How Many Macronutrients Do I Need?

Most people are starting to realize that when it comes to building muscle and losing fat, you need more than just exercise to get results. Diet is one of the most important parts to deciding how you will do. If you are eating poorly, no matter how hard you work your body, you won’t get the results you need to stay motivated. Once your diet is good, gaining muscle and losing weight will be a breeze. First you need to understand the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. To get an idea of how much you need, keep reading.

How Many Macronutrients Do I Need?

First, let's take a closer look at the three groups.

1.   Carbohydrate

The majority of calories in any diet should be in the form of carbohydrates. AMDR (Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges) recommends 45-65% of your daily calories to be carbs. One gram of carbohydrates is equal to about 4 calories; so for a 2,500 calorie diet, you should eat about 282-406 grams of carbs. Fiber is one of the most important parts of your carbs according to the Food and Nutrition Board. So for the same diet, you should have about 35 g of fiber. They advise 14 g of fiber for per every 1000 calories.

2.   Protein

Protein should make up 10-35% of your diet according to the AMDR. One gram of protein contains about 4 calories. For your 2,500 calorie diet, you should get between 63-219 grams of protein. This is a wide range and therefore you can also determine it according to your weight. To do this, figure 0.8 g of protein for 1 kg of your weight.

3.   Fat

When considering "how many macronutrients do I need?" don’t forget fat. It may be surprising that AMDR recommends it for 20-35% of your daily calorie intake. This macronutrient is the most energy-dense, so it has the most calories per gram. For each gram of fat, you will take 9 calories. On the 2,500 calorie diet, you should get between 56-97 g of fat. But some fat should be avoided. Saturated fat can lead to heart problems so shouldn’t be more than 10 percent. Trans fat is also bad and should be less than 1 percent. Keep your saturated fats below 28 grams in a day and trans fat below 3 grams.

The above is the general reference. The amount of macronutrients you need will vary according to gender, weight, age, height, body goal and activity level. Please try the calculator for a better idea.

Good Sources for Macronutrients

Sources for Carbohydrates

  • Oat bran, oatmeal
  • Sweet Potato
  • All veggies
  • Brown rice
  • All fruits
  • Whole-wheat pita, wraps and bread
  • Cereal

Sources for Protein

  • Lean beef, fish, chicken
  • Egg whites
  • Greek yogurt or cottage cheese
  • Protein powder
  • Beans (also high in carbs)
  • Tempeh, tofu

Sources for Fat

  • Nut butters and nuts
  • Avocado
  • Egg yolks
  • Seeds
  • Cheese
  • Oil
  • Dark chocolate

How to Make Macronutrients Calculation Work

Now you know "how many macronutrients do I need?" here are some pointers on how to make it work the best for you.

1.   Measure

Measuring is the first step. The most important tools are a food scale, gram/calorie counting book and measuring cups. A calculator is also useful; so is the nutritional information source. Foods that have the labels on them will tell you what you need to know, but you should gravitate toward whole foods for best results. Don’t be confident in your ability to estimate your portions by your eyes, unless you have been measuring for years; otherwise you are bound to overconsume.

2.   Record

Keep a food journal and after a while you will start to know the "worth" of your favorite meals. If you always eat an apple with almond butter it may look like this:

Large Apple and Skin

Almond Butter ¼ cup

There is an adage that what gets measured gets improved. The truth is, what gets measured and recorded gets improved. If you measure and report your meals, you will reach your goals faster. It’s also important to note the food you eat, not just "how many macronutrients do I need". This will make meal planning and recording easier.

3.   Break It Down

First you will need to know how many calories your body needs. This number comes from your weight, age, gender, metabolism, goal and activity level. You can find many calculators online that will help. For here, let’s use a 2,000 calorie diet. Break it down to 50/30/20 with the order of of carbs, protein and fat that make up your diet. So 1,000 calories would come from carbohydrates, 600 from proteins and 400 from fat. You can then convert your calories into grams and you will know how much of each macro you should eat daily. One fat gram is 9 calories, and a gram of carbs or protein has 4 calories.

4.   Start Meal Planning

Now that you have known the amount of each macronutrient you need, plan your meal accordingly. However, don’t be too stuck on the calculations. If you are so caught up in the numbers, you will lose the motivation to getting healthier. If you can’t track everything at first, just do the best you can. Gradually, you will find it is an easy work to do.

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