Diets that do not provide your body with a good balance of macronutrients should be avoided. It is extremely important, that in addition to monitoring your calories, you pay close attention to macronutrients (and micronutrients) to lose weight healthily. Of course, you’ll do this automatically if you follow our easy diet plan.
What Are Macronutrients and Why Are They So Important?
There are three essential macronutrients and you’re probably already somewhat familiar with each, at least by name. These macronutrients are Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat and they all serve different but essential purposes and you need to make sure you consume the right amount of each in your diet. Almost everything you eat will contain a combination of the three macronutrients. Below we’ll discuss each macronutrient individually.
Caloric Breakdown of Macronutrients
There are 4 calories per gram in Carbohydrates, 4 calories per gram in Protein, and 9 calories per gram in Fat.
Acceptable Macronutrient Requirement Ratios and Ranges
To figure out how much to eat you calculate how many calories you should consume. To figure out what things to eat, you start with macronutrient ratios. On this site I recommend following a 40:40:20 ratio or 40:40:30 ratio of Carbohydrate to Protein to Fat. The following examples will explain what those numbers (ratios) really mean.
Example: If you’re on a 2000 calories per day diet, and you’re following a 40:40:20 ratio of Carbohydrate to Protein to Fat, that means you should eat 200 grams of Carbs (800 calories), 200 grams of Protein (800 calories), and 44.5 grams of Fat (400 calories) per day.
Example: If you’re on a 2000 calorie per day diet, and you’re following a 40:30:30 ratio of Carbohydrate to Protein to Fat, that means you should eat 200 grams of Carbs (800 calories), 150 grams of Protein (600 calories), and 67 grams of Fat (600 calories) per day.
Now you know how much to eat (calories) as well as what to eat (macronutrients).
The chart below shows these macronutrient requirement ranges as ratios by age.
Macronutrient Ratios of Popular Diets
For most people a 40:40:20 or 40:30:30 ratio of Carbohydrate to Protein to Fat is perfect. Every diet has its own crazy distribution of macronutrients, especially diets that prohibit or limit intake of one macronutrient (such as the Atkins diet). The chart below is for reference only.
Macronutrient Spotlight: Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the most commonly maligned macronutrient when it comes to weight loss. While your body can do without Carbohydrates in your diet, you need them for your body to function at an optimal level and there is no need to remove them from your diet to successfully lose weight. There is nothing inherent about Carbohydrates that will make you gain or lose weight. All you need to do for long-term weight loss is follow the essential rules of fat loss. In fact, studies have shown that low-Carbohydrate diets are not better than diets following the 40:40:20 or 40:30:30 macronutrient split for long-term weight loss.
Good Carbohydrates vs. Bad Carbohydrates
While I don’t think we should frame Carbohydrates in terms of good and bad, I do think it is important to know the difference between types of Carbohydrates. If you look at my dieting grocery shopping list under the first essential rule of grocery shopping, you’ll see that I recommend buying foods that will satiate you. While it’s okay to have a Snickers bar every now and then, it is a source of what people would call “bad carbs”.
What makes a carb good versus bad is explained by where it falls on the glycemic index. You can learn more about the glycemic index and glycemic load of 750 foods (including lists and charts). Here are the essentials:
- Low GI Carbs: Any Carbohydrate with GI of 55 or less is considered a Low GI Carb. These kinds of Carbohydrates are digested slowly, and will keep you full for longer. They provide you with energy for a much longer period and stave off hunger and cravings.
- High GI Carbs: Any Carbohydrate with a GI of 70 or more is considered a High GI Carb. These kinds of Carbohydrates are digested quickly and cause further cravings and hunger.
Macronutrient Spotlight: Protein
Unlike Carbohydrates and Fats, people generally understand the importance of Protein and meet their Protein needs on a daily basis. Protein helps repair and maintain body tissues that naturally break down in our daily lives. Studies have shown that high-protein diets are better for fat loss and building muscle mass and help in making you feel fuller for longer. In fact you can expect these positive side-effects of a high Protein diet even while maintaining your Carbohydrate and Fat intake – which should come as no surprise to you by now. Fortunately, most adults in the United States get enough protein to meet their daily needs.
Macronutrient Spotlight: Fat
Much like Carbohydrates, Fat is a misunderstood macronutrient. Many people incorrectly believe that eating fat will make you fat, which is simply not true. The only thing that will make you fat is consuming more calories than you burn. Fat is not only essential for growth and development but Fat have been scientifically proven to help your body better absorb nutrients and vitamins from foods you eat. Fats also make food taste better and makes you feel fuller for longer. longer.
There some sources of Fat that are considered better than others and this is generally because they provide us with unsaturated fat (which has been shown to reduce risk of heart disease).