Tracking Macros for Fertility: More Fat and Protein, less Carbs for TTC! (2023)

Tracking Macros for Fertility: More Fat and Protein, less Carbs for TTC! (1)Whether you have just started trying to conceive naturally, or you have been diagnosed with “infertility” and are considering assisted reproductive technology like IUI, IVF, or other options, research shows that maintaining a healthy fertility diet can dramatically up your chances of pregnancy success. In this post I talk about the research on the fertility diet, including a very exciting study that gives us some actual numbers to work with!

Want to skip to the end? Here is a sample day of meals hitting these fertility macros.

Table of Contents

The Number Game: Optimizing the Fertility Diet with Macros

If you are as Type-A obsessive-compulsive as I am about your fertility journey (and everything else in life), you probably go crazy when you read about perfect fertility diets but there are no NUMBERS to help you figure out EXACTLY what you are supposed to eat. I’m guilty of writing in generics myself, because neither the research I’ve done previously, nor the diet I used to get pregnant with my first miracle included any kind of counting of calories or tracking of carbs, etc. So I just give general advice- eat this, don’t eat this, eat this in limitation, etc.

The problem with this approach is that it turns out that no matter how much we try and how much we think we are eating “healthy,” we are probably eating WAY TOO MANY CARBS for optimal fertility. Luckily we finally have some new guidance to help us figure out how many of each macronutrient- carbohydrates, protein, and fat – we should be eating.

(Video) Macros for Fertility: What to Eat to Get Pregnant FASTER

The Major Fertility Diet Research- The Harvard Nurses Study

When I was first trying to conceive I followed the basic guidelines of the only major and well-respected fertility diet research study- the Harvard Nurses Study. Their research studied only women with anovulatory infertility (meaning the patients were having a hard time getting pregnant because they weren’t ovulating). Their results were the general fertility diet you see in most books, blogs, etc.: eat more plant protein (lentils, beans, nuts, etc.), and less animal protein, avoid trans fats, choose slow carbs (brown rice, quinoa, etc.), limit quick/simple carbs (sugar, white rice, juice, pasta, white bread), choose high fat dairy over low-fat, and limit alcohol and caffeine. They even wrote a book about it- you can get it at Amazon here: The Fertility Diet. I find it funny that they have peas in a pod on the front cover- yes, it’s cute, because it is a metaphor for pregnancy, but also peas hurts fertility, so, you know– haha. Sorry, I digress.
Tracking Macros for Fertility: More Fat and Protein, less Carbs for TTC! (2)

Back to the story-

Tracking Macros for Fertility: More Fat and Protein, less Carbs for TTC! (3)

Unfortunately for me, this diet didn’t work at all. After several early losses (chemical pregnancies and early miscarriages), the diagnoses started rolling in- endometriosis, High FSH, low AMH, Diminished Ovarian Reserve, and MTHFR mutation. I seriously needed to UP MY DIET GAME to get pregnant.

I started researching, reading, consulting with fertility gurus like Julia Indichova, and getting advice from my Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner (aka, my acupuncturist). I cobbled together a diet that was perfectly tailored for me, and in under three months I was pregnant with my miracle child. I stopped doing the “limit” nonsense and completely eliminated caffeine, alcohol, sugar, sweeteners, quick/white carbs, trans fats, soy, and all processed food. I also eliminated dairy and all raw/cold foods per my chinese medicine diagnoses and personal dietary needs. I consumed lots of organic veggies, eggs, legumes, whole grains, seaweeds, and healthy fats, and a moderate amount of organic meat. You can read all about the diet I followed here, and about how you can tailor a perfect diet for you here. I also did many other things during those three months, and you can read about all of them here.

I got pregnant, with extreme discipline to this extreme diet.

And, then again in 2017 I repeated these efforts and got successfully pregnant in three months again. Although this time I incorporated the changes suggested by the research from Dr. Russell I talk about below.

