The macro diet is a popular diet plan that is based on consuming a specific ratio of macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) in order to lose weight (3). This diet is often praised for its flexibility, as it does not require counting calories and shifts dieters’ focus to food quality.
That said, it can be confusing for beginners to determine which foods are best to eat and in what quantities. Should your macro diet be low carb, high fat, or high protein? Does being female have any effect on what your ideal macro diet ratio should be?
In this article, we will take a look at the best macros for weight loss for women, according to the latest evidence. We will also provide some tips on how to make sure you are getting enough of each nutrient and how to create a healthy and sustainable macro diet plan.
How Do I Calculate My Macros For Weight Loss?
The easiest way to calculate your macros is to use an online calculator or app. These will take into account your age, height, weight, activity level and goals to give you a starting point for how many grams of each macronutrient you should be consuming per day (1).
What Should A Woman’s Macros Be?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the ideal macros for weight loss will vary depending on your individual goals and circumstances (7). However, a common starting point for women who want to lose weight is a ratio of 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat. This is a moderately low carb scenario. It is slightly under the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) set in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for carbohydrates, which is 45-65% of total calories.
While the 40-30-30 ratio is a starting point, you may need to adjust your macros depending on your activity level, goals and how your body responds to the diet. For example, if you find that you are not losing weight or are feeling very hungry in this ratio, you may need to reduce your carbs and increase your fat intake.
On the other hand, if you are an athlete or have a very active lifestyle, you may need to eat more carbs to fuel your workouts and recovery. The best way to find out what works for you is to experiment with different ratios and track your progress.
Being a woman does not automatically mean that you need to eat a certain ratio of macros. However, women might have different energy requirements than men and may need to eat more or less of certain nutrients.
At the end of the day, weight loss comes down to one factor, regardless of gender—calories in vs. calories out. As long as you are in a calorie deficit, you should lose weight.
The exception to this rule could be if you have a hormonal imbalance or some other underlying condition, which can make weight loss more difficult (4). If you think you may have a hormonal imbalance, it is best to speak to a doctor or registered dietitian who can help you tailor your diet to your individual needs.
What Are The Best Macros For Weight Loss?
Macros are three key nutrients that are essential for human health in relatively large quantities—protein, fat and carbohydrates. All three of these nutrients have different functions in the body and each one is important for weight loss.
Protein is essential for building muscle, which is key for burning calories and losing weight. Protein also helps to keep you feeling full and satisfied after meals, which can help reduce cravings and overeating (9).
The recommended intake for protein for weight loss is at least 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, or about 55 grams per day for a 150-pound woman. If you are very active and/or do strength training exercise, you may need more.
Good sources of protein include:
- lean meats
- Legumes, seeds and nuts.
Carbs have gotten a bad rap in recent years, but they are actually an important part of a healthy diet. Carbs are the body’s main source of energy and are necessary for fueling daily activities as well as workouts and recovery (2).
Many low carb diets can be effective for weight loss, but they are not necessary for everyone. If you are active or have a lot of muscle mass, you may need to eat more carbs to support your activity level.
The recommended minimum intake for carbohydrates is 130 grams per day, but you may need more depending on your activity levels.
Good sources of carbs include:
- whole grains
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That said, fats have more calories per gram than protein and carbs, so it’s important to be mindful of your intake. The recommended amount for fat is 20-30% of daily calories. Certain types of fats are healthier than others, especially for your heart.
Good sources of fat include:
- olive oil
- fatty fish.
How Do I Calculate My Macros For Weight Loss?
Aside from using an online calculator, a simple way to figure out your macro ratios is:
Determine Your Calorie Needs
Calorie needs vary depending on age, activity level, muscle mass and weight loss goals. A good starting point is the National Institutes of Health’s Body Weight Planner (1).
Tally Your Macros
From there, you can adjust your calorie intake up or down depending on your weight loss goals. For example, if you want to lose weight quickly, you may need to eat fewer calories.
If you have a lot of muscle mass or are very active, you may need to eat more calories. The best way to find out what works for you is to experiment with different ratios and track your progress.
Again, an online calculator may save you some time, but it’s not necessary to use one. You can also speak to a doctor or nutritionist if you need help figuring out your specific needs.
Track Your Progress
Once you have your macros set, the next step is to track your progress. There are a few different ways to do this, but the most important thing is to be consistent.
You can use an online tracker (7), or you can simply write down everything you eat in a journal. The important thing is to track your intake of protein, fat and carbs so you can make sure you’re hitting your targets.
You should also weigh yourself regularly and take measurements to track your progress. This will help you to see if you are on track to reach your goals.
Simpler Approach To Macros For A Beginner
It can seem rather overwhelming and confusing to figure out your macros, especially if you’re new to the concept. If that’s the case, don’t worry – there is a simpler approach that can still help you lose weight and improve your health.
First, focus on eating whole, minimally processed foods most of the time. This means filling your diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats.
You can still enjoy the occasional treat, but make sure that the majority of your diet is made up of nutritious, whole foods.
