Calculating your Macronutrient Ratio
Calculating your macronutrient ratios basically refers to the amount of carbs, protein, and fat that you should eat every day. These are referred to as macronutrients because they are found in larger quantities in the body (as opposed to micronutrients such as minerals).
Your requirements are calculated according to a percentage split, where a certain percentage of your daily calories come from carbs, proteins, and fat. If you do not know the total number of calories you should be consuming every day, see Daily Calorie Intake requirements.
There are several percentage distributions that you can choose between, and depending on your lifestyle one may be more suitable than another. Below, I will present three of the most common:
Macronutrient Ratios by Percentage of Calories
Recommendations vary greatly, however here are two solid options:
- 40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat (also called 40-30-30)
- 50% carbs, 25% protein, 25% fat (also called 50-25-25)
There are 4 calories in each gram of carb and protein, and 9 calories in 1 gram of fat. Let us look at an example:
Continuing with our 200lbs, moderately active individual from the previous article, who requires 3213 calories per day to break even. Let us assume that this person's fitness goal is weight loss, so he/she is eating 500 calories below the break even point. This equals a target calorie count of 2713. So, if the chosen macronutrient ratio is 40-30-30, his/her nutritional requirements are as follows:
- Carbs: 40% of 2713 is 1085 calories from carbs. At 4 calories per gram this equals 271 grams of carbs
- Protein: 30% of 2713 is 814 calories from protein. At 4 calories per gram this equals 203 grams of protein.
- Fat: 30% of 2713 is 814 calories from fat. At 9 caloried per gram this equals 90 grams of fat (please keep in mind that more than half of this fat should be unsaturated).
I would recommmend that you pick one of the two distributions listed above to begin with. Later, you can always experiment with different percentages. For example, very active individuals may require a higher carbohydrate percentage. Bodybuilders and other serious weight lifters may want a protein percentage up to 40%. Similarly, some people are more senstitive to carbs and have a harder time losing weight; for them, I have seen carb recommendations as low as 25% (Obadike, 2012), though personally I think this is a rather extreme.
If you do experiment, do not create a deficiency of any one macronutrient. Very low carb and low fat diets are not ideal (see Why Dieting is Bad for You). Based on all the recommendations I have seen, I would keep carbs between 30-60%, protein between 20-50%, and fat between 20-40%. Most people need numbers in the mid-range of those values, so sticking to one of the two options above will do just fine.
Bushman B, (2011), ACSM's Complete Fitness and Health, American College of Sports Medicine
Hatfield FC (2004), Fitness The Complete Guide edition 8.6.6, International Sports Science Assocation's Certified Fitness Trainer Program
Obadike O, (2012), Ask The Ripped Dude: Is There A Magical Macronutrient Ratio For Fat Loss?, Bodybuilding.com, http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/ask-the-ripped-dude-magical-macronutrient-ratio-for-fat-loss.html