The Low Down On Macro Nutrients


Counting calories is important; you need to take stock of just how many you should be eating every day in order to make smarter choices about your meals. But nutritionists and fitness experts recommend looking beyond the sheer quantity of calories — especially when it comes to quality nutrition that supports sustainable weight-loss goals. Enter macro-based eating, the technique celebrity trainer Holly Perkins swears by when it comes to giving your diet a healthy weight-loss-powered makeover.

“Macro” refers to the three macro nutrients — carbohydrates, protein, and fat — our bodies require for energy and proper function. A macro-based diet looks at the percentage combination of the carbs, protein, and fat in your diet instead of calorie counts alone. If you’re looking to lose weight and haven’t had success with calorie counts alone, Holly recommends following the 40-30-30 formula: make 40 percent of your daily diet carbohydrates, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat. According to the USDA, the AMDR (acceptable macro nutrient distribution range) is 45 to 65 percent carbohydrates, 10 to 35 percent protein, and 20 to 35 percent fat. While the carbohydrate percentage she suggests is five percent lower than the USDA range, Holly recommends this structure for women who are looking to lose weight and keep it off, since “this is the general ideal macro structure to keep blood sugar balanced.” When your blood sugar is balanced, you don’t deal with mood swings or crazy cravings that can throw you off course. She refers to 40-30-30 as the place “where you’ll feel well and energized, think well, and be able to work out.”

For women who want to take fat off fast, a 30-40-30 formula (30 percent carbohydrates, 40 percentage protein, and 30 percent fat) can work, but it might not last. Studies show that low-carb dieters lose more weight, but according to Holly, it’s not sustainable for the long run. Registered dietitian Julie Upton agrees: “it’s impactful . . . [but] most people find very restricted low-carb diets hard to follow and they fall off the wagon.” Generally speaking, Holly suggests the 40-30-30 combination to women who are committed to making lifestyle changes to lose weight and keep it off, since this macro nutrient combination “allows your body to burn fat more easily and freely without the fear of starvation. You’ll feel energized, brain-strong, and minimize cravings and hunger . . . it has just enough carbs to keep your brain happy, but not too many where you go into fat-storage mode.” If you’re ready to give 40-30-30 a go, doing the math is simple! Let’s break it down for a woman who eats 1,500 calories per day.


1,500 calories x 40% carbohydrates = 600 calories of carbohydrates
600 calories / 4 calories per gram of carbs = 150 grams of carbohydrates

1,500 calories x 30% protein = 450 calories of protein
450 calories / 4 calories per gram of protein = 112.5 grams of protein

1,500 calories x 30% fat = 450 calories of fat
450 calories / 9 calories per gram of fat = 50 grams of fat

This means a woman who eats 1,500 calories a day would eat 600 calories (or 150 grams) of carbohydrates, 450 calories (or 112.5 grams) of protein, and 450 calories (or 50 grams) of fat per day.

You can use apps like My Fitness Pal to enter your required macronutrients and then track your daily food intake to make sure you are taking in the right amount of carbs, protein and fat as per your requirements.