Macronutrients: What is the Ideal Breakdown?

Here’s what you need to know about macronutrients and their ratios.

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What Are Macronutrients (“Macros”)?

Macronutrients refer to carbohydrates, protein and fat —the three main nutrient groups in food. These nutrients provide energy (or calories) for the body.



The Three Macronutrients

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. They are the primary energy source for our bodies.

Protein

Proteins are made up of amino acids and they are used to build and repair tissues. Our bodies also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals.

Fat

Fats are sources of essential fatty acids used as the major storage form of energy in the body. They come in several forms, including saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.



Your body requires these three macronutrients in adequate amounts to repair, develop, grow and survive. However, each macronutrient plays a specific role in your diet. Moreover, it is imperative to choose healthy macronutrient sources. For instance, if your daily carb intake is mostly composed of added sugars and refined grains, you will not necessarily get all the metabolic and nutritional benefits of carbohydrates.



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Healthy macronutrient sources

Carbohydrates

Leafy greens, whole grains and root veggies, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, squash, green beans, onions, cucumbers, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and quinoa.

Protein

Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and herring, cod, lean grass-fed beef, turkey, eggs, yogurt, and nuts.

Fat

Coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, almonds, flax seeds, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and fatty fish.


unHealthy macronutrient sources

Carbohydrates

Sugary drinks, fruit juices, pastries, white bread, french fries, chips, candies and cakes.

Protein

Processed protein bars, deep fried or processed meats, sausages and hotdogs, high fat cheese, sugary yogurt, and candied nuts.

Fat

French fries, doughnuts, deep-fried fast foods, margarine, vegetable shortening, cookies, cakes, pastries, crackers, and microwave popcorn.


Calories by macronutrient

Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, while protein provides 4 calories per gram and fat 9 calories per gram.





Know Your Own Macronutrient Breakdown

Why personalization matters

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Adjusting your nutrition intake to your fitness profile is crucial if you want to see results and avoid frustration. It is not just about the number of calories that you eat, but also the type of foods you eat. For instance, if most of your exercise sessions are going to be about power lifting and high-intensity training, you will need a different macronutrient breakdown than if you were to train for a six-mile run or a half-marathon.





Factors to consider when defining how much carbohydrates, protein and fat you need

Knowing your ideal macronutrient breakdown (i.e. how much carbs, protein and fat you should eat) is a key component of successful diet. However, everyone is different, so you will have to take the following factors into consideration deciding on a specific breakdown:

1. Gender

Women and men have different macronutrient needs.

2. Age

Older adults have different macronutrient needs, especially when it comes to protein.

3. Weight

Macronutrient needs are often calculated based on weight (e.g. grams of protein per kg of body weight).

4. Type of physical activity

You will need a different amount of carbohydrates, protein and fat, depending on whether you are sedentary, or whether your exercise routine consists mainly of power activities (e.g. weightlifting) or endurance / aerobic activities.

Here are the definitions of these three types of fitness profiles:

  • Sedentary refers to a lifestyle that includes only the physical activity of independent living (1) e.g. walking to your car or moving around your home or office.

  • Endurance Athlete refers here to an individual who performs daily and athletic activities that require endurance training (2). Endurance involves prolonged physical activity that is usually performed with moderate intensity. It can also involve training for a particular event such as a 5k, a 10k, a half-marathon or a marathon.

    Just like a car stores its fuel, the human body stores carbohydrates as glycogen in both the muscles and the liver. The body then relies on these glycogen reserves in order to stabilize blood sugars during prolonged physical activity, and to allow for optimal muscle function. That’s why carbohydrates are of more importance for an endurance athlete.

  • Power Athlete, also called strength athlete, refers to an individual who performs activities that exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in an explosive, fast burst of movement. An example would be lifting a heavy weight. Strength training is a popular term for exercises that build muscle by harnessing resistance against an opposing force. Strength training is sometimes called resistance training, progressive resistance training, or weight training. 

It’s important to keep in mind that some exercise activities might involve a mix of two types of fitness profiles. For instance, power endurance training is a combination of power and endurance, power being the ability to overcome resistance as quickly as possible and endurance being the quality of lasting efforts or repeating efforts over time with little to no decrement in performance. Rock climbing is an example of power endurance activities.



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WOMEN

1. Sedentary Female Adult

To maintain her health, a sedentary female adult needs 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, 0.8-1.2 grams of fat per kilogram of body weight and 2.4-3.6 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight. She should also aim for 0.3-0.5 grams of fiber per kilogram of body weight every day.

