The 50/30/20 macronutrient split could be what you need to take your workouts and body composition to the next level by optimizing your nutrient intake.
What is the 50-30-20 macro split? The 50-30-20 macro split is distributing 50% of your daily calories to carbs, 30% of your daily calories to protein, and 20% of your daily calories to fats.
The 50-30-20 macro split is best for those who want to bulk or maintain their body weight.
Before you can implement a 50-30-20 macro split, you need to understand who this split is appropriate for and how to calculate the caloric intake that will support your goal.
After reading this article, you’ll learn:
- What a 50-30-20 macro split is
- Who a 50-30-20 macro split appropriate is for
- How to figure out your calorie and macros for a 50-30-20 split
What Are 50-30-20 Macros?
The 50-30-20 macro split means that your daily nutrient intake is split by assigning 50% of your calories to carbs, 30% of your calories to protein, and 20% of your calories to fats.
Then you would have to convert these calories into grams per day to know how much you should be eating every day to follow the 50-30-20 split.
To do this, you need to know that carbs and protein have 4 calories per gram and fats have 9 calories per gram. This means that each macro split would equal the following:
- 1250 carb cals / 4 calories per gram = around 313g of carbs
- 750 protein cals / 4 calories per gram = around 188g of protein
- 500 fat cals / 9 calories per gram = around 56g of fat
No matter your overall caloric intake for the day, your macronutrient intake can be divided into 50-30-20, making it suitable for multiple goals because ultimately calories determine whether you gain, maintain, or lose weight.
The macronutrient split just helps determine your body composition.
Macros can determine whether the weight you gain is fat or muscle or whether you will look lean or just “skinny fat” (being at a healthy body weight but having a low amount of muscle mass) when you lose weight.
To practice the 50-30-20 macro split, you will need to track your calories and macronutrient intake, which is most easily accomplished by using an app like MacroFactor. Use this link and enter the code FEASTGOOD when signing up to get an extra week on your free trial (2 weeks total). Cancel any time before your trial ends without being charged.
Who Should Have 50-30-20 Macros?
A 50-30-20 macro split should work for those who are pursuing weight gain or weight maintenance as long as you’re on point with your calorie intake, but it may only work for some who are pursuing weight loss.
Weight Gain & Weight Maintenance
The 50-30-20 split is most ideal for those who are trying to bulk or maintain weight because there are enough carbs to fuel training efforts, there is an adequate amount of protein to support muscle retention and growth, and there is enough fat to maintain your health.
If you’re bulking or maintaining weight, your calories will likely be higher, so there should be an adequate amount of each nutrient.
If you’re someone who trains hard in the gym lifting weights and/or doing cardio, then having 50% of your calories allocated to carbs and 30% allocated to protein is ideal.
Those who don’t workout regularly probably don’t need 50% of their calories allocated to carbs. They won’t need as many carbs because they won’t need quick energy.
- Learn more about the importance of macros when bulking: Do Macros Matter for Bulking? (Yes, Here’s Why)
A 50-30-20 split could work for you if your goal is to lose weight and improve your body composition to a certain extent.
This is because there is an adequate amount of calories to ensure that all nutrient requirements can be met for those who can diet on 2000 calories.
However, if you’re someone who has to diet on less than 2000 calories to lose weight, then the 50-30-20 macro split isn’t recommended because fat intake would be too low to support your overall health.
Additionally, if you’re dieting on lower calories and you want to retain muscle mass, you may want more than just 30% of your calories dedicated to protein.
This is because when you’re in a deficit, your body is more likely to use muscle mass for energy if you’re not getting enough protein or providing enough of a training stimulus.
Figuring Out Your Calories For 50-30-20 Macros
The 4 steps to calculate your calories with 50-30-20 macros are:
- Step 1: Determine Your Goal
- Step 2: Track Or Estimate Your Calories
- Step 3: Calculate The Calorie Allotment For Each Nutrient
- Step 4: Convert Calories To Grams Per Day
Step 1: Determine Your Goal
The first step to determining your calories with the 50-30-20 macro split is to decide your ultimate goal: bulking, maintaining, or cutting.
