Home » Macros For Cutting: 5 Steps to Lose Body Fat

Macros For Cutting: 5 Steps to Lose Body Fat

Macros for cutting Written by noah quezada registered dietitian nutritionist

Do you want to lose body fat by counting your macros

Have you tried to figure out your macro needs, but are feeling lost? 

I get it, there are many things to take into consideration. 

  • How many calories do I need?
  • What is a macronutrient (Protein, fats, and carbs)?
  • How do I track my macros? 

This comprehensive article will explain exactly how to find your macros for cutting. As well as how to meal plan and track your macros. If you are looking for custom macros for nutrition coaching, I’d love to help.

Let’s dive in!

What Are Macros

Macros or macronutrients can be broken down into three categories, protein, fats, and carbs, all of which provide our body with energy in the form of calories. 

Not only do macros provide us with calories, but each nutrient also has a very specific role in the body and it is important to understand how much you need and how each one impacts you. (1)

Macronutrients. Protein equals 4 calories per gram. Carbohydrates equals 4 calories per gram. Fat equals 9 calories per gram

Cutting Calories VS Macros

In order to lose weight, you need to watch what you eat.

Breaking news right!? 

HOW to watch what you eat has become a hot topic in the diet industry. Some coaches will tell you to count calories, while others will tell you to count your macros. 

Here is the truth, in order to lose weight you must be in a caloric deficit. Being in a caloric deficit means you have to eat less than you burn throughout the day. And, because weight loss does not happen overnight, you have to be consistent. (2)

So to answer the question, should I cut calories or cut macros, the answer comes down to identifying a method that you find easiest and are willing to commit to.

Click here to download a simple worksheet. FREE! This PDF guide walks you through finding your calories, macros, and distribution!

Find Your Calories

The number of calories you eat will determine the amount of body fat you will gain or lose. 

In order to find your daily energy requirements, we will need to identify your basal metabolic rate or amount of calories burned at rest and your activity factor. 

Basal Metabolic Rate

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the minimum amount of calories needed to sustain basic functions. (3)

Think Sleeping Beauty, she is sleeping, not moving, and unconscious. 

If you want to do the math, you can use something called the Harris-Benedict Equation, to find your BMR. 

Female: (10 x wt in kg) + (6.25 x ht in cm) – (5 x age in yrs) – 161

Male: (10 x wt in kg) + (6.25 x ht in cm) – (5 x age in yrs) + 5

If you do not want to do the math you can use an online calorie calculator. Or you can google the calorie calculator. You will need some information, including, weight, height, gender, and age. 

Activity factor 

As mentioned above, your basal metabolic rate only takes into account your most basic energy needs.

Pretend you are Sleeping Beauty for a week and you just get the lay in bed all day and sleep. No cooking, TV, or sitting in front of the computer, that is how many calories your BMR would cover. 

We don’t just lay in bed all day like Sleeping Beauty. Therefore you need to add in your activity factor. 

To find your activity factor you use the predefined Harris-Benedict equation activity factors table below. (4)

𝗖𝗔𝗟𝗖𝗨𝗟𝗔𝗧𝗘 𝗧𝗛𝗘 MACROS for cutting? 1 gram of protein 4 calories 1 gram of carb 4 calories 1 gram of fat 9 calories Activity Factor, 1.2 sednetary, 1.375 light, 1.55 moderate, High 1.7

Awesome, Step one is down. You now know how many calories you need to maintain your weight (maintenance calories) for your specific activity requirements. 

How To Calculate Weight Loss Macros

A typical calorie deficit can be anywhere between 10-25% lower than your maintenance calories.

There are a lot of factors that are going to influence your weight. Some of these factors include Sleep, how hydrated you are, physical activity, digestion, and ovulation cycle. 

Knowing that you are going to have weight fluctuation, let’s now talk about what you can expect from a 10-25% caloric deficit.  

I am sure by now we have all heard that 3500 calories are equal to one pound of body fat. (5) There is still quite a bit of debate on whether this hypothesis is accurate. For example, if you want to lose 1 pound of body fat, you would need to be in a caloric deficit of 3500. 

In order to achieve a 3500 calorie deficit, the best practice is to create a daily, small, manageable, calorie deficit. Over the week this daily caloric deficit will add up to 3500 calories.

For example: If your maintenance calories are 2000 a 10% calorie deficit would be 200 calories and a 25% calorie deficit would be 500 calories. Leaving you with a daily calorie target of 1500 to 1800 calories per day.

If you multiplied the 10% calorie deficit at 200 calories per day by seven, you would get 1400 calories. By dividing 3500 calories by 1400 calories you could predict an ~.4 weight loss per week. 

