The term “macros” refers to the nutrients that your body needs for energy and repair, namely, carbs, fats, and proteins. These nutrients provide calories for your body, which makes them important considerations when you have a goal of losing weight. In this post, I explain how to effectively tip your macros toward low-carb so you can tip the scale in your favor.
Improving Macros At-A-Glance
- Chose carbohydrates that are unprocessed and have a good fiber-to-carb ratio.
- Choose fats from whole foods and cook with fats that tolerate heat, such as butter and coconut oil.
- Combine carbs and fats the right way.
- Refined carbs with dietary fat promotes fat storage.
- Whole, high-fiber carbs work well with dietary fat, slowing fat storage and satisfying hunger.
- Add fat to lean meats (i.e., chicken), by cooking in oil or serving with a high-fat sauce, like pesto
- Choose full-fat, unsweetened dairy products over low- or no-fat varieties.
Tips for Improving Macros on a Low Carb Diet [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- The difference between high-carb and low-carb macros.
- 4 Tips for improving macros.
- Additional strategies for weight loss success!
Macros of High-Carb vs. Low Carb Diets
When you switch from a high carb diet to a low carb diet, it is much like tipping a teeter-totter. Traditional high carb diets have you consume around 45 to 65% of your daily calories from carbs and about 20 to 35% from fats (1).
Low carb diets tip this balance providing around 10 to 25% of your caloric intake from carbs and about 50 to 70% from fats.
Protein intake does not change much from one diet regime to the next, with a range of 20 to 30% working for most people, unless other factors are present such as advanced age, chronic disease, or intense exercise.
By reducing the percentage of carbs in your diet, you gain benefits that help you lose weight. For instance, because dietary fats do not spike blood sugar as carbs do, a low-carb, high-fat diet stabilizes your blood sugar level (2).
This is not only a healthy state to be in, but it also prevents blood sugar crashes that lead to that quick onset of intense hunger and cravings that can make it challenging to stick with traditional high-carb diets.
The hunger satiation that comes with a low-carb/high-fat diet allows you to comfortably remain on the diet and naturally reduce your calorie consumption, which helps explain why these non-traditional diets are so successful for losing weight.
Tips for Improving Macros
With protein needs staying fairly consistent between diet types, the best way to improve your macronutrient ratio is to focus on fats and carbs. Here are some things to consider.
Tip #1: Quality Matters
The first tip is that quality matters. There are healthy and unhealthy carbohydrates, and the same can be said for dietary fats.
High-quality carbs are unprocessed and have a good fiber-to-carb ratio. These foods digest slowly, which keeps you feeling full for a long time and prevents a spike in the hormone that stores fat called insulin. And fiber supports a healthy gut microbiome, which indirectly promotes fat loss.
When it comes to carbs, the most carb-dense and nutrient-poor and, therefore, most flawed choices are refined carbs like bread, grab-n-go bars, and cereal. Instead, focus your diet on whole foods with a good fiber-to-carb ratio.
In fact, one of the best ways to follow a low-carb diet is to make one of your daily meals a salad. A salad not only fills you up with some of the best carb choices, but it also acts as the perfect vehicle for healthy fats.
High-quality fats can be obtained from whole foods. Meat, fish, eggs, avocados, nuts, and seeds qualify as healthy and also work great as salad toppers. They make a salad delicious and help you strike that low-carb, high-fat balance that you are aiming for.
You can also enjoy oils and cooking fats on your diet, but their health value is dependent on how well they tolerate heat. Vegetable oils, like soybean, corn, and sunflower oil, do not handle heat well.
When they are subjected to heat during the initial processing and extraction of the oil or from cooking, they break down, making them unhealthy to consume.
However, butter and stable oils like coconut oil and avocado oil tolerate heat making them good choices. Olive oil is a bit less tolerant of heat, but a great option for salad dressings.
Tip #2: Combine Carbs with Fat The Right Way
The next tip for improving your macros has to do with combining nutrients. With a salad, you’re getting a combination of carbs and fats. If you eat a burger on a bun, you are getting the same combination of carbs and fats. However, there is a big difference in how your body will handle these two meals.