Second, pay attention to your portion sizes. This doesn’t mean that you need to count calories or macros, but it’s important to be aware of how much food you’re eating.
A good rule of thumb is to fill your plate with half veggies, a quarter lean protein and a quarter healthy, complex carbs. This will help to ensure that you’re getting the nutrients you need without overeating.
Not everyone can eyeball their portions perfectly, so the hand method is a helpful way to make sure you’re not overeating. Here’s how it works:
- 1 fist = 1 cup of veggies or fruit
- 1 palm = 3-4 ounces of protein (about the size of a deck of cards)
- 1 cupped hand = 1 cup of grains or starchy vegetables
- 1 thumb = 1 tablespoon of oil or nut butter
If you’re still hungry after a meal, wait 20 minutes before reaching for seconds. This will give your body time to register that you’re full. You may also want to try eating more slowly without distractions to help you focus on your hunger cues.
Getting an extra portion of non-starchy vegetables is always a good idea if you’re trying to lose weight. They are filling and low in calories, so they can help you reach your calorie goals without feeling deprived.
Are There Any Benefits To Counting Macros?
The common, age-old approach to dieting was to simply focus on eating less and exercising more. However, this approach is often ineffective and can lead to weight cycling (yo-yo dieting) (10). Counting macros is a more effective approach to dieting as it has the following benefits:
Focus On Food Quality
Counting macros encourages you to focus on the quality of the foods you are eating, rather than simply the quantity. This is because each macro has a different effect on your body and eating the right mix of macros can help to optimize your health (5).
For example, if you are trying to lose weight, you would want to focus on eating mostly lean proteins, healthy fats and high-fiber carbs. These foods are not only more filling, but they also help boost metabolism and promote weight loss.
Builds Healthy Habits
Counting macros can also help to build healthy eating habits as it requires you to be more mindful of the foods you are consuming. This can help to break unhealthy patterns of eating and make it easier to stick to your diet in the long-term.
In addition, counting macros can help you develop a better understanding of nutrition and how different foods affect your body.This knowledge can then be used to make healthier choices even when you are not dieting (7)
Another benefit of counting macros is that it is a very personalized approach to dieting. Everyone has different macro needs based on their age, activity level, weight and goals (7). This means that you can tailor your diet to your specific needs, rather than following a one-size-fits-all approach.
For example, if you are trying to build muscle, you would need to eat more protein than someone who is simply trying to lose weight. If you are very active, you’ll need more carbs than someone who is sedentary.
This flexibility makes counting macros a much more sustainable approach to dieting as it can be customized to your specific needs.
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What Are The Downsides Of Counting Macros?
While there are many benefits to counting macros, there are also some potential downsides to consider:
The Macro Maze
One of the biggest downsides to counting macros is that it can be very confusing and overwhelming, especially if you are new to the process. You might get stuck trying to figure the perfect balance of macros for your needs and end up feeling frustrated.
For example, a cup of plain, low-fat Greek yogurt packs 20 grams of protein, but it also has 8 grams of carbs and 4 grams of fat. So, depending on your goals, you might need to eat more or less of this food to hit your macro targets.
This can be confusing and make it difficult to know how much of each food you should be eating. It’s important to remember that there is no perfect way to count macros and that you will likely need to experiment with different approaches before finding what works best for you. You should also remember that your macro goals are just goals, you don’t need to hit them precisely every day. Close is close enough.
Can Lead To Unhealthy Eating Behaviors
Another downside of counting macros is that it can lead to unhealthy eating behaviors, such as orthorexia. Orthorexia is an obsession with healthy eating that can lead to restrictive and unhealthy dieting behaviors (6).
While counting macros is not necessarily an unhealthy behavior, it can become problematic if you start to fixate on hitting your macro targets to the point where it interferes with your quality of life.
If you are struggling with orthorexia or any other eating disorder, it’s important to seek professional help.
What’s The Bottom Line?
Counting macros can be a helpful tool for managing your weight and eating healthy. There’s no one perfect way to count macros, so it’s important to experiment with different approaches to find what works best for you.
While there are some potential downsides to counting macros, these can be avoided by using a flexible and individualized approach. If you think counting macros might be helpful for you, speak to a registered dietitian nutritionist to get started.
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. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Body Weight Planner (n.d., nih.gov)
- CARBOHYDRATES THE MASTER FUEL (n.d., usada.org)
- Dietary macronutrients and food consumption as determinants of long-term weight change in adult populations: a systematic literature review (2012, nih.gov)
- HORMONE BALANCE FOR WEIGHT LOSS: FACT OR FICTION? (2022, nasm.org)
- Macronutrients: A Simple Guide to Macros (n.d., avitahealth.org)
- Orthorexia Nervosa: An Obsession With Healthy Eating (2017, nih.gov)
- Online Weight Management Gets Personal (2016, nih.gov)
- The Functions of Fats in the Body (2015, eufic.org)
- The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance (2015, nih.gov)
- Weight Cycling and Its Cardiometabolic Impact (2017, nih.gov)