As mentioned above, there are several factors that are going to affect your weight loss and the hypothesis of 3500 calories is equal to 1 pound of fat is still being debated. I would encourage you to use this as a way for you to create a small manageable daily caloric deficit. 

Program Your Calorie Deficit: 

Maintaining a caloric deficit is hard. You have to restrict calories, which sometimes can mean forgoing some of your favorite foods.

For that reason, think about setting aside 6-12 weeks for a fat loss phase. Anything shorter than 6 weeks, it will be hard to see results. 

Let’s also discuss the possibility of needing to lose a significant amount of body fat. If this is the case, a 12-week fat loss phase is probably not going to be enough time.  

Instead of maintaining a caloric deficit for more than 12 weeks, consider adding in diet breaks and planning out more than one 12-week fat loss phase. In between each fat loss phase, implement a diet break. 

Adjusting Macros For Cutting

As you go through your transformation, your body will change. You will lose body fat and possibly some lean muscle mass.

You will be lighter in weight and probably become more efficient or conditioned with your workouts and physical activity regimen.

Therefore it is important to recalculate your energy requirements. 


Protein intake plays a critical role in weight loss and the research does support a high protein diet for those looking to lose body fat. (5, 6,7,) For that reason, we will identify your daily protein need first. 

Your daily protein needs will be based on the amount of lean body tissue you carry. The current US Recommended Daily Allowance is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. (8) However, there is some debate as to whether this is too low.  (9)

Find your daily protein intake by multiplying your lean body mass by 0.8-1.7 grams of protein.


170 pounds man (multiplied by 1g protein per pound)=170 grams of protein

1 gram of protein = 4 calories so 170 grams of protein=680 calories. 

Fats and Carbohydrates 

While yes protein is the most important macronutrient when it comes to weight loss however it does not give us everything we need. That is where fats and carbohydrates (carbs) come into play. 


Dietary fat intake is essential. YOU NEED FAT! I mention this because more times than not when people try and lose weight they lower their dietary fat intake too much.

Fat is flavorful, satiating (keep us full), and provides your body with 9 calories per gram. (10

The general recommendations for fat intake are 15-35%


2000 calorie diet with 15% fat would be 34 grams of fat (34g x 9 calories/g=306 calories) 

2000 calorie diet with 35% fat would be 78 grams of fat (78g x 9 calories/g=700 calories)

At this point, it is a good idea to add up the fat and proteins. That way we are just left with the remaining number of calories which we will use to find our daily carbohydrates needs.  


A 2000-calorie diet with 170 protein (680 calories) and 56 grams of fat (504 calories) 

2000 calories – 680 calories – 504 calories = 816 calories 


Carbs are going to give you and your muscles the energy they need to move (4 calories per gram). Depending on how much exercise you do, will determine the number of carbs you need. 

So how many carbs for cutting? 

The general recommendation for carbs is 45-65% of your total daily energy requirements. (11)

To calculate your carbs, take your remaining calories and divide them by 4. (4 calories per gram of carbohydrate) 


A 2000-calorie diet with 170 protein (680 calories) and 56 grams of fat (504 calories) 

2000 calories – 680 calories – 504 calories = 816 calories remaining

816 calories / 4 calories per gram of carb = 204 grams of carbs  


Now you know exactly how many calories and grams of protein fats and carbs you need in order to hit your goals. 

But it would be really hard to sit down and eat all of those calories in one sitting. 

Therefore it is important to plan and evenly distribute your nutrients throughout the day. 

See the chart below for an example of how to distribute your macros throughout the day.

Distribute macros for cutting (protein fat and carbs.


Say you have a total of 2000 calories per day. Of those calories 34 percent will be used for protein, equaling 680 calories or 170 grams per day. 41 percent will come from carbohydrates or 204 grams per day. 25 percent will be from fats or 56 grams per day. 

Setting up a macro distribution using the somewhat standard meal timing of breakfast lunch and dinner with a few snacks. 

If you prefer a different style of mealtimes, other than breakfast lunch, and dinner, this will still work. Use the 1800-calorie meal plan that is high in protein to get you started.

Instead, distribute your macro’s by dividing each of them by how many times you want to eat throughout that day. 

Start by getting the sum of the calories and macros for your snacks. 

Normally I like to get these planned so that I can just divide the remaining calories and macros by 3 for breakfast lunch and dinner. 

Once you have eliminated the calories and macros coming from your snacks. You can simply divide the remaining calories by three.

