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Macronutrients: Let's Put Them All Together

Macronutrients: Let's Put Them All Together

Over the course of a day, you eat many foods; a bowl of granola, a wedge salad, baked salmon and vegetables. How often do you consider the macronutrient makeup of these foods, or how it plays into your daily recommended totals? 

Protein, Fat, Carbohydrates. We’ve talked about each individually; now let’s put them all together. In this entry, we will discuss how much of each macronutrient you should be consuming and why there is not just one number that applies to everyone. Focusing on macronutrient ranges is as important for athletes as it is for non-athletes. The correct balance will effect your performance in life, as much as it will affect performance in competition (even if you are only competing against yourself!)


First, it is important to understand the percentages of each macronutrient as part of your diet. We often talk about percentage of calories, but how do we get to that measurement? The calculation is relatively easy to remember. Each gram of both Carbohydrate and Protein is equal to 4 calories. Each gram of Fat is equal to 9 calories. This is why a handful of nuts is much higher in calories than a handful of grapes. Generally speaking, if you add up the calories from each of the macronutrients using the numbers above, you will end up with a number close to the total calories reported on the package.



There are two numbers that we will focus on as absolutes, and two that we measure as a percentage of remaining calories. The absolutes are calories and protein. In order to realize your correct calorie numbers, you must set your goals appropriately. This means knowing the weight you want to be, and your activity level. There are plenty of calorie calculators out there that will give you a general idea of what your average daily caloric intake should be. To get a more definitive number, it is recommended you talk with a nutritionist or dietician. 



Your calorie calculation will depend on many factors (age, height, desired weight, and activity level), and even then there are variations based on each individual’s metabolism. This number is an important one because it dictates the amount of energy you have to sustain you through the day while managing your weight (whether your goal is to lose, maintain, or gain weight). Of course, equally important is the quality of the calories, but we will discuss that in a future blog post.



Regardless of how many calories you should be eating in a day, the protein number will remain the same. As a general rule, non-athletes should be consuming about .8-1g/kg of body weight. For a 140lb (63kg) person, that equates to 51g-63g of protein per day. Athletes, however, are recommended to ingest between 1.3-2g/kg of protein. For that same 140lb person, that equates to 82g-126g of protein.



Now we get into the percentages! Many have not heard the acronym AMDR (Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range). This is the basis for the recommended percentage ranges of ingestion for the macronutrients. Carbohydrate intake should be in the 45-65% range, Fat in the 20-35% range, and Protein in the 10-35% range. As discussed above, the Protein number is more of an absolute that will fall into that range, rather than one that will fluctuate with calorie adjustments. The other two macronutrients will then vary, based on diet and energy needs. Neither is more important than the other, our bodies just need different amounts of each. As an example, an endurance athlete will likely skew higher in the carbohydrate range to 65%, or even higher, in order to give his/her body the fuel required for activities that are long in duration. A busy parent or individual that is not physically active may require less carbohydrates and be closer to 45% carbohydrates and 30% fat. 



Now let’s put this into practice. Let’s assume (for round numbers) a person has a daily calorie requirement of 2000 calories. Let’s assume they go to the gym daily and do a bit of cardio and a bit of weight lifting. This person weighs about 160lbs. Their daily requirement for protein is ~94 grams (1.2g/kg). This makes up 18% of their 2000 calorie diet.  Because of the activity level, the carbohydrate number should be a little higher than middle of the range, so let’s assume 55-60% of calories. At 60%, this means the daily carbohydrate intake will be 300 grams. This leaves daily fat intake at about 49g (22%). 



The good news is, there are tools out there to help you with these numbers, if you are so inclined. Additionally, a dietician or nutritionist can help put together meal plans based around the numbers that work best for you! 



We’ve created our Superloafs with all of this in mind. Most are close to a 40/40/20 split of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, respectively. This is a very good ratio for any meal, especially breakfast, and leaves room to up the carbohydrates with honey or syrup, or increase fat and protein with nut butter spread. 

Like most things, there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution for how much of each macronutrient you should eat for optimal health and performance. This takes a bit of personal experimenting. Pay attention to what your body is telling you, and make the necessary changes! Optimize your health!!

Written by Michael Giudicelli - Co-Founder of Read The Ingredients, Stanford Certified Nutritionist and competitive endurance athlete. Michael is also a husband, and proud father of two young children. 
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