Saturated fat and sugar intake should be below 10% of Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) (the number of calories she burns in one day).



2. Female Endurance Athlete

To maintain good health, a female endurance athlete needs 1.2-1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, 0.8-1.2 grams of fat per kilogram of body weight and 4-6 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight. She should also aim for 0.3-0.5 grams of fiber per kilogram of body weight every day.

Saturated fat and sugar intake should be below 10% of Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) (the number of calories she burns in one day).



3. Female Power Athlete

To maintain good health, a female power athlete needs 1.8-2.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, 0.9-1.3 gram of fat per kilogram of body weight and 3-5 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight. She should also aim for 0.3-0.5 grams of fiber per kilogram of body weight every day.

Saturated fat and sugar intake should be below 10% of Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) (the number of calories she burns in one day).



4. Older Female Adult

To maintain good health, an older female adult needs 1.4-1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, 0.7-1.1 grams of fat per kilogram of body weight and 2.6-3.8 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight. She should also aim for 0.2-0.4 grams of fiber per kilogram of body weight everyday.

Saturated fat and sugar intake should be below 10% of Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) (the number of calories she burns in one day).


MEN

1. Sedentary Male Adult

To maintain good health, a sedentary male adult needs 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, 0.8-1.2 grams of fat per kilogram of body weight and 2.6-3.8 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight. He should also aim for 0.3-0.5 grams of fiber per kilogram of body weight every day.

Saturated fat and sugar intake should be below 10% of Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) (the number of calories he burns in one day).



2. Male Endurance Athlete

To maintain good health, a male endurance athlete needs 1.4-1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, 0.8-1.2 grams of fat per kilogram of body weight and 4-7 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight. He should also aim for 0.3-0.5 grams of fiber per kilogram of body weight every day.

Saturated fat and sugar intake should be below 10% of Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) (the number of calories he burns in one day).



3. Male Power Athlete

To maintain good health, a male power athlete needs 2-2.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, 0.9-1.3 gram of fat per kilogram of body weight and 3-5 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight. He should aim also for 0.3-0.5 grams of fiber per kilogram of body weight every day.  

Saturated fat and sugar intake should be below 10% of Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) (the number of calories he burns in one day).



4. Older Male Adult

To maintain his health, an older male adult needs 1.5-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, 0.7-1.1 gram of fat per kilogram of body weight and 2.8-4 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight. He should also aim for 0.3-0.4 grams of fiber per kilogram of body weight every day.  

Saturated fat and sugar intake should be below 10% of Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) (the number of calories he burns in one day).







Getting Started with Macronutrients

Here are the three steps to follow.

Step 1 - Know your nutrition profile

Are you consuming the right amount of calories and what is your diet composed of?

Know how many calories you need.

Get started with a dietary assessment.

Step 2- Know your fitness goals

Are you looking to lose fat? Are you interested in improving your endurance? Are you specifically focusing on building muscle mass? Do you want to take up weight lifting?

Hint: Your goal cannot be all of the above; the more specific it is the better.

Step 3- Know how you plan to reach your goals

How many hours per week will you (realistically) dedicate to exercise? Will you do a lot of power activities or high intensity exercise sessions? Do you plan to jog or swim a few times a week? Do you plan to incorporate prolonged physical activity?



Once you know your current nutrition profile, your goals and how you plan to reach them, you can design a nutrition plan that takes into account the right breakdown of macronutrients for your gender, age and physical activity profile.

Here are a few other special cases that need to be considered:

  • Women who are breastfeeding have to modify their energy intake to provide sufficient fuel for themselves and their babies, thus, their macronutrient intake will automatically increase as well.

  • Individuals who are following a special diet, such as the ketogenic (keto) diet, might use a modified breakdown. The keto diet relies on fat as the primary source of energy and keep the carbs intake very low (sometimes as low as 20g per day).



The simplest yet most comprehensive way to get started with macronutrients is a fully data-driven, technology-based nutrition assessment, such as the Fitnescity Method. It is an extensive assessment in which you provide a food log and respond to a quick lifestyle questionnaire. The Fitnescity Method helps you identify nutrition-related problems, their causes, and significance. It also calculates your current macronutrient intake and your ideal macronutrient breakdown. Finally, according to your ideal macronutrient breakdown, a diet and training program is uniquely designed for you.

Wellness starts with understanding. So, you might want to closely know your diet, then, personalize your macronutrient breakdown and calorie intake. With a physical fitness test you can also easily and accurately see the difference in your body.  

Let’s help you find your ideal macronutrient breakdown and achieve your nutrition and fitness goals!



Get Started with The Fitnescity Method