  • 170 grams of protein (34% of 2000 calories) – 40 grams, of which go to two snacks.
    • That leaves 130 grams of protein for the three meals.
      • Divided into 3 meals would be about 43g of protein per meal 
      • (~equivalent to 5-7 oz serving of meat choice)
  • 204 grams carbohydrate (40% of 2000 calories)  – 30 grams, of which go to two snacks.
    • That leaves 170 grams of carbohydrates for the three meals.
      • Divided into 3 meals would be about 40-50 grams of carbohydrate per meal 
      • (~equivalent to 1-3 servings of carbohydrate choice)
  • 56g Fat (26% of 2000 calories) -19 grams, of which go to two snacks. 
    • That leaves 37 grams of fat for the three meals.
      • (~equivalent to 1 serving of fat choice)

Meal planning/Prep 

You know your calories and macros, and you have evenly distributed them throughout the day. That is only half of the battle. You now have to eat a diet rich in these macros. This is where meal planning and preparing come in handy. 

Start the act of meal planning by identifying your protein sources. 

After meal planning and prepping for the past 10-plus years, one thing I found is protein is inconvenient. 

I say this because typically protein sources need to be cooked, stored in the fridge, and are perishable. 

There are exceptions to this but in general, this is what I find.

Also, your protein source will determine both what carb and fats sources will end up being, to make a meal. 

When considering protein sources for filling your protein requirement the first thing to consider is, does this protein source also contains fat or in some cases carbohydrates. 

This is where the term “Lean Protein” comes from, the “lean” sources of protein are typically lower calories and higher concentrations of protein. A good example of a lean protein source would be whey protein.

Next, you want your carbohydrate source to pair well with your protein. 

And for the most part (80% of the time) you want this carb to be as minimally processed as possible. 

For example, choosing things like whole grains and fresh fruits and veggies over let’s say, a pastry. 

This one mindset around choosing carbs will increase your chances of getting higher fiber and micronutrients throughout the day. 

The other 20% of the time, enjoy. 

Lastly, I always start with finding your fats. You have to first identify if you cooked with fat if your protein has fat, or if your carb has fat in it.

If you answer no to all the above then add a serving of fat to your meal.   

Keep it simple! 

When starting out with meal planning macros for cutting you should aim to find lean protein sources, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Make sure that you are crystal clear on each food group and what each is going to provide in terms of macros.

The macro food list is a comprehensive resource to help you navigate paring food with macros.  

Finding Staple foods that you know fit your macros, makes life easy.  

Download the Macro Pairing Guide. FREE!

The act of preparing your food is an act of self-care. You are doing something today that your future self will thank. 

Meal prepping macros for cutting

These are some of the things I do for meal prep. 

  • Use the weekend to get some shopping and meal prep done
  • Mass prep proteins for the week 
  • Sheet pan recipes for veggies and sweet potato
  • Add meal and servings to containers

When preparing your food, weighing and measuring your potions will ensure that you know how many calories you are consuming in a meal.

This may not be something that you need to do for the rest of your life but I think that everyone could benefit from it. If anything, just to get an idea of how much you may be consuming. 

Tracking Macros For Cutting

Keeping a food journal using pen and paper or an application like MyFitnessPal can be a great tool. It can provide you insight and accountability into why you are losing or gaining weight. 

I will reiterate this is just a tool. You are not always going to know exactly what you are eating. Sometimes the recipe or food choice does not have a nutrition fact listed. And sometimes you won’t be able to find that information in a food tracking app. 

That is ok, the point of tracking your macros is to give you better insight into your daily behavior so you can make adjustments as needed. Please, if you feel like you have any negative impacts from tracking your macros, stop importantly. 

Like weighing out your portions, tracking your macros is not something that you will need to do for the rest of your life, rather do it for 3 months to a year just to give you a better idea of food and all that it has to offer. 

If you are new to tracking your macros, then check out Count Macros For Beginners.


Knowing, understanding, and implementing macros could be a useful tool for your next fat loss phase.   

If you are planning to track your food intake, consider macros over calorie counting. Because with tracking macros you not only know that you are staying within your calorie limit, but you also are getting a better gauge of the nutritional value of those calories. 

Find your basal metabolic rate (how many calories you burn at rest) by using a predictive equation or by using google. 

By adding an activity factor to your BRM and subtracting 10-25% of those calories, you know your daily energy requirements in order to lose weight. 

At this point, you will be able to identify your macronutrient targets. Starting with protein, base your daily requirement on your lean body tissue. By identifying your daily fat requirements you can use the remaining calories to find your carbohydrates target. 

By knowing your calories and macros, you can now begin to plan your day by evenly distributing your macros throughout the day. Remember to keep it simple. The closer to a whole food, the less that food has room for error.

Interested in making your own macro meal plan? Click the button below to download, The Make Your Macro Meal Plan. FREE! This PDF guide walks you through finding your calories, macros, and distribution, AND has a food & macro pairing guide! 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top