(Video) What to eat to get pregnant faster | Fertility diet | Food to boost fertility

The “New” Research on Fertility Diet and Macros

Tracking Macros for Fertility: More Fat and Protein, less Carbs for TTC! (4)Dr. Jeffrey Russell of the Delaware Institute for Reproductive Medicine noticed something interesting. He had plenty of young, healthy, fit women who had great BMIs (body-mass index), and yet had recurring failed IVFs because of poor egg and embryo quality. Although they seemed healthy- they were making terrible eggs. They reported eating “healthy,” but he asked them to track their diets. It turns out that most of them were MOSTLY eating carbs- oatmeal for breakfast, a sandwich or pasta for lunch, then rice for dinner with some meat and veggies. Many of these women were eating 60% carbs for their diet, and less than 10% protein.

So, they decided to ask them to eat more protein and fewer carbs and continue to track their diets. What they found was astounding– once women hit the threshold of 30% or more protein, and 40% or less carbohydrates, they had FOUR TIMES the pregnancy success rates of those who ate more carbs and less protein. FOUR TIMES.

The change actually started at 25% protein consumption- that is when a reversal in egg quality and embryo development. Once they reached 35% or above for protein they saw a peak in blastocyst development and pregnancy rate. So, going over 35% protein produced no further positive results.

If that doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what else will. Here is his research published in the journey Fertility & Sterility. Here is a great podcast with him where he explains his study and findings. Dr. Russell now REQUIRES his patients to eat 25% to 35% protein and less than 40% carbs for THREE months before he will even allow them to begin their IVF cycles.

So, we’ve learned something very, very clear here- make sure you are eating between 25% and 35% protein. You can get this from organic meat, organic eggs, wild-caught salmon, gelatin, organic organ meat, beans, nuts, lentils, etc.

Here’s the thing- When I do the calculations for the diet I was following when I got pregnant the first time- I was just about hitting that ratio exactly (hovered around 25% protein)! To get to 35% protein the second time I had to up my meat intake, and add in daily bone broth.

What about FAT? Fat and the Fertility Diet

Tracking Macros for Fertility: More Fat and Protein, less Carbs for TTC! (5)So, the whole time I am listening to Dr. Russell’s podcast and he keeps talking about the importance of protein, I keep waiting for him to talk about fats. Why? Because there are only three “macronutrients” that make up our diets- carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Many people who are trying to lose weight decide to count these instead of calories. These three “macros” add up to 100% of your diet. So, for Dr. Russell’s report he forgot to mention that component- >25% protein, <40% carbs, ~35% FATS.

(Video) The Most Underrated Foods for Pregnancy & Hormone Health with Lily Nichols RDN

So, no matter what you want to be ensuring that around 35% of your diet is from healthy fats- AVOCADO (I eat one a day!), organic meat, organic eggs, wild-caught salmon, gelatin, ghee, coconut oil, coconut butter, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, organic organ meat (like liver), and organic olives.

Here’s the thing- Dr. Russell’s research didn’t play at all with varying those protein and fat levels- nor with dropping carbs below the 40% mark. So, should you actually be eating FEWER carbs and MORE fat?

Dr. Kiltz of CNY Fertility Center thinks you should. In fact he thinks you should eat 80% fat, 15-20% protein, and only 0-5% carbohydrates. Crazy, huh? Well it certainly sounds crazy, until you start listening to him.

Dr. Kiltz asks his fertility patients to stick to a “Bacon, Eggs, Butter, and Beef” diet. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? It is basically an extreme version of the ketogenic (or “keto”) diet that has been found to help a number of health conditions including multiple sclerosis and PCOS. In fact Dr. Kiltz shares the whole study on keto improving polycystic ovarian syndrome on his website here. Here’s Dr. Kiltz’s written explanation of why Keto works for fertility and overall well-being, and here is a terrific interview with him talking about it.

Carbohydrates, all of them, stimulate fat production, insulin and inflammation that’s primarily the cause of metabolic disorders like PCOS, diabetes, and all the other chronic diseases. Infertility is just an inflammatory chronic disease. The only way to reduce it is to cut out carbohydrates. Your body requires fat and protein and it doesn’t require any carbohydrates.”

