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How much protein, carbs and fats are needed?

Now that you know how many calories you need on a daily basis (Article #2) lets break it down a little further. Macronutrients are nutrients that provide calories or energy. Since “macro” means large, macronutrients are nutrients needed in large amounts for everyday function. The 3 macros are protein, fats and carbs. In order to lose weight and get fit you’ll need to have a good balance of all 3 macronutrients daily.

Before we move on you’ll need to understand how many calories are in each macro. Refer to the estimated caloric numbers below:

  • Carbohydrate provides 4 calories per gram
  • Protein provides 4 calories per gram
  • Fat provides 9 calories per gram

In order to calculate your macro split (yes, more math), you’ll need to know how much of each macro you’ll need to consume.  Remember the more active you are, the higher the % should be. Based on the Dietary Reference intake by USDA the recommendation is as followed:

  • Protein –10% – 35% of calories should come from protein – Higher %  for active people
    • The average should eat their body weight in protein. So if you weigh 130 you should consume 130 grams of protein (130 x 4 = 520 calories)
  • Carbs= 45% – 65% of calories should come from carbohydrate – Higher % for active people
    • Average person should consume 0.8 x body weight. So if you’re 130, you’ll need to eat 104 grams of carbs (104 x 4 = 416 calories)
      • Note 130 grams of carbs needed for maximum brain function
  • Fats = 20% – 35% of calories should come from fat
    • Calories left over from carbs+ protein will determine how much fats you’ll need to consume

As an example, I will calculate my macros based on my BMR – 1,494 calories (Article #2)

  • Protein – I used the highest amount (35%) as I am pretty active and need more protein for muscle building purposes
    • 1.2 x body weight = 134 grams of protein (134 x 4= 536 calories which is 35% of my total calories)
  • Carbs – 35 % because my body doesn’t like too many carbs – I have played around with carbs and fats and found this is the best for my body
    • 130 grams of carbs needed for maximum brain function so I stick with 130 grams (130×4 = 520 calories)
  • Fats – 35% because my body holds fats better than carbs
    • I use my protein + carb intake above to get my total fats needed to consume 536+452 = 988 calories
    • Knowing I am supposed to eat 1,494 calories if I stay active. I subtract 988 from 1,494. Giving me 506 calories left. 506/9 = 56 grams of fat

My macro split based on the above calculations is 134p/130c/56f = 1,494 calories. I can break this up into 3, 4, 5, or 6 meals a day. It doesn’t matter how many meals one eats. All you have to do is hit or be near your macros/calories.

I want to note that there is no magic formula for determining how much protein, carbs, and fat % you must eat.  Through trial and error you must determine the optimal ratio to support your goals. I gave you a few reasons why I have decreased or increased my macros because this is based on my personal trial and error.  You will ultimately decide the right balance to help complement your fitness goals. The average person eats a higher protein to carb ratio for weight loss. So make sure you keep your protein high if your goal is weight loss. Again, keep testing and taking notice of the changes in your body. Find what works for you!

Although not needed in large quantities, micronutrients (micro=small) are also needed in small amounts per day and should be incorporated in your daily nutrition. This is your daily vitamins and nutrients (veggies, fiber, vitamin D etc). No calorie counting needed, as fiber is counted under carbs. Good thing is, you can eat a lot of micronutrients!!!   J

In case you were wondering why alcohol was not listed. It’s due to the fact it’s not a “daily necessity” Yes, some may argue otherwise. But if you were curious, there are 7 calories per gram. Now add any juice/soda and boy do the calories add up!!!

Why do we need a strong mix of protein, carbs and fats?

  • Protein – Helps in tissue repair, immune function, growth, preserving lean muscle mass ( help build muscle and lose weight), fuels fat burning, thermic effect food,  curbs carbs, makes you feel fuller longer
  • Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel, carbs are used for energy (can be stored in muscles and liver and used later (excess amounts not burned will be stored as fat), needed for central nervous system (brain, kidneys, heart) , too little will make you weak, tired, and most likely crave sugars, prevent high blood sugar, lowers cholesterol  and of course booty gains J
  • Healthy Fats – Normal growth and development, energy, cushions the organs, helps prevent deficiencies in vitamin A,S,E, K, prevents hunger, too little will make you crave sugars

What types of foods should you eat? To give you an example I provided a list below:

  • Protein – Lean meats (ground turkey, chicken breast, ground beef, eggs, white fish), Greek yogurt, protein bars, shrimp, whey protein, protein bars, veggies are also high in protein (spinach, kale, broccoli) but do not count these micronutrients towards your calories. I stick with a palm size quantity per meal (if I eat meat for that meal)
  • Complex Carbs – Quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, couscous, oatmeal, cream of wheat, potatoes, squash, legumes, beans, lentils, fruit, whole grains. I eat a ½ cup of complex carbs per meal until I hit my macro or increase if I feel like it
  • Healthy Fats – Natural butters, avocado, coconut oil, nuts, olive oil, sunflower oil, olives, soymilk, tofu, fatty fish (salmon)

Once you’ve figured out your macro split. You can begin to make your own meal plan based on the food list above. I would play around only with carbs and fats splits. If you decrease your fats, increase your carbs. If you decrease your carbs, increase your fats.  See how your body feels at higher carb intake. Adjust based on your body, the way you feel and energy levels.  Always keep your protein levels the same.

You may notice I did not list any sugary or refined starches, trans fats, saturated fats or other red meats. I am not saying you cannot have these types of foods. You can, as long as they fit your macro intake. If you haven’t heard yet, this is coined as IIFYM. Meaning you can eat whatever you want as long as it fits your macros. But for health reasons, I would limit these types of foods to help prevent cancer and other heart diseases.

If you are wondering. Yes, I eat crackers, cookies, red meat, and processed foods and can still keep the weight off and look fit… if I continue to workout. I have at least 2 meals a week where I enjoy going out with friends, eating a little more than usual and that does include processed foods. I snack on unhealthy/dense foods here and there but I  keep it healthy 80% of the time. I am not saying you have to stick to this rule but can’t eat junk food all day and expect to look fit. Most of my clients follow this rule and succeed at keeping the weight off once they learn balance.

In the end, eat more nutrient dense foods, hit your macros, test your body responses to foods, and limit processed foods!

Next week I will go over – Why it’s important to know your body type!!

Toni Haaker

NESTA Certified Personal Trainer/ISSA Certified Nutritionist
Founder of Fitbody4me (Personal Training + Nutrition Programs)
Triathlete, Adventure Junkie, National Bikini Competitor



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  1. How much protein, carbs and fats should you be eating? | FITBODY4ME
  2. 10 Tips to Help Keep the Weight Off! | Life is Good - Arizona
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