protein: 96 g. Carbs: 112.3 g
Vegan Macro Diet Plan
For followers of the vegan diet, here is are some examples of what the vegan macro diet plan might look like
Meal 1 – Nutty and spicy blueberry cake
1 cup unsweetened applesauce, 1/4 cup pure maple syrup, 1/2 cup coconut sugar, 1/2 cup almond butter, 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1.5 tsp vanilla extract, 1.75 cups plus 2 tbsp whole-grain spelt flour, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1.5 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ground allspice, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp fine sea salt, 1.5 cups blueberries, 60 g shelled pistachios
This makes 10 slices of cake
Calories for one slice: 347. Fats: 11 g. Protein: 10 g. Carbs: 52 g
Meal 2 – Roasted vegetables
For the veggies – 8 large carrots, 3 golden potatoes, 1 head of broccoli, 1 head of cauliflower, olive oil and salt
For the tahini sauce – 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup tahini, a big bunch of cilantro, 1 garlic clove, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp salt,
This makes 6 servings.
Calories for one serving: 344.6. Fats: 24.6 g. Protein: 6.1 g. Carbs: 24.7 g
Meal 3 – Chickpea Salad
For the chickpeas – 2 tbsp coconut oil, 1 tbsp curry powder, 2 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp ground cumin, a pinch of salt, 1 cup sprouted chickpeas, 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
For the salad – 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp honey, 2 cups salad mix, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, 1 large shredded carrot, 1/2 cucumber, a handful of cilantro leaves, salt and freshly ground black pepper, a handful of mint leaves
For the dressing/chutney – 2 ripe mangoes, 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro, 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger, 2 tsp cayenne pepper, 2 tsp apple cider vinegar, 1/4 tsp ground cumin, a pinch of salt and black pepper
This makes 4 servings.
Calories for one serving: 503. Fats: 25 g. Protein: 36 g. Carbs: 42 g
Total Intake for the Day: Calories: 1194.6. Fats: 54.6 g. Protein: 30.1 g. Carbs: 145.7 g
Meal 1 – Sweet potato tofu scramble
1 small cubed sweet potato, 1 tbsp canola oil, 1/2 small yellow onion, 396 g crumbled extra-firm tofu, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 2 cups baby kale, salt and pepper to taste
Calories: 283.8. Fats: 15.8 g. Protein: 18.8 g. Carbs: 16.6 g
Meal 2 – Rice and veggie salad
1/4 cup uncooked brown rice, 1/3 cup chopped kale, 1/3 cup chopped broccoli, 1/3 cup sliced sweet potatoes, 1 hard-boiled egg, 1/3 cup chopped avocado
Calories: 449. Fats: 17 g. Protein: 14 g. Carbs: 60 g
Meal 3 – Vegan Pasta
8 oz Vegan lentil pasta, 1.5 cups zucchini, 1.5 cups cherry tomatoes, 1.5 cups portobello mushrooms, 32 kalamata olives, 4 scallions, 2 tbsp olive oil, zest of 1 lemon, 1 small bunch parsley, 1/4 tsp chili flakes, salt to taste
This makes 4 servings.
Calories: 397. Fats: 17 g. Protein: 19 g. Carbs: 42 g
Meal 4 – Sandwich with roasted veggies
2 slices whole grain bread, 3 tbsp hummus, 1/8 cup portobello mushrooms, 1/8 cup zucchini, 1 roasted red pepper, 1/8 cup shredded carrots, pepper to taste
Calories: 360. Fats: 8 g. Protein: 20 g. Carbs: 52 g
Total Intake for the Day: Calories: 1489.8. Fats: 57.8 g. Protein: 71.8 g. Carbs: 170.6 g
Meal 1 – Oats
1/2 cup oatmeal, 1 scoop vanilla flavored plant-based protein powder, 1/2 cup strawberries, 1 tbsp of almond butter, a sprinkle of cinnamon, water as desired
Calories: 407. Fats: 11 g. Protein: 28 g. Carbs: 49 g
Meal 2 – Burger
For the burger – 4 vegan meat substitute patties, 4 burger buns, 1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts, 1 head of lettuce, 1 tomato
For the guacamole – 1 avocado, 3 garlic cloves, juice of 1/2 lime, a pinch sea salt and smoked paprika
For the salsa – 4 kiwis, 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds, 1 tsp grated ginger, 2 tbsp lime juice, 1/4 cup mint
This is enough for 4 burgers.
Calories for one burger: 540. Fats: 28 g. Protein: 30 g. Carbs: 42 g
Meal 3 – Deconstructed burrito bowl
4 vegan burger patties, 1 can of black beans, 1/2 red bell pepper, 1/2 yellow bell pepper, 2 cups red cabbage, 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, 1/4 cup shredded carrots, 1 tsp chia seeds, 2 tbsp lime juice, 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Cauliflower rice – 2 cups cauliflower rice, 1/2 cup cilantro, 2 tbsp lime juice, 1 tsp cumin
Toppings – 3 tbsp salsa
This makes 4 servings.