Dr. Kiltz believes that inflammation from our foods- and primarily carbohydrates- is literally killing us. He also believes the DNA damage is reversible by switching from a high carb to a high fat diet. He thinks that this diet is the most important for women with a history of miscarriage, chemical pregnancies, or failed IVF cycles. In addition to bacon, eggs, butter, organic grass-fed meat, coconut oil, fish oil, and your daily avocado, he recommends taking MCT oil (Medium Chain Triglycerides). If you are interested, here is the only MCT oil available that is fully organic.

Putting it together: The Optimal Fertility Macros, aka, So, what are we supposed to do?

Tracking Macros for Fertility: More Fat and Protein, less Carbs for TTC! (6)Okay, we know for sure we need to reduce carbs to under 40% of our diets AND those carbs NEED to be good, healthy, slow, complex carbs– brown rice, quinoa, lentils, beans, and carbs from high-nutrient veggies and low-sugar fruits like berries.

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AND we should PROBABLY be hitting a solid amount of protein- 25-35%. The rest my friend, how much further you reduce your carbs and up your fats– the rest is up to you!

Here’s what I’m doing– I am basically sticking to my original diet plan (the one that got me pregnant three years ago), but I am gently upping my fats and reducing my carbs. For example, I’m not cutting out any green veggies or berries, but I am reducing the amount of brown rice and quinoa I’m eating.

I’m not cutting out lentils, beans, or nuts, because they have all been shown to be great fertility foods, and more importantly THEY MAKE ME FEEL GOOD. The most important thing is that you feel good. I’m also continuing to avoid all dairy, because despite Dr. Kiltz’s persuasive talks (he advocates for some dairy), I know that dairy makes ME sick, so its just not worth it.

Update: Here is a sample day in my life of hitting these macros!

Based on this research, what are YOU going to do?

Update: By the way this macro diet totally worked to help me get pregnant with my second miracle.

HOW DO I COUNT MACROS FOR FERTILITY?

Okay, okay, you’ve reached your limit of information and want an action plan! Here is is in 5 simple steps.

(Video) The Fertility Diet to improve your chance of pregnancy

  1. Decide what macros you are going to try to hit. To start, try Dr. Russell’s minimum recommendation-25% protein, 40% carbs, 35% fats. If you’re feeling fancy go with 35% protein, 30% carbs, 35% fats.
  2. Get some kind of an app that tracks macros. If you have a Fitbit (and I hope you do) then you can actually track your macros right in the Fitbit app. If you don’t have a Fitbit you can download the free MyFitnessPal app or just use their website. They will try to trick you into thinking that you need the paid version for macros, but you don’t, you can do it in the FREE version.
  3. Start inputting every single thing you eat. Both Fitbit and MyFitnessPal have a wide range of foods and recipes that have already been input so it should be easy to search and put add it to you daily food diary.
  4. Before dinner, go and check your macros. Are you where you need to be? If not, what do you need to eat for dinner to get into your perfect macro zone?
  5. Do this for at least a few days before you figure out what foods you need to eat- and not eat to hit your macros. If you are like me and you hate tracking things, you can then stop and just keep up that general diet. If you NEED TO KNOW and keep track of EVERYTHING, however, you can actually do this every day to make sure you are hitting the right ratios.

Have I blown your mind? I hope so, because all of this totally blows my mind. Let’s go, eat, and get pregnant, ladies!

Citations

Does changing a patient’s dietary consumption of proteins and carbohydrates impact blastocyst development and clinical pregnancy rates from one cycle to the next?Russell, J.B. et al.Fertility and Sterility , Volume 98 , Issue 3 , S47

FAQs

Is a low carb diet good for TTC? ›

Eating a high fat low carbohydrate diet helps improve and regulate your reproductive hormones.

How much protein do I need when TTC? ›

In fact, for most individuals, protein intake should be between 10-35% of your total caloric intake. As a general rule, keep your protein intake around 3-4 servings per day (a typical serving equals the size of a deck of cards) and you'll be supporting your efforts to conceive.

How much fat should you have a day if you are fertile? ›

For most individuals, fat intake should be between 20-35% of your total caloric intake. One reason that some women shy away from fats is that they are the most calorically dense macronutrient, providing 9 calories per gram – twice as many as carbohydrates or proteins.

How much fat should I eat when trying to conceive? ›

You need to have a certain amount of fat in your body if you are willing to conceive. The normal body fat percentage required for conception is about 22-25%. In most of the athletes, the body fat is as low as 8 or 10 which is not suitable for fertility.