Let’s look at an example. I mentioned that a low carb diet has you keep your carbohydrate intake in the range of 10 to 25% of your daily calories. If your daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories, that means you can have 50 to 125 grams of carb per day. (There are 4 calories in each carbohydrate gram.)
A plain Quarter Pounder with cheese from McDonald’s has a substantial amount of fat, but only 37 grams of carbs. It seems like you should be able to sneak in a fast-food burger without going off your low-carb diet.
However, the carbs in that meal come from the refined bun. When food is refined, all of the things that slow digestion and absorption get stripped away.
That rapid absorption quickly satisfies any immediate energy needs and spikes insulin, which shuttles extra energy into your fat cells. By the time the slower digesting fat from the burger and cheese gets absorbed, it has nowhere to go other than storage as body fat.
The takeaway is that refined carbs and dietary fat don’t mix. That bun on your burger, or small bag of potato chips with lunch, or that little cookie with dinner, may seem harmless but can stand in the way of your progress.
However, the slow digestion of unrefined, high-fiber carbs means that they work great with fat. Feel free to put a full-fat dressing on your salad and butter on your broccoli and cauliflower.
Tips #3: Add Fat to Lean Meats
I have found that one of the most challenging mental hurdles to overcome when you tip your macros toward low carb is getting comfortable with adding fat to your diet.
We have been told for so many years that “eating fat makes you fat.” But, to get the full benefits from your low carb diet, you need to take this leap of faith.
One way that you can improve your macros is to add fat to naturally lean meats, like chicken. Chicken is a staple in many diets, but it is relatively low in fat.
For instance, a 4-ounce serving of boneless, skinless chicken breast meat has only 5 grams of fat. Whereas, 4 ounces of ground beef (80% lean) has more than 18 grams of fat.
It is enjoyable to have a variety of foods in your low carb diet, but when you choose lower-fat meat, remember to add fat. You can cook lean meats in oil or butter or add fat afterward with something like pesto, which is an oil-based sauce that will enhance the fat content as well as the flavor.
With meats, we also see that some cuts are naturally higher in fat than others. For instance, chicken thigh meat has a higher fat percentage than breast meat, so paying attention to different cuts can help you tweak your macros even farther.
This idea of choosing high-fat over lower-fat varieties also applies to dairy products.
Tip #4: Choose Full-Fat Dairy Products
Dairy products are an enjoyable part of a low carb diet for many people. But, milk-based products are often sold as low-fat or no-fat. In years past, we thought that this was a healthy way to consume them.
However, fat is flavorful, so when the fat was removed, sugar or sugar substitutes needed to be added to make them appealing.
Even though we were lead to believe that low-fat yogurt was a healthy choice, we see that a serving of it can contain as many as 30 grams of sugar, which is as much as a standard size (43g) Hershey Chocolate Bar.
A delicious and effective way to tip your diet toward low carb is to leave the low-fat and skim milk products on the shelf and pick up the unsweetened full-fat varieties instead.
When it comes to dairy, you’ll find that, for the most part, foods that are naturally high in fat, like cheese, sour cream, and heavy cream, are also naturally low in carbs, making them great additions to your diet.
There are a range of ways that you can combine macronutrients to eat a healthy diet. However, if weight loss and hunger control are important to you, many people, including myself, find that a low-carb/high-fat/moderate-protein diet works wonders.
I have a popular download that I refer to as my 0,1,2,3 strategy. It has been downloaded by tens of thousands of people and acts as a foundation for starting and sticking with a healthy diet.
When you follow the 4 daily habits in the strategy, your body has no choice but to lose weight. To understand why I say that, I encourage you to follow the link above, download a copy, and watch the free video series that comes with it.
Thanks for watching and have a wonderful week!
(1) Manore, Melinda M. “Exercise and the Institute of Medicine recommendations for nutrition.” Current sports medicine reports 4.4 (2005): 193-198.
(2) Snorgaard, Ole, et al. “Systematic review and meta-analysis of dietary carbohydrate restriction in patients with type 2 diabetes.” BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care 5.1 (2017).
About the Author
Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.