Calories for one serving: 495. Fats: 23 g. Protein: 30 g. Carbs: 42 g
Total Intake for the Day: Calories: 1442. Fats: 62 g. Protein: 88 g. Carbs: 113 g
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How To Plan Macro Meals For A Keto Diet?
Since the ketogenic diet concentrates on a high fat intake and is very low in carbs, its macros calculations are very different. The recommended macro ratios for a keto diet are as follows:
- 70 to 80% of total daily calories from fat
- 10 to 20% from protein
- 5 to 10% should come from carbs
In total, your daily macro intake on the keto diet should not go above 50 g and fats should be the highest number (5). Here is a sample of a keto macro diet plan:
Breakfast – One pan eggs and sausage
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 226 g sausage, 2 jalapeños, 396 g diced tomatoes, 4 garlic cloves, 2 tsp granulated sugar, 1 tsp chili flakes, 4 large eggs, 57 g feta cheese, 2 large handfuls of flat-leaf parsley, salt and black pepper to taste
This makes 4 servings.
Calories for one serving: 441. Fats: 33 g. Protein: 23 g. Carbs: 13 g
Lunch – Keto oats
6 tbsp hemp hearts, 2 tsp chia seeds, 1 tsp cinnamon, 5 tbsp heavy cream, 1/3 cup water, 1 tbsp stevia
This makes 2 servings.
Calories for one serving: 323. Fats: 27 g. Protein: 11 g. Carbs: 9 g
Dinner – Cauliflower rice with crispy salmon
3 salmon filets (113 g each), 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp fish sauce, 1 tbsp coconut aminos, a pinch of salt, 1 tbsp butter, 1 cup chopped basil leaves, 3 garlic cloves, 1/4 cup hemp hearts, juice of one lemon, 1/2 tsp pink salt, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 scoop MCT powder, 3 cups riced cauliflower
Calories for one serving: 595. Fats: 51 g. Protein: 24 g. Carbs: 10 g
Total Intake for the Day: Calories: 1359. Fats: 111 g. Protein: 58 g. Carbs: 32 g
When On Macro Diet Plan How Much Sugar Should You Eat?
Just because the diet encourages you to eat whatever you want just as long as it fits into your macros does not mean that you should eat all the sugar you come across. Overeating sugar has been linked to a rise in obesity cases.
Too much fat in the body may affect the liver and a fatty liver often leads to a higher risk of type II diabetes. As if this wasn’t bad enough, diabetes then makes you more susceptible to heart disease. Even without diabetes as a contributor to heart disease, too much sugar raises blood pressure and increases chronic inflammation, both of which are pathological pathways to heart disease.
Too much sugar will also lead to tooth decay, increases your chances of developing acne, increases cancer risk, and can affect collagen formation in the skin, making your skin look dull and older (11). The World Health Organization suggests limiting your free sugars intake to below 10 percent of your total energy intake a day; reducing this to 5 percent and lower is even better for your health (8).
How Long Should I Use The Macro Diet Meal Plan?
There is no specific timeline on when you should stop the macro diet plan. This eating plan is quite flexible and allows most foods that other diets deem bad. In light of this, you can stay on it as long as you want.
However, we suggest that you make sure to pay attention to your macronutrient intake and don’t just concentrate on the macros alone. A healthy diet should teach you how to eat healthy foods as a lifelong plan and not just for weight loss.
The Bottom Line
If you are looking for a more straightforward eating plan to follow, one that allows you to eat all the ‘bad foods’ and still lose weight, then the macro diet plan could be the one for you. Hailed as flexible, it can work perfectly for anyone unwilling to follow strict diets. Please remember to consult a doctor or dietitian before changing your diet/eating habits, especially if you have a chronic illness.
Do you know that your body needs some exercise in addition to a proper diet? Check out this 20-min Full Body Workout at Home.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 3 Macronutrients: What You Need To Know About Macros And How To Count Them (2021, betterme.world)
- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines (n.d., health.gov)
- Addressing the risk of inadequate and excessive micronutrient intakes: traditional versus new approaches to setting adequate and safe micronutrient levels in foods (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss (n.d., hsph.harvard.edu)
- Dietary Fats (n.d., heart.org)
- Everything You Need to Know About Counting Macros for Weight Loss (2020, menshealth.com)
- Healthy diet (2020, who.int)
- Macro Calculator: Learn How to Count Your Macros to Lose Fat and Keep it Off (2020, womenshealthmag.com)
- Micronutrients have major impact on health (2016, health.harvard.edu)
- What is the impact of eating too much sugar? (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)