How many carbs should I eat for fertility? ›

carbohydrates at 130 grams per day for adult females. protein at 46 grams per day for women (jumping to 71 grams daily for pregnant and nursing women) healthy fats, which should make up 20-35% of a woman's daily calorie consumption (including in pregnancy)

Which diet is best for fertility? ›

Eating foods such as those found in the Mediterranean diet, lean meats, fish, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and dairy, has proven beneficial to fertility in both men and women.

Does too much protein affect fertility? ›

Yet research evidence suggests that excessive protein intake may impair fertility. One study revealed that women with the highest protein intake were 41 percent more likely to have struggled with ovulatory infertility than women who ate the lowest amount of protein.

Which protein is best for fertility? ›

Research shows that replacing meat sources of protein with vegetable sources of protein decreases the risk of infertility. Focus on plant-forward and choline-rich sources of protein including beans, lentils, soy, nuts, seeds, and quinoa. Eggs and 2 to 3 servings of omega-3-rich fish per week are also encouraged.

Can high protein affect fertility? ›

Some studies suggest that a high-protein diet may make it more difficult to conceive. However, other studies suggest that eating more protein and less carbohydrates may help those with fertility problems . More research is needed before we can be sure about exactly what effect protein has on fertility.

Does protein help implantation? ›

Recent research has shown that multiple maternal factors, including nutritional status, affect conception and embryo development. Low protein intake surrounding conception can have negative impacts on embryo development, leading to the potential for slowed or halted embryo growth.

Does protein help ovulation? ›

Beans and lentils are high in fiber and protein, which can help improve ovulation. Studies have shown that replacing animal protein with vegetable sources of protein can reduce the risk of ovulatory infertility.

Does protein help you get pregnant? ›

Eating more protein from vegetable sources, instead of animal sources, may improve fertility levels in women. Replacing low fat dairy products with high fat versions may help improve fertility and increase your chances of getting pregnant.

Does body fat percentage affect fertility? ›

Body fat plays a significant role in reproduction. Sex hormones are fat-soluble and are stored in the body's fat layers. Women that have a low BMI produce a reduced amount of estrogen which can lead to an abnormal menstrual cycle. Amenorrhea, or the lack of a menstrual cycle, is a result of a low BMI.

What BMI is high risk for pregnancy? ›

A BMI of 18.5–24.9 is considered healthy. A BMI of 25 or above is associated with risks for you and your baby.

What foods to eat while trying to conceive? ›

Foods That Make You Fertile
  • Dairy. It pays to bone up on dairy (milk, yogurt, and cheese) when you're trying to conceive. ...
  • Lean animal protein. Let's talk (lean) turkey…and lean chicken and lean beef. ...
  • Fatty fish. ...
  • Complex carbs. ...
  • Oysters. ...
  • Yams. ...
  • Berries.
20 May 2010

What are fertility Superfoods? ›

Grapefruits, oranges, broccoli, peppers, kiwis, and pineapples are filled with vitamin C that can regulate women's hormonal balance. Spinach contains iron, which can help ovulation. Finally for your partner: pomegranates, avocados and cooked tomatoes can increase male fertility.

Are complex carbs good for fertility? ›

Choosing carbohydrates that improve fertility

As you probably guessed, complex carbohydrates with a low GL are the carbohydrates that we suggest eating when trying to conceive, especially if undergoing fertility treatment.

What not to do while trying to conceive? ›

Things Not to Do If You Want to Get Pregnant
  1. Lose or Gain a Lot of Weight.
  2. Overdo the Exercise.
  3. Put Off Starting a Family Too Long.
  4. Wait Until You Miss Your Period to Stop Drinking.
  5. Smoke.
  6. Double Up on Your Vitamins.
  7. Amp Up on Energy Drinks or Espresso Shots.
  8. Skimp on Sex.
20 Feb 2022

How can I improve my egg quality after 35? ›

Emerging research shows that taking supplemental CoQ10 as a form of “mitochondrial energy nutrition” for the egg, can help improve egg quality and potentially lead to a better chance of achieving a healthy pregnancy. CoQ10 is fat-soluble nutrient.