- Bulking: Eating in a calorie surplus to gain mass
- Maintaining: Eating enough calories to maintain your weight
- Cutting: Eating in a calorie deficit to lose fat
This will help determine how many calories you need to eat per day because calories are crucial when it comes to changes in body weight.
Step 2: Track or Estimate Your Calories
Next, you need to either determine how much you’re currently eating to give you a reference for how much you need to alter your calories to align with your goals or use a calorie calculator and simply estimate how much you’ll need to eat for your goal.
Tracking To Determine Current Intake
It’s best to take the time to track your current intake and current body weight to see how much you’re currently eating and how it’s affecting your body weight. This will provide you with concrete information about how many calories you need.
If you’re eating 2500 calories and maintaining your weight, then you know that you need to eat less than 2500 to cut or more than 2500 to bulk.
Generally, it’s best to adjust your calories by 100 to 300 calories to produce results at a realistic rate. So once you find your maintenance, you can adjust by 100 to 300 calories up or down if your goal is to gain or lose weight.
Using a Calorie Calculator To Determine Current Intake
If you choose to use a calorie calculator instead, then it’s important to understand that it could be way off because it’s just an estimation.
As long as you’re comfortable making adjustments down the road if the calorie intake it suggests doesn’t produce the results you’re looking for, then this is a feasible option.
For example, let’s say that I’ve tracked my calories and body weight for the past week and have noticed that I can maintain my weight at 2500 calories, but my goal going forward is to lose weight. I could reduce my intake to create a deficit:
Step 3: Calculate the Calorie Allotment for Each Nutrient
Once you’ve determined your calorie intake based on your goals, you can start allocating these calories to your carbs, protein, and fat to fit the 50-30-20 macro split.
Using the example of my deficit calories from above, my daily calories based on my goal are 2300 calories.
Step 4: Convert Calories to Grams Per Day
Lastly, you need to convert the calories allocated to each nutrient to grams per day so that you can track your macros more easily.
Remember that carbs and protein have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram. Knowing this allows you to divide the calories allocated to each nutrient by their calories per gram to find the grams of each nutrient.
At this point, if your macronutrient targets don’t seem feasible, then perhaps the 50-30-20 macro split isn’t the best option for you. Ultimately, you’ll only be successful if you can be consistent with these goals.
Food List For 50-30-20 Macros
Some high-quality carb sources are:
- Whole grain bread
- Sweet potatoes
Examples of high-quality protein sources are:
- Greek yogurt
- Protein powder
Some healthier sources of fat are:
- Avocado/avocado oil
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Nuts/nut butter
- Seeds/seed butter
Guidelines for 50-30-20 Macros
Three guidelines to follow for 50-30-20 macros are:
- Aim for 50-30-20 split per day
- Track grams of the nutrient vs grams of the food
- Prioritize micronutrients
Aim For 50-30-20 Macro Split Per Day
The 50-30-20 macro split should be achieved by the end of the day but doesn’t need to be accomplished at every single meal throughout the day.
The reason for this is that each meal will have a different intention.
Some meals may be higher in carbs and protein and lower in fat (pre/post-workout meals), but other meals of the day might be lower in carbs and higher in fat/protein (meals further away from workouts).
Ultimately, as long as you’re achieving the 50-30-20 split by the end of the day and your calorie intake is appropriate based on your goal, then you’ll achieve the results you’re looking for.
Track Grams of the Nutrient vs Grams of the Food
It’s important to note that when you’re tracking your macros with the 50-30-20 split in mind, the grams that you’re tracking are the grams of protein, carbs, and fats that are in certain foods rather than the grams of the food itself.
For example, chicken is a protein source, but when you’re adding chicken you want to track the grams of the protein in a specific serving of chicken rather than the amount of chicken itself.
It’s common for those who are new to tracking to get confused with the serving size of food and the grams of macronutrients that they’re trying to hit.
- If tracking macros is confusing to you or causes you a lot of stress, there are ways you can track your intake without becoming obsessed.
Although there isn’t necessarily a designation for how many micronutrients to eat, it’s still incredibly important that you get enough vitamins and minerals to support your overall health.
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that are plentiful in fruits and vegetables. These are technically carbohydrates, but I think it’s fair to say that most people will naturally gravitate towards bread, pasta, and rice rather than fruit and vegetables for carbs.
