In my recent post on the macronutrients one of my readers asked the question “how much is too much?” when it comes to these nutrients. Today I am going to answer that very question and discuss how much of each macronutrient you should consume.
HOW MUCH CARBOHYDRATES, FAT AND PROTEIN SHOULD YOU CONSUME?
After doing some research I quickly found that there is no concrete answer when it comes to macronutrient consumption. Some sources suggest going for a high carbohydrate approach. Others suggest getting the majority of your calories from protein. Contrastingly, some people believe a high fat diets is the way forward. Others propose that you should get an equal amount of calories from all three macronutrients.
So which suggestion is correct? Potentially all of them. Your body needs good levels of all three macronutrients to function properly. However, the exact proportions will vary depending on your fitness goals and activity levels. The list below contains a summary of the different macronutrient calorie proportions you can go for depending on your fitness goals:
1) EQUAL CALORIES FROM ALL MACRONUTRIENTS (33.3% Carbohydrates, 33.3% Fats and 33.3% Proteins):- If your lifestyle involves regular physical activity but nothing too extreme then this is probably the best choice for you. The carbohydrates will provide you with the energy and vitamins you need, the fats will help keep your body running smoothly and the protein will ensure that your body can maintain and repair existing cells whilst also producing new ones where needed.
2) HIGH CARBOHYDRATE (60%-70% Carbohydrates, 15%-20% Fats and 15-20% Proteins):- If you do a lot of cardiovascular exercise such as cycling or jogging then you may want to increase the proportion of carbohydrate calories you consume. Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred energy source and will give you the energy you need to perform high levels of physical activity.
3) HIGH PROTEIN (15%-20% Carbohydrates, 60%-70% Protein and 15%-20% Fats):- If you are looking to gain muscle mass and are lifting weights on a regular basis you might want to up your protein intake. Protein is responsible for building, maintaining and repairing all your body’s cells including the muscles. When you lift weights you effectively tear your muscles in a controlled way. The amino acids in protein are then used to repair the muscles making them grow back stronger and larger than before.
4) HIGH FAT (15%-20% Carbohydrates, 15%-20% Protein and 60%-70% Fats):- If you want to reduce your body fat levels then surprisingly eating a high proportion of fat calories can help. Eating a diet high in fat forces your body to use fat stores (instead of glucose) for energy. Using body fat for energy is less efficient than using readily available blood glucose which means the entire process burns more calories.
HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
You might now be thinking that you can consume any amount of each macronutrient depending on your fitness goals. Unfortunately, this is not correct. Whilst it is OK to consume a higher proportion of one macronutrient, your overall diet still needs to contain all three. Otherwise you will be missing out on key health benefits and putting your body at risk.
On top of this, whilst it is OK to go high fat or high protein this does not mean you can eat unlimited amounts of these macronutrients. Your total consumptions needs to be within the limits of your metabolism. In simple terms your metabolism is comprised of three parts:
– 1) Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR):- The amount of calories your body uses to function properly and keep you alive.
– 2) Physical Activity:- The amount of calories your body uses to perform any physical activity.
– 3) Thermic Effect of Food:- The amount of calories your body uses to digest food.
Whilst you can boost your metabolism through good diet and exercise choices, the impact of this boost is limited. Overall, you need to work out the number of calories your body burns each day (a BMR calculator is a good starting point) and then base your macronutrient intake on this. So if you determine that your overall metabolism is 2000 calories per day then the following rules will apply to each of the macronutrient intakes:
– 1) Equal calories from all Macronutrients:- 666 calories (167g) from carbohydrates, 666 calories (167g) from protein and 666 calories (74g) from fat.
– 2) High Carbohydrate:- 1200-1400 calories (300g-350g) from carbohydrates, 300-400 calories (75g-100g) from protein and 300-400 calories (33g-44g) from fats.
– 3) High Protein:- 300-400 calories (75g-100g) from carbohydrates, 1200-1400 calories (300g-350g) from protein and 300-400 calories (33g-44g) from fats.
– 4) High Fat:- 300-400 calories (75g-100g) from carbohydrates, 300-400 calories (75g-100g) from protein and 1200-1400 calories (133g-156g) from fats.
WHAT ABOUT FIBRE?
When it comes to fibre the consumption rules change. Your body’s fibre requirements are generally flat and not affected by changes to your activity levels or lifestyle. Fibre also contains zero calories which means consumption of this macronutrient is not constrained by your metabolism. However, despite these differences you can still consume too much fibre. There are various suggestions on how much fibre you should consume each day but most sources suggest an intake of between 20g and 50g per day. Any less can increase your risk of bowel disease and any more can have a variety of adverse effects.
As you can see the answer to the question “how much of each macronutrient should you consume?” is not a straightforward one. However, if you follow the advice given in this article you can ensure that you are not getting too much. So in summary when it comes to the macronutrients you need to:
– Consider your macronutrient proportions (equal amounts, high carbohydrate, high protein, high fat).
– Make sure your diet contains all three macronutrients.
– Make sure your total macronutrient calories are within the limits of your metabolism.
– Make sure your fibre intake is below 50g per day.
One of the best ways to achieve this is to choose natural carbohydrates, natural proteins and natural dietary fats over processed foods. Not only do natural foods generally contain a mixture of all three macronutrients but they are also one of the best sources of important vitamins and minerals.
Now I want to hear your thoughts. Are there any better ways to determine if you are getting too much of any of the macronutrients? Do you agree with my recommendations? Leave a comment and let me know.