Why is low-carb good for fertility? ›

Poor diet that includes refined carbohydrates can also affect male fertility by damaging the DNA in sperm. This affects sperm motility, their ability to swim, their morphology, or the shape which makes them good swimmers, and the sperm count, or how much sperm is produced.”

Does keto help you conceive? ›

It may be tempting to give the keto diet a try while trying to conceive given its growing popularity. But based on the current evidence available, it's not one of the better nutritional strategies to get pregnant.

Does keto diet increase fertility? ›

Reason #3 was that a low-carb or ketogenic diet may restore formerly absent or irregular periods, improve fertility, and result in pregnancies in those with PCOS. But whether or not a woman has PCOS, it's possible that cutting carbs prior to conception might improve her chances of becoming pregnant.

Does keto diet help infertility? ›

In fact, some Reproductive Endocrinologists, including Dr. Kiltz from CNY, suggest their patients use keto to improve the rate of success for IVF.

What foods to eat while trying to conceive? ›

Foods That Make You Fertile
  • Dairy. It pays to bone up on dairy (milk, yogurt, and cheese) when you're trying to conceive. ...
  • Lean animal protein. Let's talk (lean) turkey…and lean chicken and lean beef. ...
  • Fatty fish. ...
  • Complex carbs. ...
  • Oysters. ...
  • Yams. ...
  • Berries.
20 May 2010

What are fertility Superfoods? ›

Grapefruits, oranges, broccoli, peppers, kiwis, and pineapples are filled with vitamin C that can regulate women's hormonal balance. Spinach contains iron, which can help ovulation. Finally for your partner: pomegranates, avocados and cooked tomatoes can increase male fertility.

Can intermittent fasting help egg quality? ›

Currently, we do not have any evidence that intermittent fasting could be helpful for fertility for the general population. However, there is no evidence that it could be harmful either. Theoretically, it looks as though it may have a negative effect due to the nature of hormone release for ovulation in women.

Does intermittent fasting affect fertility? ›

How does intermittent fasting help with fertility? Intermittent fasting may improve your sensitivity to insulin, therefore, supporting healthy blood sugar levels, restoring ovulation and improving your chances to conceive.

Is it possible to improve egg quality after 40? ›

Fertility supplements can be used to improve the egg quality of women over 40. Taking supplements is a great way to support a healthy diet and ensure overall and fertility health. When choosing fertility supplements, look for products that contain the specific vitamins and nutrients listed below.

Will giving up sugar help fertility? ›

Research in recent years has shown that consistently high sugar intake can negatively impact both male and female fertility. One study from Boston University found that just one sugary soft drink a day reduced conception rates in females by a quarter and in males by a third.

Does sweet potatoes help fertility? ›

Sweet potatoes and yams are rich in vitamins that aid with fertility. They contain beta-carotene that helps boost progesterone production and is important to embryo development. Yams also have some anti-estrogen effects that cause the body to produce more gonadotropins, triggering ovulation.

Is cheese good for fertility? ›

Dairy Products

Items like cheese, yogurt, ice cream and cottage cheese have been known to strengthen female fertility. Researchers have found that subjects who consume these foods on a relatively regular basis experience better ovulation.

Is carnivore diet good for fertility? ›

No. There is no scientific evidence that the carnivore diet, particularly eating raw meat, can help improve fertility. In fact, some studies have shown the opposite. A high intake of animal protein has been associated with problems with ovulation, worsening sperm parameters and the risk of endometriosis.

What is the Dutch diet? ›

The "Dutch diet" comes from Dutch dietary guidelines

The key takeaways are straightforward: Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and dairy every day. Eat legumes and fish weekly. Replace refined grains with whole grains.

Is the Mediterranean diet good for fertility? ›

Conversely, a diet based on the Mediterranean dietary patterns, i.e., rich in dietary fiber, omega-3 (ɷ-3) fatty acids, plant-based protein, and vitamins and minerals, has a positive impact on female fertility.

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4. Low Carb Diets and Your Fertility
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5. What I Eat in a Day when TTC Naturally at 39 | Healthy & Realistic Meals
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