For this reason, it’s important to make a conscious effort to include them so that you’re getting all of the nutrients that your body needs to function optimally.
If you’re eating lower-calorie, then you may want to eat more fruits and vegetables because they can fill you up with fewer calories.
However, if you’re bulking, then you may eat fewer fruits and vegetables in comparison because it can be difficult to eat enough if you’re filling up on fruits and vegetables.
Meal Plan For 50-30-20 Macros
Below is a sample meal plan for a 50-30-20 macro split based on my example above of a 2300 calorie diet.
Total Daily Nutrition:
- 2300 calories
- 288g carbs
- 173g protein
- 51g fat
Meal 1: Protein Oatmeal (499 cal/ 73 C/ 36 P / 7 F)
- 1 ½ cup oatmeal
- 1 scoop protein powder
- 1 banana
Meal 2: Trailmix (223 cal/ 36 C/ 4 P/ 7 F)
- 3 tbsp trail mix
- 1 medium apple
Meal 3: Ground Turkey Hash (523 cal/ 49 C/ 39 P/ 19 F)
- 5 oz ground turkey
- 1 ½ cup sweet potato
- 1 bell pepper
- 1 oz cheese
Meal 4: Greek Yogurt Bowl (265 cal/ 40 C/ 24 P/ 1 F)
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- ½ cup berries such as strawberries or blueberries
- 1 tbsp honey
Meal 5: Mediterranean Salmon Salad (498 cal/ 73 C/ 38 P/ 6 F)
- 4 oz salmon
- 1 cup mixed greens
- ¾ cup rice
- ¼ cup chickpeas
- 2 tbsp Greek yogurt tzatziki
Meal 6: Breakfast Plate (295 cal/ 17 C/ 32 P/ 11 F)
- 1 cup grapes
- 2 eggs
- 3 slices turkey bacon
When Do You Need To Switch These Macro Ratios?
The 50-30-20 is appropriate for most goals, but you may want to switch up your macro ratio if you prefer a higher fat intake to a higher carb intake.
Some people find that their body responds better to a higher fat intake than a higher carb intake, and some find that they just prefer a higher fat intake compared to a higher carb intake and therefore their adherence is better.
If you find that you do better with more calories dedicated to fats than carbs, then you should absolutely change up your macronutrient ratio.
If calories are kept the same but the macro ratio changes, you can still work towards your overall goal.
The only difference would be that with fewer carbs, you might notice a change in your energy level because carbs are the body’s preferred energy source while working out.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are 50/30/20 Macros Enough To Lower Body Fat?
The 50/30/20 macro split can lower body fat because the calories matter more when it comes to losing weight, and the macronutrients just help to optimize body composition.
As long as your calories are set appropriately then you will lose body fat.
Is 50% Carbs Too Much?
There is no harm in having 50% of your calories set to carbohydrates. However, if you’re not very active and don’t need that many carbs, those calories are better used for additional protein and fats.
The 50/30/20 macro distribution could be just what you’re missing to optimize your body composition and improve your training in the gym, but if it proves to be something that you can’t stick to, then it isn’t worth it.
Additional Macro Split Resources
- Lean Bulk Macros: How To Calculate (The Proper Way)
- Is It Better To Hit Your Macros or Calories? (What’s Best)
- 33-33-33 Macros: What Is It, How It Works, & Sample Meals
- 40 Carb 30 Protein 30 Fat Meal Plan (Science-Backed)
Howell, S., & Kones, R. (2017, November 29). “Calories in, calories out” and macronutrient intake: the hope, hype, and science of calories. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpendo.00156.2017
Forouhi N G, Krauss R M, Taubes G, Willett W. Dietary fat and cardiometabolic health: evidence, controversies, and consensus for guidance BMJ 2018; 361 :k2139 doi:10.1136/bmj.k2139
Ismaeel A, Weems S, Willoughby DS. A Comparison of the Nutrient Intakes of Macronutrient-Based Dieting and Strict Dieting Bodybuilders. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2018 Sep 1;28(5):502-508. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2017-0323. Epub 2018 May 16. PMID: 29140151.
About The Author
Amanda Parker is an author, nutrition coach, and Certified Naturopath. She works with bodybuilders, Olympic weightlifters, and powerlifters to increase performance through nutrition and lifestyle coaching.